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Carlota Guerrero

Apartamento x LOEWE

Apartamento and LOEWE are pleased to bring you TO CRAFT A LIFE, an editorial collaboration for Apartamento magazine issue #28, featuring conversations that explore the lives of three Spanish artists, Ouka Leele, Carlota Guerrero, and Bikôkô, all captured in the intimacy of their homes by a fourth, Seville-born photographer Coco Capitán. United by uncompromising artistic visions, all four women have at some point in their respective journeys embarked on the road less travelled, sidestepping conventional narratives to craft a life of their own. With a shared desire to celebrate today’s craftsmanship, we’ve come together from our respective homes in Barcelona and Madrid to tell the stories of artists mastering their own crafts.

Carlota Guerrero | Apartamento Magazine

Interview by Leti Sala
Photography by Coco Capitán

Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero

I met Carlota when I was 15, in the bathroom of a house party the police would shut down a little while later. I was carrying a wicker bag that only contained an XL hair spray and a comb for maintaining the exaggerated volume I wanted in my hair. This seemed fascinating to Carlota, and she spent a long moment analysing the image. Later we kept meeting on the internet and in the clubs of the moment, until little by little our bars ended up being the same. We could spend whole afternoons lying in parks, assimilating the cells of the other. We lived in the superabundance of time.

It’s almost impossible not to recall her life by way of milestones. I remember her first photo exhibition at a small gallery in Raval. The night in Mallorca when she told us she was thinking of leaving her job to dedicate herself to photography. The messages from Texas that kept us updated on her first shoot with Solange. Or one of us sending a photo to our group chat of the cover of the New York Post with the orgy she’d organised at Miami Basel. Deep in the Covid era, Carlota’s images seem chimerical. The strength they’ve gained from this new reality couldn’t have been foreseen. Dozens of people together, in a state of trance, giving themselves to her lens. Ultimately, her work is a precise visual reflection of the way she is from day to day. And there’s an enigma to Carlota that I can’t seem to figure out. Despite having grown up by her side and posed for her camera, I’m not able to grasp the source of her innate ability to bring together however many people are needed, with everyone pulsating on the same frequency. There’s something magnetic about her appearance that recalls so many animals at once, her way of articulating concepts, her excess and generosity when it comes to sensing everything. I suppose it’s precisely this enigma that means I never tire of asking her questions.

Carlota Guerrero | Apartamento Magazine

How much importance do you give to the light where you live?

The house I had before was much more impressive than this one. It had amazing windows but hardly any light, and that brought me down a lot. This apartment is much more modest, much smaller, but it has the most beautiful light in the world. All the plants died in my other place, but here when I eat fruit I can plant the seeds and watch new ones sprout.

What is your relationship to objects?

I have no attachment to the material. I like my house to be comfortable and pleasant, to have good energy, but I don’t spend money on designer objects. We found half the furniture on the street, or got things on Wallapop out of necessity, or people have given us things. I do have some objects that are more like amulets, with their own charge of spiritual energy, but I’ve usually found them in markets as well, or there might be a painting by a friend, or the fruit of my own work.

Describe for me a normal day in your life here.

I see the sun rise from my room and can watch the mountain as it lights up. I have a calm breakfast, go down to the park, get my car, and drive along the Ronda de Dalt to Hospitalet with classical music from Catalan National Radio at full blast. I drive fast along the ring roads. At that time nobody’s going the same way. I plan my day in the car, which ideas I’m going to work with. I take a lot of inspiration from that stretch. I get to the studio, work, dance a bit, then I usually come home for lunch and spend the rest of the day here.

Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero
Carlota Guerrero | Apartamento Magazine

Tell me about the studio in relation to your home.

They’re very different from each other. This apartment is miniature, it’s almost like a maquette. The ceilings are low, it’s focused on the details, all the objects are small. The studio is an enormous space, with three floors that are completely open and absolutely nothing there. When my family came from Andalusia, they all lived and worked in Hospitalet. I’ve picked up where they left off. I really like going to an industrial area and then coming back to a more family-oriented area.

Your work revolves almost entirely around the feminine, and you decided to name the studio after your father: Estudio Wenceslao. There seems to be something rather poetic in that decision.

Yes, in a way my home is my mother and the studio is my father. My home is like a mother that hugs me, full of little plants and small altars, and the other space is like going to paint on a giant canvas. This is a place for rest and introspection, the other is a space for total play.

A good balance.

Yes, but I’ve always thought that I’m able to do the work that I do with women because my father isn’t alive anymore. For a while I felt like my work was driven by the freedom that his death gave me. I grew up with the absence of any kind of suffocating masculinity. Naming that space after him is a way of giving him a space as well. The day that I shared it and got home that night, my sister called to tell me it was my father’s birthday. It was like a present for him.

It would’ve made a lot of sense for your career if you’d moved to a city like New York or LA, but you’ve always preferred to stay in Barcelona. How come?

I feel like my ambition isn’t the same as the ambition of cities like New York or Los Angeles. That anxious, capitalist drive doesn’t inspire me at all. I’m so nervous and unsettled that I need a peaceful space; I don’t need more stimuli. My head is already New York.

Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero

Would you be able to locate the ideas that you’ve had in a specific space or site?

