Tag Archives: barcelona

this time, it’s personal

One of our major projects in Barcelona was an exploration of rephotography (you can read my brilliant blog post about our first session if you like), but the focus in our work with Arqueologia del Punt de Vista was largely on the historicity and ideas of collective memory and consciousness, as well as the self-reflexivity, of the concept and practice (I’m serious about the self-reflexive stuff — Natasha and Ricard went crazy over pictures of pictures that include the photographer themselves).  So most of our work took the form of rephotographing historical (early 20th century) shots of Placa Catalunya, Parc de la Ciutadella, Hospital de Santa Creu, and so forth.  While this was interesting, from a theoretical perspective, and from a technical perspective, it was good practice with Photoshop and establishing of vantage points, I felt I was left with a question: what about meaning?  I think in its most potent forms, rephotography is an act, a performative process that is as much itself the artwork as is the finished photograph (or, most likely, photo-composite).  And the meaning of this repetitive act, in many cases, and certainly in the workshop we just concluded, is tied to place.

“Place” — a pregnant term, the title of a book (by Tim Cresswell) that I have recently finished as part of the reading for my study abroad program, an idea that has a sense and is, according to most (modern) theorists, differentiated from “space”.  Place has a subjective meaning, place can be personal, place can be non-, place can be imaginary, place can be virtual.  The problem with rephotographing these spaces, I will call them, in Barcelona, is that their historicity is almost completely divorced from our sense of them as places — as transient international students inhabiting the city itself for only a scant month, our sense of place that gives meaning to Placa Catalunya is very much a nowness, of pigeons and Spanish children and the personal ballets we enact through it on our way from school at IES to the La Rambla Carrefore where we could buy a liter of shockingly decent boxed wine for only 55 eurocents.

My first attempt at rephotography ala Photoshop.

Maybe the very act (which I have declared as so very important) of rephotographing these historical vantage points on places we have visited in the present is a creation of a more historically-connected sense of place.  But to be honest, I know nothing about the author of the image I rephotographed for my personal project, only that it where it was taken and roughly what time of day, from the angle of the light and the projection of the shadows.  The only historical connection that the photograph creates for me is a sense of aesthetic or architectural alteration.  Admittedly, I could perhaps have sought out more information about the photograph’s production myself, but part of my point is that while it was interesting, it lacks much matter for me in this particular case of being put into practice.

So, when we approach rephotography as an act, it begs personal meaning for the performer — whether that meaning is in the intended production of art or affect on others, or resides firmly in the psychology of the performer-artist.  Often, deeply personal acts, when made public (through exhibition, through published accounts, through the perennial ‘based-on-a-true-story’…) can themselves be powerful art pieces (case-in-point: the photography of Nan Goldin).  But like photography, rephotography need not always be gratuitously artistic — photography and rephotography can encompass similarly multiplicities of uses and therefore meanings.

Rephotography, says Natasha Christia, is a “returning to the scene of the crime”.  So, knowing that I would soon be bidding farewell to Barcelona, I found myself compelled to do exactly this — to engage in personal rephotography.  There are two scenes, and two crimes, that I needed to revisit, to deal with photographically, and somehow I felt that I could not leave the city without retracing these steps.  One was a space of vicitmization, the other of perpetration.  Spaces that were converted into places through occurrences and the memories that I now carry with me, spaces made personal, spaces appropriated now, digitally and visually and indelibly, through the act of taking a photograph.  While I did not engage in rephotography in its strictest sense of taking a specific photograph that has already been taken, the theoretical sense was the same, in that I was using photography to recreate perspective, placing myself in exact locations I had been in with the exact vantage points, and re-enacting my own (recently) historical experience of seeing.

The park where I was targeted, 4 weeks later.

