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SPORT PLACES

SPORT PLACES
by Ignasi López. 2004-2005

Exhibition at PHOTOESPAÑA ’05
Galería Travesía Cuatro. Madrid

“There is nothing sadder… than the failure of a utopia, and yet sadness in its aesthetic aspect,
that of melancholy, enables us to transform sorrow into an uncertain promise, which is somehow comforting.

Weekend homes, developments of villas and terraced houses meticulously planned as holiday resorts are to a great extent the idealised expression of a perfect world, one in which humanity, having attained its plenitude, can take it easy and laze around, with not a care in the world other than avoiding boredom. In the context of the exhibition Tour-isms which he recently co-curated at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jorge Luis Marzo suggested that our never-ending beaches, that fine line of sand separating sea from land, could well be seen as the backdrop of the last great Western utopia, a place in which where we can crowd together in our nakedness without feeling shy, and watch the hours pass as if time were of no value. To play with the sand, to gaze distractedly into the horizon and to stretch out and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin are the most common activities between bathes. This idea in itself would justify the existence of the vulgar built-up areas of impersonal skyscrapers—Benidorm, Salou or Lloret de Mar—that proliferate on the Spanish coast, designed to beckon tourists. Year after year, the simple formula sun + sand is often enough to lure millions of them to our coasts, something we are experts in. This brief summer utopia systematically comes up against the return to the productive obligations of work. Lethargy and pot bellies begin to wane in September, giving way to deeply melancholy empty images, such as those configuring the 2004 project Sport Places by Ignasi López (Premià de Mar, Barcelona, 1970). And yet Sport Places also tells us of the new uses made of these holiday resorts. As cities grow and become increasingly expensive, many choose to settle permanently in such residential developments, drawn to their utopian nature, even at the expense of commuting daily to the metropolis to work, shop or keep their medical appointments. Given that urban models clearly condition social orders, such networks of houses with their communal gardens, swimming pools and sports areas become mechanisms of destructuring that isolate families in their cubicles preventing any form of relationship between neighbours. In consequence, sports facilities originally designed to promote encounters trigger other interpretations.

The choice of banal and paradoxical images for producing postcards can be traced back to previous works by the artist, such as Vacaciones (2002) or Vacances/Vacations (2003). An ironic twist transforms the iconic value of the postcard—the souvenir par excellence that usually reproduces places of special prominence, monuments or picturesque landscapes—into the representation of de-intensified memories, where the experience of anecdote takes centre stage. Whereas in the series entitled Vacaciones the artist compiled a visual itinerary made up of insipid hotel façades, in Vacances/Vacations he proposed a journey through the most anecdotal spots and details of the city of Toulouse.

Ignasi López’ new series of postcards is the starting point of his exhibition at Galería Travesía Cuatro. The iconographic motifs of the series—sports facilities that have ostensibly fallen into disuse—form the basis of an installation characterised by clear strategies of symbolic decontextualisation. If the original work consists of hundreds of postcards, the unique work is merely an exaggerated reproduction of these. In other words, the large-format photographs hanging from the walls, produced in a limited edition, reproduce the serialised image of the original in postcard format, as is evinced by the enlargement of the grid of dots of the off-set printing. Furthermore, the piped music specifically created for the occasion in collaboration with the Barcelona saxophonist Rafa Gómez enhances the warm atmosphere of the exhibition space. The background music that usually accompanies us as users of public transport, piped music is inscribed in the gallery space in a new exercise in decontextualisation. The music of non-places, spaces of movement and passage, lifts or waiting rooms has changed its location; in the art gallery it appears in connection with a visual repertoire, albeit unlike the way in which postcards—as souvenirs—have ceased to represent historical or emblematic places to dissolve into objects or representations of a much more insubstantial nature. Insofar as they are decontextualisations, both strategies—that of vision and that of sound—belong to the same sort of representational scheme or plot. On the other hand, the transvaluation of the terms original and copy, starting from Benjamin’s referent—that of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction—addresses those initiated in the tradition marked by our recent history of art and in the ways in which photography has entered into the art market reproducing the patterns of behaviour characterising painting. Insofar as a mechanism of meta-representational formalisation, the installation operates as Russian dolls, partaking of an ironic indifference in the artist’s way of relating to and interpreting the classical texts of artistic theory and critique, typical of his generation.

Beyond the interpretations of the formalisation and mise en scène of Sport Places, the visual repertoire it suggests in its decadent melancholy, removed from all melodramatic exteriorisation of sadness, presents the anodyne as an aesthetic possibility. Returning to my initial reflections on how alienating the extreme planning of leisure can be, in my opinion it is badly administered, to say the least, and is as limited an asset as it is overrated. The places portrayed by Ignasi López, planned and inscribed in the dreary weekend complexes that have been absorbed by our vast (endless) conurbations, like monstrous promises of happiness, appear in a state of evident neglect: banal, useless, dysfunctional, uninhabited and decrepit, these places reflect disenchantment… although we could of course think of a thousand other things that are much worse.”

Amanda Cuesta

Translated by Josephine Watson

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