Postcard from Barcelona

The MACBA, the museum of contemporary art in Barcelona, has recently opened Universal Archive. The Condition of the Document and the Modern Photographic Utopia, an exhibition that analyses the idea of a document in the history of photography on the basis of the study and staging of a number of debates about the genre during the 20th century.

This is a rich exhibition at the point of being almost encyclopedic but it’s also amazingly good and fascinating. Maybe later on this week i’ll find the time to put my thoughts together and blog about the show but if this doesn’t happen here’s a picture of one of the photographers whose work i discovered last week while visiting the MACBA.


Xavier Ribas’ Barcelona Pictures are miles away from your usual Gaudi facades and crazy Rambla postcards. The photographer turned his lens to the phenomenon of entertainment, of leisure, of what people do in their ‘free’ time, showing the extent to which such activities take place in the city’s residual spaces. Quite spontaneously, people preserve, manage and recycle these spaces, effectively keeping them out of the efficient, productive order of the city: places for walking, sunbathing, picknicking, sport and exercise…It seems paradoxical that these spaces -not yet codified, as yet without regulation- are where people still have a chance to take the initiative. As Ribas concludes: ‘Freedom can only flourish in a residual space that might, as a result, have a desolate appearance’.


Image on the homepage: Xavier Ribas, Untitled (Bellvitge), 1994-1997.

Universal Archive. The Condition of the Document and the Modern Photographic Utopia runs at the MACBA until January 6, 2009 and will then travel to the Museu Berardo de Lisboa.