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Bones & Concrete

Bones and Concrete is a proposal by the artist Keke Vilabelda, result of a journey around Spain with the idea of studying the landscape bequeathed by the property boom of the 2000s, a scenario dotted with the cadavers of construction and empty developments that are forging new profiles for the classic theme of the ruin.

In previous projects, Keke Vilabelda addresses the theme of the architecture and construction of contemporary landscape, presenting works that have close analogies with constructive procedures. Bones and Concrete continues this line, as it comprises a series of blueprints, a photographic printing process used to copy architecture plans. By means of the cyanotype, using concrete slabs as a support for printing, Vilabelda’s graphic work combines the ideas of “project” and “finished work” to produce a paradoxical image that speaks of different times. First, the time of the planned work, and then the time of the work once finished and converted into a ruin. With this play of allusions, time also accelerates, as though the ruin was produced in the blueprint, in the space of the project. The buildings documented by Keke Vilabelda are architectural skeletons presented without a skin to bring them to life. The analogy between bone and concrete is tied with the blue thread of the cyanotype and a powerful light contrast created by taking the photographs at night, evoking an X-ray showing the image of an injury or a fracture. The ruin, like the X-ray, shows something sick or broken. Along with the blueprints, a video recorded with a dron provides a field of vision that encompasses the scope and extent of the real-estate corpses. This view, in turn, favors the sense of unreality of the cyanotypes as it confines a scopic regime in which the viewer adopts a new position and becomes a floating subject moving over the ruins.

All ruins speak of the passage of time, but the ones the beholder finds in the work of Keke Vilabelda table a disturbing, unsettling idea of time. They are premature or accelerated ruins, because they are buildings that have been abandoned before their complention. Ruins speak of the greatness of a time past. The well-known Latin adage, Roma quanta fuit ipsa ruina docet, recorded on the frontispiece of Sebastiano Serlio’s third Book of Architecture (1), condenses the human approach to the phenomenon of the ruin in six words: the greatness of the Rome of the past is shown by the ruins of it that have remained. The theme of ruins has been related with melancholy meditation on the passage of time. The archaeological policy of recovering classical antiquity promoted in the Italy of the Quattrocento and Cinquecento went hand in hand with the first representations of ruins as a pictorial theme (2) and moralising reflections on the passage of time. The ruin, then, brings into play the action of time and activates nostalgia for what was once, and is no more.

The theme of the ruin is a dialectic between nature and humankind, between the destructive power of the former and the desire for eternity that the latter projects onto the constructions it builds. Time as a destructive agent guarantees an aesthetic experience in the face of a ruin. As Simmel argues, the ruin produced by human beings does not achieve the aesthetic category of the ruin generated by the action of nature. (3) Similarly, Starobinsky notes that the act of destruction that produced a ruin has to be remote if it is not to generate a feeling of guilt in the observer that prevents them from enjoying the aesthetic experience. (4) These are the parameters that are to govern our understanding of the ruins of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Here, rather than time the destructor that projects an aesthetic experience for us, it is the hand of man that destroys buildings and generates ruins that create new profiles for the awareness of vanitas and transience. We are fragile, now not just due to the effects of passing time, but also to the consequences of human actions.

Classical reflections on the ruin were based on a linear direction of time, where the past became the present by means of a decomposed building. However, the ruins of late capitalism has given us refer not to a distant past, but to the present. They are such brief ruins that they cannot be understood in terms of the passing of time. These ruins have, further, occurred at a time when reflection on the direction of time has taken root in the field of the humanities and the social sciences. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, Postmodernism debates about history have shown that it cannot be viewed exclusively in a diachronic way.(5) The paradigm of linear time has been displaced by post-history, a concept in which leaps in time, discontinuities, anachronisms and alternative models of time are starting to emerge (6), and it is symptomatic that these reflections have occurred at the same time as the accelerated ruins of property speculation.

The ruins that make up the work of Keke Vilabelda, a consequence of ferocious late capitalism based on speculation and a get-rich-quick logic, bring together past and future in the synchronic space of the image. The promises of life are cancelled out by a premature death, by an acceleration of time that turns into ruins something that has only just taken its first steps.


Serlio, Sebastiano, Il terzo libro di Sebastiano Serlio bolognese, nel quale si figurano e descrivono le antiquità di Roma (Venezia, 1540)


Among the first representations of ruins are Landscape with Roman Ruins by Herman Posthumus (1536, Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace) or Self-portrait with the Colosseum by Maerten van Heemskerck (1553, Fitzwilliam Musseum, Cambridge)


Simmel, Georg, Sociology: inquiries into the construction of social forms (Leiden, Brill, 2009)


Starobinsky, Jean,  L’invention de la liberté: 1700-1789 (Genève, Skira, 1964)


VVAA, Heterocronías.Tiempo, arte y arqueologías del presente (Murcia, Cendeac, 2008)


Moxey, Keith,  Visual Time: The Image in History (Durham NC, Duke University Press, 2013) / El tiempo de lo visual. La imagen en la historia (Barcelona, Sans Soleil, 2015)

28.Apr.2017 2854 views
Keke Vilabelda Keke Vilabelda

Keke Vilabelda (Valencia, 1986) is an artist currently living between Mexico and Spain. He graduated in UPV in 2009 and obtained a MA in Central Saint Martins London in 2011. His work focuses on the construction and representation of landscape, working with different media to reflect on the ambiguities and paradoxes of landscape representation. He has received several awards and grants by institutions like Saatchi, BMW, The Royal Academy of San Carlos, and the Government of Spain. He holded Solo Shows in Spain, UK, Belgium, Poland, Colombia and México. His work has been shown at group exhibitions across China, UK, Portugal,Germany and USA. Currently is being represented by Kir Royal Gallery in Spain, showcasing his work at international art fairs like Scope Basel, ArtBeijing, ArtFair Cologne, or ArteFiera among others.
28.Apr.2017 2854 views
Luis Vives-Ferrándiz Sánchez Luis Vives-Ferrándiz

Luis Vives-Ferrándiz Sánchez (PhD History of Art, University of Valencia) is lecturer of Visual Culture at the University of Valencia. His research is focused on theoretical issues on images and visual culture within the framework of Postmodern thought. He is also interested in vanitas and Neobaroque studies, post-photography theory, iconoclastic attitudes and the recent significance of anachronism in Art History writing. He is editor of the Spanish independent publishing house Sans Soleil Ediciones, focussed on art history, anthropology and visual culture. He has also collaborated with the journal Concreta and with contemporary artists like Keke Vilabelda, Greta Alfaro and Jesús Herrera.


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