Barcelona/Seville

Charles Congost

Fundació Joan Miró / Centro Andaluz de Arte Conemporaneo

Although in Spain his name is associated with video, Carles Congost's work is not tied to a single medium but rather takes advantage of diverse resources. Over the last year he has shown this flexibility in two exhibitions that—though they shared works in common—represented distinct yet complementary projects. The first, in Barcelona, consisted of a single installation (Country Girls, 2000) using heterogeneous elements; a collage as much of media (objects, photography, video, drawings, songs) as of intentions.

Conveyed by means of a nonlinear narrative about three girls living in a small town, the work's main theme was the chasm between the appearance of tranquility and the turbulent reality that lies just below the surface of daily life—a theme inspired by Twin Peaks. (Congost himself is from a small town in Catalonia.) Each of the protagonists of this story corresponds to a stereotype from youth-oriented literature and film—a frequent source of inspiration for this artist whose work as a whole is based on a teenager's wounded vision of the world, that is, on the discrepancy between youthful dreams and a far more mediocre reality. In this case, Congost's vision of adolescence emerged from the videos in which each girl presented herself, and which were accompanied by sculptures and drawings that elaborate on themes suggested by the videos. Above the rest of the installation hung a large map with small lights marking the diverse trajectories of the protagonists—luminous traces of the difference between their actual actions and what they recounted. The work's various elements formed a clear and ordered whole; its bright appearance and use of logos explains why Congost's work has been described as Neo-Pop, a label that's derived from its most conspicuous formal elements but which disregards the artist's focus on the personal and private.

“That's my impression!” was the title of the exhibition in Seville, whose aim was to survey Congost's career to date. The first room showed work that the artist himself has characterized as peripheral to his oeuvre: a table at which one could listen to music from The Congosound (dance music composed in collaboration with electronic musician Fibla), magazines with photo-novels, drawings of figures made for television series, photographs, and so on—in addition to a large graphite drawing that alluded to Seville's Baroque heritage by depicting a cushion on which a number of glasses are placed as an offering. (Congost's strange, even surreal drawings are among his most inspired works.) Next, along with a version of Country Girls, came large-scale photographs that critically address media representations of youth culture, as well as a selection of Congost's videos, of mixed quality. But even Congost's least successful work shows that, in contrast to so many artists using video these days, he treats audiovisual work as an end in itself and not simply as the most convenient or fashionable way to convey an idea.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Michèle Faguet