The first place I rephotographed was an area of the Gothic Quarter where I had settled on the Sunday before school officially began, in order to read a book on mapping.  To make a long story short, I was robbed, and chased the thief through alleyways and cobbled sidestreets until I finally shamed him into returning my entire backpack in front of a square-full of lunching Barcelonans.  I was wary of this whole area of the city for several weeks to follow, the memory of my pounding heart and footsteps filling my mind and creating almost single-handedly my ‘sense of place’.

Another view of the park.

So I returned, four weeks later – I sat in the same spot on the bench where I had been conned into looking away from my bag for two seconds too long, and rephotographed the view of the park that I been before me that afternoon.  I walked the streets through which I had dashed in pursuit of my pickpocket, taking a photograph every few feet, recreating my own perspective.  I also took some pictures of vantage points I had never had that day, but which were rephotographic in their intent of reinterpreting that place, and how it had changed in meaning, for me — it was strangely cathartic, but I still felt a lingering unease as I walked through that brightly lit park, past ping-pong players and children set in motion on swing sets.

Presumably, the vantage point of my attempted pickpockets.

My vantage point prior to the robbery, rephotographed.

The square where I had finally received my bag was strangely empty.  What is interesting about the rephotographs I produced is that the ‘originals’ are in my own mind, and they do not reveal a change so much as the act of returning, the act of pressing the button to release the shutter, reveals the change – in me, in my conception of place, in my conception of my own experience, in my relationship with the city of Barcelona as a greater incarnation of place that inherently includes this tighter-cropped circle of experience.

A photographic walk through the beginning of my pursuit of the pickpocket and my pack:

Returning to the scene of the crime can be dangerous, but I also felt compelled to bring my camera back to the site of my own mild misdemeanor.  Barcelona is known for its graffiti (a culture intimately connected with its status as the skateboarding capitol of Europe and the brightness of its modernist architecture and art nouveau designs).  Now, thanks to a few friends (who shall of course remain nameless) and I, that body of work of street art is a little richer.  We headed out from our residence at 1 am dressed in hoodies and dark jeans and armed with two cans of spray paint, with the intention of ‘making spaces into places’ by quite literally inscribing our mark on them.  Ironically, given that we are here as digital photography students, not a single one of us was carrying any device with which to digitally record our exploits.

So I went back with my DSLR, the next afternoon, in order to save my own handiwork for posterity, or something like it.  Perhaps as proof that we had done what we had – a sort of preservation for bragging rights.  Inherent in all rephotography is a temporal shift — broadly defined, this can be anywhere from a few seconds to centuries.  The interesting thing about this case of ‘rephotography’ was the shift in time of day — seeing our graffiti in the light of 16:00 is altogether different from seeing it at the witching hour, freshly painted.  Further, despite the passage of less than 24 hours between its execution and my rephotographic pilgrimage, one section of it had already been painted over!  I rephotographed this as well, as a testament to its short-lived nature, a reflection on the surprisingly strict sanctions that the Barcelona municipality has established with regard to street art.  This sort of conspicuous, or meaningful, absence is itself an entire subcategory of rephotography.

One of my tags.

I didn’t take these pictures with an end goal of art (although I always strive for some sort of aesthetic whenever I release the shutter) — perhaps they are art because they have a sort of process-based meaning that has resulted in some sort of aesthetic.  I don’t have any intention of exhibiting them, except in order to illustrate this discourse on photographic practice.  But even if this is only the loosest form of rephotography, it is a prime example of how meaningful the photographic act can be as just that — an action that carries meaning through its being carried out.

tv on the internet: a few thoughts inspired by rac105

One thing that struck me right away in Barcelona was the predominance of chart-topping American pop music — I could hear it pumping from this booth outside El Corte Ingles every day when I went to class, it played in tiendas and supermercats all over the city, and on my first evening in the area, I distinctly heard some Justin Bieber flowing out of the club Razzmatazz near our housing in Poble Nou.  (This is in opposition to Paris, where I was during spring break, and where I was constantly hearing very mediocre American hip-hop/R&B that I had never before…  Also while in Paris, my friend Clare introduced me to the videos of the French artist Yelle, who is beyond the scope of this current post but merits further consideration.  I think there is something distinctly French about French music videos.)

