Iñaki Bonillas

Serie Tineidae, 2010

Photograph | Silver gelatin print
8 photographs
Different dimensions
(#2 36.6 x 28.1 cm | #3 23.7 x 31.1 cm |  #7 20.8 x 27.8 cm | #8 21.7 x 29.6 cm | #10 29.7 x 36.6 cm | #13 28-2 x 28.2 cm | #16 24.6 x 19.7 cm | #20 31.2 x 31.1 cm)


Tineidae starts with a selection of twenty photos from the J. R. Plaza archive. They all speak to summer joy, and feature partially naked human bodies. Bonillas exposed black and white replicas of these pictures to moths. The final framed presentation of the works shows the insect marks as white stains, some merely delicate perforations, others shaping a trail through the picture.

Usually, when one finds holes in photos, it’s a case of censorship. Often it’s the photographer who cuts something, or someone, out. And this editing tends to happen years later, when a certain hat has gone out of fashion or when friends have become fiends.  The hole is a permanent mark of an act of reinterpretation, and of alliances or beliefs not being permanent. Those hole-punchers feel a right to their authority or ownership over the photo and over the life of the memories it produces.

The rare case where moths get inside an album and engage in similarly iconoclastic behaviour doesn’t quite follow this narrative.  Moths, legend has it, see very little.  As such, they only care about photos as matter, and as edible matter. Like Bonillas, who has consistently treated his grandfather’s archive  as his materia prima, the moths perceive the photos not as psychologically charged signs but primarily as stuff to sink their teeth into. In this project, Bonillas partially ‘outsources’ the reinterpreting of the album to an insect, but it’s also the animal doubling as appropriator, and a voracious one at that. The fact that the moths are faced with images of human bodies turns this particular appropriation into a weirdly aggressive, anthropophagic enterprise. Just as the moth was an ambivalent symbol of death in early modern painting, Tineidae contains a contemporary, accelerated vanitas moment.

By grouping these 20 pictures into a series entitled Tineidae, the scientific name for this moth species, Bonillas also evokes a fictional constellation. It’s as if the white dots, more densely grouped on certain photos than on others, present a celestial chart that happens to appear against the background of family pictures. Yet in this case that natural language authored by the insects seemingly random gnawing comes after the existence of the developed photo. Here, the album has turned into a novel ecosystem for actions and signs to emerge beyond the control of J. R. Plaza, his grandson, the censor, the print studio…  presenting us, the viewers, with an immediate prompt to think about photography and intentionality, about different temporalities, about impermanence, and even about such abstract concepts as nature and culture.  Making us realize that, in the end, all we have are traces that slowly wither.


Sarah Demeuse