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Mapping the Blind Spots: A NOPHOTO and SPUTNIK project opens at the The Lázaro Galdiano Foundation
Installation view of the exhibition.

MADRID.- SPUTNIK and NOPHOTO, two experienced photographic collectives, started Mapping the Blind Spots in January 2014. The project consists in an exhibition and a publication and its goal is to give recognition to their own archives. In the last years, both collectives have researched geographic, historical, social and cultural aspects in their environment: Eastern Europe (in SPUTNIK’s case) and Western Europe (in NOPHOTO’s case). Spanish collective NOPHOTO coordinated the group exhibition and SPUTNIK was in charge of the publication. The exhibition gathers over 100 works and uses pieces that had been already produced by both groups. The goal is to take each of their projects out of context and to blur authorship in order to create a new interpretation. This new context might be understood as a fictional place where both Wester and Eastern Europe get mixed.

The first half of the exhibition hall shows projects which “are placed side by side, from both groups, because their intention and even their formal executions are very similar”, as explains Juan Millás from NOPHOTO group. Here, we can see works such as 2013 by NOPHOTO, a documentary photography project by Jonás Bel and Rafael Trapiello made by 262 portraits and their corresponding hand-written files. In this occasion, a careful selection builds a story made by images and words that gives the recession a face during year 2013, when the portraits where made. Together with these photos, 15 images from The Winners made by Rafal Milach (SPUTNIK) are shown. The artist takes photos of several role models of Belarus society like “Olga”, the best nurse at Minsk regional hospital, or “Vasily”, the best policeman in that city.

Vegaviana work, by NOPHOTO collective, and Jan Brykczynski’s (SPUTNIK) work, Boikos, both reflect Eastern and Western Europe rural society. Vegaviana is the name of a town located in Caceres surrounded by pastures, holm oaks and cork oaks. Campo Adentro (Deep in the country) project was developed as an artistic residence for photographers from the collective who tried to dig into the memories of the people of Vegabiana. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Culture sponsored the project. The National Rural Platform and Reina Sofía Museum, among others, also collaborated in the project.

The work called Boikos refers to a highlander ethnic group that lives in the Carpathians foothills. In this case, the exhibition shows four colour photographs where artist Brykczynski shows us this rural community’s atmosphere: their people, their habits, their privacy and their environment.

In Good Bye Motherland, artist Andrei LianKevich (SPUTNIK) portrays 2nd World War heroes together with streets called after them photographed from Google Earth. 2nd World War is a conflict that is very much present in this collective’s production and that reflects a continuous concern for Eastern countries’ society. By this project, Nave’s (NOPHOTO) work A la hora, en el lugar (At the time, in the place) is exhibited. This photographer captures the photos of the places where the ETA perpetrated their attacks, at the same date and time, but years apart. This project reflects one of the constant concerns of Spanish society.

At the end of the exhibition hall the two groups combine their projects just like they do in the publication in order to “break through with each project borders and make a hybrid”. The work Distance Place by SPUTNIK together with NOPHOTO projects: 49 cc., Idilios, Península, Salitre, Ser sangre are exhibited in this dialogue. Distance Place was a SPUTNIK project carried out in 2012 in Polland’s most important river, Vístula. Each one of the photographers worked on this river: some of them worked on the river banks, others on a nearby forest and others made photographic portraits “as if the river was a photographic studio” according to Juan Valbuena from NOPHOTO.

NOPHOTO projects stow away on Distance Place work, which flows like if on a riverbed. Distance Place took the shape of a straight line, where the images of each SPUTNIK photographer were framed differently but had the same size. Including the 5 NOPHOTO projects entails breaking this structure but not its core theme. There are certain similarities such as using the street as a studio, just like the river Vistula was used in Distance Place, or using immigration and teenager portraits. But there is also a clash of projects with the objective of breaking the limits of each of them and creating a new place, a new territory.

The publication, with the title PSOPLAAINND (letters that make a new word that is the combination of Poland and Spain) is a publishing experiment coordinated by SPUTNIK that unfolds in a newspaper shape. Its content has been carefully selected among both group’s archives. It has 48 colour printed pages and a print run of 1000 copies that will be distributed for free. In this document “distortion is very much present” in Rafal Milach (SPUTNIK) words, since its goal is to question the role of documentary photography as a “faulty” information tool. Many photos from this newspaper have been destroyed, over-exposed, cut or censored. The result is a collage of two foreign realities that try to build a common invented territory.

The two groups share a special interest in photobooks; they consider that books are the right format to communicate photographic projects and they have self-published several of their projects such as Stand by or Vegaviana. This was also one of José Lázaro’s passions. José Lázaro was a publisher, a collector and a bibliophile who started his own publishing adventure with a magazine called España Moderna, a space for the Generation of 98 and international writers.

Mapping the Blind Spots is a project organized by the Polish Institute of Culture in cooperation with the Lázaro Galdiano Foundation and PHotoEspaña. The project has been coordinated, designed and curated by NOPHOTO and SPUTNIK.

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