2005. Fernando Baena. FAMILIAS ENCONTRADAS (2004.11-12 / theoretical data)


TEXTS REVISION I (November 2004)

By chance I found a carton box labelled : January 1st 1971 to March 17th. The box contained nearly 100 black and white photo negatives which were apparently taken by an anonymous photographer. Amongst the images, there are photos of families in the typical pose used in those days for the official identity card of large families. That is how we used to pose in the final years of the dictatorship. Does it look like us?

Below the normal publicity posters of the Circle of Fine Arts another five will be placed, each one with an image of one of these unknown families. To give context to the images, five electronic signs will display texts referring to that period of time.

TEXTS REVISION II (December 2004)


By chance, I found a cardboard box labelled “1st Janu¬ary to 17th March 1971” containing around 100 black and white negatives supposedly taken by some com-mercial photographer. Among the images, some were of families in the typical pose required for the official large-family card.


Underneath the usual advertising banners placed on the façade of Círculo de Bellas Artes five other ban¬ners are installed, each exhibiting the image of one of those unknown families. Underneath each of those photographs a luminous display shows texts referring to the year 1971, particularly the period 1st January to 17th March:

1. Anniversaries.
2. The family.
3. Art in Spain in 1971.
4. Círculo de Bellas Artes.
5. Updated daily news.


The emergence of photography dealt a death blow to the paintings of history. The commemorative and documentary role of these paintings was replaced with the faster and more reliable photographic report.

History disappears as the subject of works of modern art - possibly El Guernica was the last. The portrait is another area which photography and new image-recording media practically stole from the “fine arts” and if it occasionally continues to be considered art, it is within these modern disciplines.

The subject of the family has been present through¬out the history of western art. We only have to refer to the busts of Roman ancestors, the Sagradas Familias, the royal families painted by Velázquez or Goya, the bourgeois families portrayed by the Dutch, the aris¬tocratic ones by Reynolds and the modern ones by Hockney. Although the images of Familias encontra¬das can be easily framed in this subject, the texts that appear in the five electronic signs that accompany them refer us to the society of the moment those pho¬tos were taken. The concept of the family is extended to encompass Spanish people and the rest of human¬ity. Obviously, what was happening in the world af¬ fected the protagonists of the photographs and all of us already here.

But in this case, the aim is not just to document or commemorate, or make an exhaustive sociological analysis of the situation of the family or Spanish art in the last years of Franco’s dictatorship, nor to nostalgically emphasise those decisive years of our own personal history. The aim is to place a common anchorage point in the collective memories – its election was accidental- from which to stretch our memory to the present. We will realise, if we have the patience to read the different texts, that in thirty-four years we have changed a lot and we haven’t changed at all. Seen from a distance, the red lines of the electronic signs move without advancing.


If this piece is not cynic and impatient, if it doesn’t refer to political or citizens’ problems, and doesn’t intend to question customs or abuses, if it tends to be a drag, if it goes against the current and encloses most discredited values of today’s art: historicism, sociology, portrait and literature…, if this work seems inopportune for all these reasons, more so if it intends to deal with personal issues in public space.

In order to achieve objectivism, modern art seems to have left aside, apart from subjectivity, every connection to intimate life. It seems inconvenient, today, for any artistic work to deal with existential issues. As if each person’s inner life were something that others, society or art shouldn’t mind. That’s probably why we tend to think that we have seen it all. Therefore, History being trapped, the personal realm forbidden, and memory withdrawn, a void is created that someone will fill by selling us a cell phone through which we may spend our time talking for hours and hours about things that happen while we speak.

In contrast with the hustle and bustle of Gran Vía, and competing with marketing’s seductions, in a direction opposite to art’s current trends, it is, finally, a work that deals with the concept of time and people. About the passing of.. About the sense of suffocation, the fact that we uselessly agitate and expire, brief microscopic lives that emerge and evaporate while the final texture seems to remain the same. Not much, extremely subtle vibrations. To fix an image in the current of time is but to express the wish for something to have meaning.







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