Cover Story—June 2019: ‘Thinking like a drainage basin: Lara Almarcegui’s ‘Concrete’

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The May 2019 Monthly Cover Story ‘Thinking like a drainage basin: Lara Almarcegui’s ‘Concrete’’ is now up on Latitudes' homepage:

Lara Almarcegui’s current exhibition at the CAIRN art centre in Digne-les-Bains, southern France, focuses on the nearby Bléone river, its geology, and its exploitation. Latitudes has written an essay entitled ‘Thinking like a drainage basin’ for the accompanying catalogue. Lara’s project Béton (Concrete) has two parts. The first, seen here, involves the floor of the art centre being covered with crushed cement, gravel and sand. This raw material is the remains of several concrete structures — weirs — that were placed in the river in a failed attempt to stabilise a riverbed that had been extensively dug out over the preceding decades to produce gravel for the construction industry. The watercourse and its ecology is now being restored, and the weirs were recently removed.”

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—> After May it will be archived here.

Cover Stories' are published on a monthly basis on Latitudes' homepage featuring past, present or forthcoming projects, research, texts, artworks, exhibitions, films, objects or field trips related to our curatorial activities.


Alfred Roll's 1878 "The Old Quarryman" exchanged with Alfred Smith's "The Grave Docks" (1884) in the exhibition "4.543 billion" at the CAPC musée

“Le Vieux Carrier” [The Old Quarryman] (1878) by Alfred Roll (Paris, 1846–1919). Collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.
Following the conclusion of its four-month loan period, we wave goodbye to “Le Vieux Carrier” [The Old Quarryman] (1878) portrait by Alfred Roll (Paris, 1846–1919) on November 6, 2017. Roll's portrait has been on display since June 29 as part of the exhibition "4.543 billion" at the CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux. In its place we welcome Alfred Smith's (Bordeaux, 1854–Paris, 1936) “Le Quai de la Grave” [The Grave Docks] (1884).

Alfred Smith's (Bordeaux, 1854–Paris, 1936) “Le Quai de la Grave” [The Grave Docks] (1884). Collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.

We are very grateful to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux for agreeing to these wonderful loans. In turn, and in companion to three artworks from 2012–3 exhibited at the CAPC, Birmingham-based artist Stuart Whipps is presenting a new off-site work entitled "Thin Section: Scottish Shale" (2017) in the galleries of the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

(Above and below) Views of Stuart Whipps' "Thin Section: Scottish Shale" (2017) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. Photo: Latitudes.
Photo: Latitudes.
(Left, floor) Stuart Whipps' "Thin Section: Scottish Shale" (2017) and (right, above) “Le Quai de la Grave” [The Grave Docks] (1884) by Alfred Smith (Bordeaux, 1854–Paris, 1936), painting that will be exchanged on November 6, 2017, with Alfred Roll's “Le Vieux Carrier” [The Old Quarryman] (1878). Photo: Latitudes.

A 0.5mm thick sliver of Scottish Shale rock (a gas-harbouring rock similar to schist) cut from a sample with a diamond saw is treated as if it were a photographic slide by being displayed on a Reflecta AFM 2000 slide projector, a model that has an in-built display monitor. The luminous minerals contained within the shale rock—quartz, calcite, dolomite, feldspars, mica, pyrite...—appear in 1:1 scale.

(Above and below) Views of the exhibition room at the CAPC musée that includes Alfred Roll's portrait. The room includes works by Maria Thereza Alves, Ângela Ferreira, Antoine J. Aalders and Stuart Whipps. Photo: Latitudes/RK. 

Photo: Latitudes/RK.

Photo: Latitudes.

Between 1878 and 1894, Alfred Roll (Paris, 1846–1919) painted a series of Realist works depicting the world of industry, and more pointedly, comprising statements of solidarity with the harsh circumstances of the worker at a time of great social unrest. Representing an elderly quarryman in his smock, “Le Vieux Carrier” [The Old Quarryman] (1878) began this sequence when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1879. It is one of the few Roll portraits whose subject remains anonymous, yet the man depicted was undoubtedly a genuine labourer rather than a model—the artist was later known to welcome miners and their families to sit for portraits in his studio. Is it not known where the man would have been working. Yet given Roll’s later depiction of stonemasons on a quayside in Suresnes, near Paris, (“Le Travail, chantier de Suresnes (Seine)”, 1885), one might speculate that “Le Vieux Carrier” represents both the large-scale infrastructural projects taking place around the capital at the time, as well as the increasing reorganization of the French workforce in the extractive industries through retiring older workers and cutting wages. 

