When Ph'a'ke (Photoartekomite - Igor Calvo and Susana Martínez Ximénez) contacted us back in January to ask if they could make a There is Beauty in the City exhibition in the Basque capital city of Bilbao, we could never have imagined just how much the city's people would take this project, dreamt up as a response to the post-industrial situation in Stoke-on-Trent, to their hearts.
The opening night of the show which took place last tuesday, 17th May, saw about 240 Bilbaoans turn up to the Sala Rekalde gallery to see the 140 photographic submissions shown on the huge 10ft screen. The 15 minute showreel which depicted all of the submitted images ( a principle which lies at the heart of us here at there is beauty in the city) had the crowdin a thrall - amazed and amused at the areas of their city deemed to be beautiful enough to be depicted with our small magnet. At the end of the film, they broke out into a spontaneous round of applause - a sound to gladden the heart.
There were two undoubted factors which underpinned this amazing response. Firstly, Igor and Susana's tireless work ethic and keen understanding of the project's raison d'être. These two really haven't stopped on this project for the last 4 months - a constant talking up of the project - they used their local media to the utmost effect, meaning that queues of people turned up on the two occasions to collect their magnets, in fact many more people than magnet packs, and an astounding 60,000 hits to their blog. They canvassed everybody, from the normal Bilbaoan to council representatives. There is Beauty in the City was given airtime on Basque television and printspace in its newspapers. As an exercise in promotion, watching Susana and Igor at work was a real education. Their hard work more than paid off and they both thoroughly deserve the feeling of contented satisfaction they both must have felt on hearing that unsolicited round of applause on tuesday night. They also have the eternal gratitude of us here at TIBC.
The other factor was the public of Bilbao. They quite obviously loved this project. It's my guess that the people of this city, the capital of small area of northern Spain which is in search of a degree of autonomy from national Spanish rule, jumped at the chance to proudly display and share and promote their beloved Bilbao. Whilst it may be true that many of the entries were quite conventional and conservative in their approach - we think that at the centre of this project is the idea of a celebration of the city, and the response of the people of Bilbao was most definitely celebratory.
The Spanish odyssey for There is Beauty in the City doesn't end here. Ph'a'ke have two further venues in Bilbao in mind to show this exhibition - which will represent different building use and socio-economic areas of the city. And further afield, there is the tantalising possibility of another collaborative link-up, this time with a group from Galicia, in Spain's north-west. We're really excited about the prospect of the Beauty extending its reach even further. Watch this space for further details.
So, a great big thankyou to Igor and Susana - and an equally great big thanks to Beautiful Bilbao and its Beautiful people. Here is what it all looked like.
THE SET UP
|Hanging the three selected prints.|
|Each image was beautifully printed and represented, from l-r: the past, limbo, the future.|
|This panel comprised a 15cmx10cm print of each submitted image.|
|The Submission Map was a perfect representation of the area covered by the project. A large central concentration was counterbalanced by some determined outposts.|
|The film screen|
|An early visitor|
|One of the many television crews|
|The screen here showed a looped film of the 25 video testimonials made in the lead-up to the show.|
|Booklets produced in Spanish, Basque and English, plus some magnet packs just in case there was anybody who had yet to get themselves one.|