The Catalonia and Balearic Islands Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale presents a one-woman project by the artist Mabel Palac�n, created specially for the occasion in the city of Venice and curated by David G. Torres.
Mabel Palac�n started out in the early 1990s as part of a generation of Catalan artists working in the conceptual tradition. While representing a leap forward or a breakaway from the return to painting of the eighties, they also embraced practices that challenged the status of the image and representation, the return to the object and its reflection, and the recovery of neo-conceptual and neo-dada practices on the international scene. Since then, her projects have centred on two issues: the status of images today (the crisis of the image and representation) and artistic production media. Her aim is to reflect the image as a universal language: how new systems of capture and distribution (from mobile phones to social networks) have allowed global access to images, and the way in which images have come to occupy a central place that conditions, affects and explains the present day in social, economic and political terms. In this sense, Mabel Palac�n stakes out the space of art as a place to reflect on and propose a new status for images. At the same time, in her projects she uses production media that mix disciplines, from film and advertising to elements of popular culture (music, graphic design, etc.).
�180��, the title of the project for the Venice Biennale, is a reference to the 180-degree rule in film that establishes the relation between the position of the camera and that of the viewer. According to this guideline, the camera must never cross an imaginary line that is marked out to ensure visual understanding of a scene: the camera must always be on the same side as the action. Only in this way can the distance be maintained between the scene taking place on one side of the line and the viewers on the other. The imaginary line drawn according to the 180-degree rule ensures the proper relation between the images and the spectator. The project by Mabel Palac�n refers to this filmmaking rule to show how the relation between spectator and images today has been altered by the multiplication and democratic use of the latter. As a result, previously accepted tenets of modernity, such as the distance between emitter and receiver, or the image being determined by the medium, lose their validity.
�180�� starts out from a broad-angled view of a building in Venice: a high-definition photograph. Capturing this image called for a production process involving all the elements that appear in it, including the interiors that are glimpsed through the windows and passers-by in the surrounding streets. This photograph is exhibited in the Magazzini del Sale, along with a video that films this image, revealing the details and proposing different narratives that are written within it, about which the image speaks. Applying a similar logic to a recent work by Mabel Palac�n, Hinterland, the central image in �180�� is at once a moving and a fixed image, blurring the dividing line between media. The project is completed by another series of videos filmed from altanas, Venice�s characteristic rooftops. These videos work like vanishing lines. Captured using high- and low-quality filming media, they establish a line or a dialogue between different characters, starting out from the principal building in the project.
However, �180�� is not just about the change in status of the image today; it work on various levels. It proposes a dialogue between history and contemporaneity in its choice of the city of Venice and its altanas as constructions that characterize a city rooted in history. �180�� starts with an urban view of Venice, referring to a historical pictorial genre that characterizes the city: the veduta. Accordingly, architecture, the urban phenomenon, the city and the collective emerge as subjects. It also includes current political references: in recent years, the rooftops and monuments of Italian cities have been used as places for demonstration.
In �180��, using photographs and videos, causing the two media to overlap, Mabel Palac�n reflects the multiple quality of the image, its ambiguous nature and the role of the user in the construction of different narratives. The title echoes the universal language learned by the image: figures and symbols that need no translation. And Venice becomes the subject of the project, underscoring a dialogue between history and contemporaneity: Venice as the original space of urban landscapes and the urban as the space of contemporaneity.