Re-finding sub-version

Castellano Català

It was a Sunday morning. Despite being winter, the sun and the temperature evoked a spring day. The exhibition of Manel Margalef, SubVersion, had been closed to the public one day ago. The cultural centre ‘Lo Pati‘ in the city of Amposta (Tarragona) is a small oasis of contemporary creation in the Catalan south. And right there we had arranged a meeting with the artist, Manel, an artist that has arrived to this creative moment after starting to work with the concepts of public and private spaces for some years.


Manel Margalef has been more than 25 years working as a professional artist; he comes from the School of Fine Arts and the world of painting, but he has always let his art flow, without concern for the materials, allowing things to come by the need of speech. In this way his art has been defined and has supported the novelty, accepting arguments as the object, searching for its meaning and its value: I’ve worked, I’ve decontextualized, I have deconstructed, and thereafter I have thought deeply about the element, the language of the time, the memory and the memory of what we have on these symbols and references” he assured us.

We had the meeting in front of his work, in his exhibition. And surely we were the last visitors that could see it. To this we have to also add natural light coming through the windows, illuminating the space in a very peculiar and unique way, a scene that the public who had seen the work during the evenings of December and January (Fridays and Saturdays) did not experience because at those times the sun had already set.

His language has pictorial characteristics, with a speech that also sculpturally maintains the conceptual presence, such as the cluster of meanings that generates a change in direction: “searching for the presence so that each element has a connection in its content.”
To understand the exhibition, we need to remember his career, namely to go to the moment that he makes the step towards the object, which happened when he won the Biennial of Amposta with the work called “Ordinances o Establecimientos in which he used elements of the old mill of the Rice House of Amposta and began creating a speech or language to talk about its landscape.  This idea of landscape transferred to a major project in Tarragona, which was the rehabilitation of an old floor, along with a young architect
All his artistic research was condensated in his PhD and thereafter in the exhibition named “En Venta or for Sale, which was located in the space Tinglado1 in the port of Tarragona. This exhibition was the culmination of the efforts of that rebuilt apartment that ended up being sold just at the time when real state bubble was at its highest point. A clear example that inspired him was the FADESA project also in Amposta, which led him to create a model / show flat precisely that would later become the work presented in Tinglado1.

For the making of Sub-versió a lot of inspiration came from the housing bubble in Spain, the financial market crisis and the whole capitalist system in general. He explains us what is living and what is not from his perspective, the public and the private, the cultural part of the world, what we do: build houses and bridges that contradict nature. Take everyday objects and articulates and rearticulates, making them non-useful: a second life, an element that was common to us and now goes wild.

Two large doors from the time were “En Venta” was created welcome the visitors, playing the figure of the historical element, the memory of a past, but without the functionality they intended to have. “The doors no longer have an architectural function, and thus we will end up placing them on the floor,” he says. He therefore cancels their functionality, decontextualizing the object and makes us think about that consumed time, those structures that have fallen -symbolically and literally.


To end the exhibition, and turning our views, we find a small facility that has been following and watching us the whole way. It recreates the effect of the bird’s viewpoints located in the delta of the Ebre river.

Thus, his work’s reflections on the economic crisis, the housing bubble and above all the fact that the society failed: failed and fails when trying to produce a twin and social society, the rationalists of the Bauhaus failed and also did Le Corbusier when he tried to create housing for everyone. We will fail when attempting to create a basic structure to democratize the ground. All fail. From all of this we only keep with small dumping sites of the past and and architectural and ornamental structures that seem so far  away from today. It was a moral and ethical crisis, and we’re still living with the consequences.

Marta Margalef
Gabino Martínez
Guiomar Sánchez

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