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Work / Photography

Dani Pujalte captures Spain’s immense cultural centres suffering from a lack of use

Dani Pujalte’s series Cultural Containers documents a host of newly created cultural spaces which have jeopardised autonomous culture on budgetary grounds. The included photos portray a considered and mediated approach which convey Dani’s opinions on the ostentation politics which have meant many of these buildings have not been completed.

The photos are still and somewhat calm – a factor that seems strange upon learning more about what these locations claim to be. Instead of conveying the energy and creativity that public cultural centres should inhabit, they appear soulless and devoid of life.

Born in Barcelona where he is still based, Dani was first attracted to photography as a way to capture memories and make a record of special moments between him and friends, however it slowly became part of his life: “It’s now like a natural necessity that I have to satiate,” he explains. Dani now splits his practice between personal and commercial projects and teaches on a variety of courses at el Observatorio.

Dani’s approach to photography is fluid and very much dictated by the project he is working on — as a means of getting the best outcome for a project but also to keep himself excited by the medium. For example, Dani keeps a visual diary in which he spontaneously takes photos every day: “It’s about being awake to the things happening around you and then trying to catch things, forms, people or colours.”

However when it came to Cultural Containers, he worked in completely the opposite way. “I found the problem really interesting and so I did a lot of research about the buildings and the political circumstances,” he tells It’s Nice That. The photographer then visited his selected locations with his Hasselblad, taking time to find the right compositions and angles in order to convey the “immensity of these spaces and also their lack of use.”

The term “cultural container” was coined by Dani as a way to express how these public cultural spaces are “peculiar pharaonic infrastructures, with an extremely elevated cost, designed by renowned architects but empty of content". This strange situation occurred in Spain following the 2008 financial crisis which meant that in 2012 (around the time that Dani was finishing his photographic studies in Barcelona) the country experienced extreme cuts to social, health, educational and cultural sectors. However, at the same time these huge centres were being erected to comply with the Guggenheim model in cities where the intake of culture appeared to be lacking.

It was this situation in Spain which initiated the series, and since its inception Dani has visited and photographed Cidade da Cultura in Santiago de Compostela, Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia, Palacio de congresos in Oviedo, Ciudad del Circo in Alcorcón, La Laboral centro de Arte, Museo de arte Contemporáneo de Csstilla y León and Canódrom de Barcelona.

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