HOMAGE TO HOMAGE TO CATALONIA
In response to Orwell’s account, Tony Baker has produced Homage to Homage to Catalonia, a book of 297 images that contrasts Orwell’s country caught up in the middle of a Civil War with that of a present day Catalonia, that, at the time, was in the process of re-assessing its identity through an (illegal) Independence Referrendum in which 80.8% of the large turnout of cast votes supported the option of Catalonia becoming a state, and of that state being independent of Spain. Through its juxtaposition of photography, digital printmaking and typographic poetry, the book explores the culture and fabric of a country that still continued to have democracy flowing through its veins – where tradition sits happily, side by side with the seemingly irreverent and contradictory presence of the modern world. The four-line typographic poems, that formed the structure of the book, were a direct response to the words of George Orwell, being both chronological and obscurely literal, their intention, through the distillation of his, more detailed narrative, was to add context and contrast to the contemporary-sourced imagery that appeared in the book.
When George Orwell first arrived in Barcelona on Boxing Day in 1936, he was greeted by a city of revolution and radical social change – a city that, to the eyes of the idealistic thirty-something reporter, had realised his socialist dream. Heralded by the election of the Popular Front earlier that year, he discovered the streets of the Catalan capital to be alive with a political fervour that had attracted foreign partisans, such as himself, to join in the fight against the fascist presence that was sweeping across Europe. Shortly after his arrival, he joined the militia of the POUM, and went to fight at the front, incurring a bullet to the neck that nearly killed him, and where he started to write what was to become Homage to Catalonia – his personal account of a country divided by two extremes, and of a war that pitched a ragged army of poorly trained and ill-equipped idealists against the Fascist might of Franco and Mola.
Homage to Homage to Catalonia by Tony Baker contrasts Orwell’s vision of the country that he wrote about eighty years ago, with that of present day Catalonia. Juxtaposing the different visual strands that run through it, the book and exhibition presents a selection of images, both visceral and kitsch, that explore the culture and fabric of a country that has democracy flowing through its veins – where tradition appears to sit happily, side by side with the seemingly irreverent and contradictory presence of the modern world.
Largely focussed on the fabric and detail of the country, the images create a jigsaw of statement & observation that combine together to suggest a definition of its cultural landscape. Acting as a commentary on personal experiences of the country and its people, as well as the lingering presence of English tourists on stag weekends, the photographs and digital prints (that wear their traditional printmaking sensibilities on their sleeve), sit side by side with four-line typographic poems based on Orwell’s text, that appear like the residue of slogans found daubed on the walls and street furniture of both the past and present day Catalonia.
To view a taster of Homage to Homage to Catalonia go to :
About Tony Baker
“My medium is the idea – a concept that finds its way into my creative psyche only to appear at the other end dressed in its’ own aesthetic finery. By seeing no delineation between the different art forms, I have always crossed the disciplines of print, music, video, photography, curation, text, sculpture, illustration and design to find the most appropriate outlet for whatever is currently occupying my train of thought. In all this activity, I walk the thin line between respect and irreverence combining traditional techniques and punk sensibilities with the potential that digital technologies has to offer.”