signposts

This is a drawing of a found photograph. Of the back of a photograph. I can’t remember where I got this photograph, in which flea market, in which city or for that matters, in which country even. The image on the front showed a seascape with mountains, there were not identifying landmarks. But in the back, it was hand-written “La Coruña”. So I bought the photograph. I was collecting old postcards at the time, looking for postcards that did not stated which place they showed.

I was born in La Coruña. I don’t know if I bought the photograph for myself or for my work. It was an anonymous image, but the message on the back automatically transformed the landscape into a familiar place, a personal place, a place belonging to my own personal history. But no less elusive for that. The image was still not mine, and I still didn’t recognize the landscape. But I could now inhabit the image in a different way. I could bring my own narrative to the photograph. Although this narrative would be also partly remembered, partly imagined. I know it wasn’t a melancholic impulse what drove me to make the drawing.

Choosing the back instead of the front image, rejecting the landscape itself. I think I wanted to concentrate on the negation of familiarity, the impossibility of feeling nostalgic about the image, to focus on the stranger’s writing. The two narratives (its original owner’s story and my imposed one) would have to be ignored or at less hidden from view. So I hid the landscape. And left only the “signpost”.

nook/corner

Today I went to see an exhibition of some research projects on how different cultures inhabit space, how different people make themselves at home. It was hosted at the University of Sheffield.

You can see details here: www.inhabitingspace.org

There was a work about Norwegian cabins, the holiday homes for many families to spend some quiet and peaceful time up in the mountains. In the exhibition it was a replica of what it was refer to as the ‘reading corner’, a big type of sofa for reading, do nothing, play or simply get cozy and relax.

Of course, I am interested in these sort of spaces. This type of temporary home, set idyllically in the fantastic Norwegian countryside, far from any other house or road. A shelter for enjoying a fruitful type of loneliness perhaps. It reminded me of another text from my grandfather so I will include it here. The text is about the word ‘corner’, for which in Spain we have two words: one that would translate more as nook, inside corner, recess (rincón); and another that is means corner but also has the connotations mainly of quoin (esquina). So the text may not make complete sense in english… but here it goes anyhow.

Absurd pastimes. Playing at definitions (X) Continue reading “nook/corner”

ghosts of buildings past


Today I went for a walk around the top end of Nether Edge, around Brincliffe and Psalter Lane. It has been at least 2 years since I last walked past the site where my campus used to be. Now the site is empty. All that is left is the library building, everything else is gone. The site is fenced and locked, the library boarded up. No signs indicate what was there before.

Whenever you move to a new house, you always leave places behind more or less full of memories, images from the time when you inhabited the space. The same with other buildings where you spent long periods of time: your school, university. I don’t have many images from my kindergarten in Galicia. I have never revisited it, I don’t know if it stills exists. But since I don’t know, the few vague memories I have got still have a physical place where they belong. From seven years old until I went to University, I attended the same school in Santander. And it is very much present every time I go back home to my parents. The building is very near my house and I pass by it every time. So all the memories I built in that institution are still very much, more or less, fresh and they have a concrete home, they still are very much attached to their physical building and location. The same goes for the University in the Basque Country, even though I haven’t visited it or passed by it, I know it is still there, functioning and mainly unchanged.

But Psalter Lane is gone. The building where I studied for two years. The year I graduated from the MA, 2007, was the penultimate year the campus was operative. It moved to the city centre in late 2008. The site was closed but still standing until last year, when it was demolished.

It was strange to see the empty site. The space around the library building somehow didn’t seem big enough to accommodate all of the buildings that there were. It was quiet. It sits understated in the middle of the leafy residential area.

Images from one’s memory are always changing, sometimes subtly or unconsciously, other times, the remaining memories are so incomplete that one has to actively use imagination or logic to fill in the gaps. My images of this building are quite vivid in my memory. What has changed dramatically is the physical place where they originated. It has disappeared. The only way I can describe what this feels like is that the images and memories somehow now feel half orphaned. They have lost the physical link that anchored them to this particular geographical time and place. I cannot revisit or form a dialogue between myself in the building today and what I recall from the past. Or if I do, I will have to establish this dialogue only with its absence, and in the future, with whatever gets build in its position.

