Bleda y Rosa / Battlefields: Europe
Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the contrary, was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic.
- Michel Foucault
History is usually treated as a succession of facts and events linked in time. A date and the name of a place become lodged in the collective memory, appropriating and coming to symbolise the geographical space and the event itself. Meanwhile the actual site or terrain, crucial stage for the passage of events, remains still, hidden.
Approaching landscape from the point of view of experience, considering it whilst bringing to mind what happened there, allows us – interpreting traces embedded at the site and in our memory – to develop and build our own way of seeing it. Battlefields involves an encounter with places marked by History, where thousands of people clashed and died violently. Divided into three sections, Spain, Europe and Overseas, the project sets out to explore through the landscape the complex relationships existing historically between the different European countries, from the time of their birth as nations to the conquest and eventual independence of the New World colonies.
Taking the pictoric representation of battles as an aesthetic and conceptual point of departure, the scope of our project is defined by the first written accounts of war and the first photographs taken to document it.
Waterloo is not a battle, it is a change of front on the part of the Universe.
- Víctor Hugo, ‘Les Misérables’
Napoleon’s imperialist dreams were shattered, once and for all, on the battlefield. This was nothing new, the same ambitions had been crushed before in the same way. The idea of “imperium mundi” is integral to the history of a continent woven by war and devastation.
After the decisive battle at Waterloo, William I ordered the construction of a great monument to symbolize the victory of the European monarchy over the Napoleonic empire, creating an enormous mound of earth on the site – as if a tumulus – crowned by a mighty lion cast in bonze. The material to build this extraordinary construction was taken from the battlefield, completely altering its elevation: the process of monumentalisation destroyed the very aspects of the site which had been descisive in battle.
Marathon, Trafalgar, Hastings and Waterloo are all names associated in memory with the particular landscapes they evoke. Arenas for the evolution of European geography, where confrontations took place as its different nations tried to push the boundaries of their territory, or struggled to defend their independence. Revisiting the great sites of European history we discovered how, in an attempt to recall the past, the landscape becomes a monument. Places of pilgrimage where space is the monument and where time seems to have been put on hold.
María Bleda (Castellón, 1969) and José María Rosa (Albacete, 1970) together form one of the most renowned partnerships in Spanish contemporary photography. The core of their work is the representation of territory, by which they seek to emphasise the complex interweaving of cultures and the time that shapes them, as well as their own experience of the places they photograph. Time’s sediment, tracks and memory are the intangible elements that build their works.
Through their series ‘Campos de fútbol’, ‘Campos de batalla’, ‘Ciudades’ and ‘Origen’, Bleda y Rosa have constructed works that record the latent history inhabiting spaces, a past they explore by activating our imagination and memory. Photomonitor is proud to present images from Bleda y Rosa’s recent series, ‘Battlefields: Europe’ (2010-2012), as our online portfolio for May 2012.
Following recent solo exhibitions in galleries in Oporto, Madrid, Sevilla, and Salamanca as well as participation in numerous group shows in Spain, Egypt, Chile and London, Bleda y Rosa’s work will next be exhibited at ‘Le Printemps de Septembre à Toulouse’ in Autumn 2012.
María Bleda and José María Rosa live and work in London. http://bledayrosa.com/