Pablo Angel Lugo is a 35-year old artist and researcher who is currently completing his PHD in Public Art. His work explores the links between art and ethics. Originally from Mexico, Pablo has exhibited and taught in Spain, Mexico, England and beyond. He chats to us about life in London, the place of politics in art and his new idea for an art vending machine.
You practice in and have taught in a large number of mediums. Is there one medium that you would say is your first or most natural?
Yes, the thing that is most natural is drawing. I love it and it’s something I need do very often; it’s the base of structure for the rest of the plastic and visual arts. When you have an interesting idea the best way to development it is drawing, old school pencil and paper – I always carry with me a small sketchbook and a fountain pen. Fountain pen and lines are my favorite medium, and are the base of the rest of my works.
You are also an academic currently completing a PHD relating to Public Art – could you tell us a little bit about that?
Ufff, this is the scary part of the life! I am finishing a research which looks at patrons and relations between the political-philosophy of anarchism and transgressive contemporary artistic practices. So there’s a lot of theories about what anarchism is, what art is, and a conclusion as to why both are very close in idea and practice. I know it’s not easy to see the relation between this subject and public art, but the examples which I am using for the dissertation are commonly public art works. And the relation is one of freedom, public spaces, responsibility…anyway I need finish it this year and hopefully next year I will be a Doctor! But now I have some issues with finishing because my scholarship is over, so I am looking for some alternatives to get some income.
I am interested by a quote of yours – “art has given me a way to say things that are politically impossible.” Would you be able to give me an example of this?
Yes, it’s the way I see art, the main point of the art is put a question mark on everything, a way to question everything around us, and of course make that question public.
In the year 2011, for example, the Mexican Embassy in UK created a beautiful project to promote the collaboration between a Mexican and British artist, a contest called ‘Camaradas’, So the idea was to create an artwork between two artists. My friend Emiliano and I created a big drawing. The place where the exhibition opened was the Official Residence of the Mexican Ambassador, as you can imagine that place is a big house, full of baroque art…and a serving staff brought from Mexico! We knew they were indigenous people working at the Residence of the Ambassador, with diplomatic passports to avoid the law which applies in the UK to avoid that kind of exploitation. That was indignant! So we decided make our statement a bit public. We created a drawing called ‘Atlantic ocean’ – basically there are two guys peeing on the Embassy walls, and they are creating an Atlantic ocean of pee. And the best part is the visitor has no idea why are two guys peeing on the wall… and they can’t ask us, so the question mark is there. And the answer is personal.
Do you think art has a responsibility to be political?
Yes, as any other human practice. It’s my way to be part of the society, be responsible, it would be the same if I was an architect or a nurse or teacher.
Things done in the name of art have a kind of license to things that aren’t allowed for the rest of the society (e.g. walk naked on the street and say to the police, “I am an artist”, and they will leave you in peace, but if you say “I am an engineer” you’ll probably visit court).
Even then, we are responsible for our actions, and the repercussions of them in society. The problem is that show business creates money from everything, so in these times we are less responsible, and for that less happy, and we can find a lot of artistic work which are only scams.
You are originally from Mexico but are currently based in UK, how did you come to be here?
I studied in Spain my MA in Public art and my MPhil in public art, so I have a Spanish residence permit which gives me the opportunity to live as another European citizen. And for my style and ideas in my artwork for sure, London is a great place to be.
Do you see your work as being inherently Mexican?
I don’t really know it, sometimes I can see it and think, ‘Oh this is very Mexican’… but sometimes it’s just a piece with a global identity. It’s a bit difficult, I want to keep the identity of my roots, but I know sometimes it’s not possible because if you want a bigger audience you need more universal ideas.
Can you tell me about the residence you live in? What made you get involved with the Ad Hoc Guardian scheme?
I am living in the Colville Estate, in Islington. It’s a beautiful place – the buildings, spaces, people are very nice, and the Estate is in the center of everything, We are in the north of the City of London and close to the east end where is the trendy area for the arts, so for an artist it’s a great area. I got involved with Ad Hoc thanks to a nice Mexican-English mate of mine, we studied together at the University in Mexico City and he invited me to live here.
You’ve had many exhibitions and have been involved with a huge amount of projects. What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far in your career?
I don’t really know, I have a lot of projects which I like but I think the best ones are coming. Some of them are the ‘Everywhere Gallery’ – a gallery in a bicycle, and the ‘Interpersonal Affective Relations Contract’ which is a contract for all my friends. Also ‘Personal Political Constitution’, the idea of clarifying the boundaries of the personal and the public in a context of ethics… as you can see now I am involved more in a mixture between conceptual art and public art, which is more exciting.
Public art can be controversial at times. Do you think there is a clear distinction between art and vandalism, or can there be a grey area?
I think there is a very clear difference, the big problem is the definition and the isolation of human knowledge. The idea of vandalism is created by lawyers, and people who have no idea what art is, or at least what the theories of art are, or the discussions about them. They can’t see or understand public art because they don’t know, but yes, I can see it. Art is a way of putting a question mark on human activities and using emotions as a medium to do it. In the case that you see one piece of public art and it makes you feel something, some emotion, even if you feel shocked, sad, or another ‘negative’ feeling – that is art.
Where in the world are you most inspired by public art?
I live London, but Berlin is very nice as well, Barcelona, Marseille, Paris, México City.
I like every city, but one of them which I really love is Havana, the peace there and the people help a lot with the creativity.
What future project are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your career?
I think the most important are projects which I called ‘mobile devices’; one of them is the ‘Everywhere Gallery’ and the more immediate one, probably for the next June or July, is the ‘Art Vending Machine’. I will sell small books of my drawings in a vending machine – of course the title will be different, but that is the idea.
See more of Pablo Angel Lugo’s work at www.pablolugo.com