Arcángel Constantini, artist in continuous loop

Decima Segunda Edición Septiembre 2012
Actualizado: Sunday, July 26, 2015 - 20:18

Arcángel Constantini, artist in continuous loop
By Cynthia Villagómez Oviedo

translation: Tomas Barcena Tiburcio

Biography: (1970, Federal District, Mexico), “Arcángel Constantini is an independent multimedia artist and curator that develops pieces of ludic and experimental character linked to technology, highly influenced by the spontaneous and chaotic processes of the city that are reflected in the tidy and systematic use of error’s aesthetic. He’s a collector of post-use technologies that he validates and integrates to his work as a natural de-construction of technologic phenomena that he re-signifies in the context of art. His most recent developments involve the rethinking of energetic processes contextualized in the inductive capacity of the implicated processes of social environment and its relationship with the natural environment. Since 1997, he maintains a constant production of art projects on the web. He’s a curator of the Cyberlounge ‘Tamayo Museum’ and takes part in the curatorial team of the ‘Transitio mx’ Electronic Art Biennial of 2005 and 1009. Representative and curator of events related to electronic art, director of the emergent gallery ¼ and member of the Dorkbot Council, Mexico City. His work has been displayed (among these, some actions) in distinguished festivals and electronic art shows in Canada, Korea, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Peru, China, United States of America and Puerto Rico. He obtained the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) Young Creators of 2000’s scholarship, the Rockefeller Macarthur 2002’s scholarship, first place in multimedia in the Vidarte Festival of 2009, first price in the ‘Interferences’ festival in France and third price in Art in the Net of Nachita City Museum of Tokyo. Also, he was selected for the National System of Creators, FONCA 05-08. Currently, he’s Tutor of Young Creators, FONCA, and enjoys the support obtained in the VIDA Contest 0.11 of the ‘Telefónica 2009’ foundation. He earned a scholarship FONCA Young Artists 2000 (National Fund for Culture and the Arts), the Rockefeller Fellowship Macarthur 2002, first place in the Festival media Vidarte 2009, first prize at the festival 'Interferences' in France and third prize in Art Net Nachita in the City Museum of Tokyo. It also was selected to the National System of Creators, FONCA 05-08. Today's Guardian of Young Artists, FONCA, and enjoys the support obtained in 0.11 LIFE Contest Telefónica Foundation 2009.” [1]  Constantini’s artistic practice has explored visual works and dynamic sounds, where he makes use of obsolete technology. He has done installations, carried out action-propaganda, audio-visual performances, hardware hacking, physical computing, Sound Art and Net Art.
The complexity of analyzing the artists’ production’s processes lie among other aspects, such as the fact that they’re hidden developments in most cases, non-objective, non-explicit processes, as Laozi said “Knowing the other requires intelligence; knowing oneself requires wisdom”, thus the knowledge of one’s own methods of creation takes part in this self-knowledge sphere, which results difficult for us to recognize and reflect about, or this self-knowledge can take a whole life-span due to its changing nature; in the case of digital artist Arcángel Constantini, these artistic production processes possess this glaze; that is, ideas surge without knowing with absolute certainty how, when or why, they just surge from the broad context that life where source is sought has to offer. However, it can be adverted that the artist finds reflection topics in: science fiction; environmental issues; technology and objects’ obsolescence, so as their reuse; city daily prospects, to name a few. Next, we’ll perform an analysis of the artist and his work as to unveil a portion of those processes.
Context and formation [2]
To understand the work of the artist, it is considered necessary to count with information about the context and historical period in which the creator unfolds. Constantini was born in Cuautitlán, a place he remembers as a small town and key part of his formation, originally close to Mexico City, it is part of its metropolitan area; Arcángel refers to the fact that in his house there were no artists, his mother studied a degree in administration, his father, of Italian origins, was a merchant who felt the responsibility to provide for his family at a very young age, since he was the eldest son and a long disease afflicted his father; subsequently, having formed his own family, Arcángel’s father established Sundays as the ‘family day’, and that special day consisted in heading to Mexico City to visit museums, go to theater performances, concerts, industrial fairs, regional fairs, among other activities; in other words, to assist to everything the city had to offer, and that activity ―the artist considers― left an indelible mark in him as a future creator, nonetheless—he clarifies— his parents never had the intention to raise artists, however they left the imprint for his future as such.