As may have been implied in my post on remix, one of my favorite focuses of visual culture is the music video.  But music videos on TV – Spain has a channel called RAC105, which is what MTV would be (what MTV should be, at the risk of inciting argument…) had it not become predominated by reality TV and other programming that seems to have forgotten its roots in avant-garde video and, oh yeah, music.  My beef with MTV aside, RAC105 was fascinating in its selection of videos: almost all American pop, plus some local Spanish color, and one random house single from Eastern Europe called Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan.  Pop songs and music videos tend to have a shelf-life in the context of radio-play and MTV-play (when MTV gets around to playing music videos…), but RAC105 defied a lot of my expectations about what would get played — it was not uncommon to have Miley Cyrus’  “Party in the U.S.A.” followed by “Born This Way” followed by something Annie Lennox recorded in the 80s.  It reminded me, in its programming and ordering, of the often-eclecticness of KRLX, my beloved home college radio station (where, incidentally, I DJ when I am on campus).  Maybe this connection is related to the relative lack of commercials on RAC105, such that it, like college radio, can sort of play whatever it wants – or rather, whatever it is that it thins Spain wants, which seems to be this intriguing mélange of American music (plus the token Romanian house stuff…).

There are also definitely videos that I saw for the first time on RAC105 (Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me”, in which the relevance of Rocky Horror and Tommy references elude the best of us…).  The channel was on most of the time we were all in our lounge/kitchen, and was very popular with my fellow study abroad students, but we would often ask each other, is this popular in the U.S.?  Is this what Spain thinks is popular in the U.S.?  I never had definitive answer for either of those questions.  Nonetheless, I find it fascinating to consider how music videos that may or may not reflect our culture and its values are being received abroad – what is catching on in Spain, and what, through the lens of Spanish TV, we can assume is catching on at home while we are away.

pablo picasso and the potential parasites*

Today’s class in the land of Carleton College CAMS New Media consisted of a guest lecture by Matthew Clear, a professor at IES Barcelona, on Picasso, followed by a guided visit with Matthew to the Picasso Museum in El Born district.  Despite the fact that I was dead tired from staying up until the wee hours this morning editing video (I am a CAMS major, after all), both the lecture and the tour (especially the tour) were completely engaging.  Prior to this morning, I knew enough about Picasso to rattle off his various Periods (Blue, Pink, etc.), expound a bit on his influence (or fathering, one might say) of Cubism, recognize (some) of his works, comment on his proliferate womanizing, etc. etc.

But I definitely discovered a great deal more of the depth of Pablo Picasso, and particularly the fact that there is, in fact, a continuity in this body of work that at first glance seems almost disjointed at times, so varied and shifted in its style.  That continuity, I think, is his constant curiosity about his art and himself — translating into a consistently autobiographical and medium-experimental approach to art.

I’m sure this has been written on extensively by scholars before me, but I think it’s particularly interesting that if we consider his curiosity to be a inherent part of his character, his self, then even his experimentation, medium-wise, is part of an over-arching autobiographical thread, tying together all the reflections of his sexuality, his relationship with his family, his lovers, events in his life, his varying levels of wealth, that run through and define and inspire his art.

Of course, this approach to interpretation is very much author-oriented, so now I will turn about-face (of a sort) and talk about one particular work that we saw today that I think has special meaning located in the image itself, and in my own subjective appreciation of it.

