Monday, September 17, 2012

Revisiting a Remote Catalonian Past


Visa Pour L'Image is a photojournalistic weeks long event of exhibition, networking and explosion of all ideas and intentions of reportage, documentary and tackling the issues that perplex and envigour the conciesouness of the media of Europe and USA. During this festival, the town of Perpignan is immediately converted into a heaven of dialog and interaction. And infusion of foreigners from all over the world meet here at the South of France, me being is only Indian from India in sight. 




The locals transform the town of Perpignan in their own way to welcome this festivity of media and art. Many cafes have their own "OFF" Festival, which showcase the work of the local artists. One such chance meeting happen during my desparate escape from the competitive environment of Visa,  while exploring the OFF Festival. 

The artist Trenca Rocs (Jean) was showcasing photographs of his rock installations at a vegan vegetarian joint called Peace and Love. I chanced upon it on a little street while asking for directions.   There was only one dish being served that day, stir-fried local vegetables with broken wheat. By the end of my solo meal an introduction via the kind owner/translator ended up in a plan to shoot this artist's installation the next day, who was sitting quietly in the corner of this bare restaurant. Outside of photography land. These installations stood in the north Catalonian forests an hour and a half away from us. Since I had the camera, and he had the installation the plan was solidified halfway through my carrot cake. 


He spoke no English and I no Catalan or French. So in our own broken sign langauge, we commenced our journey in his Reno, at Place de la Republic, Perpignan at 12pm on Sunday the 9th of September. 

We drove across the border to shoot his creations on charred cork trees which were almost pulverised in a forest fire that swept across 3200 acres of land in North Eastern Catalonia, Spain. 


Jean, a native of the Catalan region was formerly a construction worker. He is now retired and has acquired a second career as a well known and exhibited artist in Perpignan. 


Below are the words of Jean himself translated from French to English by the computer. 




"Assuming that the Great Artist is nature itself, I'll humbly, my grain of salt to divert its laws and put a touch of improbability in his work.
The écosculptures and land art are the result of the same process, one workshop, one in nature. In both cases I try to reveal the poetic soul of a roller granite and an olive branch."



"Working closer to nature and my roots, it is obvious for me to put a strong note Catalanity in my approach."


"For écosculptures, materials from a local area, they are often left in the rough, or just sanded wood. This approach leaves little room for premeditation. The inspiration comes from the shape and appearance of a rock or root, often on the ground, at the edge of Tech or crests Albères. Then in the studio, I have to find ways to implement the ideas of the field."


"For land-art, over my walks at random from my travels, it is found without really looking, the place, the light and the elements will combine to create an ephemeral work in communion with nature. It's all about balance and therefore, a priori, on harmony.Then I let nature decide the durability of the installation. The only trace that will eventually be a photograph of the structure in its environment.
My first experiences écosculptures from 2005 and 2008 land art."




The forest was badly burnt, and the cork trees were covered with a coat of burnt thermacol/styrofoam kind of texture, which was their outer most bark that took the brunt of the wild fire. 

And now a few weeks after the fire, the trees are already on their way back to revival, such is the awesome power of mother nature. 


We continued to climb over the hill after taking some pictures, by now, our interaction was smooth sailing. The lack of common language gave a very silent sense of encounter between us. Such is the beauty of travel, adventure and art. I was obessed with making it to Barcelona this trip, but unfortunately could not plan well enough to do so. 

Therefore I was grateful to have Spanish soil under my feet. Which were by now black, because I was hiking in flip flops on charred ground. 


The funny thing about the langauge of art is, that, it cuts the crap and gets right to the point. On some level I was exhausted by being constantly surrounded by intense emotions owing to relationships, regrets regarding life and interacting with many bags and baggages of others, as well as my own. So this blissful day of philosophical exploration and discovery in minimal words was just an intravneous shot of pure innocence and love galore. The landscape spoke of much higher suffering and the art work its own.


Amongst these trappings of the body and physical constraints of my soul; I found great peace in chasing the musings of surrealistic vision inherent to the Catalans.

I strongly believe and have believed that I lived in and participated in the Dada movement in a pervious life. And this Catalan landscape even though damaged and dark was definately giving refuge to my soul, I was there once. I knew it. 

A surreal discovery I made in the Pompidou Museum in Paris was that Joan Miro lived from 1893 to 1983! 

'83 being the year of my birth was some sort of twisted proof of my far out idea of incarnation portals. 

The last time I was there though that land was a different land. 

While Jean was experimenting on top of the mountain, we listened to Mikis Theodorakis through phone and inhaled the carbon air, as the shutter snapped away.



"For some time I have fun making cairns in roundabouts. I created my code, mixing land art and street art:


night work, anonymous, free, 

 instant, solitary, respectful of the environment,


 even if it is artificial.

I am looking for a qualifier or "rout'art" or "karreter'art" (carretera Road in Catalan)."



"And now, my 3rd or 4th assignment I am entitled to my first identity checks by the Gendarmerie Nationale. I even gave my card!


Another thing: someone congratulated me for installation Arles sur Tech, the Fontaine des Buis. Except that I've never worked on this site. So another person makes land art in the Tech and I am very happy, more the merrier ......!


If you know who this person is or if she reads this blog I would be happy to meet her, I have some projects that could be of interest."



After a while, I put the camera away and part took in some installation making myself.


This rendezvous is as random as much needed to open out the mental loops of life. 

And thank god for this intervention by a friend from a far away past, it helped me become inspired in true spontaneous art and took me back to root that I needed to revisit in uninspired times. The Dada daze.

As a result of sharing this story, an esteemed and respected fellow artist threw the riddle at me. 

"Why is the raven like a writing desk?"