Artistic Direction

Natasha Christia | Directora artística DOCfield>16Natasha Christia


Natasha Christia (Athens, 1976) is an independent writer, curator and educator based in Barcelona. She is also a collection consultant and dealer specialized in fine art photography and photobooks.

Her research focuses on the exploration and reinvention of dominant narratives through a novel reading of archival collections, the intersection of photography, film and the photobook, and the dialogue between 20th century avant-garde photography and contemporary forms of expression often labeled as post-photography. Her penchant for “excavating” the past owes much to her diverse multidisciplinary academic background in Art History, Film Studies and Publishing.

As a member of research group Arqueologia del Punt de Vista, she designs theoretical and audiovisual projects that involve the study and recovery of testimony, documents and technologies of the past. From 2005 until 2014 she was the art director of Kowasa gallery in Barcelona, where she curated more than seventy exhibitions and designed projects that dealt with fine art photography and the independent photobook market. Since 2014 she is an external collaborator of Editorial RM.

Natasha teaches in photography schools in Spain and abroad and regularly contributes essays on photography criticism for international publications such as 1000 Words and Aperture Photobook Review, and for artists like Regine Petersen (Find a Fallen Star, Kehrer Verlag, 2015). She was the guest editor of OjodePez magazine 41: Self Calling.

Among the exhibitions she has curated are: Rephotographing Barcelona with Mark Klett (project commissioned by the Barcelona Photographic Archive, 2012, co-curator with Ricard Martínez), Mark Klett: Time Studies (Tagomago gallery, 2012), Appropriations of Barcelona: Archives and collections by Jordi Barón Santiago Garcés and Santos Montes (DOCfield 2014) and Self (H2o gallery, 2014).

© David Urbano

Europe: Lost in Translation

It’s time to talk about us, about today’s Europe; about who we are, who we were or what we aimed to be; about what we are to be now, and what we aspire to. The context: the commitment to question the identitary, ideological essence of the old continent; to question the fundamental values that underlie the coexistence of our countries in a context determined by geographical, cultural, and economic and political borders.

The theme of identity and values will structure the artistic direction of DOCfield>16, with the idea of including hitherto unseen contents and emerging creators on the national and international scene who are familiar with the language of publishing, and exploring hybrid genres and new documentary languages.

The contents of DOCfield16 are organized around the theme of “Europe: Lost in Translation”.

If it is a matter of talking about ourselves, then let’s talk about contemporary Europe –a Europe in flames, a Europe of refugees, financial scandals, and nationalisms, of disparities between centre and periphery, north and south, the traditional past and the future. In the wake of financial collapse and the devastating consequences of financial austerity (Greece is the prime example), there has been much soul-searching and debate about what Europe, or the European Union, really is, about what it has become and what it might have been.

More recent events, such as the hard-line stance adopted by Hungary and other countries in the face of waves of Syrian refugees, have touched a nerve. Beyond the questioning of current economic policies, the time has come to debate the human and ideological essence of the “old continent”. We need therefore to talk about and reflect on a system of values –a system that has sustained and will supposedly continue to sustain the coexistence of countries in a context determined by geographical and cultural borders. Who are we? How do we define ourselves? Where have we come from? What do we aspire to?

For our generation (people in our twenties and thirties, who can define ourselves as the “generation of the Transition”, in Spanish terms, or more broadly as the “first Erasmus generation”), the idea of Europe seemed to guarantee, both to Europeans and to rest of the world, a welfare state based on a transnational system of progressive global values, such as equality, peace, prosperity, solidarity, employment, housing, education, and health care.

In recent years, however, we have looked on as this dream has been critically wounded and destroyed. For most citizens of Europe today, Euroscepticism is a growing trend. Even as globalization has progressed, there has been a retreat into local solutions, lacking in solidarity. This trend is partly the fault of European leaders and politicians who have turned Europe away from its common project, putting their own political micro-interests and market laws first.

Meanwhile, armed conflict has shaken the very gates of Europe, as in eastern Ukraine and in Syria. Not long ago, Time magazine published a series of coloured photographs in its “Lightbox” section of refugees from the Second World War. The chromatic updating of these images taken seventy years ago, in 1945, underlines the parallels with recent events that have turned the Mediterranean into a sort of mass grave. While the generation of World War II, which reduced Europe to rubble, remains here (they are our parents and grandparents), new generations of children, teenagers, and young people, marked with the wounds of war, flood into the old continent.

All these phenomena have caused a pessimistic vision to prevail, auguring a long period of healing for the fractures within the European project. But there are also other views, which insist that precisely now is the time, under the present urgent circumstances, to reinforce ties, consolidate values, and foster dialogue and change.

If Europe has lost its way, where must we look for understanding and a convergence of visions?

Much more than just transmit a readable message, documentary photography can help us to understand how vital it is to question our individual and collective values, to define ourselves (in relation to the past, the present, and the future), and to take a stance with respect to the utopias, ambiguities, contradictions, lies, and impasses of our European circumstances. Above all, the documentary genre is able to heighten our awareness of how we are interconnected and interdependent.

This much is true: we will not remain what we have been. But we can be something different and perhaps better, not necessarily worse.

In addition to acting as witnesses, we must assume our responsibility as citizens and members of a generation to move from reflection to action, both individually and collectively, to question ourselves and inspire a reinvention of our identity, striving for a pluralism within the new cosmopolitanism.

These range from classical documentary and photojournalism, in which the image seeks to inform the viewer about certain events, to a more “contemplative” documentary mode that integrates archival material, hybrid languages, the investigation of hidden narratives, and the combination of image and text, in short, a documentary mode that reflects on and explores the way we see and relate to our own circumstances, both individual and collective, and history in a broader sense.

Broad-based and varied in its manifestations and its documentary languages, the forthcoming DOCfield>16 is a call for greater awareness of our identity and values. As in previous years, it will be based on a powerful, carefully selected programme of exhibitions, screenings and educational programmes. At the same time, this announcement has the added intention of creating alliances and synergies with other festivals, collectives and platforms in Europe, with the aim of promoting constructive, critical transnational reflection about who we are and what we can be: Europeans of the future.