Julieta Averbuj: El juego de la madalena
El juego de la madalena
Soft bound with a cardboard case, 60 pages, 240 mm x 320 mm (closed), edition of 750
Named after a game invented by her father, Spanish photographer Julieta Averbuj (b. 1986, Barcelona) introduces her first publication ‘El juego de la madalena’ — a book, that very much like a game, presents itself as an interactive riddle with a myriad of outcomes that are determined by the viewer.
Remembrance and recollection are central to the work that was made following the news of the passing of the artist’s father. Averbuj searched for ways to honor him, ultimately resolving to what was nearest and dearest: her family albums. Using domestic pictures from her personal archives, she creates a visual mediation on themes of lineage and shared history.
“I received a phone call in December 2017 and was told my father had passed away. In Buenos Aires, during the days that followed, I looked very closely at the family photo albums in his house. I then felt the need to make a book to pay tribute to him as this was the object through which he also expressed himself,” says Averbuj.
Unraveling like a Russian doll, the book contains two separate booklets that are stitched together and can be opened individually, resulting at four folded bodies once completely spread out. Its construction allows for a multilayered viewing experience with changing paths, inviting one to play and engage with the enigmatic narrative full of detours. Free to form boundless arbitrary four-paged sequences, there is no right or wrong outcome. It is exactly this sense of inconclusiveness and uncertainty that makes the work so enticing.
“Whoever has it in their hands is encouraged to look at it from near and far, to touch it, to look for combinations and find relationships,” she continues.
Across 60 pages one is taken on an introspective journey, yet obtains merely fragments of the bigger picture. Through various interventions, including considered cropping and extreme magnification, Averbuj proposes the potential of new hidden meanings in the abstracted and repurposed source materials. Taken out of their original context, the viewer is encouraged to scrutinize and dissect the smaller details that she lays bare.
The enlargement of the prints furthermore adds to the palpable and perceptible acquaintance with them. The textured surface of the scanned photographic paper, as well as the notable signs of discoloration and deterioration, including stains, marks and scratches, manifest and protrude our vision. The series of tactile images is interspersed by a number of vellum pages with short Spanish sentences that provide little snippets of information. The captions are at once particular yet ambiguous, leaving room to bring in one’s own interpretation, tempted by the challenge to connect the dots.
Whilst the work is highly personal and distinctive, Averbuj manages to create something universally compelling that dismisses the need for an outsider to immediately relate or connect with the people that are depicted.
Tingling all senses, ‘El juego de la madalena’ can be felt as much as it can be seen.
El juego de la madalena was presented at Les Reencontres d’Arles 2022. Order it here.