Unfinished is fine

The work is one that Picasso half-executed in 1917, at the age of 36, a foray into yet another style in his never-ending process of self- and medium-exploration.  Matthew asked us why we thought it had, like every other attempt Picasso made at pointillism, remained unfinished, and I raised my hand to suggest that Picasso must have simply gotten bored, knowing his tendency to work fast his constant to desire to move on to the ‘next thing’ — whether a new painting, a new artistic style, or a new lover.  But while this is a likely (and interesting) explanation for the painting’s unfinished state, I want to question whether this painting should, in fact, be called unfinished.  Clearly, Picasso was done with it — he had ‘finished’ with the pointillistic approach not long after he took it up.  This, in some ways, could be seen as a mechanism of the medium itself — like the mechanically inherent aspects of the photographic practice that at times places the act of creation more in the body of the camera than in the hands of its operator, the artist, the mechanism of pointillism produces inherent impatience in some of its less ‘devoted’ practitioners.  And as a result, we are left with this beautiful trace of the medium, this ephemeral story of coming-into-being, a story we would not have been able to read had the medium been any other.

Picasso's unfinished attempt at pointillism.

To me personally, this painting is beautiful and mesmerizing (I aver that the rendering above holds no candle to the actual painting — shout out to Walter Benjamin!) precisely because it is ‘unfinished’.  The balance of space and color, of lines and dots grows together so organically.  There is a sense of fleeting existence, or simultaneously disappearance and reappearance, that I see in this painting.  For me, it is finished.  Or rather, it is not unfinished — it is always still being finished.  In a way, no work of art is ever finished, if we allow it to ‘mean’ subjectively, because it’s meanings and its context grow and change, almost imperceptibly, every time it is viewed or discovered and drunk in by museum-goers like myself.

the critic as tourist?**

I am as always, interested in how we attend museums, the paths we take through them, why we look at certain works and not at others, and how the architecture (literal and institutional) of the museum structures our visit.  As a large group (25 people counting Matthew) taking a tour in an extensive but rather small-roomed museum, we tended to cause blockages, but one thing I found fascinating was the way that other visitors to the museum would sort of attach themselves to us for varying lengths of time.  Undoubtedly, this is a credit to Matthew’s excellent tour-guiding, but it got me thinking about whether this is okay.  Sure, if you’re looking at a painting a tour group is looking at as well, it’s rather unavoidable that you will hear their guide’s explanations, but there was one point where we had accumulated at least a dozen hangers-on who were actually moving with us from room to room, which, practically speaking, creates serious traffic issues.  Then there is the question of whether these non-group members should be allowed to join a tour that was not, technically, public — we had some clinging Asian tourists for 5 or 6 paintings, and one older American couple that stuck with us until the very end in the ceramics gallery.  I guess as long as they aren’t preventing the students for whom the tour was intended from seeing or hearing, then it’s probably fine, but I’m also fascinated by the extent to which this fascinates (read: kind of bothers?) me.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for open-source, especially in academic contexts.  And it seems wrong that I should be bothered by the fact that other people were taking an opportunity to learn more about Picasso by listening to Matthew, who is a veritable expert.  But beyond speaking to a potentially unsettling elitism in myself, an elitism that I am beginning to suspect is in fact produced by the museum structure and the way it privileges certain art and an intellectual approach to the aesthetic, might this accumulation of tour group ‘parasites’, if you will, speak to a general lack of knowledge of how one engages a museum?  And how one engages art in general?  When I am feeling energetic, I like to go into art museums and look at everything, especially if the particular exhibit compels me in some particular way, as if it were a photograph with some Barthesian punctum to reach out and interpellate me.

The Louvre, where I am not afraid to admit, I get lost.

But not everybody does this, and I certainly don’t in every museum: I walk into the Louvre and feel lost, partly because it is physically dwarfing and mostly because I am looking for the modern and contemporary art that I personally know how to engage with (and which the Louvre tends to lack, since you must be dead to be exhibited there — unless, of course, you are Picasso, who was the first living artist to have his paintings hung alongside the likes of his idols El Greco and Velazquez).

Guided tours, then, are all about solving this confusion of what to look at, a method for dealing with the image-overload of entering the museum space.  They are a way of having our sight instructed.  In this sense, they have the potential to be both incredibly useful and incredibly limiting.  Approaching any museum through both the tour format and the free-form (as free-form as an architecturally-structured space can allow) act of exploration can be differently rewarding in different situations.