Not at all. I never know the year or month in which things have happened. I only contextualise my ideas in my emotions, inside my own body. I feel certain that this image has to be translated into a shot, and I won’t rest until I get it. I thank God that I still have the innocence to believe in my ideas. In truth, I’m afraid to start losing that with age, as you become more sensible.

Speaking of space, I can’t help but think of time. I realise I don’t see your creations as being imbued with nostalgia, but there’s no futurism either. I feel like they’re ethereal, floating in some other place than time.

I always intend for my images to be as atemporal as possible. I don’t want to add layers of complexity to the people I’m photographing. I’m interested in the essence; I want to go to the heart of the matter. If I add layers of meaning, the other will have to decipher a context that doesn’t interest me at all. That’s why I argue with stylists. I started doing fashion, but in reality I want to make human portraits, feminine portraits.

Do you often think about the future of your career, the long term?

No, not at all. I feel sure that I’ll be doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life, although it wouldn’t scare me if that changed. I’m open to becoming a gardener.

‘I’m much more at peace. I feel more certain that I’m doing what I have to do. That certainty is expanding, and it’s never been better expressed’.
Carlota Guerrero | Apartamento Magazine

What is your relationship to money?

It’s like it has nothing to do with me. I think it was Lola Flores who said, ‘Money burns in my hands’. I’ve inherited that from my father: money has to be spent. In reality I’m starting to save for the first time in my life, at the age of 31. But whenever I’ve made money, I’ve always had to spend it as quickly as possible because it’s an object that doesn’t sit well with me.

Do you like your images to be grounded in theoretical concepts, or would you rather they stand on their own while offering a broad meaning to those who look at them?

Completely the second. There are times when I have an idea and feel the need to research it and understand the references. Other times I feel the idea has so much visual force that it doesn’t even need half a concept because it just is, and that’s all.

Maybe it’s because of your detachment from the material that you work better in the abstract.

For me it has a lot to do with visual language being a language in itself. Beauty, for me, has a depth that isn’t at all superficial. Images aren’t empty just because they don’t have a concept.

I understand.

I think a lot about flowers, about God creating them, about fractals, repetition, patterns. Images can have extreme complexity, just like an orchid, which doesn’t have any other concept beyond itself.

Tengo un Dragón dentro del Corazón, Prestel (2021)

For you, what are the big milestones in your career?

Publishing my first book was really big. The public orgy I organised at Miami Basel with 40 people. I was so impressed by the idea becoming a reality that I definitely had to keep myself together. The intensity of the sex of all those people, and me with a baton trying to guide it. It made me wonder whether I might actually be more conservative than I thought! What I did for Playboy on Las Ramblas was also a big moment. Normally, anything that involves a live audience makes me feel more fulfilled, so Covid means that I’ve come to a bit of a standstill. I’m much more interested in the real moment than the image.

I feel like you don’t only strip the people you photograph of a dress code, but also the factor of time, objects, concrete spaces. After stripping so much away, what do you think is left?

My feminine, creative essence. The same strength that I’ll use to create a baby one day is what moves me to create these images. It’s also my hyper-sensitivity. I’m so sensitive, and I get so emotional with beauty that I need to do something with that energy. Sometimes I can’t believe the normality with which some people go through life.

Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero
Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero
Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero
Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero

How do you manage to make a group that’s entirely nude feel so comfortable?

I think it’s because if we see another woman calmly undress, and that body has its unexpected twists, and we still see them as beautiful, it creates a feeling that our own body probably is too.

Do you remember ever having felt shame?

The same image always comes to mind: I remember sitting behind my desk at school, fantasising about standing up and taking all my clothes off, running around the class and jumping up on the teacher’s desk. With that in mind, I completely lost track of the class. Later on, a horrible feeling of guilt came over me.

Apartamento Magazine - Carlota Guerrero

So the sense of shame was the sense of guilt.

Exactly. Things really clicked for me in my 20s, when I could finally actually do that—run into the Mediterranean completely naked. I felt like I’d finally killed the priest, I’d killed the father, I’d killed them all, and now I’d found my place.

One of the main messages that your work expresses is vulnerability as strength, and I’ve always wondered where your obsession with this idea comes from.

I think I experience the matrix as something so corrupt that I need to create harmonious spaces with maximum peace. But, in fact, I’m a pure fighter. That’s why I had to start representing sexualised women as well, because it felt like a strange hypocrisy to only represent virginal women. Oddly enough, I’ve also found vulnerability in sexualised women. So in the end I come back to the same place.

Do you have an idea of what you’d like to explore next?

I’m very confused by the pandemic. But the confusion is interesting, because having a new space is also bringing me to less explored places. I feel like a preadolescent again. Now I’m going to Mexico and will nourish myself with whatever the country offers me. It’s not very clear, to be honest, but I’m not worried. Not knowing is rather exciting.

If you look back at the past six years in your life and career, what do you think has changed?

I’m much more at peace. I feel more certain that I’m doing what I have to do. That certainty is expanding, and it’s never been better expressed, as I have a physical space now. I never stop being thankful that I can dedicate myself to my vocation. But now I’m thankful from a point of view of being able to take advantage of it, not sabotaging it; I can take what life has given me and run with it as best I can.

Carlota Guerrero | Apartamento Magazine
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