Friday, 14 November 2008

De Facto: Joan Fontcuberta 1982-2008 @La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona

Miracle of the Will-o’-the-Wisp, Type C-print, 2002 ©Joan Fontcuberta

Iconoclastic, humorous, prolific are just some of the adjectives that can be affixed to the work of Joan Fontcuberta, an enormous selection of which is currently on show for the first time in Barcelona at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge. Spanning eighteen major projects, this exhibition traces his creative output from the early nineteen-eighties to the present day. His is a kind of photography that oscillates between artistic experimentation and conceptual reflection yet consistent to his work is the exploration of the veracity of the medium, a continual doubting and distrusting of the role of the image as a faithful means of representation.

Like a kind of agent provocateur, he stages photographic hoaxes that often question the foundations of knowledge, infusing his photography with an ever evolving array of styles and subjects. The fifty or so works seen here include Herbarium (fake biological and botanical discoveries of obscure plant and animal species´), Googlerama (a series of photo-mosaics using Google´s image search engine to re-create images from popular culture) and Sputnik (a fictional story about a Russian astronaut who is still lost in space).

Ultimately, Fontcuberta is more interested in the philosophical possibilities than the pictorial qualities of photography. This is not necessarily a bad thing but viewers will have to read the supporting texts to fully grasp the real meaning of this imagery; a cautionary tale that pokes fun at the traditional stalwarts of photography-memory, identity and reason-and by extension, mass media in all its guises. A long, overdue retrospective of the great Catalan photographer.

De Facto: Joan Fontcuberta 1982-2008
6th November-8th February 2009
La Virreina Centre de la Imatge