Petit Journal #45: Jordi Colomer
21 October 2008 – 4 January 2009

Jordi Colomer was born in Barcelona in 1962. He began his art studies in the early 1980s at the EINA school of art and design in Barcelona. There he attended several seminars, including one on the “scenography of festivals”. He continued his studies at the Faculty of History of Art, was one of the founders of the magazine Artics, in the capacity of graphic artist and editor, and subsequently entered the Barcelona School of Architecture. He developed an interest in town planning, but also in modern and contemporary drama. His artistic activities enabled him to reconcile his wide range of concerns.
In his first exhibition, staged in 1986 at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona under the title Prototips Ideals, he showed sculptures made from denatured architectural scale models. His first period of residence in Paris was from 1991 to 1994 and was devoted to research. The exhibition Alta Comèdia, held in Tarragona in 1993, was the first in which he brought together sculpture, theatrical sets and full-scale architectural elements. At the same time he was designing sets for productions of plays by Samuel Beckett, Valère Novarina and Joan Brossa and an opera by Robert Ashley. In 1997 he presented his first video, Simo, in a specially designed screening room at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. From then on video was to enable him to implement a variety of narrative regimes and establish connections between different types of spaces. More productions followed: Pianito (1999), Les Jumelles [The Twins, 2000] and finally Le Dortoir [The Dormitory, 2001], which concluded this period during which he worked on movie sets where the characters’ behaviour was entirely dominated by the scenery. In 2001 Colomer settled in Paris once more and his work entered a new phase marked by travel. This led to the production of Anarchitekton (2002–04), which is set in various cities (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia and Osaka), Arabian Stars (2005), Cinecito (2006) and En la Pampa (2007–08). The last three were shot in the Yemen, Havana and the Atacama desert in Chile respectively.


Cinecito La Habana (Eddy)

In Cinecito La Habana (Eddy) [Little Havana Cinema (Eddy), 2006], which was filmed in Havana at the exit from a cinema, a new narrative starts up outside the screening room. A character called Eddy approaches the camera and starts telling a story of which only the gestures are perceptible to the audience. The still, silent pictures that follow on from one another express nothing but the wish to be seen and heard. This video, which greets the visitor at the top of the stairs at the Jeu de Paume, is a rudimentary form of cinema, far removed from naturalism. Colomer used this method again in several works.


Babelkamer

The title of this installation is taken from the Dutch “babbelziek kamer” (literally “babble room”) and suggests a space in which discussions and narratives are in a perpetual flux. Two projection devices are present in the same room. On one side is a caravan, upholstered in red with seats facing one another. A film in black and white is playing on two small plasma screens inside it. The film is Sunrise, a cinematographic poem made by F. W. Murnau in 1927 which signalled the end of the great productions of the silent movie era and heralded the reign of the talkie. For three days this same caravan, set up in a shopping centre in Brussels, provided a meeting place for several pairs of deaf and dumb people and we witness the conversation between French-speaking Ingrid and Dutch-speaking Sophie on two large plasma screens located opposite the caravan. While their conversation was being filmed, subtitles in both languages were inserted by translators in real time. The whole installation gives rise to a superimposition of languages and mediums that is evocative of a mute Babel. By bringing to the fore the contrast between fiction and genuine emotion, it raises the possibility of translating feelings and the relationship between feelings and silence
.

Les Villes

Les Villes [The Cities, 2002] also takes the form of a double screening, thus evading traditional forms of narration. Deceptively similar sequences are shown on two screens. On one screen a young woman in pyjamas moves along a ledge and finally plunges into the void; on the other the same character manages to reach a window. In the background sets of cubes in constant motion represent the mutations of an abstract city, evoking Kazimir Malevich’ Architectons and Hans Richter’s animated films. Here Colomer re-enacts a situation characteristic of early comic movies in which the geometry and scale of a metropolis expose the individual to situations of everyday, impersonal danger (as, for instance, in the films of Harold Lloyd or the Mexican Cantinflas). Two denouements to the same situation are offered to us simultaneously.