Centre Pompidou, where I know exactly which route to take so I can stand in front of the Mark Rothko for half an hour.

So I understand, on some level, these other tourists’ desire to join our group, a desire perhaps influenced, if they spoke little Spanish, by hearing a continuous stream of clever and enlightening and lightly-accented and familiar English in a foreign country.  Perhaps my unease at being joined is that, as a student here, I tend to Otherize tourists, hypocritical as that may be.  I conveniently forget that I myself am also from America, am also only marginally skilled in speaking Spanish, am also engaging in a number of activities that could be considered ‘touristic’.  I see American (and other) tourists as Others, in a separate group, while they see me (and the CAMS group) as Self, part of their own familiar space of English-speakers excursioning abroad.

So thinking about museums and the relative private-ness of guided tours reveals almost as much about how I see others as it does about how I (and others) see art — which in itself speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of visual studies, my tangential foray into my own psychology and some anthropological musings.  Speaking of (visual) anthropology, I should end by saying that, as tempted as I was, I did not sneakily follow the Japanese tour group that kept crossing our path in the museum.  At least, not for that long…

*I’m thinking of naming my band this, if I ever start the post-twee extravaganza I’ve always dreamed of fronting…
**Syntax and implied reference to parasitism lovingly attributed to J. Hillis Miller.

start wearing purple

One of the things I love about visual studies is that, for the most part, it can be applied to anything.  To the extent that what we see and how we see it shapes our world (our worldview, one might say), that world is our oyster for the analyzing.  And visual studies makes no hierarchical distinction between “high” and “low” culture – giving me an excuse, or rather an invitation, to think critically about the experience that I on Wednesday evening.

There is a performance artist touring the world right now, or rather My World (His World?) – and that artist performed live on April 6, 2011 at 20:00 on the Palau Sant Jordi stage, and yes, I was there.  I SAW JUSTIN BIEBER IN CONCERT.

Classic crowded concert...plus Justin Bieber.

Posting about this requires two revelations on my part to you, my readers – firstly, that I do identify as a hipster, and secondly, that, yes, I do identify as a Justin Bieber fan.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a Belieber – my cynicism tends to prevent me from blind belief, which is a useful trait in the realm of visual studies – but I do legitimately enjoy him.  There are many cognitively dissonant aspects of the two identities I just professed, but I like to think that my slight cynicism allows me to cut through the crap of unconditional fandom and be an even truer fan.  Rather like how a true friend will tell you if you have spinach in your teeth – I would do that for Justin.  Most fangirls, I imagine, would not.  As both a critic and an appreciator, I can operate like the child in the Emperor’s New Clothes.  If ever I see the J-Biebs unclad, I shan’t let him go on believing that he is wearing a beautiful violet v-neck and matching Pirates cap when he is fact wearing nothing at all.

The concert didn't start until 8 pm, but I got there around 5 pm in order to get a decent spot to stand, and to observe the attendance practices and attire of the locals.

Which brings me to one of the more fascinating visual aspects (among many) of the concert and the whole phenom that is Justin Bieber: the color purple.  The construction of any given pop star’s image through iconography is common (rampant?) enough, but the ability to monopolize one particular color to this extent has not been seen since The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was known as Prince – and I doubt that he was able to mobilize thousands of tweenage girls and their parents to arrive at the Palau Sant Jordi in a sea of lavender the way Bieber did on Wednesday.  I am hard-pressed to come up with any other artists with such strong color association – if anyone else can, let me know, and we can start writing a legitimate academic article on this (I may do this anyway).

From a visual studies point of view, the proliferation of screens in the venue was fascinating, as was the the matching of light to costuming (all purple of course).

