Javier Baldéon

Galería Antonio De Barnola

Attracted by photography and the potential it affords for manipulating the real, Javier Baldéon has recently favored this medium in his efforts to disrupt the systems that institutionalize the individual’s submission to societal codes. The way he advertised the exhibition recalled the publicity that announces end-of-season sales, but with a twist. Slogans like “Get rid of your money and everything once and for all,” “Spend beyond your limit,” “Last Days,” and “Huge Liquidation,” were printed on backgrounds in shocking colors. Baldéon has taken advantage of the least sophisticated means of attracting attention to lure visitors to the gallery; his strategy is to make the visitor question to what degree his identity is a product of commercial and national propaganda.

In keeping with this line of inquiry, Baldéon presented six photographs under the heading “And they had overcome it.” Though it is not immediately apparent, these images are based on money, national ID cards, and passports, underscoring our submission to a system driven by money and to a depersonalized identity. The acronyms for these three things, or what is associated with them, also create playful analogies: DNA, which represents the genetic code, DNI (National Identity Document), which represents our national ID card, and the word “money”(dinero) all belong to the same family.

By employing these and similar images, Baldéon stages the conflicted relationship between the individual and the state as he transforms the signs of the state’s control of the individual into ironic and irreverent images. With an equally iconoclastic attitude, he turns the flag into the equivalent of a great “spinning” washing machine, by playing on the similarities among the words la bandera (the flag), lavendera (laundry woman), and lavadora (washing machine). The result is a comic send up of the flag and the patriotic nonsense that goes with it. Atlas, 1994, reproduces a map of Spain out of leftover tinned sardines, a very characteristic food product of Spain during the years of shortage, scratching the surface of nationalistic fervor to reveal what lies beneath it. Baldéon demonstrates how symbols of any organized collective can he destroyed simply by manipulating the codes on which they depend.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.