Constantini ponders he has always been exploring out diverse areas, yet he began studying a degree in graphic design, since he wished for an art career linked to technology and at that time, it didn’t exist as such in Mexico, so graphic design—he thought to himself—was the most proximate, given that they used computers, but he drops the degree during his fifth semester, because he considered that the university he was matriculated in had stalled, in fact they didn’t count with a computer lab and computers were his main interest previous to his degree choice, since he had a day job and had computers called “Amiga”[3], with which he used to tailor animation sequences for electronic music clubs. Right after dropping the degree, he dedicates himself to work at MVS (Multivisión) television company, where he remains for five years as creative director; therefore, he considers to have obtained from MVS his technologic formation, in his artistic formation he thinks of himself as self-taught, and regarding this he mentions: “…one does not stop studying, one does not stop making degrees. Each project is to get into an investigation.”
Due to the technologic nature of his pieces, his working method in the startup and construction of these in most cases is interdisciplinary, with the collaboration of professionals from other areas, such as engineers, manufacturers, etc. After being expressly asked if he collaborates with graphic desginers, (as was the case of Alejandro Magallanes in ‘Bakteria’) he coments: “I collaborate but not much, I have a very complicated client, who’s very demanding (laughter): the Arcángel…”
Currently, Constantini is dedicated solely to Art, and to achieve that point, he stopped working for the MVS Channel and saves some money to be able to devote himself to produce artwork, generating in Net Art one of the vastest web productions that a Mexican artist has ever created to this date. These works —he comments—, didn’t directly yield economic resources since they’re free (not commissioned), although, indirectly, he was provided with the showcase needed for his work to be seen and then generate the opportunity for it to be financially supported later, yet he points out: “you know that in this development, one has to be catcher, pitcher and batter. As an artist, there are no curators to be interested…” for example, so that the artist has to do everything by himself. Given what Constantini mentions, he’s always had the need to use resources to express, and he’s been passionate about working in his developments, this has allowed him to build an artistic career and opt for scholarships rewarding it, all the while he develops non-subsidized free artistic work, regarding which he comments: “it’s like placing a candle to the devil and another one to god. On one side, working for an institution, and on another, working completely independently.”
Arcángel considers his own work has been forming him, for example, what made it available for him to develop his abilities in production was his work as a curator and producer in Tamayo Museum’s Cyberlounge, where he worked almost nine years in projects for the web, while he worked in physical computing hacking technologies.
Of particular interest for the study of creation processes is the fact of the artist’s personality, since there are features of personality common to all creators, in the same fashion, studies have been carried out about the incompatibility of artists with educative systems during infancy, fact that causes an alienating feeling towards others—to name an example—, Constantini’s case is not an exception and after been asked if he felt different to the rest of the students during infancy, he answers: ”Since I was named Arcángel―I think (laughter)… you’re indeed marked by a name like that… and it’s not like my parents are very religious or anything. In my family, Arcángel is a name that has been passed generation after generation. But yes… as a kid I was in a Benedict school and from there, plus attention deficit, IQ, inclination to have a good time [5],  the party; all of it together, made me Molotov cocktail.” Constantini shares a point of view with a number of Mexicans that have noted that national education is taking wrong paths, the artist mentions that he would have liked to be imbued with a reading habit at a young age; however, he had to create such habit by himself later, regarding what he says: “In education, everything is channeled the wrong way, among the things I would have liked to create is a habit to read, which I had to create for myself. In school, one’s not motivated to read, one’s almost motivated not to. With the coming of age, one says: Let’s see, there’s something missing here, isn’t it?”
