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May 30, 2009

Pilar Albarracin Exhibition in Paris

Since the early 1990s, Pilar Albarracín has been creating performances and installations that address the clichés of Spanish culture. For her first solo show at the Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois french gallery she is casting her penetrating eye on one of the most widespread and archetypal objects found in modern societies: the postcard – and, in particular, the postcard as a vector of a folkloric vision of the world. Pilar is not exaggerating when she points out that in the imaginations of most foreigners (güiri) the most obvious “souvenir of Spain” is the “flamencas” print. While on the one hand such images hark back to the tourism-promoting policies of the Franco era, with its deliberating projection of a fictive, southern and festive, colourful and sensual country, they also produce a sarcastic fissure in the discourse regarding Spain’s integration in modern-day Europe. We have gone from a period of prejudices, fantasies and phantasmagorias to another, globalised age in which everyone everywhere suffers from the same boredom. Folklore is a force that enables social groups to recognise themselves in signs and styles which codify identity and perpetuate national narratives. The tradition of Flamenco, for example, is conducive to the expression of the Spanish people’s existential and political concerns, at a time when new conflicts are developing between local identities and globalisation. In the “flamenca postcard,” which attained its canonical form in the 1960s, everything, from the poses of the dancers, imitating amorous seduction, to the loud, lurid colours and the dazzling smiles, worked together to create a dream universe that stood in absolute contrast to political repression. These fable-like depictions were a sub-product of totalitarian diplomacy. By pastiching this iconography, and putting these prototypes and stereotypes through the filter of her corrosive humour, Pilar Albarracín sets memories of Spain under Franco alongside the dumbing down of our society of consumption which seeks consolation in frantic obsession with fun and gadgets. The postcard works perfectly in establishing a logic of déjà vu. We have all succumbed to the desire to make or buy postcards, knowing full well that they are mere clichés. And in fact we must admit that that was precisely what we were looking for. By appropriating the roles played in tourist imagery, the artist creates a recollection of the past that is designed to provoke. Her postcards, like fetishes, bear a relation to castration, with something that is lacking and that is not easy to restore. As for this militaristic, macho paternalism and its condescending attitude to popular culture and folklore, not much of it seems to be left. Or so we would like to believe. Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois Gallery from “Souvenirs sarcastiques,” a text written by Fernando Castro Flórez for the exhibition by Pilar Albarracín at the Palacio Episcopal in Málaga Pilar Albarracin Exhibition from May 29 to July 19, 2009
Valois Gallery 36 Seine Street Paris - 75006 France

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