May 17, 2009

Barcelona & Liminality

I find myself in beautiful Barcelona this morning, where the weather is mild and the Mediterranean air moisturizes my NM skin. My hotel sits on La Rambla, a famous street in the center of town. Last night, it was animated with locals, tourists, mimes (dressed as trees and monkeys who check their watch), and men who walk up and down the pedestrian mall selling beer by the can. BTW, I saw where they keep their stash: up in the light fixture of a phone booth!

I'm here on a small grant to write on Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Familia; Gaudí (1852-1926) was a Catalan architect whose work is often associated with the Modernisme (Art Nouveau) movement. I plan on photographing the towers and experimenting with notions of liminal space in the poetic gesture, as the Sagrada Familia continues to be built. It is still in process as a structure. It has become a mutable surface overseen by several different architects since Gaudí's death.

In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes writes, "What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially." He continues, "A specific photograph, in effect, is never distinguished from its referent (from what it represents), or at least [...] not immediately." If the "Photograph always carries its referent with itself," as Barthes forwards, then an artist who is not interested in only recreating mimetic gestures would somehow need to disrupt the illusion that the photograph creates. 

If I apply Barthes thinking to my project, then I must think about how to disrupt the viewing of a photograph so that it doesn't only point to the referent, but also to itself as object--how to bring the artifice to the forefront, to acknowledge the distance between the sign and the referent. The first thing that popped into my head was something a colleague said about her paintings. One of her collage paintings has peeling edges. Those peelings call attention to themselves. They reveal the act of painting and collaging, reveal the construction/the artifice. So this week, I will experiment with taking pictures that reveal their artifice and extend that kind of gesture in my writing. Granted, I'm not a professional photographer, so this may be an experiment in futility, but hopefully I can transfer these movements into my writing and further my thinking on liminal space.

As if securing myself in this minimal space 
I have absorbed you
or you have given me form
a kind of structure for the body that tears surface

that light in fistful

that catch neither impossible nor a boundary 
for the white space between
the one in pieces
wedged between our sleep.