Conquest of the Useless, which takes its title from Werner Herzog’s book of the same name, is the first retrospective exhibition of Adrià Julià (Barcelona, 1974). It presents a selection of projects carried out from 2006 to the present.
Julià’s works trigger very arduous processes of research into the historical, political and scientific regimes under which the successive cultures of the image developed. Based on an experimental understanding of the document close to that of the avant-garde filmmakers or their forerunners in optical engineering, his works adopt languages ranging from photography to performance, from expanded cinema to installations, and they invoke an equal variety of keys for understanding them. Julià operates with procedures analogous to those of the micro-historical tradition, as he rescues aspects that are sometimes anecdotal or neglected by the prevailing accounts and that he uses to address the contextual specificities through which he carries out each project.
Notes on the Missing Oh (2009-2015), a set of pieces about the trivialization and spectacularization of war; Cat on the Shoulder (2013-ongoing), on the links between machine, device and body; and Ruinas da Fala (2009-2011), in which Julià reviews the experience of the Fourierist phalansteries in Brazil during the 19th century, are a few examples that show his explorations on what we could call a technological archaeology of the production, distribution and consumption of images.
From another perspective, a possible thematic structure for this exhibition is offered by the symbolic and ideological use of architecture in the proposals Truc Trang Walls (2006) and, above all, We Used to Talk About Objects as Found (2010); the conflictive relations between central-European utopianism and colonization in Marcus Spring Cottage (2008); violence as an iconoclastic gesture in Marginalia I – XI (2017); a reflection of an agonistic masculinity in Hot Iron Marginalia (HELMETCAM) (2017); and the prolongation and translation of imperialism through the Hollywood entertainment industry in A Very White Flower (2020). In these works, Julià analyses the potential of things that are misunderstood, fragmentary, unsuccessful and lacking in normative utility (the useless referred to in the exhibition’s title), which express the dimensions, beauty and scope of certain endeavours.
Finally, the exhibition includes two projects conceived for La Virreina Center de la Imatge: the piece Exercise for an Overexposed Landscape (# 3) (2021); and America’s Sweethearts (2021), in co-production with the Centre d’Art La Panera in Lleida, a work on the closure of cinemas during the pandemic that recovers the paving of one of these establishments. The performances The Penitential Tyrant: Dolores Is Pain (2019) and The Captain, the Girl and Politics as Applied to Appetite (2010) are also presented weekly, at different times.
Curator: Valentín Roma