En la Pampa

Strangeness is unquestionably one of the prime narrative mainsprings of En la Pampa (2007–08), a fiction divided into five self-contained episodes screened in an endless loop. In this work, fashioned after a road movie, a couple engage in enigmatically whimsical activities and discussions in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. On the basis of a quotation from Guy Debord “L’errance en rase campagne est évidemment déprimante” (wandering in open country is obviously depressing) En la Pampa operates as an accumulation of instants with no functional or narrative link to join them together. The conception of time, which is neither chronological nor logical, reflects the disjointed relationship between a man and a woman. The young couple’s presence turns the great empty landscape of the pampas into a vast stage.


Anarchitekton / Papamóvil / Père Coco

Anarchitekton (2002–04) arose out of a series of performances photographed in various large cities throughout the world. The term is an amalgam of architekton (a Greek word meaning an architect and city planner) and Anarchitecture, the group founded by the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark. It also alludes to Architectons, the name Kazimir Malevich gave to his plaster models of formal architecture devoid of any functional concern. A character called Idroj Sanicne (Jordi Encinas written back to front), the artist’s imaginary double, is staging a one-man demonstration. Instead of waving banners or shouting slogans, he brandishes small-scale models of buildings symbolizing modernist city planning in Barcelona, Brasilia, Bucharest and Osaka. Is he demanding something or taking a critical stance? Colomer leaves us in doubt, but the reversal of the size scales, reinforced by the exhibition of models used in different performances, invite us to reflect on our place in the city, and our relationship to architecture and monuments.
Papamóvil [Popemobile, 2005–08] also plays on a change of scale and exploits the effect of the instantly recognizable Popemobile. This vehicle, which was specially designed for the Pope’s popular tours, has become a curious contemporary icon.
Here a small-scale model is shown, like a prototype with no anecdote surrounding it, in the midst of a Barcelona street. Colomer’s intermittent photographs of passers-by, some of whom show surprise, others indifference, compose a fragmentary, heterogeneous portrait of the city and its inhabitants.
The title Père Coco et quelques objets perdus en 2001 [Père Coco and a few items lost in 2001, 2002] refers to a hybrid personage reminiscent of both “Père Noël”, the French Father Christmas, and “El Coco”, the Spanish bogeyman. In this video, which takes the form of a sequence of stills, Père Coco wanders through the streets of Saint-Nazaire picking up objects that have been discarded and stuffing them into a sack. Colomer borrowed the items from the town’s lost property office. The process of reactivation gives them a new existence and endows the piece itself with the look of an urban fairytale.


2 Av / Escenita (Tocopilla) / Pozo Almonte

2 Av (2007) features a series of images taken from a long tracking shot of a working-class housing estate. The houses, all built on the same pattern, the strange conversions they have undergone, the unusual occupations of the inhabitants, and trivial events such as a band going past, make it possible to capture the everyday monotony while introducing variations into its continuity.
Jordi Colomer’s photographic work also adopts an approach akin to topographical investigation and classification. Escenita (Tocopilla) [Little Scene (Tocopilla), 2008] recalls his interest in exploring the limits between ephemeral architecture and “illusionistic” sets, between structures erected for festive purposes and their temporal nature.
In the series Pozo Almonte (2008), the constructions found in the cemetery of a mining town in the heart of the Chilean desert bear witness to an architecture without an architect. The variegated materials and typological diversity are the expression of a collective inventiveness which manifests itself despite a veritable shortage of resources, producing objects with an aesthetic all their own.


Simo

Simo (1997), Jordi Colomer’s first video installation, can be seen as a manifesto of his opposition to the notion of a single, universal model in architecture. Inevitably Le Corbusier’s Modulor springs to mind, the system of measurement based on the proportions of the human body which enabled him to determine the scale of his dwellings. The camera swings from the outside of the room to the inside and follows the main character, Simo, embodied by dwarf actress Pilar Rebollar. Simo transforms the empty space into a chaotic heap of articles (shoes, jam jars, scale models…), conjuring up a sort of festive orgy. The pendular movement of the camera highlights the contrast between private and social spaces. Her body, perpetually deprived, out of kilter, or driven to excess, conforms to no rules and seems to draw energy from refusing them.



Publication
Jordi Colomer: fuegogratis


Texts by François Piron, Bernard Marcadé, Marie-Ange Brayer, Mario Flecha, Jacinto Lageira, Christine Van Assche, Glòria Picazo, Martí Peran, José Luis Barrios; interview with Jordi Colomer by Marta Gili.
288 pages, 21x26,5 cm, hardcover, bilingual French/English, copublished by Le Point du Jour/Jeu de Paume, 36 €