by Dilpreet BhullarJun 21, 2022
The large-scale installation, Life Lingers on Blank Pages, by the Spanish collective Luzinterruptus was part of the first edition of LuzMadrid, Madrid’s International Festival of Light. The pages of the many notebooks - a key part of the installation - stand like a great wall, at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. The simplicity of the installation is heightened when it stands in contrast to the Baroque architecture of the place. In an interview with STIR, the collective, known to make urban art with light and sound expounds, “The components of the installations are largely drawn from various artistic disciplines and personal choices. The common interest in life and city, and how art helps to make it more habitable is one of the many reasons that keeps us united in this special urban crusade with light.” The illumination of the urban installation allowed the people to take a look at the monument to “convey our concern about the rapid deterioration that the environment is suffering, the self-interested occupation of public space, social or current political issues. Or the issues that often go unnoticed.” But at times the collective is keen to work on the installation for the sheer joy of artistic value rather than any particular artistic intention.
The giant wall with a scaffold structure measuring 30 x 10 m high and 1m deep is covered with more than 4,000 notebooks made with recycled paper. They are arranged in a manner to make it appear like an array of intervention layers. Further talking about the impulse, which moved the collective to create Life Linger on Blank Pages, it says, “The city council deploys litres of paint to keep the walls of the city clean. But it is an impossible task since the blank wall immediately attracts people who write, paint or paste posters, so in a few days, everything is covered with messages again. The exercise to keep the walls of the city clean is repeated until the weight of the paint is too heavy to stay on the wall, and it eventually falls. When we looked at the walls, we thought about the amount of information that is hidden under the layers of paint. This led us to think ‘metaphorically’ of walls made with white notebooks that people use and when they are full, they turn the page and intervene to the next one. All the sheets form a collage of messages that the wind would move and dislodge, offering infinite reading possibilities.”
Before the installation art was formally constructed, close to 2,000 notebooks were distributed among Municipal Senior Centers in Madrid. It was an opportunity for the senior citizens to articulate their hopes, fears and reflections during the period of the lockdown induced by the pandemic. The details of the stories were, at times, juxtaposed by the drawings. The notebooks turned into documents of their memory supported by the art of letters, poems, accounts, words, images and scribbles. The exchange between the therapists, instructors, technicians and directors during the writing sessions, organised for the purpose of making the installation, soon turned into a reunion. As soon as the sculptural installation was close-to-ready, the visitors too opened their hearts to scribble on the blank pages. Thereby, the act completed the blank layers in the installation.
Originally, the white pages of the notebook were supposed to flutter since the place is known for its heavy breeze. The pages, in the hands of the collective, are synonymous with the freedom of speech. Every idea shared, a part of the freedom for expression, is communicated to the viewers when the sound is produced through the moving pages. However, just before the installation, it poured heavily, making the pages of the installation take the shape of a sculpture. The rained-drenched papers could not blow as it was thought in the first place.
Using paper in the public art, of course, is a challenge and a risk, in this case – the very basic recycled paper under the rains would indeed get wet and deteriorate. The collective is optimistic when it confirms, “We can say that paper and ink finally beat the rain. For future times we have investigated a type of paper that resists rain without losing its lightness and shape, so our new versions of the piece will be much more durable.”
With the lighting installation the collective refrains to put forward any message to the visitors or offer conclusions about anything. On the contrary, it wanted to support the messages from the public that could be shared, “Without censorship so that others could read them. But in all our pieces there is always an underlying idea - to do with imagination, innate strength and a little light with which apparently the most basic and simple can become something magical and special. This also happens in real life, not always of course...!”