Constantini is a seemingly sullen person, but he’s warm really, his wardrobe gives a glimpse of the former boy that, still at his 42 years old, pulls his old tricks with his ludic character work; he comments that he has deficit of attention, but he clarifies that it is because he thinks of many things at once, which is why the production of ideas is not his problem, the challenge resides in picking up the right idea and then consummate it.
Regarding his work, he approaches the following topics: parallelisms between media and reproduction, historical parallelism of the earlier mass reproduction media (photography, cinema, graphic processes, etc.), science fiction, web experimental exploration, exploration with computers, computer glitches, the computer as an associate of elements’ materiality, the link between prior and posterior stages of the analogic and digital, the human side of technology (through the Glitch, in other words, the “…errors of the machine’s processes, generated intentionally or randomly. To err is a human thing, if machines make mistakes, that humanizes them.”), aesthetic, formal and non-discursive critics of processes about specific phenomena, the concrete digital oneiric (artist’s theory), personal perceptions of space and its link to the capacity of adaptation of people, the ludic and the experimental, spontaneous and chaotic processes.
Constantini creates by establishing a link with the environment, and about this, he comments: “…we live, we perceive a concrete space ruled by laws of physics, entropy, time, and gravity; by interiorizing, we find ourselves in an oneiric space comprised of a database, a memory bank in which all senses are channeled. That is where this oneiric space surges from, the space of imagination, of dreams, the space of though. After that, we try to link every development we do as human beings to ourselves… Then, environmental digital space has similitudes with both the concrete and oneiric space, it depends on a database, and events and phenomena are constructed from a demand process […] from the intuition of constructing it, the resulting synchronicity of catching existing information in the air, in the web and everywhere, that’s how ideas surge”[5].
The essence of his work rests above the concept of Loop (in sound, it is a repetition of a constant pattern, same as with aesthetic), the idea maintains itself inside this concept, it gets repeated, though the shape in every repetition changes, “It’s like a face, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two ears, hair, etc. And still there are six million different faces”[6]. The media through which the artist finds the channels to display his work are: the internet, computers, photography, and video image; through: visual works and dynamic sound, installations, action-propaganda, audio-visual performances, hardware hacking in physical computing, sound art, Net Art, among others.
It’s worth to comment to the reader that Arcángel is a prolific artist with more than two decades of tireless career, with tens of artistic developments, which is why in this space we’ll explore only four of his oeuvres, given that an analysis of his vast work requires a multiple feature article. The present selection is comprised of the pieces he considered as his most representatives. In the case of Atari Noise, this piece is the most times displayed in diverse parts of the world; Inductokhor (2008) summarizes his philosophy towards life, the Zen and meditation; C-h-a-e (2008) makes his artistic fascination for electricity as a ludic resource evident, and is part of a series of developments where he involves said resource; Nanodrizas (2009) is one of the resulting projects he achieved working with a multi-disciplinary group, with ecologic scope, where he involves aspects of science fiction, a topic the artist has recurred to in other works; finally and in a standalone category, his Internet developments must be studied, said of which, it must be said, are numerous.
Atari noise (2006)
It’s a remote audio-visual performance, where a console was re-intervened to carry out performing distant action, during the Bent Festival in Tokyo, Japan, in which Arduino, PD and Flash were used. Constantini hacked an old gaming device called Atari 2600 (that currently can be purchased at a very fair price in flea markets), and converted it into an audiovisual pattern generating keyboard from the discovery that, if you intentionally ejected the videogame cartridge before time, this generated images with random patterns caused by the error, “These images keep the same relation with the original interface of computer games as the sound of a guitar string with a guitar solo by Jimi Hendrix. This de-construction of ‘rough visual material’ not only takes part of a long modernist tradition of alienation and modification of found images, but it also alludes to one of the most fundamental oeuvres of media art: ‘Videosynthesizer’ by Nam June Paik (1972). Atari Noise reflects a sort of media culture in which the necessary hardware is available in the shape of electronic junk as well”[7].

