More then two thousand years ago, Plato compared society to life-time prisoners in a cave, where the reality they see and deem to be the only truth is a mere reflection of the world outside. According to Plato, people should not be taking sensory knowledge of reality (which comes from what we see and hear in the world) for reality itself and only philosophers are able to see beyond our perception and comprehend alternative possibilities. Artists, however, have that capability as well.
Los Angeles based Mexican artist Carlos Luna James uses an abbreviation mgoglktko (pronounced ma’go gala’ktiko) as his artistic name and signature (https://instagram.com/mgoglktko). It comes from his Mayan zodiac sign – Mago Galáctico Blanco (White Galactic Magician in English) – which grants him the power to enchant people.
Carlos creates what he calls an immersive reality installations, conflating art and technology. His sculptures are combinations of architectural precision, artistic innovation, and craftsmanship. To enhance our experience, some include sound in addition to a digital element, either an embedded video screen or a mapped projection. The artist uses animation to imbue his characters with movement and emotions. Carlos learned fabrication on his own by trial and error. He works tirelessly perfecting his artistry. Laser cutting and 3D printing are among his many techniques.
“My biggest question is What is our reality?
Is it created by us, all that we see? Do we build our existence and live out all that we had perceived as truth? I’ve been fascinated with the concepts of reality, perception and consciousness. I think my art reflects, a lot, the spiritual trans, when you get to the point where you are at peace, no thoughts, nothing, you just feel it. That’s where I try to get with my art… kind of hypnotizing you.” Carlos tries to ignite our curiosity to examine our perception of reality by inviting us to relax and employ our senses not just to collect data about our environment, but to enter a meditative state and to tap into the unlimited knowledge available to us through what he calls “the connected universal language.”
Once you step into his immersive engrossing installations, it’s possible to be let into a trancelike state by psychedelic colors, pulsing eyes, rotating orbits and flashing lights. At a glance, these look simplistic, even toy-like, and our discerning minds, used to tackling world’s problems and constantly being challenged by conceptualism in contemporary art, move fast to dismiss them as too primitive. That is what Plato warned us about – not to dismiss the philosopher who challenges our perceptions. It is a lofty goal and for this artist it comes from his own insatiable appetite for knowledge. His own challenge is that thinking and questioning always lead not only to answers but to more questions.
It is a pivotal time in the artist’s life and career as he is working towards establishing his full-time artistic practice, starting with a goal of having a bigger studio within a year. We met a few months ago, and I am smitten by this passionate hard-working dreamer and philosopher. As I watch how fast he moves forward, how persistent and driven he is, and how much creative potential is within him waiting to be unlocked given time and resources, I feel that this artist should be on everybody’s radar.