Unknown City Beneath the Mist. New Images from Barcelona’s Peripheries
Exhibition
until 12.01.2025

Unknown City Beneath the Mist. New Images from Barcelona’s Peripheries

Views of the work "Casas Baratas", 2023-2024 from Gregori Civera. Photo: Miquel Coll, 2024.

This photographic project, about Barcelona seen from the suburbs that sprang up as a result of postwar migration to the city, is in line with the tradition of local photographic projects about urban development since the Olympic era. A critical and civil tradition that sees photography as a counter-discourse to advertising.

Historically, the periphery has always been the most innovative part of the city, the place where emerging tendencies first manifest themselves. Hence, a project about the periphery will work as a future prospect of the evolution of Barcelona in the next few years and offer significant documentation about the city during the current decade. In the past, Barcelona’s suburbs have grown in two opposite geographic areas: the north and north-west zone, from the Besòs River to the hills of Collserola, and the south and south-east zone, which includes the historic centre of the Raval and the Gothic Quarter, and the back of Montjuïc, which borders with the harbour and the Zona Franca.

The project includes thirteen commissioned works, some of a transversal character spanning different neighbourhoods, and others constructed as field studies of a more specific nature. Their focus is also varied, with some purely topographic, while others address social issues:

Although this is mostly a photographic project, some works in cinematic or video format have also been commissioned. The selection criteria have been: gender parity, a balanced number of local and non-local, Spanish and international artists, of different ages and generations, who have produced work in Barcelona or have links with the city, and have a relevant track record within the documentary tradition and a body of work that fits the project.

This exhibition has been produced in collaboration with MACBA Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona, Fomento de Ciudad SA and the Barcelona Institute of Culture as part of the 2021-2024 Barcelona City Council’s Neighbourhood Plan

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dates
From June 21, 2024, to January 12, 2025
public programme
title
Unknown City Beneath the Mist. New Images from Barcelona’s Peripheries
dates
From June 21, 2024, to January 12, 2025
title
Unknown City Beneath the Mist. New Images from Barcelona’s Peripheries
public programme

Artists:

Laia Abril, Bleda & Rosa, Gregori Civera, Gilbert Fastenaekens, Brigitte Van Minnenbruggen, Raquel Friera, Creadoness, José Luis Guerin, Manolo Laguillo, Pilar Monsell, Mabel Palacín, Pedro G. Romero, Martha Rosler, Carmen Secanella, Jeff Wall, Jorge Yeregui. 

Curated by Jorge Ribalta, deputy curator by Blanca del Río.

