Gibellina selfie - Lo sguardo di tre generazioni
di Joan Fontcuberta
There are many ways to use our eyes. We can choose to watch, observe or scrutinise someone or something. We can stand on the side of the road, remaining passive in front of the flow of images that come to us. Our gaze can enquire, seek meaning, analyse, or understand. Our optic nerves can do this without using their potential, separating themselves from the brain – and the heart.
All too often, today, we opt for the latter. “seeing” the images, but not “noticing” them. We remember little or nothing because the images have been fleeting, passed in front of our eyes like a scrolling index on a mobile phone. These images, along with our memories will be stored in the great and the infinite – at least that’s how it seems today – in that cauldron of digital, volatile and voracious memories. They are images without body, “dematerialised”. However, what of the 350 million photos published on Facebook each day and the 80 million on Instagram - one day will they find their dimension, be that real or imaginary, social or political?
With 6,075 ceramic tiles which make up the permanent work “Gibellina Selfie – The Gaze of Three Generations”, Joan Fontcuberta, one of the most brilliant actors on the contemporary photographic scene, wants to talk about our time, and together challenge the present.
The Catalan artist chose ceramics, as one of the most time-durable materials that exist, to wade through the unceasing river of images that overwhelm our lives, to fix them in time. And transform the individual use of mass photographs in the Internet age – the selfie, as an individual self-representation – in a moment of constructing a collective identity, a self-portrait of community life. What exists, and what is, precisely in the passage of times, through successive generations.
This is not the first time Fontcuberta has risen to this challenge. She created a similar work is in Barcelona, but here, in Gibellina, the Catalan artist’s experiment takes on further meaning, connecting directly with the cultural challenge of Ludovico Corrao. Rebuilding Gibellina after the earthquake of 1968 and the search for a new identity, based on culture and art. This "collective" work, which has come to enrich the extraordinary artistic heritage of this city, tells us that the challenge is still open.
Gibellina’s inhabitants were invited to share their personal photos through a web-appeal aimed at creating a unique collective image. This work is comprised of 6,075 photos from the 7,500 photos that were sent to the author. They represent the eyes of three people: 6-month-old Beatrice, 31-year old Annalisa and 71-year old Vito - all three inhabitants of Gibellina.
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).