1 March 2011

In March 2010 a blog post titled ‘I THINK I’VE JUST FOUND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUPLE KNOWN TO FLICKR’ appeared on the web site of Platform magazine. A brief introductory text set the scene for a rolling display of intimate photographs taken by Rafa Castells and Alba Yruela, a couple recently relocated to London from Barcelona. In each of the images Rafa (curly haired and hung-over) and Alba (waif-like and hung-over) are captured in various states of hipster repose. Executed in the style of vérité photography associated with Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Corinne Day, Rafa and Alba borrow these techniques to imbue their vapid portraiture with a hackneyed, worn-out, poeticism. What is presented to us is a kind of pretension to truth. These are supposed to be photographs you can trust, and you can see their point. After all, who can take a more truthful portrait of you then your partner?  It’s probably the case that Rafa and Alba have been together so long that they don’t even notice the camera anymore. To talk of ‘posing’ in this respect would almost seem vulgar, right? But why post these images on the web; why put them out there?


 
Rafa Castells by Alba Yruela



Alba Yruela by Rafa Castells

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In a sense what we are privy to, once these photographs are ‘published’, is a type of theatre. Rafa and Alba are performing for us and performing for each other – probably before the camera has even been picked up. The first time the shutter closed between these two they moved out of reality and into the misty land of beatific fiction. We are, rather depressingly, back in the land of the postmodern. In this space there is no such thing as real life, only a succession of lifestyles to slip on and off, characters to play and scenarios to react to. Intuitively speaking, reality, if we can give a rough definition a shot, is what happens when nobody is watching. Nowadays that particular axiom seems to have been switched around, and for an increasing number of people reality is the thing that happens when other people are watching you. That’s what drives Rafa and Alba, and Josh Harris (the Warhol of the Web) knew it.  

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We Live in Public film still
 

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In the documentary We Live in Public, Ondi Timoner captures the effects of Harris’s Big Brother before Big Brother experiment, in which dozens of people lived in underground pods in exchange for free food and fame. Whatever happened in these pods was streamed on the Internet 24 hours a day. After this experiment collapsed in a blaze of gunfire, sex, paranoia and violence, Harris decided to turn the cameras on himself. The plan was to install video cameras all over the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. Everything was broadcast and nothing was censored, not even their break-up and Harris’s subsequent breakdown. The last we see of Harris is a rather sad portrait of the dot.com enfant terrible, fattened off the land, alone and embittered. The thing is, in this new theatre of life it’s difficult to get out unscathed. Rafa and Alba, should they ever wish to return to reality, would do well to learn that lesson. In this new theatre of the world, reality does more then bite, it hurts.

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Morgan Quaintance

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We Live in Public
The Box at FACT
02 March, 6.30pm
£5.00/£4.00 (Members & conc
s)
This event is accompanied by a special introduction from writer, musician and curator, Morgan Quaintance. 


Buy your tickets online.  

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