Few profiles work as well as young people to announce the changes of each era. They are the perfect social thermometer. No one like them raises the temperature of an intergenerational conflict about to erupt while making youthful exuberance an abstract and unconsciously wonderful principle. They dictate trends, question ideas, invent freedoms and embody that idea of the future that is conducive to collapse and a clean sweep. That tug of war. That world that lives fast in a state of permanent suspension. The year zero of everything to come.
This idea of youth is for many artists a breeding ground to remove the surface coating from culture and immerse themselves in the purest primitive emotions. Adolescence like that walled city where the love of adventure raises the enthusiasm for any battle. The carpe diem par excellence. An idea that has changed over the years as society has changed its landscape. We talk about the state of mind that young people contain and the archetypes associated with the idea of tomorrow. Of excessive fantasy and nihilistic joy in the face of the impossible. Of the stereotypes of that magical world that tries to avoid maturity and of the culture of flâneur that lives by and for the night. Of that dynamic turned into an end in itself. Of the flappers of the early twenties, which made the fringed skirt fashionable, the bob cut and the jazz, to Lil Miquela, the instagrammer more famous today created by computer, youth culture has taken several turns in the sun. An epic teenager that we find on the street and in the exhibition.
In the Teen Festival for a Future Time, held at the end of September, the Reina Sofía Museum made a time capsule that can only be unveiled in 2050. We know nothing about it, except that it has a hashtag and that lies in the garden of Sabatini’s mixtures. An idea for the future that the cultural center also projects Count Duque with his convocation Rendija, open to a group of adolescent residence. Putting an image at such a diffuse age is the germ of Pubescent, the project that Tanit Plana Presented in La Virreina by Valentín Roma. Thought for the rooms facing La Rambla, the project is a kind of symphony of collaborations through which this artist explores adolescence and its sociocultural practices. On the one hand, more than 70 portraits of young people looking at the camera from backgrounds on the outskirts of Barcelona. His series Yayos (2001), with which he won the PHotoEspaña Discoveries Award that year, had the same look: people as they are. Here, the teenagers have chosen the song that best defines them, a material that plays on Spotify when they type the title of the show. Open the pop and close the trap-elegance with a lot of reggaeton and contained emotion. A sound universe that in the exhibition also comes through the 200 TikTok videos gathered by Estela Ortiz and the podcasts projected by Oriol Rossell, expert in youth subcultures, with the three songs most listened to by the project participants. We already know that at that age what you adore today you hate tomorrow, and capturing that is the best thing about Tanit Plana’s project. The important thing is not so much what your photos tell, but where they invite you to go, and not just metaphorically. Entering TikTok is like bending over a den of Internet subcultures that already make up a new cultural canon ready to upset everything. Reels like the new Peter Pan syndrome. Forever Young in loop.
Carles Congost synthesizes it perfectly in his new exhibition curated by Tolo Cañellas at La Casa Encendida: What are songs for? The title comes from a chapter of your video Super champion (2000), in which the Mr. Cd’s Eyes doll asks Genís Segarra – a member of Astrud and Hidrogenesse – that question and he tries to answer by generating another rhetorical loop. Surely there is no better definition of what youth is today: an almost indecipherable sound artifact. The artist has spent years exploring the various possibilities of the adolescent story based on the promise of youth, comparing it with the role of the contemporary artist. In the latest Congost production he also pulls playlist. One of the characters watches the anti-system Eden built around their relationship collapse due to the invasive effect of a catchy song. He hit as a public space and as a conflict. That generational tragicomedy. A pop look that dates back to the nineties, when documenting real life became increasingly fashionable, for better and for worse. Ryan McGinley’s Wild Beauty: Teenagers climbing trees, cave diving, cliff jumping. Or Wolfgang Tillmans and his diary of LGTBI subcultures in the middle of that club culture where we can live up to the promises of the songs. How to imagine that decade without the photo of Corinne Day of Kate Moss aged 15 after fighting with her boyfriend, or without thinking about Kids (1995), by Larry Clark, recorded by fire for all those who were then bordering on adolescence and that set off the archetypes of the eighties cinema.
Since the success of Stranger things (2016) and Glow (2017) on Netflix until the new film adaptation of Item (2017), by Stephen King, the cultural field strongly pushes towards the eighties nostalgia. The decade of the lycra, the fanny pack and the portable parrot seems to be burning in the cultural mindset. The energy of punk, the graffiti on the subway, the anguish in John Hughes’ stories, sexual liberation today labeled polyamory and the AIDS crisis, so revisited this year in the context of art. Jack Pierson and the happy moments of a road trip called The Hungry Years. Richard Corman and Madonna’s Polaroids with red lips and cat eyes. Nan Goldin focusing on her boyfriend’s cigar while waiting for her on the bed. Miguel Trillo between modern and sinister in that move called Rock-Ola.
Pubescent. Tanit Plana. The Viceroy. Center de la Imatge. Barcelona. Until February 21, 2021.
What are songs for? Carles Congost. The House On. Madrid. Until January 10, 2021.
The first move. Miguel Trillo. PHotoEspaña. Circle of Fine Arts. Madrid. Until October 25.