So even though I only cursorily Google Maps-ed the location of the arena in advance of arrival, I had absolutely no trouble finding it – I started seeing the purple Yankees hats, the Nike kicks, the purple shirts and shoes and tank-tops and hoodies, and their wearers, who were on average at least 5 years younger than me, as soon as I got on the Metro heading towards Placa Espanya.  Tracking the increase in the color density as I got closer and closer to the epicenter was shockingly easy and kind of fascinating.

The tide of purple begins...

Justin Bieber t-shirts come in a beautiful variety of shades of purple.

...and keeps on coming.

In a March 19 interview on Nightline, Justin Bieber had the following interchange with Christ Connelly:

Justin: “Favorite color is purple.”

Chris: “You laughed there. Do people ask you what your favorite color is sometimes?”

Justin: “Yeah, sometimes.”

Chris: “Is it really funny to be asked what your favorite color is?”

Justin: “Yeah. Like, who cares what my favorite color is?”

To answer Justin’s question, clearly, a lot of people – not just the swarms of swooning Spaniards, but every company that is branding products with his signature color, a shade that serves to make every Yankees cap, pair of JustBeats headphones, and more, signify the growing and complex discourse of celebrity that surrounds the young star.  The color is indexical for his person.  He comes off as nonchalant, but he must realize the strength of the iconography that is being built up around him (and its significant economic implications) – the image is sexy, and very much a selling point.  A symbiosis of advertising that balances selling Justin Bieber through his easily recognizable branded and color-coded image with selling a dizzying array of products and clothing that are conversely ‘branded’ with Justin Bieber’s constructed celebrity.  Celebrity branding and image construction is a given in the present day, but the extent to which it is succeeding with Bieber, particularly through its reliance on the simplicity of laying claim to a single color, is impressive.  We are capable of seeing only so many shades, and the power of association with such a basic aspect of our visual experience cannot be escaping whoever is masterminding the Justin Bieber phenomenon.

I'mma tell you one time...

A silhouetted fan.

This all of course begs the question of why purple – yes, he claims it as his favorite color, but it is being co-opted into an index for his image, and it carries its own cultural semiotic baggage that is hard to ignore.  Common connotations are those of royalty and nobility, or homosexuality, but these are connections that make much more sense in the case of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, as Bieber is not particularly kingly (his fans may feel otherwise) nor has he come out (although speculations likely abound).  My more jaded moments of musing on the subject lead me to simply suspect that the historical popularity of the color among Bieber’s target audience, such as the thousands of young Spanish girls at Palau Sant Jordi, is the primary factor in the (economic) choice to promote the color iconography of the star.  As jaded as it may sound, perhaps it is all a ruse and Bieber has no fundamental love of the color purple, and the semiotics of self-construction and advertising are simply being mobilized with staggering power in the building of a united fan base.

Needless to say, I wore my hipsteriest black and yellow to the concert.  As a visual text of conformity, I read the event counter to its ‘intended meaning’ of interpellating me as not just a viewer but a consumer.  Judith Butler says that analysis kills pleasure – but I speak from personal experience when I say that rocking out to “Somebody to Love” and considering critically the dynamics of the creation of spectacle in the concert venue can go hand in hand.

All of the above pictures plus more photographic evidence from the course of the evening, in a handy slideshow!

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picturing pictures: a rephoto intro

This post appeared originally on the CAMS New Media Roadtrip blog, which you can access here!

If you listen to much Jack Johnson, you may be familiar with his classic chorus “pictures of people taking pictures of people…” and so on – as irreverent and poppy as he may be, he’s got something right.  Photography is a very self-reflexive medium, and perhaps one of the newest and most exciting trends right now is the field of Rephotography.

A rephotograph by Sergey Larenkov.

On Monday evening, we (the Carleton New Media seminar students and the great John Schott) had the pleasure of attending a presentation on rephotography by Arqueologia del Punt de Vista, a research and photography collective working here in Barcelona.  It is the first in a series of five sessions we will be conducting with them as a joint academic and artistic endeavor that brings together a variety of viewpoints, especially contrasting their perspectives as local photographers with ours as newly arrived cinema and media studies majors (and budding photographers, of course!).

