Carlos Garaicoa. Urban Epiphanies. February 16–May 14, 2017. AZ Azkuna Zentroa
Bilbao. Bilbao – Spain

The exhibition brings together three installations which are, in effect, a tour around the urban space: ‘Fin de silencio’ (End of silence), a place of rest and reflection created from a collection of rugs which poetically reproduce the Havana shop signs of the 1950s; ‘Alcantarillas’ (Drains), a reproduction of Bilbao’s ground space, where the spectator enters a zone in which rebellion and protest rise from the ground itself, causing the city to speak from its core; and finally, ‘Partitura’ (Score), a music composition which rewrites a new score based on the different sounds of the city’s wandering musicians, forming a portrait of the contemporary city.

In short, Carlos Garaicoa seeks to return the popular claim to the streets through specific objects and spaces for reflection, proposing a more poetic approach to the city.

This is Carlos Garaicoa’s first large personal exhibition in Bilbao. The artist has chosen three installations for this exhibition, which define his most recent visual practice. They also offer us a precise map of his artistic methodologies. Garaicoa presents the city to us as an infinite space of senses and as a carrier of stories and contents always willing to be narrated and re-invented from a socio-political reality with a strong interest in the document and archive.

In this exhibition, the artist reveals an ever more complex search for formal expressions. From a tapestry that, by way of an urban archaeological fragment, turns into a poetic and visual ‘text’, to a musical score that brings back to us the sound of urban music and turns it into a new narrative capable of revealing a hidden city among our daily wanderings.

Three installations capturing different moments make up this exhibition with a single declared purpose, i.e. to make us travel and encounter a city where many of its fragments transcend the category of language, evolving into speech and language. The series of tapestries ‘Fin de Silencio’ (2010) endow this city with the ability to speak and tell a story from the almost forgotten names of its shops.

A work like ‘Fin de silencio’ suggests the idea of Baudelaire’s flâneur. However, this flâneur would never be a distant passer-by; he would rather be positioned as the city’s critical voice. It is the look of an urban individual who tries to get this urbanity to stand out, and tells us about his contradictions and dilemmas.

‘Sin Título / Alcantarillas’ (2014) is an installation proposed as a punch in the face of de facto powers. Conceived as a series of drains aimed at being placed within the real urban space as a public work, they house the voices of public demonstrations and citizen unrest as an artistic proposal. What would happen if our complaints and popular citizen demands were no longer an act of public demonstration but rather part of our most common visual environment? If a complaint becomes part of our daily landscape without risk or censorship, then what will occupy the place of our complaint?

‘Alcantarillas’ offers an alternative to the citizen’s demand transforming it at the same time into a gravestone, or a kind of tribute to its own struggle. May of 1968 left innumerable slogans and posters, which quickly went from being part of the large young people’s demonstrations to the material hung in museums, art galleries, and aesthetic memorabilia. This work struggles between the most direct urban action and its Bourgeois reification, between he who whips, lashes and makes the hegemony of conservative powers quake in their shoes, and he, who at the same time becomes his own useless petrified mask.

And, to finish the journey through the exhibition, the work ‘Partitura’ (2006-2016) offers us the last link in this chain of urban journeys. Produced by Azkuna Zentroa for this exhibition, this piece has been conceived as a plural work. It has been matured in the last ten years and some 70 people comprising musicians and technicians have intervened to become Garaicoa’s first grand interactive work.

Numerous journeys through two cities, Madrid and Bilbao, have served as material for this work, based on the result of the personal friendly relation between the author and urban musicians. This work has borrowed the sound of wind, string and percussion instrument players, singers and composers among others to give back a thousand fold those ‘sonorous’ moments of the city, that musical voice of a trade which scrapes a living in the towns while at the same time shaping its daily landscape.

In the exhibition space we come upon a group shaped like a symphonic orchestra. Each music stand contains a Tablet where a musician appears performing. In the middle, presiding the Orchestra, we find the dais corresponding to its Conductor, where we are delighted with all these musicians interpreting together the score composed by Esteban Puebla. However, this choral work never loses sight of its proposal as a sonorous archive, while at the same time it endeavours to propose a new visual space for this archive.

Estudio Carlos Garaicoa.