Roll would go on to spend several months living and working in the coal mines of Charleroi, Belgium, and Anzin, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, and he presented the celebrated painting “Grève des mineurs” [Miners’ strike] at the 1880 Salon. Roll seems to have painted from the perspective that exhaustion unfolds through human labour systems as much as through the depletion of raw materials.

(Unframed) Alfred Smith's (Bordeaux, 1854–Paris, 1936) “Le Quai de la Grave” [The Grave Docks] (1884). Collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.
“Le Quai de la Grave” [The Grave Docks] (1884) is one of a number of Bordeaux cityscapes by the painter Alfred Smith (Bordeaux, 1854–Paris, 1936) in which the effects of the weather and the time of the day are treated with great fidelity. A mason appears to be sizing-up a large limestone block that has been brought downriver by boat. Other workers take a rest in the shade of the water tank and the sentry box during what appears to be a scorching hot summer afternoon in Bordeaux. The seasonal movement of migrant stonemasons from central France, especially the Creuse département, was an established and widespread feature of the construction industry by the late eighteenth century. Migrants had travelled by foot for centuries, but with the introduction of railways to central France in the 1850s, this began to change. Paris was the main magnet, but many young men also departed every March to look for work in Lyon, Bordeaux, and other cities. 

Until at least the beginning of the twentieth century, construction in France was defined by the cutting, dressing, and placing of stone and the industry would have encompassed a wide range of specialist and physically demanding jobs—from quarrymen to masons, roofers, and pavers. By the time of Smith’s depiction, much of the precision of stone cutting would have been done at the quarry site itself. Finishing, polishing and decoration would have been carried out on site. Building work had started to organize trade unions in the early 1880s and a national building trades’ federation was founded in Bordeaux in 1892.



‘4.543 billion’ is the contribution of the CAPC musée to the cultural season Paysages Bordeaux 2017

  • Archive of social networks related to "4.543 billion"
  • Photo gallery of the exhibition 
  • CAPC website (French, English, Spanish)
  • 15 November 2017, 4:30–8pm: 'The Return of the Earth. Ecologising art history in the Anthropocene' study day at the CAPC musée, Bordeaux 24 October 2017
  • Cover Story—November 2017: "Mining negative monuments: Ângela Ferreira, Stone Free, and The Return of the Earth" 1 November 2017
  • Cover Story – July 2017: 4.543 billion 3 July 2017
  • Cover Story – May 2017: S is for Shale, or Stuart; W is for Waterfall, or Whipps 1 May 2017
  • SAVE THE DATE: 29 June, 19h. Private view of the exhibition "4.543 billion. The matter of matter" at the CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux 30 May 2017
  • Cover Story – May 2016: Material histories – spilling the beans at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux 10 May 2016.
  • Second research trip to Bordeaux 16 July 2016

Second research trip to Bordeaux in preparation for an exhibition at CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux

We just returned from a week in Bordeaux, where we continued with meetings and archival research in preparation for the forthcoming Latitudes-curated group show at CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux opening at the end of June 2017 coinciding with the 7th edition of the Agora Biennial of Architecture, Planning and Design centred on landscape. 

The exhibition will present existing artworks (including several from CAPC’s collection) alongside commissioned pieces, as well as documents and objects from Bordeaux’s municipal archives, seeking to problematise the time-span of museums and consider their collections as tangible material history.

Upon arrival, led by Bruno Cahuzac (Maître de conférence), we visited the incredible carothèque-lithothèque at the Université de Bordeaux in Talence which houses over 30,000 core samples from the subsoil of the Aquitaine basin. 

We also went back to the Archives Bordeaux Métropole to continue looking for documents related to the trade with the former French colonies of the Antilles (known as "sugar islands"). We also visited the Archives Départamentales / Gironde where we found further evidence of CAPC musée's past as the former warehouse for colonial commodities known as Entrépot Lainé. 

Delving deeper into colonial landscapes and commodities exchange we were glad to revisit the permanent presentation of the Marcel Chatillon Collection at the Musée d'Aquitaine, which includes an incredible selection of over 600 documents and iconographic representations of slave working conditions, as well as portraits, flora and landscapes from the 17th to the 20th Century. 

