THE DROWNED GIANT
In 1970, architect Ricardo Bofill (Barcelona, 1939) staged an impromptu festive happening in Moratalaz, Madrid, with the intention of promoting his forthcoming utopian housing project La Ciudad en el Espacio (The City in Space). The American blues musician Taj Mahal and the Catalan guitarist Toti Soler were among the performers who played on an improvised stage. The hippie nature of the three-day event amused the local inhabitants but seemed to enrage the local conservative politicians, who ended up canceling the housing development.
Fascinated by the inconclusive nature of the event as well as by its lack of documentation, visual artist Anna Moreno has undertaken in-depth research over the last year—involving interviews with witnesses and participants—in order to build a picture of what went on those summer days in 1970.1 Forty-seven years later to the month, Moreno organised a reenactment at the very same location.2 This time, rhythm-and-blues band The Downtown Alligators played on stage, followed by jam sessions and other activities. Moreno decided not to create any type of photographic or filmic record of the reenactment, and to only document it through audio recording.
What has resulted is a speculation on the nature of recollection and the processes of forming memories of an event from the past that was nevertheless concerned with the idea of the future. This intricate web of reminiscence, nostalgia, supposition, and mediation takes its inspiration and its title from a disquieting 1964 short fiction story by the British novelist J.G. Ballard (1930–2009)3. In “The Drowned Giant” a titanic corpse is found washed ashore, where it is progressively decaying and being scavenged by the local townsfolk. Dwelling on the impossibility of recomposing and reproducing a living entity, and the exchange between moments that are real and those that might have been imagined, Moreno’s project is, like the tale, not concerned with explanations and origins, but with the uncanny effects of a whole disintegrating into parts.
The final phase of “The Drowned Giant”, realized thanks to the Barcelona Producció grant, consists in the production of a publication in the form of a vinyl record with card sleeve and booklet insert, all designed by Moreno herself. The tracks of this “out of date” sound storage medium intermingle some of the soundscapes of the research and re-production process. Oral testimony and ambient sound from Moratalaz overlap; asynchronous fragments of music and speech segue into each other. Among the voices are Bofill’s collaborator, and the mastermind of the first Moratalaz event, Peter Hodgkinson, as well as his then-partner Gila Dohle. There are reflections by Soler, riffs from The Downtown Alligators, and conversation from researcher Enrique Doza, amongst other layers, all bearing witness to the 1970 happening and its echo in 2017. Throughout the 53 minute recording, the “then” and “now” are deliberately entwined: the listener occupies a suspended temporality that is neither a straightforward past or an unmediated present. The accompanying booklet features drawings, and newly commissioned texts by architects Paula Currás and Havi Navarro (who created the reenactment stage), the curator María Montero, and the blues expert Ramón del Solo (who witnessed the 1970 event as a teenager).
“The Drowned Giant” connects with Moreno’s long-term interest in interrogating the nature of the event, or the reenactment, as means to renegotiate collective memory, as well as utopian and dystopian futures. In Spring 2018, as part of the group exhibition “Beehave” at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, Moreno will repurpose elements of the Moratalaz reenactment, creating further myths and fragmentations in the spirit of Ballard’s giant"
Text by Latitudes for La Capella/Barcelona Producció 2017.
The reenactment took place in the context of "En los Cantos Nos Diluímos" an exhibition curated by María Montero for the Sala de Arte Joven in Madrid. It was made possible with the support of Stroom Den Haag (The Hague, NL) and my participation in the program "Artistas en Residencia" by La Casa Encendida and Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo. The LP was produced by La Capella, Barcelona Producció 2017, edited by Sergi Botella and mentored by Latitudes (Mariana Canepa and Max Andrews).
It was first launched on the 22nd of November 2017 in Barcelona’s Architectural College.
Video of the presentation (in Catalan):
Since then it has been presented at Stroom Den Haag, (The Netherlands) featuring a sound performance by Sergi Botella and at the festival ACÉNTO, organized by La Casa Encendida and Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (Madrid, Spain), with RACA (Radio of the Faculty of Architecture in Madrid) and Ramón del Solo.
Views at Stroom Den Haag:
Click: Stroom Den Haag
Views of the presentation during ACÉNTO in Madrid:
The presentation was followed by a concert with The Downtown Alligators -the R&B band that played during the reenactment in June 2017-. Photos by Ana Hortelano, courtesy of Moratalaz Blues Factory.
Broadcast for the International Channel of RTVE, Spain's national radio, interviewed by music expert Justin Coe:
If you are interested in more documentation of the actual reenactment, contact me.
The LP is available at:
- On-demand at contact ( at) annamoreno ( dot ) net
- La Capella (Barcelona): website
- Stroom Den Haag's bookstore (The Hague, NL): website
- La Casa Encendida's bookstore (Madrid, SP): website