Documentos, Actividades II-III (Documents, Activities II-III) , 1973-76
Publication | Document 77 sheets: b/w il. in an envelope of 32.5 x 22.7 cm
Galería Vandrés, Madrid
Dérive Veneziane: The Edition, 2015
Film | Color PAL | Sound | HD 16:9 | 38′
Fotograph | 30 original photograms from the film | 38 x 21 cm
‘One day, cities will be built for dérive.’ This quote from Guy Debord concludes the thirty-eight minute-long Dérive Veneziane, Muntadas’s 2017 nocturnal boat trip along the canals of Venice.
The fact is that Venice had been an object of fascination for the Situationist International since 1957, when first the artist Ralph Rumneyand subsequently Debordhimself chose the city for the pioneering implementation of their idea of psychogeography: essentially, the intensive use of dérive as a way of moving through the urban environment and generating an alternative – and, indeed, anticipatory –understanding of it. As Asger Jorn, another artist from the same circle, was to put it, psychogeography is ‘the science-fiction of urbanism’: wandering with no definite aim and losing oneself in the urban maze was taken up by the Situationists as a way of awakening the imagination and thus generating significant analytical engagements with the urban environment.
Sixty years later, the dérive that Muntadas undertook in the same city has a markedly more sinister character than those of his predecessors. In the dead of night, in the silence and solitude of the canals recorded in this video cannot fail to evoke the association that has subsisted, at least since Thomas Mann, between Venice and death, and between the gondolas drifting through her and coffins. As Mann observed of this condition in Death in Venice(1912), ‘The strange conveyance, handed down without any change from ages of yore, and so peculiarly black – the only other thing that black is a coffin – recalls hushed criminal adventures in the night, accompanied only by the quiet splashing of water; even more, it recalls death itself, the bier and the dismal funeral and the final taciturn passage.’
Muntadas’s dérive can be read as a self-reflective action, one that in effect takes itself as its theme: throughout the video, a series of statements in which Debord set out to define the concept of the dérive appear as subtitles at the bottom of the frame. Thus, if Debord could see Venice as a whole as an advanced manifestation of the city of the future based on dérive, in the dérive recently undertaken by Muntadas a meditative attitude predominates, one that seeks, perhaps, to test out the currency of the philosopher’s observations. Whatever the case, Debord’s words are captured in the elegiac tone that has come to pervade the imaginary of Venice, and no longer resonate with the revolutionary potency they might once have had.
Dérive Veneziane is the first part of the trilogy Estrategias deldesplazamiento [Strategies of Displacement] (2017). It concerns itself with three locations where water is clearly central to the definition of landscapes which can unequivocally be described as ‘amphibious’: Venice, a floating city; the Guadiana River, which appears and disappears on several occasions along its course; and Finisterre, a historical emblem of the boundary between the terrestrial and what lies beyond. This series, in which the entire itinerary taking in the three settings can be seen as a reflection on human existence, has been described as one of Muntadas’s most intimate projects.
Enric Farrés Duran
El Viatge Frustrat (The Frustrated Journey), 2015-2016
Video | Colour | Sound | 1 hour 45 minutes
El Viatge Frustrat/The Frustrated Journey is an art project by Enric Farrés Duran, produced by Cal Cego, in which the artist and the collector embark on an adventure at sea, with the idea of recreating the voyage to France made by the writer Josep Pla and his friend Sebastià Puig i Barceló—better known as Hermós—in 1918. In the story ‘Un viatge frustrat’ (first published in Un bodegó amb peixos, Selecta, 1950), Pla recounts in considerable detail the voyage, using sail and oars and without passports, and the ostensible reason for making it: to visit some relatives of Hermós in Roussillon; however, in the course of the journey the underlying motivation is revealed as being to get home again to tell the story. As we know, Pla never made the frustrated trip, which fits into the idea of creating fictions incrusted with a wealth of authentic details (real persons, types of fish, weather conditions, moods and so on) to give them veracity.
Unlike Pla, Farrés Duran actually made the frustrated voyage, setting out from the Costa Brava in the month of August 2015. What is more, his intention was to create not a realist fiction but a fictionalized reality on the basis of specific documentation which is closer to holiday photographs and videos than to the epic and tragic tradition so often associated with projects related to the sea by artists and filmmakers (we might think here of Bas Jan Ader’s In Search of the Miraculous or Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog, to cite a couple of examples).
