Among the pines
People have been present in the forests around Barcelona, stretching back to the Palaeolithic era. In amongst the pines, we can find Neolithic dolmens, megaliths, and petroglyphs. Studies on Iberian Neolithic societies reveal the prominence of males in graphic art and burial practices, suggesting gender inequalities reaching back to this period (Cintas-Peña & García Sanjuán 2019, p.513). There are medieval ruins, Gothic towers, and later structures such as Turó d’en Pons; an arabesque-style hunting lodge where wealthy families in the late 19th century would gather, socialize and get close to nature.
Between 2018-2021, I moved from the UK to Catalunya. Cultural differences between countries maintain structural commonalities (Notarp, 2020, p316), however, I became aware of the variances. Culture is the product of society’s adaptation to the circumstances, environment, and obligations that society is subject to (Notarp, 2020, p25). Watching my daughter grow up in a community other than that which was familiar to us, focused my attention on my relationship to cultural identity, and the different influence paths that gender identification can take us. It started a process of personal reflection and recognition of the effects of hegemonic masculinity and the mythological role of gender ideologies.
The work is a photographic collaboration with the local teenage boys within the forest and amongst the ruins of the past. Like much of Europe, Catalunya has recently experienced unparalleled challenges to its identity. The Catalan pro-independence and Spanish nationalist movements, and the influx of displaced people and economic migrants are the most significant (Gobel, Benet-Martinez, Mesquita, Uskul, 2018). Catalunya and Spain are also facing the effects of climate change, in 2022 soaring temperatures resulted in wildfires that destroyed 286 hectares of land (Sönnichsen, 2022).
In their period of transformation from boy to man, the young men are reflecting on their identity and their place in the world. The ever-present battle between the natural and the man-made, history and contemporary culture, the freedom of the local environment and the technological present hang over them, like the needles of the pines. They transform the space into a ritualising theatre, a place for them to escape, hang out and play out life’s dramaturgy.