Catalog text for THE MODERNA EXHIBITION, 2006

Mia Zeeck on Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena

Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena uses nature as the setting for the events he stages in his photographs and works on video. His thematic depictions of Swedish landscape make reference to an aesthetic of romantic naturalism and the idea of nature as a wild force, possessed by spirits, in which you can never be certain as to what dangers lurk in the darkness.

The film True Colours depicts a barren natural world, as on the island of Gotland. However, soldiers in camouflage are hiding in this beautiful, dramatic landscape. They melt so convincingly into their surroundings that at first they are difficult to pick out. The soldiers barely move. The uncertainty is very alarming. Who, or what, is their enemy?

Fabra plays close attention in his works to the close relation between the state, the exercise of power, violence and territorial surveillance. The development of the national state took place under the influence of the French revolution and the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century. The national state and the aspiration for a shared national identity may appear outmoded in the globalised world of today. It currently enjoys a particular topicality, however, after the terrorist bombings of September 11th and the efforts of the new European community to tighten border controls. By combining a romantic aesthetics with contemporary Swedish military life, Fabra locates the nation state in a historical context at the same time as he uncovers its modern guise.