Critics’ Picks

Carles Congost, Simply the Best, 2016, video, color, sound, 15 minutes.

Carles Congost, Simply the Best, 2016, video, color, sound, 15 minutes.

Madrid

Carles Congost

La Casa Encendida
Ronda de Valencia, 2
October 8, 2020–January 10, 2021

Curated by Tolo Cañellas, the exhibition “¿Para qué sirven las canciones?” (What Good Are Songs?) surveys recent work by Carles Congost, one of the most relevant video artists of the Spanish scene. The selection of works covers a period that begins with his Paradigm (2012) and ends with the piece the exhibition is titled after, produced specially for this occasion.

Music is the most obvious connector between the different videos. Wonders, 2016, and ¿Para qué sirven las canciones?, 2020, reflect on the phenomenon of the hit song. The mockumentary Simply the Best, 2016, considers a Swiss firefighter’s passion for gospel and the implied problem of the appropriation of African-American music, while Abans de la casa/Un biopic inestable a través del sonido Sabadell (Before House: An Unstable Biopic via Sabadell Sound), 2015, looks back at the Catalonian discotheque scene in the 1980s, a local sensation contrived to appear international. But we can also identify other themes in Congost’s work—underlying currents of youth, contingency, and fragility that run throughout the entire exhibition. We see these in the prematurely famous members of the group Musical Youth, interviewed decades after their 1982 chart-topping single “Pass the Dutchie”; in the fireman’s cousin, bankrupt after squandering his inheritance; in various allusions to precarious work. Moreover, a semantically deeper relationship between the films reveals itself through the shared element of surprise. Things are not what they seem, and at any moment something unexpected can happen. The best example is found in Paradigm, where a police officer pulls over two men—one young, the other middle-aged—in a car. The tension of the scene is broken by the appearance of a children’s choir, which begins to sing: “Yes, we are brave and we believe in a new space, in another time. We believe in a new paradigm.”