di Joan Fontcuberta (1997)
At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR worked against the clock in their race to the moon. Political pressures prevailed over technical guarantees and the space programme began to take its toll in terms of victims.
On 25 October 1968 Soyuz 2 was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, with pilot-cosmonaut Coronel Ivan Istochnikov and his puppy Kloka aboard. For reasons that remain unclear even today, the cosmonaut disappeared during the course of the mission. Some malfunction aborted the crucial locking manoeuvre with twin spacecraft Soyuz 3. The capsules drifted away and lost contact. When communication was reestablished hours later, the Soyuz 2 module showed the impact of a small meteorite and Istochnikov had disappeared without a trace. Only a suspicious bottle of vodka was found, floating in the same orbit as the spacecraft, with an SOS message inside it.
Whether sabotage or accident, the Politburo did not want to recognize the awkward loss of a man in space. The official version was that Soyuz 2 was a fully automated spaceship, operated without a crew by remote control. For official purposes, Istochnikov had never existed. As a result, any indication of his presence was an embarrassment to the credibility of their machinations.
All photographs of Istochnikov were manipulated and a pact of silence imposed.
History was rewritten according to the dictates of some dark “reason of State,” although reality surpassed the most fantastic of science fiction plots...
Only with the fall of Communism and the arrival of perestroika were the secret documents declassified and researchers permitted to unmask the incredible imposture.
Joan Fontcuberta was born in 1955 in Barcelona. He studied Communications at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and later worked in advertising, journalism and as a university professor in Fine Arts. Since 1974, he has devoted himself to the visual arts, developing his creative work together with a wide range of criticism, theoretical, curatorial and lecturing activity.
Both his artistic and theoretical activity focus on issues of representation, knowledge, memory, science, truthfulness, ambiguity and trompe-l'œil, exploring the documentary and the narrative in photographic images and related media.
Among the books containing his work several have been internationally awarded: Herbarium (1985), Fauna (1988), Sputnik (1997).
More recent publications, such as “Landscapes without Memory”(2005), “Googlegrams”(2005), “Through the Looking Glass” (2010), "Pandora's Camera" (2010) and "La furia de las imágenes" (2016) explore intersections of photography and digital imaging. He has authored or edited a dozen of books on aspects of the history, aesthetics and pedagogy of photography.
He has received numerous solo shows. Among the most recents, Hasselblad Center (Göteborg, 2013), Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris, 2014) Science Museum, (London, 2014), Cosmocaixa (Barcelona, 2015), Museum Angewandte Kunst (Frankfurt, 2015), Canal de Isabel II (Madrid, 2015), Museo Universidad de Navarra (Pamplona, 2016), Museo Banco de la República (Bogotá, 2016). Besides those institutions, his artwork has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), San Francisco MoMA, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), LACMA (L.A.), Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Center for Creative Photography (Tucson), International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House (Rochester), National Gallery of Art (Ottawa), Folkwang Museum (Essen), Musée National d’Art Contemporain – Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), MACBA (Barcelona), MNCARS (Madrid).
In 1988, Joan Fontcuberta received the David Octavious Hill medal, bestowed by Fotografisches Akademie GDL in Germany in recognition of his career in photography. In 1994, he was appointed Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. In 1998, he was awarded the National Prize in Photography bestowed by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. In 2011 received the National Prize in Visual Arts, bestowed by the Catalan Government and the National Prize of Theoretical Essay, by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. In 2013 he received the Hasselblad Award international prize.
In 1996 he was Artistic Director of the International Photography Festival in Arles. In 2011 he co-curated for the same festival the large exhibition “From Here On”, about the impact of digital vernacular, the Internet and social networks on photo and video based art and culture.
Spanish public channel TV3 has produced a documentary on his work, “F for Fontcuberta” (première broadcasted on Nov 4 2005) and a fiction film, “False truth” (première broadcasted on August 19 2007). Additionaly channel TVE commissioned him for his first authored film “She was Russian and was called Laika” (2009).