The Frustrated Journey of Enric Farrés Duran is the opposite of heroic: an artist is towed in his tiny boat (a two-metre wooden barge, motorless as the result of a mysterious theft) by another, perfectly seaworthy vessel (a replica of the poet and publisher Carlos Barral’s boat, named ‘Captain Argüello’ but popularly known as ‘La Barrala’) skippered by the art collector Josep Inglada, one of the people behind Cal Cego. During the trip there are difficult moments and periods of leisure, waiting and chance encounters.
In The Frustrated Journey everyday life occupies almost all of the footage, which is filled with time spent waiting, time in which nothing out of the ordinary happens. There are no stories of love or hatred, robbery or murder, there is no mystery and no amazing coincidences, but the fact that nothing happens and yet expectations are created also deserves some explanation, and, as the voice-over tells us at one point in the video: ‘Appearances do not deceive, they are appearances.’ In the light of this, Farrés Duran’s points of reference are to be found in writers like W. G. Sebald and Enrique Vila-Matas or artists like Ignasi Aballí and a whole genealogy of ‘No artists’ who, like Bartleby, disappear, stop writing, stop making nothing the object of their work to approach reality from new perspectives.
Time is another key theme, with vacation time and production time mixing and merging, like the time on shore in which nothing happens, waiting for better weather conditions to make the trip.
In a very ordinary, everyday way the video addresses some of the major themes of art, such as the relationship between artist and collector, the decision to let oneself be carried along or to take the helm and, to some extent, the debunking and revising of roles: the artist is no longer heroic — he devotes part of his working time to stretching out in the small boat and posting on Facebook — and the collector is no longer the patron who purchases the work, or produces it by providing the funds needed to being it to fruition, but the person who provisions and sails the boat and does the cooking. Another aspect of this is the journey towards internationalization (quite clearly shown here as a naive position), which is so important if an artist’s work is to be recognized and legitimated.
In The Frustrated Journey the script is being written as it happens. The video — a format that Enric Farrés Duran explores for the first time with this work, which has been edited by Telma Llos Martí — makes use of resources reminiscent of YouTube tutorials or Skype video conferencing; we are shown Google Maps, archive material and the artist’s own computer desktop. In this way, using video treatments and present-day communication formats, Enric succeeds in translating to video the use of the first-person narrative that, in other projects, has taken the form of a book or a guided tour.
(Palafrugell, Girona, 1983)
Enric Farrés Duran (Palafrugell, Girona, 1983) is a teller of stories in which the real and the fictional continually brush against and modify one another. His work is articulated on the basis of researches, coincidences and fortuitous encounters and the possibility of making connections between different places, objects and circumstances. Farrés Duran creates narratives that bring out hidden and unexpected relationships, which in some cases involve different times and places. The story — narrated and written — plays an essential role in these processes, and the information it provides is essential to our engaging with the process and the connections it establishes. Farrés Duran’s projects are embodied in installations, walks with commentary, guided tours, books and videos.
In much the same way that the novelist and essayist Enrique Vila-Matas does not so much write as rewrite, Farrés Duran combines and shuffles technical and conceptual strategies as he plays with the sum of his cultural baggage. The reference to Vila-Matas is not casual, because the artist has taken his novel Never Any End to Paris and created what is literally a formal clone of it as a starting point for a series of projects in which he takes us on an autobiographical journey on which the true and the false, the plausible and the improbable merge and fuse.
In conjunction with Joana Llauradó, Farrés Duran has developed projects for the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and the Museu Frederic Marès, in the form of guided tours that explore various aspects related to collecting and archiving, how historiography is written and the different levels of mediation surrounding the works.
One of his most recent works is The Frustrated Journey, produced by Cal Cego, which takes as its starting point the short story ‘El viatge frustrat’ by Josep Pla. Here, as in other of his works, Farrés Duran initiates stories that combine actual facts and invented elements which he, as the good narrator he is, invites us to follow and enjoy, but also to question and challenge.
|Disappearing, leaving a trace, tracking and concatenating stories to construct a narrative, sometimes vital … None of these concepts is alien to Lúa Coderch’s practice, a way of working that is anchored in reality and in memory and is remarkable for its rigour, precision and depth and for being subtly playful and subversive.|
Dérives and narrative are essential aspects of her work. The concatenation of ideas, facts, anecdotes and situations configure non-hierarchical hypertexts and itineraries like dérives, in the course of which the story is constructed. This is the case with the video Oro (2014), a narrative based on highly diverse references and visual material, about how courage and charisma are generated and the relation of these to distance, opacity and appearance.
