27th March – 9th May 2015
In 1967 the construction company Calpisa set out to build a large housing development in Alicante called Ciudad Elegida Juan XXIII between the Valencia and Villafranqueza highways. The housing development of that remote, desolate land, far from the city centre, which promised to be a dream-like residential area, and at one time did indeed become this, started at the end of the sixties and it was completed at the end of the seventies. It was born in years when, apart from the uncontrolled land development and building fever that swept across the whole of the Spanish Eastern Levante region and the culture, which would degenerate into dubious speculative property deals, a powerful generation of young people would live through the complete success and the spectacular failure of the new social and economic situation that would define the whole country. Under such an evocative and ominous name, which was highlighted in capital letters that still loom over a small neighbourhood of Alicante, the power arose of those who listened to cassettes and watched video clips in the eighties, who discovered the digital cameras at the end of the nineties and hung around on their mobiles when the new century began.
These young people started to take (good) pictures, thousands of photographs that, in turn, through a technological boom, the unstoppable growth of Internet and the appearance of the powerful social media, would travel instantaneously at the speed of light, be sent all over the world and would be even more stunning for what they implied than for what they showed themselves. In view of such saturation and this disproportionate speed, it was very difficult, almost impossible, to separate the wheat from the chaff, rescue brilliance among thousands of flashbacks. But suddenly nuggets of gold appeared that shone with such splendour that the sand didn’t have to be brushed away. And among them, there were increasingly more names that were born under those decadent letters, and everyone, except ourselves, those from here, looked our way to go mad over the valuable Levantine gold.
Mass tourism, eternal summer, low cost and street market abundance, up to the sky and down to the entrepreneurial and economic hell, urban ugliness, Mediterranean beauty, particular idiosyncrasy (to use an adjective), political circus and a massive, enormous, abysmal void, before contemporary culture and art (but a resolute action of the interested parties). These were some of the answers, mixed up and distinct, that I found when I wondered why this land was reverberating with increasingly more local artists. Perhaps it wasn’t due to anything in particular, maybe that was just how it was. But all those ingredients had to mature and create a specific way of seeing the world. And this void, this nothing, this black hole through which they could have sneaked out and disappeared forever and that, to start with, made them go far or very far away, must have given them more strength to work without respite and develop a certain unprecedented creativity.
Between 2011 and 2014 I got together different photographers from this province that have something in common: outstanding work that is hardly recognised, if at all, in their place of origin; a career frequently outside the mainstream and with a lot of international impact; the self- prefix in the majority of nouns used to define their track record (self-publishing, self-management, self-diffusion…); and an out of the ordinary determination and courage. In this exhibition each one of them shows us their homeland by means of unpublished work that is displayed for the first time ever for this very purpose. Alberto Feijóo (Alicante, 1985) uses the title Ciudad Elegida (Chosen City) to build “a structure with the remains that I find on the outskirts of this city, those objects that the city itself throws away and to which I give a second life. I exhibit objects and memorials of my experience with the city and with the passing of time”. Sebastián Liste (Alicante, 1985), a pure photojournalist who uses a very different kind of photographic language from the rest, shows us a private journal that he started more than ten years ago, which focuses on Abdet, an inland village where his in-laws live. Carlos Aguilera (Los Montesinos, 1992), an emerging artist, who for his debut, looks at his hometown and introduces us to La general (The general): “these photographs establish a meeting point between the past and the present, the spaces that one day were used so that the town was formed by aggregation; now they are vague places to which new, undetermined, arbitrary uses have been assigned”. Cristina de Middel (Alicante, 1974) rescues pictures of a blog that she set up in 2008 when she worked for the local press and she gathers together “straightforward and forgotten stories that would never make it to the headlines. Experienced in first person and metabolized in this same way with nothing more than the need to expose that detail that turns the day into something exceptionally magical, eminently alien to current affairs and the editorial criteria”. Ricardo Cases (Orihuela, 1971) and Vicente Paredes (Orihuela, 1972) in a duo exhibition with their Oriolanos ausentes (Absent natives of Orihuela), “after more than twenty years of voluntary exile that still goes on, we return to our town to present a world numbed by cannabis and religion and we review the iconography of Orihuela that represents the soul of this place”.
Almost fifty years after the foundations of Ciudad Elegida were laid, six artists go back to their Ciudad (Des)elegida, namely the (Un)Chosen City, to tell us how they feel. Apart from their pictures, there is the history of a generation and a region that could have been completely sad but instead it has turned into a kind of hope where the tale ends with more moral to it than many classic stories. The social and political context in which we live, which is closely related to the images we have before us, makes this text good food for thought, for which a lot of bad language would be used; but the intelligence that brims over from each photograph means that it isn’t necessary. Not at all. “The illiterate of the future, will be ignorant not of reading or writing, but of photography” stated the philosopher Walter Benjamin at the beginning of the last century. Let’s look at this Ciudad and then we will not be. Not us.