Some of the Bordeaux's frantic maritime trade is visible in Pierre Lacour's majestic "Vue d'une partie du port et des quais de Bordeaux dits des Chartrons et de Bacalan" (1804–1806) one of the most iconic pieces in the Musée des Beaux-Arts (below). 

Pierre Lacour, "Vue d'une partie du port et des quais de Bordeaux dits des Chartrons et de Bacalan" (1804–1806), Musée des Beaux-Arts.

On the left one can identify the two iconic conical towers of Hôtel Fenwick, built between 1796-99 by Jean-Baptiste Dufart, and the location of the first Embassy of the United States. Out of the picture, also on the left, a few years later in 1822, architect and engineer Claude Deschamps would build the Entrêpot Lainé, headquarters of the CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux since 1974.

Photo of the Entrêpot Lainé published in the book "Bordeaux: Il y a 100 ans en cartes postales anciennes" by Fabienne Texier and Jean-Claude Bertreau.   

Related content:
  • Cover Story, May 2016: Material histories – spilling the beans at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (10 May 2016).

Cover Story, May 2016: Material histories – spilling the beans at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux

A cover story is published monthly on

"In pondering a museum’s memories you seldom think of coffee beans. Yet at CAPC Contemporary Art Museum Bordeaux, burnished nuggets of the past in the form of the seeds of Coffea arabica occasionally materialise, as if out of nowhere. One day one might appear atop a pile of papers on an office desk; weeks later, another bean might show up in the middle of one of the exhibition galleries. A look on top of a shelf in the library might harvest several. During Latitudes’ recent residency at CAPC, François Poisay from the exhibition team showed us the stash he has been squirrelling away in his desk for years." 

Continue reading on (after May 2016, it will be archived here

Related content:  

LaPublika – Public sphere laboratory for artistic research, consonni, Donostia, 10–11 November 2015

Latitudes has been invited by consonni to give a two-day seminar and a public lecture in the context of LaPublika, a programme of activities concerning the way artistic practices construct the public sphere. The programme will take place over the next two years in the recently opened International Centre for Contemporary Culture Tabakalera in Donostia, on the 10 and 11 November, and is a joint initiative together with Donostia-San Sebastian European Cultural Capital 2016.

"Public sphere here is understood as spaces considered to be public (the street, the square, the city), as well as the internet or the communications media, and the mechanisms with which we participate in managing what is common (language, rites, norms, the aesthetic of collective processes). At a time when new social and civic paradigms are arising, LaPublika seeks to provide a framework of work and reflection upon those processes." (....) "In addition to the presence-based programme, all the activities have their version in podcast format on LaPublika’s radio-web, the central hub of the project, which is also backed up by programming involving interviews, radio spots and sound pieces."

Visitors at Robert Smithson's "Broken Circle" (1971), an event organised by Land Art Contemporary. Picture: Kunstbeeld.
Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, by Robert Smithson & Nancy Holt - See more at:

Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, by Robert Smithson & Nancy Holt - See more at:

Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, by Robert Smithson & Nancy Holt - See more at:
Breaking Ground: Broken Circle/Spiral Hill, by Robert Smithson & Nancy Holt - See more at:
Latitudes' workshop titled “Beyond the roundabout, or what’s public about public art?” will take the legacy of Land Art as a starting point – or more specifically, Robert Smithson’s notion of “continual movement” – to address the multiple temporalities which can constitute the form of an artwork in public space. Approaching projects (rather than beholding objects) the workshop will discuss artists who conceptualize or actualize their works against a backdrop of vast stretches of time or topological change. In the context of a networked culture which seems to offer an accelerating and horizontal concept of the public sphere, the workshop will furthermore address what is at stake when “digging deep” and slowing down.

 Production of Jan Dibbets' "6 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective" (1969–2009) on 9 February 2009 the Port of Rotterdam, a beach that has now disappeared to become Maasvlakte 2. Photo: Latitudes.

For the public lecture on November 11, Latitudes will forgo a chronological account of its projects of the last decade, and instead attempt various transects through its curatorial projects determined by the public sphere, raw materials and their transformation. From the zinc which led to an Esperanto micro-nation, to the air of a Beijing shopping centre, or the dead trees of printed news, Latitudes will join some traits and ideas around “human resources”, extractive modernity, obsolescence and the carbon cycle.


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