Photo 1 [Atari-noise (2006), Arcángel Constantini, text and image: Consultation: April 15th, 2012].

Inductokhor (2008)

This installation is inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, which has a spiritual practice consisting of spinning cylinders called mani khor, that are wrought by hand in their exterior with the mantra om mane padme hum, these cylinders contain a papyrus with this phrase written thousands of times, the belief is that the mantra potentiates the user spinning the cylinder, adding physical and spiritual energy, calling for social integration for the greater good; the idea of the artist is to evoke this collective call and add to a social reform of the individual through energetic, sonorous, electric and spiritual induction. In VideoZpainter (2005), the artist already speaks of the search for a metaphoric Zen state between order and chaos, Inductokhor is performed posteriorly to the artist’s visit to China, thus the installation expressing this contact with this ancient culture.

Photo 2 [Inductokhor (2008), Arcángel Constantini. Images: Consultation: April 15th, 2012].

C-h-a-e (2008)
The Spanish acronym for Audio Electrified Human Chain, it was an action of chained audio shocks’ sonorous spatialization carried out at Santa Teresita EX-Teresa Present-day Art Chapel in the ‘Accidentes Controlados’ closing of the Performance Festival, April 2009. Arcángel makes use of the electricity of the ‘shocks’ in a sacred space that he emphasizes through the use of church benches for the public, the device is placed on a lectern as if it was likely to preach, when it is actually meant to provide electric shocks, and while they integrate the audience in a sensory sense, they’re still only shocks, so many readings can be made about this piece. Is it a vision of religion as the opium of the people? The spectator, without shadow of a doubt, is a key part to complete the piece. Regarding technical aspects, “…it is a system of audio shocks from five independent channels, with an analog telephone dialing system, a patching bay and control LDRs […] it was developed with sound oscillators whose frequencies are controlled by means of the use of LED mounted matrix gloves worn in the palm of each hand, implemented with a lighting sequencer, so that by emitting programmed luminic variations to the LDRs, they enable active and independent control of the five audio signals; the use of the gloves gave the freedom to spin five dialing disks of old phones, sending communicative pulsations with each signal. The sonorous oscillations were distributed independently, indirectly feeding back with the expectative of the public interconnected by a sensory communion”[8].

Photo 3 [C-h-a-e (2008), Arcángel Constantini. Images: Consultation: April 15th, 2012].

Nanodrizas (2009)
Mexico does not escape the environmental global problems, Nanodrizas alerts about these in the place where its 13 robots are located, so as in exhibition centers and also online, Nanodrizas is one of the artist’s most representative projects, because it agglutinates the environmental concerns and his interest for science fiction latent in other works of his. It constitutes a great challenge, given the complexity that involves the making of robots that not only can be placed in residual waters, but that also give solution to the local environmental issues by means of autonomous, floating and wireless devices “…that pick up and send data about water’s pollution and respond to the conditions with chemical interventions and acoustic expressions […] they control the contaminating agents in real time, they generate sounds, they send data to centralized systems of interpretation and visualization through wireless communication, and they release bacterial and enzymatic remedies in situ”[9]. This is the reason why this piece goes beyond, because it attempts to put a stop to pollution via bio-remediation in constant actions in the site in which they’re placed, in addition to having a function of warning and awareness circumscribed to the severe problems related to the contamination of natural environment. I consider this one of the most technically complex works of Arcángel Constantini.
Photo 4 [Nanodrizas (2009), Arcángel Constantini. Images: Consultation: April 15th, 2012].

A standalone mention and motive to subsequent articles are deserved by his Internet developments, which are plenty. Many of them are gathered in:

As a conclusion about the work of Mexican digital artist Arcángel Constantini, it can be considered that, almost after two decades worth of continuous work, he has instated himself within the Mexican artistic media as one of the most prolific artists of his generation. A lover of technology, to this day Constantini has found in it the necessary resorts for the expression of aspects which he considers are indispensable to leave constancy of, with the use of repetition and constant reiteration, he creates incessant sequences in images and sounds, very similar to those experimented in the context of great cities, where the individual cannot escape his everyday situation, just like the uninterrupted loops of the artist, who also can’t escape environmental concerns, as well as those of excessive consumerism embodied in mountains of trash in the ‘tianguis’ of second hand stuff, evident in his work through the artist’s obsession for reusing, for classifying, for not resigning to the obsolesce of objects but instead trying to breathe life into them once again, as in applying a cardio-respiratory massage with desperation, not with a dramatic vision of the matter, but with a nostalgic and ludic one without a doubt.

So we have the study of the work and creative production’s process of the artist, he throws light onto these processing trails of imagination and ideas, thus rendering the context that has surrounded the artist since childhood, in addition to his aesthetic and conceptual predilections determinant to the consummation of the piece itself, a reflection and manifestation of his time.


[1] Nanodrizas Project. Consultation: April 11th, 2012.

[2] Unless pointed otherwise, the information poured in this paragraph proceeds from the interview between the digital artist Arcángel Constantini and Cynthia Villagómez Oviedo in the National Sound Library, Coyoacán, Mexico City. October 1st, 2011. Interview video’s length: 00:21:43.

[3] “This was a series of hardware by Commodore. Popular in the eighties and nineties because it perhaps represented the only low cost equipment for professional video production at the time.” Commentary by Octavio Mercado González, Master in History of Art, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, UNAM.

[4] Translation of the Mexican voice ‘desmadre’, which means: loss of measure, uncontrolled excess.

[5] Interview to digital artist Arcángel Constantini by Cynthia Villagómez Oviedo in the Sound Library, Coyoacán, Mexico City. October 1st, 2011. Video interview length: 00:21:43.

[6] Ibid.

[7] From the “Sintopía(s). Art, science, and technology interrelations” catalog by the Cervantes Institute in Beijing, China, from April 17th to June 10th, 2007. P.p. 58-59.

[8] Arcángel Constantini. Consultation: April 15th, 2012

[9] Arcángel Constantini. Consultation: April 15th, 2012.