Instalation: The Disappearing City
Barcelona, 23 November 2004
Not only ahead, behind, left and right: underfoot, too. Visitors going up the escalator at CaixaForum will suddenly find themselves trapped in the centre of a desolate, peripheral landscape inhabited by mountains of rubble, wrecked cars and cranes, graffiti, abandoned factories and ruined buildings standing on weed-infested streets. These are real images taken in dozens of cities (Busan, Turin, New York, London, Medellín…), selected from amongst hundreds of photographs, cut out by hand, enlarged and affixed to walls and floor like giant wallpaper to form a panoramic travelling shot that invites the viewer to become part of a performance with no beginning and no end. Sequences from Blade Runner, the films of Ken Loach, Stephen Frears and Emir Kusturica, and the lyrics of Tom Waits, the Smiths and Sonic Youth; these are just some of the references found in the work of Gianfranco Botto (1963) and Roberta Bruno (1966), two Turin artists that have worked together as Botto & Bruno since 1992, photographing the outskirts of the cities they visit to recreate in installations (they prefer to call them “ambients”) “all the world’s peripheries in one”. Botto & Bruno’s works have been shown at the Bullet Space in New York (1997), the 49th Venice Biennial (2001), the Chelsea Kunstraum in Cologne (2002), MAMCO in Geneva (2003) and MAMAC in Nice (2004), amongst others. Now, under the title The Disappearing City, CaixaForum presents Botto & Bruno’s first “large ambient” in Spain. This new installation, produced especially for CaixaForum, forms part of Open Spaces, a season of interventions by contemporary artists.
Botto & Bruno’s Disappearing City will be on show at CaixaForum (Av. del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8), from 24 November 2004 to 13 February 2005.
Many of the titles Botto & Bruno give their installations come from rock and punk songs from the last 15 years: What can I do?, And nowhere is my home, Out of time, In the school of lost hope… The phrase The Disappearing City does not come from a song, though “disappearing” is a recurrent word in the songs of Radiohead, Sonic Youth and Tom Waits.
The diaphanous new CaixaForum building, which replaced the old Modernist Casaramona factory, is precisely what disappears in this “ambientation”, swallowed up as it is by a sea of rubble and ruins. Causing powerful feelings of abandonment and alienation, The Disappearing City aptly sums up Botto & Bruno’s artistic career. In it, the artists play with the iconographic elements that characterise CaixaForum (the red brick of its architecture, the two towers standing out against the blue sky and the great open spaces) to create a starkly contrasting scene: abandoned brick factories and grey areas invaded by rubble and weeds.
Just as, in their work, Botto & Bruno synthesise “all the world’s peripheries in one”, so we can say that the work on show at CaixaForum, The Disappearing City, condenses their artistic career. Going beyond a discourse on photography, Botto & Bruno produce “a project on the documentation of the periphery”. The process is an arduous one. Firstly, they walk around the periphery of the cities they visit, covering kilometres and kilometres on foot to soak up the atmosphere. They then photograph the buildings and landscapes that left the deepest impression on them.
Next, they carefully examine the hundreds of photographs they have taken, choosing the most striking elements from each. They then cut them out using scissors, composing a sea of selected images, always manually (never using Photoshop) to form a collage. Finally, they enlarge the photomontage obtained and print it on paper and PVC (a material they like because “it has a cold, synthetic skin”) to create a landscape that, like a film sequence, is played out at 360 on the walls and floor.
“We like this serial working rhythm, it has cinematic connotations”, say Botto & Bruno, whose work is charged with references to Pasolini and Ken Loach, amongst others. Turin, where both Botto and Bruno were born, is known as the city of arte povera, and both artists use a technique we might well call povera in their work, combining artisanal work with domestic technology (cameras, enlargers and photocopiers). In it, in a world more and more engaged with the speed and immediacy of Internet, Botto and Bruno defend craft and the slowing down of the production process, as the result is more personal, less homogeneous.
Gianfranco Botto (1963) and Roberta Bruno (1966) met in 1992 at the Academy of Fine Art of Turin, where they both studied painting. Perhaps both were from the city outskirts, they soon became friends, finally deciding to working together under the collective name of Botto & Bruno. Both found inspiration in the fact that their respective birthplaces the northern and southern city peripheries do not appear on maps of Turin.
The key theme in the work of Botto & Bruno is the periphery understood as a mental space, that is, the periphery seen as an “open space” in which they feel the urgent need to intervene in their way, one charged to a certain extent with social critique. Using clippings from reality, then, they reconstruct a space that is surreal, utopian in the etymological sense of the word (that is to say, that does not exist) which could well summarise all the peripheries in the world and which, like a new Far West, represents the space the contemporary city has yet to conquer.
The Disappearing City can be seen in the lobby leading into exhibition room 1, at the end of the escalator at the entrance to the building. The installation, unveiled here for the first time, forms part of Open Spaces, a season of interventions by contemporary artists at CaixaForum which has already featured interventions by Chema Alvargonzález (on the architecture of the whole building), Soledad Sevilla (in the Secret Garden), Jeppe Hein (in the entrance hall) and Javier Peñafiel (in the Auditorium).
The Disappearing City
From 24 November 2004 to 13 February 2005
Av. del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8
From Tuesdays to Sundays, and holidays: from 10.00 to 20.00
Mondays closed, except holidays
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