Country Fictions

Thu, 05/02/2015 - 20:00 - 22:00
Country Fictions

Produced between 2011 and 2013, these images are the result of a series of travels to different rural areas and scarcely populated regions of the Iberian Peninsula.

As several close friends began to think about moving to the country, I was confronted with the idea of leaving the city myself and starting a new life closer to nature. In Country Fictions, reality and my imagination come together to deal with my distant relationship with the rural environment and the emotions brought about by the idea of taking that step. This photographs are the visual expression of an inner conflict that has to do with “wanting to believe” in a simpler, better life.

In what could be called a collection of daydreams, Country Fictionsreflects on the photographic language itself and how we are influenced by previous representations and preconceived ideas about rural utopias.

The illusion of escaping from contemporary society, the myths and hopes built around nature come together with the strangeness and the nostalgic look at a life that I might never live. 

Text by JÖRG COLBERG (Conscientious Photography Magazine)

[…] What’s important in all of this is to realize that whatever utopia we are looking at, it’s all a fiction. Photography itself is a fiction (unfortunately one that comes in the disguise of a fact).  Through its title, Juan Aballe‘s Country Fictions makes this clear. These landscapes, these people clinging to their very rudimentary homes, this idyllic painting on the wall – all of that, once depicted, becomes just a fiction.

A fiction just like, let’s say, what you see in a Mad Max movie, the difference being that everybody knows that the movie is a fiction, whereas it’s much harder to accept Country Fictions as such (its title notwithstanding).
As a whole, Aballe’s project shows us what we think of as the solution for our contemporary conundrum, in which the future is so incredibly uncertain, in which our parents appear to have held much more comfortable positions than we do: It’s going back to the past, to a simpler, better world, a world that in reality never existed (just open any history book and read up on the grim lives of people in a world where, to give just one example, the idea of childhood was quite a bit different).

But the beauty of a utopia, of course, is that it does not have to conform to any sort of reality. It’s a utopia after all. Country Fictions confronts us with our dreams, and it would be foolish to deny that we have them. The question then becomes what can we do to make sure that our dreams will be fulfilled? We probably shouldn’t expect things to look like in this fiction. But what could a world created from our own fictions look like?

What could we do so that we wouldn’t have to rely on the narcotic that is nostalgia any longer?            
                                                                                                                                 Jörg Colberg (Cphmag)

Surely good photographs must stem from words, well spoken words. A happening or occurrence generates words, and then come the photographs. It is difficult to take a picture without speaking out first, it is complicated to see without articulating. To see is to speak with a camera. The universe of images differs from the universe of words. Two different professions stand essentially apart: the photographer sees without words, in a visual manner of speaking, using a language that shows without further explanation. The power of images can only be enunciated visually, the photographer cannot speak the language of a writer of words since what we see lacks translation. Once we have achieved it, once we have become photographers, our narrative begins.

I browse through the photographs of Country Fictions and spread them out, examining each of them individually. I then only read the visual message, obligingly pausing because I understand the voice that animates them, the sound that they carry, there will be time to talk about them later. When I rejoin the images and look at them in sequence the explanation begins, each line supporting the next. The visual text which was born from words is now consummated, saying what it promised it would. The photographs have fulfilled their purpose. This is my way of understanding it: Country Fictions is a photographic work.

Probably the first writer to articulate this thought was Henry David Thoreau. It is not only the social, sociological, psychological fact of returning to that place which promises to free the mind of obstacles. If the lake in Walden had only pledged for life in a cabin, it would all end there, including the “dream”, in this case, “another American dream”. The photographs in Country Fictions spur from the journey towards Walden. They are essentially American and not inspired by Rousseau’s woods, nor the Alps in Shelley’s poems. Whilst Thoreau was writing Walden, Carleton Watkins photographed the immaculate and wild American landscape. This immersion turned him into another poet, and the landscape became prose, a new kind of prose. When Watkin’s landscapes are inhabited by Thoreau’s settlements a new journey begins, a journey in a new landscape from then on inhabited in a new way. The American Narrative continues with James Agee, Walker Evans and extends to Cormac McCarthy, one of the references of Country Fictions. Also with Jonas Mekas, who said: “I looked at the landscape and it did not speak to me”. A brief parenthesis: In America, the landscape united literature, photography, cinema and also painting if it pertains to Edward Hopper.

The journey of Country Fictions is written with the camera. It is written with the exact visual distance and the descriptive vocation of medium and large format photographs. We travel through a landscape projected by those who look at it, by those who merge into it. We all construct this landscape, desperately trying to break its silence. It is a journey from within, written, photographed, the best of journeys.

                                                                                                                                             Eduardo Momeñe
                                                                                                                                          Brussels, July 2014

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