Coderch’s practice also frequently resorts to the first-person account, as is the case in Night in a Remote Cabin Lit by a Kerosene Lamp (2015), a short video correspondence between two people, the leitmotif of which is the building of shelters in nature, although the precariousness of the structures makes them the starting point for thinking about our ways of living in and relating to the world.
Nature and its exploration and, let’s say, its deconstruction / reconstruction appear again, first in Or, Life in the Woods (2012-2014) and, more recently, in Treball de Camp (2015), a sound piece produced by Cal Cego for which the artist roamed through fields of olive trees and the stretches of humble woodland surrounding them in the Penedès region, recording the sounds that construct the idea of landscape. Thus, the artist selects sounds she feels capable of singing a posteriori, such as those of birds, bees or the wind, while excluding others such as those of cars or airplanes, an approach that makes this an exercise in aural landscaping not very different from that of a landscapist using the medium of drawing. At this point we might find ourselves making connections with the draughtsman in the Peter Greenaway film The Draughtsman’s Contract, who was similarly commissioned to draw an everyday domesticated landscape, but there the similarities with Lúa Coderch end, because, unlike Mr Neville, she does not have to deal with plots or intrigues. On the contrary, once the sound recording is completed the artist submits it to a time-consuming and purely technical process that is far from spectacular. For this reason she prefers to let it go unnoticed and proceeds to separate out the sounds one by one, slowing them down or speeding them up to fit them to the register of the human voice and then memorizing them, vocalizing small fragments of sound, recording these and returning them to their original speed and then replacing each of the natural sounds with the corresponding, let’s say, sung version. In short, she subjects herself to a laborious and painstaking process in order to produce an absolutely constructed soundscape, which effectively and credibly takes the place of the natural aural landscape.
At the beginning of the text we spoke of a subversive and playful way of working. Both aspects are manifestly present in Treball de Camp, but always inflected by the adverb ‘subtly’. The subtlety is what makes it far from obvious that the sounds we hear are not natural. Listening to the piece tends to produce moments of irritation: we have the sensation that something isn’t quite right, that some things are too composed or too orchestrated. This feeling of irritation or suspicion is precisely what focuses our attention and feel the need to investigate, to find out exactly what causes the sense of strangeness, to try to comprehend and discover the construction of the mechanism in order to think and ask questions, once again, about ourselves and the landscape, which is the same as saying, about our relationship with the world.
(Iquitos, Perú, 1982)
Lúa Coderch has a Master’s in Artistic Production and Research (2012) and a degree in Fine Art from the Universitat de Barcelona, with a specialization in sculpture at the Escola Massana.
The creator of a body of work woven around the inventing of stories and/or the fabulation deriving from image as seemingly bland and commonplace as they are evocative and suggestive to the imagination of those who come up against them, much of the interest in the work of Lúa Coderch lies in its ability to point out absences, to relate the inexplicable by means of a precise and hypnotic narration and to foster the creation of platforms capable of connecting with the viewer either through objects, anecdotes or voices, or through situations that allow a reactualizing of meanings that paves the way to other perfectly possible readings.
As the artist tells us in her own words, absolutely everything has the potential to affect us and, in so far as this is so, not only is nothing fixed and immovable but anything can be the first link in a chain of actions from which nothing and no one should be excluded. In fact, in order to avoid entering the state of oblivion, we need only reactivate with our contribution whatever drives us to want to find out more.
On the strength of what has been said so far we can fairly affirm that the work of Lúa Coderch, irrespective of the mode in which it is materialized — in other words, video, photography, sculpture, installation, sound, etc — is another step in the process of reactualization of that which affects her, that which makes an impression on her and that which enables her and us to understand art not as something that tends toward relaxation but as something that celebrates the imperious desire to burn. Or as that which, as Vila-Matas said with regard to Bolaño, allows darkness to become light some day.