10 August 2008

Spanish Bombs

Given that a primary interest of Art From Space is to curate and explore art by appropriating images of existing phenomena via the digital assemblages of satellite photographs found on google maps, the second life of art works is something we pay a lot of attention to. Although the Mona Lisa is generally considered the world's most reproduced artwork, in Spain it seems that honour goes to Las Meninas by Spanish court painter Diego Velazquez. Despite our not venturing anywhere near Madrid, where the painting now resides at the Museo del Prado, we regularly encountered postcards, t-shirts, jigsaws, coffee cups and even mouse pads emblazoned with the popular work.

Testament to the importance of Las Meninas is the fact that, in 1957, Pablo Picasso produced numerous interpretations of the work, totalling 58 oils which he later gifted to Barcelona's Museo Picasso. Picasso is not the only one and the Museo Picasso currently has an exhibition of works by a long list of artists, all inspired by the same painting, including Salvador Dali, Richard Hamilton, Phillipe Comar's perspective analysis, and Eve Sussman's video re-enactment, which was recently shown at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Other derivatives were found on the streets of Spain including a grouping of three of the pictured sculptures by Manolo Valdes, just installed on CALLE ERCILLA in Bilbao but yet to appear on satellite view.

Another work we kept running into without having to visit Madrid was Picasso's Guernica, which also once resided at the Prado but is now at the Reiner Sofia, as overthenet have recently noted. This is probably not surprising given that we were in Basque territory where the work has inextricable links to the region and the staunch independence of the locals, who are unlikely to ever have it on home turf, even after the construction of a local Guggenheim franchise. In addition to the usual paraphenalia, we found this framed jigsaw puzzle hanging outside a games shop in the alleys of San Sebastian's old town.

It seemed fitting, then, that the last stop on our Spanish tour had fortuitously become a pilgrimage to the actual town of Guernica, officially known as Gernika-Lumo in Basque. It is interesting to consider the contribution Picasso's painting continues to make to international awareness of the blanket bombing of the town by German Luftwaffe pilots on behalf of Franco's Nationalist forces in 1937. Even so, the name now seems synonymous with the painting and the actual place has a more mythic quality to it. So walking through Gernika's streets, it is odd seeing signs that bear its name to proclaim such mundane things as the local podiatrist's clinic.

Not far from the church of Santa Maria, one of the only structures to survive the bombing, is the pictured ceramic-tiled reproduction of the painting - Guernica in Guernica. Just along the road in the other direction is another significant surviving location, the Tree of Guernica (Gernikako Arbola) a symbol of freedom under which the town's people and national officials have been meeting for centuries. Unfortunately, google's resolution doesn't quite let us see this sacred site, but I can't help wondering how much this AERIAL VIEW resembles what the German pilots saw 70 years ago. It is probably also worth noting that a bridge and ammunition factories, which were ostensibly the bomber's targets, survived the three-hour blitz.

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Art from Space is an exploration of art-related phenomena that manifests in interesting ways on Google’s aerial maps. It is also an experiment in curatorial practice; collecting, presenting and contextualising items in ways that users can explore, free of curator-imposed framing and sequencing. This blog is Art from Space’s developmental musings made public, where items are introduced to the project in real time, rather than awaiting the grand unveiling of a completed exhibition. Specific locations of interest are highlighted in CAPS and linked to a map for further exploration. Visit the mother ship HERE.