I suppose that all places we left behind, with time, become more and more unconnected or irrelevant to our memories of them. But there is always a small sense of comfort, or perhaps of reassurance, when thinking that those memories had once a physical container, no matter how far ago or away, how distant or inaccessible. They took place, literally. I guess I am talking about a sense of truth, what was truth and real to us. Does this mean that now that my container has vanished, – and more importantly, now that I know it has – are my memories any less true? of course there still remains some of the place, but the foundations are not enough, it was the building itself that held the meaning to my memories…

More on this… another time.

disturbances

The last few days the city seems quieter than usual. And it is strange, because it is not only this city. The sounds seem a little muffled, but they are still there. There seems to be less people, as if there was a big event I haven’t heard of and everyone is attending but me. And I walked into town, into this small white room. And through the open window there is noise of traffic. But I have no perspective on the city. I don’t know if quieter is the right word. The city felt awkwardly dormant. There seemed to be a different silence in the street, maybe it is just in contrast with the silence of my flat. The difference between my silence and the city’s. Almost like the silence before the storm, only that this silence does not precede anything, it is sustained, on hold, constant. It announces or predicts nothing and neither it is a consequence. It is not even a proper silence.
* * *
I am looking back through lot of footage, and looking back was led to look even further back. I found texts I wrote five years ago. Notes of no much importance or value. About nostalgia and memory. About blankness. I like some ideas or sentences (expectations on the past or to create a light bulb that will produce the light of a specific detailed moment from your/my past) but mainly they are just cheesy divagations about not being able to reminiscence.
* * *
I have traced a big doily/map. It is approximately 2 by 2 meters. Now that is done I don’t know what it means. I can’t find some family photos I wanted to work with and I am not happy about it. I will be upset if I’ve lost them. On my way down here I came up with a few good ideas for the dialogue I am writing, but I can’t remember them now either… I think it is time for lunchbreak.
* * *
I need to not look back too far. Some too old material is only disruptive. The footage is more what I am interested in. The words will come, I am sure. I realise that my footage is turning into some sort of archive of fragments. But I am not sure if I am the best person to catalogue it, if all I can do is just keep accumulating because any attempt to classify or order will simply stop me from moving forward. Whatever or wherever forward is.
* * *
A quote and a video…

“The marvel of a house is not that it shelters or warms a man, nor that its walls belong to him. It is that it leaves its trace on the language. Let it remain a sign. Let it form, deep in the heart, that obscure range from which, as waters from a spring, are born our dreams.”
From Wind, Sand and Stars, Saint-Exupery

in translation

One of my main goals for this residency is to look back and reflect about material accumulated. And another is to write. To write for a new video piece but also to simply write more, not about my work but more generally about ideas. It is difficult to face the blank page, so with the writing I am also looking back, at my own texts and others that inspire me. I have come across a translation I did some months ago of some texts by my grandfather. My grandfather passed away when I was young. He had a passion for writing and he always shared with me the texts he wrote. Some are short stories he wrote for his grandchildren, others are about his experiences in the war, about my grandmother or just about his thoughts. This has been a project in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to do a piece about his writings and I finally started to put them into english (not because the work had to be in english, but because this is my adoptive language and I felt it would be interesting to have them translated). I have started this several times but for some reason or another it has never taken a complete form, maybe it is something I have to work on little by little, in fragments.

It is good to have time now to pick this up again. I have finished one of his texts and I would like to share it. I have chosen this one for no particular reason, it happens it was written from my parents house in Santander, and I have just been looking at some footage I took last summer from the same balcony, of a lighting storm at night. The city was very quiet and I couldn’t hear thunder, only lighting flashing every now and then. Maybe I will put the video up sometime. For now, here is the text…(click on ‘read more’ below to see it)

A journey into the coreless night. Continue reading “in translation”

a wondering seagull

Today I have spent the day looking at footage I’ve collected over the last year. Last summer in Santander: planes, clouds, lighting storm, New York last month: more planes, trains, busy streets, and Granada last week: swallows, mountains, wind turbines… and also some tests I did in my studio at Bloc with some family photographs…which I will return to later.

When you look at so much material, it is difficult to make decisions, to stop looking and start selecting, editing, cutting. In a very long take I filmed a seagull standing on a roof opposite my parents house in Santander. It just stayed there, looking over the city, contemplating, not able to decide on which direction to take off.

Today, I feel like that seagull, from this little white room, revising, looking and wondering, hoping for concrete ideas to take flight at any point…