Lara Almarcegui

Lara Almarcegui, Enclosed Gardens (installation view), 2004

Lara Almarcegui, Enclosed Gardens (installation view), 2004

Lara Almarcegui’s (b.1972, Netherlands) work unearths histories and exposes the potentials of forgotten or neglected public and private space. Over the last decade, Almarcegui has made work that maps out, measures, reconstructs and deconstructs the urban landscape in an attempt to make visible that which is hidden. Her choice to explore the site of the International Garden Festival in Liverpool for International 04 was a natural development of her work examining wastelands, condemned buildings, allotments, disused inner-city plots and sites lying on the margins of urban centres.

Fascinated by transformation and temporality, Almarcegui’s work investigates sites of change. Enacting physical assaults upon her subject, in Digging (Amsterdam, 1998), she dug deep into the ground until the site almost collapsed. In Removing the Cement from the Facade (Brussels, 1999), she stripped the rendering from the surface of a building, revealing its interior shell. A counter-desire to protect drove performance-based works such as her restoration of the facade of a condemned 1930s marketplace in San Sebastian (1995). Interactivity is central to herWastelands Map Amsterdam: A Guide to the Empty Sites of the City (1999) and her guided tour of wastelands in Liverpool (2002). Mapping out is usually concerned with defining presence as opposed to exposing absence. Almarcegui’s map, however, focuses upon temporal rather than fixed sites: as empty spaces are appropriated, built upon or re-purposed the out-of-date map exposes the flux of the city.

In 1984 Liverpool hosted the International Garden Festival, the first to be held in the UK. With over sixty gardens, public pavilions and a miniature railway, it was one of the first major regeneration projects pioneered by the Merseyside Development Corporation,founded in the wake of the Toxteth riots. Once closed, however, only part of the development plan was realised. Now the domain of skate-boarders and graffiti artists, the site remains an overgrown wilderness with only the occasional exotic plant, remaining ornamental bridges and rusting sculptures providing a link to its past. Almarcegui's photographs at Tate Liverpool explored the hybrid functionality of this ’unpurposed‘ site. Her tenor was not cynical, but probing and searching. Far from offering a disapproving critique, Almarcegui sees empty spaces and wastelands as places of possibility. She stresses: ’These plots, which have no precise function, offer a huge potential. They are spaces of freedom, where anything can happen.‘

With uncomfortable relationships to authority, these ’non-spaces‘ support unique demographics and life-cycles. Almarcegui’s work for International 04 triggered a sense of intrigue incorporating both disillusionment and possibility, provoking the question: what next?

Lara Almarcegui at Liverpool Biennial 2004

Enclosed Gardens, 2004
Photographic series
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

The Mondriaan Foundation
The Royal Netherlands Embassy