Arqueologia del Punt de Vista, from L to R: Isidre Santacreu, Ricard Martinez, and Natasha Christia.

Arqueologia del Punt de Vista is a 4-member non-profit organization based here in Spain whose primary focus is conducting research related to visual elements of the past – exploring connections between history and collective memory, how Spain conceived and conceives of the Franco regime, and other facets of the rephotographic method.  Three of the group’s four members were with us on Monday: Ricard Martinez, the founder and guiding photographer of the project, Isidre Santacreu, an architect and photographer who spearheads the design of Arqueologia’s public installations of their work, and Natasha Christia, a Greek researcher and archeologist who works extensively with the theory of rephotography.

So what, you may be wondering, is rephotography?  To quote Natasha, it is “a reflexive tune that explores photography’s creation of time”, a creative and critical approach that “allows us to consider the in-between of the photograph”.  Simply put, rephotography is the (performative) act of taking a photograph of something that has already been recorded – usually photographically, but also that which has been mapped, drawn, filmed, and so on.  The basic principle is to record changes, as rephotography is inherently an invitation to comparison, an adding of our gaze to the gaze of other people who have been here before, an interrogation of viewpoint.  Our photographs in turn may be themselves re-photographed, making us part of a chain through time.  Photography, and rephotography, can allow us to position ourselves in respect to past and future.

Ansel Adams’ day at Yapavay Point Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, 2008. Combined record of Ansel Adams’ photographs made over the course of an entire day, Yavapai Point.

The lecture, which Natasha presented with compelling fervor that made even some very complicated theory seem quite intuitive, outlined the history of the movement up till now and some of its most prominent and provocative practitioners, starting with the work of Edward Muybridge and working up to modern approaches by foundational rephotographer Mark Klett (who the Arqueologia team have worked with quite recently).  She discussed how rephotography can be urban, can concern the body, can work specifically with absence, can play with the liminal space between the original and the simulacrum, with a wealth of examples among contemporary and recent photographers’ works.

What Arqueologia del Punt de Vista has been doing in Barcelona over the last several years has been a series of installations in the city itself, spurred by a desire to create a direct connection between urban space/place and memory, memory and collective history.  Some of their works have included Repressio i Resistencia, Runa, Autoretrat, and most recently, Working Across Time (with Mark Klett).

An earlier verison of the Centelles Walk produced this rephotograph.

Monday’s meeting with Arqueologia del Punt de Vista was just the beginning of series of very exciting events that we will be engaging in during the remainder of our time in Barcelona – we will add our creative and critical powers to theirs in a joint project that will add our subjective point of view to the perpetual chain of time.  Starting on Saturday, we will have a rephotography workshop with the team, working from  old photographs and seeking out the precise vantage points from which they were taken, working with drawings and perception of space.  We can also look forward to two visits with the team (one to the Catalan Archives and one to the Library of Catalunya) that will allow us to explore the evolving vision of Barcelona through maps and aerial views, piecing together both historical perspectives and our own perspectives as newcomers to the city.  Most exciting, perhaps, is the walk we have planned with Ricard, which will see us actually tracing the historic July 19, 1936 walk of the photographer Augusti Centelles (the first day of the Spanish Civil War) through the careful reconstructing of negatives.  The walk will be both an experiment in rephotography and an exploration of history and place and image – about how we know what is happening around us, and how to interpret the world through photos.

Perhaps, as Isidre warned, it is true that “photographs are pre-mental; you will end up doing a photo-Barcelona that reflects the photo-Barcelona you have in mind” – but now that we are delving into rephotography, it seems that the tools for discovering a “true” Barcelona – even if that truth reflects, inevitably, our own subjective viewpoints – are at our fingertips.