Enric Farrés Duran, El viatge frustrat (The Frustrated Journey), 2015, digital video, color, sound, 93 minutes 15 seconds.

Enric Farrés Duran, El viatge frustrat (The Frustrated Journey), 2015, digital video, color, sound, 93 minutes 15 seconds.

Enric Farrés Duran

Deeply rooted in the cultural scene of Catalonia, the work of Enric Farrés Duran tends to be aligned with that region’s post-Conceptual tradition. Although the artist is not unknown in Madrid, where he has shown his work in noncommercial venues, “Empezar por el medio” (Beginning in the Middle) was his first solo exhibition in the city and featured a selection of recent works gathered around a central piece, El viatge frustrat (The Frustrated Journey), a 2015 video that remains one of his best works.

Recorded on a cell phone, the footage traces a voyage in a small boat from the Catalan town of Palafrugell to the French coast. The trip is based on one undertaken in 1918 by Josep Pla, an ancestor of the artist and one of the fathers of modern Catalan literature, who narrates the experience in the 1927 book from which Farrés Duran borrowed the title of his exhibition. At the start of the video, Farrés Duran reports that through exhaustive research he has discovered that, although the book is presented as a diary, Pla never really made this journey. The artist therefore decides to embark on the path Pla never took, to slip the real into a space hitherto occupied by fiction.

While Pla writes of traveling in the company of Hermós, a working—class local and braggart, Farrés Duran makes his expedition with a collector who will ultimately serve as producer of the work. And if in the book Pla and Hermós are together in one boat, in Farrés Duran’s video his own little rowboat is towed behind the collector’s impressive yacht, an explicit nod to the place of the artist in the hierarchies that define the contemporary art world. The journey turns out to be a fairly mundane experience, without notable events or heroic moments—the most dramatic, perhaps, being when Farrés Duran’s hat falls into the sea.

The video, however, contains a paradoxical element. If the work’s plot is redolent of tradition, its form, aspiring to a certain contemporaneity, is midway between that of an online tutorial and that of a Skype conversation. The narrator is always visible in one window of the screen as he opens and closes the clips that structure the video on his desktop, employing a procedure that recalls Camille Henrot’s celebrated Grosse Fatigue, 2013, or Patricia Esquivias’s Folklore I, 2006 (The latter, which is a major precedent for Farrés Duran’s work, does something similar with analog sources.) The sequence of narrative links from window to window in El viatge frustrat produces a concatenation of stories within stories, fictions that slip into other fictions and at the same time break away from them. The value of minor, seemingly expendable, stories is significant, since in their clearly idle and carefree nature they comprise a veiled reflection of the capriciousness and dilettantism that make up one of the video’s arguments and establish it as a call to resistance in times of enormous demand for product.

The works accompanying the video were meant to anchor some of its ideas but remained relegated to a tangential role, even if their playful and casual tone was in tune with the video’s relaxed cadence. One further piece, an audio track that could be heard at the Buen Retiro Park pond, extended the narrative beyond the limits of the gallery but persisted in pursuing Farrés Duran’s foremost ambition: to convert the real into a slippery terrain and emphasize the difficulty of truth transcending its imaginary condition.

Javier Hontoria

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.