Born in Segovia and raised in Aldeavieja, Ivan currently lives in Madrid. Holding a degree in Art History from the University of Salamanca and a postgrad in History of Cinema from the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid, he works as a teacher at Blank Paper School of Photography and the Cinema and Audio-visual School of Madrid, where he teaches Art Theory and Audio-visual language.
His work has been showcased in exhibits and festivals such as Documenta Madrid or the Jihlava International Film Festival. His texts, which bring together Art theory and fiction, have been published in different catalogues and photobooks. El Blanco, which he created along with Ricardo Cases, is his most recent published work.

I have never shared the bourgeois idea of photography as death [...] the people have always known very well that images can be life and this is why some people kiss them […] Time must be interrupted in order for it to be made eternal. Art History is full of magical images […] that are capable of containing the essence of a being […]

Therefore, there is a being that inhabits the image or, to be more precise, a being that is an image. Unlike the image-representation that, for instance, could narrate how a Saint miraculously appeared to someone, through an image-representation the Saint appears before our eyes […] the image is the miracle.

And so we are set to see portraits of God made by God, bisons trapped inside Palaeolithic caves, the letters of the unnameable Adonai written in the untouchable Torah, crucified images of Christ whose colours have been washed off their feet with the lips of those who have kissed them throughout history […] and doppelgangers of the bodies of believers made out of stone so that they can ensure an eternal prayer in the temples they are put in while the real ones carry on with their daily lives.

It is not about believing that we are seeing the world through a window, like in the Western image since Renaissance, but instead, it is about the fact that through that window something or someone has trespassed into our world.

From the prologue of Geranium Cuttings

(Die Stecklinge der Geranie)

Jakob Gottlom-Leibus


The study of the image-representation can turn out to be difficult, especially if the findings are personalized […] I started classifying current magical behaviours I thought belonged to former times with respect to the image, and that is when I saw that the paradox was not that these beliefs could exist in a technological society, but rather that its fetishist intentions had taken over technologic products for magical ends. As a matter of fact, the easy access to photography, its cheaper cost and the number of images produced have given birth to religious cults and interesting products, such as the reproduction of sacred images destined to be kissed by believers instead of the previous sculptures and original paintings, whose integrity is therefore protected; or portraits taken in studios, IDs, or just daily images that are left in the temples instead of hair locks to provide evidence of the presence of the believer’s body. […] so pictures are industrial, commercial, reproducible and useful products in daily life but the will of believers can turn them into magical objects... that option is there and it all depends on the desire of who uses them or simply looks at them […] I have registered an action that closes the circle: a woman, after kissing the image of the an Ecce Homo, pulls out of her purse the picture of who is quite possibly a relative and places it close to the sacred image until their matter, their foundations, come into contact. In this case, the kiss takes place between the images and the human being is there just to guide the action [...] Although the images-presence are static, they are far from being puppets that we handle at our will, we could even think that we are actually handled by them.

I became obsessed with these ideas and I myself ended up having fetishist attitudes towards images. At the beginning it was like a game or a fictional palliative that calmed down a materialist mind using fantastic images […] It was funny during office work, but it became problematic when it showed up as I was teaching.

I started to become conscious of the existence of these bodies during a class in which I showed a slide of a temple and saw the small image of a human being in front of the door […] it looked as if that human had just walked out of the building (and when I say “just walked out” I’m not referring to the moment in which the picture was taken) […] Since then, in every slide including architectural images that I showed I would look for people […] The buildings no longer existed to me, I only focused on the persons trapped within that net that had been thrown to catch other fishes. I would no longer follow the program in my classes, I would just limit myself to explain how those bodies had multiplied by the work and grace of photography, how they would be enlightened each time they were screened, how they were innocent beings that did not know they were being photographed, made eternal, because otherwise they would have forced a gesture […] Eternity is not a place you end up in any way.

When image technology becomes obsolete, its products are copied into modern platforms. When image technology becomes obsolete, the beings that inhabit those images are forced, at best, to transmigrate, and at worst, they are forgotten in the purgatory of an old drawer […] No one used the analogue screener, not even the History of Architecture slide collection: digital tools were used instead. However, I could not stop thinking about those beings sentenced to darkness […]

Something had to be done to bring them and their presence back to light; an alternative platform had to be found so these people could continue their journeys. Consider these beings as a presence and not a representation, and, if you can’t believe this, then let yourselves be fooled for a minute […] or at least think, like Malevich said about his quadrangles, that their images do not represent anything because they simply are.


And it was precisely in that moment that the woman, laying the flowerpot upon the table, uttered the words that would force a sharp turn on my research about image theory: “From this geranium I have taken many cuttings and I have given them to my neighbours. From these cuttings others have sprouted; now their red colour can be seen along all of the Fegefeuerstrasse, but there was a time in which only I had it […] The other ones weren't born from seeds, they were not even born, because they are cuttings of the first one and in fact they are it […] Don't you believe that it is the same plant, although it exists in many places at once? Isn't that fascinating?”

And in the same way that the geranium stood in all the windows of the Fegefeuerstrasse, where the images are is where the bodies are […] and they will not be the copy of a copy in different formats; rather, they will be its cuttings.

From the epilogue of Geranium Cuttings

(Die Stecklinge der Geranie)

Jakob Gottlom-Leibus