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11 May 2011

Lara Almarcegui at TENT Rotterdam

Lara Almarcegui, Construction Rubble of TENT's Central Space, TENT Rotterdam, 2011

Lara Almarcegui - Construction materials, excavations, wastelands
TENT Rotterdam


TENT is a center for contemporary art that is focused on a discursive approach to Rotterdam art, be that exhibitions, discussions, screenings, publications and get-togethers. The 1000 m2 exhibition space is located in a characteristic former school building. TENT aims to meaningfully contribute to the artistic landscape within as well as beyond the borders of the Netherlands. A key aspect of this work is our commitment to our city, aiming at improving the visibility of the Rotterdam art scene.

Carolien van Hooijdonk

TENT Rotterdam
Witte de Withstraat 50
3012 BR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

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6 May – 26 June 2011
Lara Almarcegui - Construction materials, excavations, wastelands

solo exhibition

Thursday 19 May, 20.00hrs:
An evening with Lara Almarcegui

TENT presents the first major solo exhibition in the Netherlands by Lara Almarcegui. Since the mid-nineties, Almarcegui (Zaragoza, 1972, lives and works in Rotterdam) has developed an consistent body of work that receives much international acclaim. In TENT, for the first time an attempt is made to reveal the great consistency of the work of Lara Almarcegui.

The guides and slide projections on derelict plots in metropolises such as London, New York and São Paulo are shown for the first time as a coherent whole in the exhibition. Pictorial accounts of the excavation of floors in Secession in Vienna and the RAI Building in Amsterdam, among others, are presented in mutual correlation. A new installation based on an exact calculation of all the building material used in the construction of TENT's central space, takes up a large part of the exhibition space. The monumental piles of recycled demolition rubble heaped up in the gallery are a precise equivalent of the original materials of which it consists, from a pile of over 62 cubic meters of concrete to just under one cubic meter of glass.

Rotterdam-based artist Lara Almarcegui stands out with a radical combination of social engagement and conceptual methods. In the work of Almarcegui, we see both a critique of the modernist notion of progress and a reflection on the unforeseen consequences of urban development. Her research of wastelands, ruins and construction materials is linked to themes such as attention for the environment, the consequences of economic growth, the effects of how space is utilized, the slipping by of time in space, the potential of decay.

When Almarcegui attended De Ateliers Amsterdam in 1996 she immediately moved out of the studio she was assigned in order to dig a hole on a derelict plot of land. After a few days, a building crew filled the hole and all that remained were the photographs she made of her intervention. An apparently simple action of a young artist, and yet the nucleus of her artistic position is implicit in this act. She operates between political activism and sculpture. Her work barely exists as a work of art, an object, more as evidence of a previous action, as the reporting of an investigative process, recorded in guides, maps, in a calculation, slide projections, photography.  

Since the mid nineteen-nineties, her research-oriented practice has concentrated on excavations, ruins and derelict plots. She has worked in places as diverse as Taipei, São Paulo, Amsterdam and Vienna. Metropolises caught up in a process of rapid urbanization, cities that transform large swathes of their urban landscape in search of better economic conditions and to become more attractive places to live. In her guides, Almarcegui documents the vacated, overlooked or left-behind places on the verge of being swallowed up by the processes of urban renewal, but which almost seem unwilling to keep pace with the functional development. The guides offer an alternative interpretation of the cityscape and encourage readers to participate in an unusual form of tourism by actually visiting these remote and undesignated landmarks. Ultimately, the guides also function as testimonies to the passing of time.

In 2004 Almarcegui calculated the amount and sorts of construction materials used to build the art space for which she was then preparing an exhibition. The exhibition consisted of the presentation of all the building materials necessary to construct the building. She had to perform lengthy and precise calculations, in which specific gravity, stability factors and all kinds of scientific formulas yielded the exact quantities of materials. The neatly stacked sacks of raw materials formed a monumental volume that did bear some resemblance to an abstract sculpture. Over the years the materials have gradually emerged from their packaging and been returned to their origins: a heap of raw material, ready to be (re)worked. When seen as such, it makes the architecture of the building seem humble, nothing more than a temporary coagulation within the flow of time. The act of assembling the materials simultaneously embodies a form of institutional critique and a form of ecological consciousness. And yet, sometimes a notion of beauty also sneaks into the work. The dumped pile of cement has a velvet surface, the calculation of the weight for São Paulo becomes a magical formula and the photographs of derelict areas in the city call attention to the aesthetics of decay.

Thursday 19 May, 20.00hrs:
An evening with Lara Almarcegui
On the occasion of the forthcoming monograph Lara Almarcegui: Projects 1995 – 2010, an evening dedicated to Almarcegui’s work is taking place on Thursday 19 May. The editors of the publication, Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna (Latitudes) talk with Lara Almarcegui about the background to her work. Cuauhtémoc Medina, art historian, critic and curator of Manifesta 9, wrote an essay for the monograph and is contributing to the evening.