Video by artist Gonzalo Lebrija
In Gonzalo Lebrija’s single- channel video Aranjuez (2002), the camera
has the ability to record the invisible. But
the work acquires its greatest complexity in the editing, and this is the source of its physicality, which revels in the contrast between the dramatic charge of documentary images obtained after
a football match and the banality of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass’s pop version of the Concierto de Aranjuez by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. The slow zoom-back at the start of Aranjuez focuses in on a crowd, and this is the source of a sustained tension between image and sound that establishes a pattern for the 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the video. Even
if we identify easily with the TV images of con- temporary crowds attending a sporting event,
it is precisely this recognition that is the key to the video’s lack of familiarity. Here the topical scenes of a hoard of fans leaving a stadium project the passions unleashed at any sporting event but the juxtaposition of image and soundtrack is also the source of energy discharged.
The opening action of Aranjuez is followed by a more focused shot allowing
us to discern the retreat of a predominantly male swarm, attracted to something we cannot see. After a few seconds we glimpse a girl trying to extract herself from the frenz y of the crowd.
In the same shot, in the background and separated from the crowd by a fence, we see a group of policemen gesticulating comically. Their presence
succeeds in dispersing the excited throng, and
the young girl under attack gets up from the ground with the help of several men. From this point
on, there is a proliferation of scenes of women being harassed and hemmed in by crowds of men. Their narrative significance is concealed by cuts in the action, by the use of the camera
at different speeds, and by filming with a telephoto lens of the sort used to capture documentary
images. At the same time, Aranjuez distorts their realistic nature by linking sound and image
as an organic whole.
Although the moving image is
reconstructed in the process of editing, the images themselves reproduce and spread like a virus,
as the Soviet theoreticians anticipated. Vertov explored the viral mobility of images in Man with a Movie Camera, in which a cameraman took up a position on the edge of the action to witness, record and show the reality of things: the uninterruptible sleep of a female worker,
the ascent of the tower of an industrial plant, the squealing of rails as a train passes at high speed,
a line of washing hung up in identical windows like a photographic repetition of Aleksandr Rodchenko, or the chink in a balcony of a high building through which the layout of a city
can be seen. All this depicted the pulsating truth of a new era plagued by trains, cars and planes, combined with the intense metropolitan activity of skyscrapers, avenues and large squares, depicting the masses whose outpouring of energy constituted the here and now of the modern world.
Carlos Monsiváis has noted that between 1930 and 1950 football became
a fundamental element of everyday life
in modern Mexico. It must surely then be no coincidence that Lebrija has associated Herb Alpert’s arrangement of Rodrigo’s elegant music with images of football fans waving national banners and feverishly assaulting women as if in a confused bullfight — a popular celebration
of some significance in Mexico. And it is surely not accidental that Lebrija has chosen a sports stadium as a place frequented by the Postmodern masses, now subjected to the disciplinary vigi- lance of the state and presented in a chaotic and dangerous ritual combining nationalist fervour with sexual desire.
But the live scenes captured in Aranjuez have been divested of their original
drama to become a chain of abstractions, the narrative units interrupted so that the various ‘decisive moments’ are decontextualised. The choreographic movement of the masses presented
by these images is governed by a fragmentary and ambiguous system of tensions, structured around a simple editing scheme that borrows elements of formalist physicality from Vertov’s ‘Cine-Truth’: an alternation of general and middle-distance shots in slow motion spliced with the light, saccharine version of the Concierto