in collaboration with:
exhibition included within
projects
1. Gilbert Fastenaekens / Brigitte Van Minnebruggen. “Besòs, territoire élargi” [Besòs, Expanded Territory], 2023 Throughout the 20th century, the Besós River was Barcelona’s quintessential backbone, the line that delimited the poor suburbs of the city. This project consists of a topographical tour along the geographic and administrative border of the Besós, from the sea to the mountain, through several neighbourhoods. Echoing his work from 1989-1990 as part of the photographic survey for the magazine Quaderns for the Colegio de Arquitectos de Cataluña, Fastenaekens returns to the same places thirty years later, joined by Brigitte Van Minnebruggen. Despite the persistence of some of the conditions that make urban life difficult, the tour demonstrates the transformation of an industrial, logistical and marginal territory into an area of new centrality where multiple uses and functions coexist. 
2. Manolo Laguillo. “Mountain Line”, 2023-2024 Following the footsteps of the project he did for the 1990 survey for Quaderns magazine during the construction of the Ronda de Dalt, Laguillo also returned to the same places thirty years later. The Collserola mountain range is another of the city’s geographic borders, which in this case runs through poor and wealthy neighbourhoods. Languillo’s photographic sequence runs from northeast to northwest, from Roquetes to La Teixonera and Vall d’Hebron. The elevation that acts as a border between the poor upper area and the wealthier upper area is the “three hills” (el Turó de la Rovira, el Carmelo and la Creueta del Coll). The heavily mountainous orography is the source of some of the problems and deficiencies of the northwestern neighbourhoods in particular.
3. Pilar Monsell. “The Periphery of the Imagination”, 2023-2024 This project – which is transversal, though confined to the north-western area – is an homage to the Nou Barris neighbourhood movement, which had a prominent role during the Transition. The social-democratic urbanism of “Barcelona’s reconstruction” of the 80s could not be understood without the legacy of the neighbourhood movement of the 70s. This project is also a reflection on the evolution of the social movements from that decade and about the new movements which have emerged on a local scale over the past twenty years. Today, we are living in a moment of inflexion. It raises questions about the role of the neighbourhood moments in the city’s future, about how historical and emerging agents, the continuities and the discontinuities, are represented. Film work based on archival material.  
4. Jorge Yeregui. “Tracing Water. Notes on the Rec Comtal and Barcelona’s Water Footprint”, 2023 This work was made across several neighbourhoods, in particular Vallbona and Trinitat Vella. It follows a route through the historical outline of the Rec Comtal, which to a large extent, is a route that no longer exists; but also through landscaped areas, the Casa de l’Aigua and the Aigües de Montcada gardens. The project combines historical observation with reflections on the sustainability of the current urban planning model. The peripheries have frequently been the location of essential urban infrastructures. By extension, the project addresses the city’s water problems during a time marked by drought.  
5. José Luis Guerin. “First Impressions”, 2023 The farming region in Vallbona, known as La Ponderosa, represents the unlikely survival of an agricultural production region within the municipal territory and, in this way, is inserted into the current debates about the conciliation between the countryside and the city and environmental sustainability. Guerin’s film draws on the memories of the people in the neighbourhood, postwar migrants from the south of Spain or new migrants from the Global South, and speaks of everyday life and leisure in the farming region, of strong pastoral resonances. Without losing the air of a small Arcadia, it proposes a reflection on the model of economic growth and food autonomy.  
6. Laia Abril. “Harm Reduction”, 2023-2024 By observing what is considered to be a dark spot (the CAS Baluard, the venipuncture room in the Raval), this work aims to change how this type of institution is perceived and to combat its stigma. Although the addiction problem is not exclusive to Raval, here, it mixes with the iconography and the historical legend of the city’s underworld. Laia Abril’s project attempts to intervene in the stereotypes from within. In this sense, it focuses not only on the centres themselves but on the entire environment surrounding them. It examines the social inscription of the institution and the neighbour’s rejections; raising questions about gender within this context; and it reflects on the evolution of the public healthcare services in the post-pandemic era.  
7. Jeff Wall. “Informant. An occurrence not described in chapter 6, part 3 of Últimas tardes con Teresa y Juan Marsé”, 2023 Last Afternoons with Teresa (1966) by Juan Marsé is the quintessential popular novel of contemporary Barcelona; its strength and staying power is equal to that of Francesc Catalá, Xavier Miserachs or Joan Colom’s iconic photographs. Marsé’s descriptions of Carmel’s proletariat underworld and the shantytowns on Turó de la Rovira can be considered a source for suture elaborations of an image of the city constructed from the periphery. These hills are the centre of a geography that is all at once real and imagined. Jeff Wall takes inspiration from a sequence from Marsé’s novel to create a staged image, a procedure that he himself labels as “quasi-documental” or “cinematographic photography”.  
8. Bleda y Rosa. “Turó” [Hill], 2023 Turó de la Rovia is an extraordinarily rich location that contains several historical layers, from the remains of Iberian settlements to the pavements of postwar shantytowns, moving to its anti-aircraft role in the Civil War and its more recent recreational use by young people. It is a true microcosm that captures the history of Barcelona like few other places. Following a methodology that aims to objectify and make visible the historical density of specific emplacements, Bleda and Rosa carry out an archaeological observation that reveals these different layers.  
9. Gregori Civera. “Casas Baratas”, 2023-2024 Gregori Civera observes life today in the two Casas Baratas developments that have been conserved. These sets of small, single-story structures are an example of the first social housing policies in Barcelona from the turn of the 20th century. Focusing on the opposite cases of Can Peguera and Bon Pastor the project shows both their persistence and their disappearance, the rehousing of the neighbours and the recent creation of the Tenement Museum, a historical testimony of an urban development in the process of disappearing. Civera has also included images of the current places corresponding to the two defunct developments, those of Baró de Viver and Eduard Aunós.  
10. Pedro G. Romero. “What Goes Below”, 2023-2024 Pedro G. Romero approaches the new flamenco scene in Barcelona by focusing, above all, on the Desvarío festival, which is celebrated in Nou Barris. Barcelona has held a leading role in the history of flamenco in Spain. This project departs from this historical foundation to establish a new cartography: combining recordings of contemporary artists with tours of significant sites of flamenco culture in Nou Barris, such as the old psychiatric hospital of Santa Cruz, the current headquarters of the district and the festival, or some clubs and schools. It also examines the relationship between flamenco and the social and neighbourhood movements across Barcelona.  
11. Mabel Palacín. “Storyline”, 2023-2024 In the foothills of Montjuïc, Palacín has carried out a transversal work about the condition, the role and the uses of parks in the peripheries. The artist asks to what extent the park is an element that contributes to urban quality or acts as an index of the peripheral condition as an ambiguous area between the countryside and the city. Montjuïc also housed shantytowns, but its proximity to the historic centre and the port has generated another type of peripheral conditions, exempt from urban connotations. This collective portrait of the people who populate the mountain and the social condition of its inhabitants and users marks it as an in-between zone between integration and exclusion. 
12. Raquel Friera + Creadoness. “But Na But” [Once and Not Once Upon A Time], 2023-2024 | Martha Rosler. “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series”, 2004-2008 [selection] Community work with the collective Creadoness in the Raval neighbourhood – a program that offers technical training in sewing to migrant women in vulnerable conditions – and the artist Raquel Friera. In this case, the project has been conceived as an embroidery workshop with a heterogeneous group of refugee women from Afghanistan, who denounce their traumatic lived experiences and demand the right to female education. The embroideries, made on the traditional white handkerchiefs of Afghan students, dialogue with the photomontages by Marth Rosler, whose reflection on domestic work and the ideologies implicit in gender is at the root of this workshop.  
13. Carmen Secanella. “New Landscapes. Strolls through La Marina”, 2021-2024 The neighbourhoods of La Marina, traditionally called the Zona Franca, are experiencing a profound transformation, characterised by the relatively anarchic coexistence of different uses and activities. The current mutation of this territory is the most dynamic and radical of all those happening across Barcelona today, and, in a way, it echoes the transformations of the neighbourhoods of Besós during the Fórum 2004. However, this is an overlooked and underrepresented process. Secanella’s work highlights the difficulty of constructing a point of view about the ongoing transformation, and the extreme fragmentations of the new social subjects.  
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