Images of Power and Cartography of the Invisible: Carmela García’s (in)Visible Women at the IVAM in Valencia, June 2017

Alessia Zinnari has written a guest post about a wonderful feminist art exhibition that she visited in Valencia. Read on to find out more, and there are links at the bottom if want to delve deeper into the fascinating world of Carmela García.

When I visited the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) last month, I was lucky enough to catch photographer Carmela García’s (Lanzarote, 1964) exhibition. Once confronted with the material on display, I couldn’t help but think of Translating Feminism. The title of this inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition is ‘Images of Power – Cartography of the Invisible’, and combines two projects completed by García in 2017: ‘Imágenes de(l) poder’ and ‘Cartografía de lo invisible.’ The exhibition forms part of a broader focus on the urban space and living the city, the theme chosen by the Institute of Modern Art for this summer’s exhibitions.

Images of Power/Cartography is a feminist photographer’s map of the invisible, a map created and populated by women and their lives: not only a topographical map, then, but also an historical and a social one, which keeps track of these amazing women’s struggle to live, to be valued and to leave a mark in history. ‘A map that ceases to be a more or less objective instrument and becomes a cultural artefact for the construction of identity and new imaginative worlds which places the central focus on what is excluded by the hegemonic culture.’ – as the museum’s leaflet explains. García tells us stories of powerful humans that, for many reasons, have remained hidden in history, and she reminds us that each and every one of us has a contribution to give to the world, and that everyone can be iconic in their own special way.

García’s lens is empowering in its portrayal of modern women heroes; the photographer is incredibly aware of the energy that her subjects emanate, and she frames forceful images in which these women occupy the centre of the photograph, while immersed in their native landscapes – different areas of the city. Some are individual portraits, but the majority are group portraits that convey the importance and the strength of community, as well as its picturesque beauty. Even though only one picture portrays a group of musicians (the batucada feminist band Tiakatú), the pose of some women in the group compositions recall that of rock bands, in a voluntary process of systematic iconification of the subjects captured on camera. Even though seemingly fixed in time and space, these subjects hold within their eyes the untamed fire of a constant dynamism, which finds its maximum expression in the pictures that deal most explicitly with feminist and political activism. To accompany these Images of Power are the documents and pictures of the Cartography of the Invisible project; a collection of precious material such as pictures of protests, of feminist meetings, of writers, artists, poets, activists, sisters, women. I am unfortunately unaware of whether this is a private collection of the photographer or if these are images and documents taken from an archive, but what I am sure about is that I struggled to contain my excitement when I saw that one of the documents of the collection was a map of ‘espacios’, spaces of and for female expression, which included the feminist antifascist magazine, Revista Pasionaria.

In a video interview made to introduce her exhibition, Carmela García explains how her intention is to portray, ‘real women. With no pose, who are just being themselves…mujeres de verdad.’ She also confirms that she worked on the idea of ‘collective as a modus operandi,’ and she associated these reflections and personal histories with the city of Valencia. The entire project is inspired by and constitutes an homage to the living memory of the communist militant Alejandra Soler, hija predilecta (honorary citizen) of Valencia, whose presence could almost be felt in that room. García majestically manages to fulfil her intention of re-naming and re-mapping the space of the city through a feminist, activist and artistic lens, in ‘a poetic construction of a cartographic account that is situated between reality and the fiction of another reality in which women take their place as major subjects of knowledge and understanding.’

You can find more information on García’s fascinating and empowering projects at her website: http://www.carmelagarcia.com/es.

At this link you’ll find more info on the exhibition at IVAM, which will be on until September 17, 2017: https://www.ivam.es/en/exposiciones/carmela-garcia/.