Texts &

Introduction text for the catalogue of the project: "Numbered Room II ". Museum Barjola, Gijon, 2009.

Absolute Spaces, Concrete Spaces by Julio Jensen

Different spaces or rooms imprint different associations and feelings on our consciousness. A palace transmits to us the sensation of human greatness and power; a concert hall, a shared aesthetic time; a school, the experience of companionship as well as that of triumphs and defeats; a hospital, illness and death but also healing and recovery; a church or a cloister, the feeling of the sacred and also of life transitions. Evidently, these associations are linked to the experience of having spent a certain amount of time in the respective places, but, above all, these feelings respond to the fact that human beings build their cities in accordance with their condition: their mortality and fragility generate hospitals and cemeteries; their capacity to learn and the need to socialize create schools; the political nature of man produces the different spaces of power; the religious substrate of the human person is manifested in temples; etc. On the one hand, these places have an inherent meaning through the use for which they were built. On the other, individual experience colours, in accordance with the specifically lived events, the meaning that each person gives to a particular space. The afore mentioned associations are hence linked to an experience – both prefigured and lived – of the place in question. The way in which exterior, objective, social space is connected to inner, subjective, intimate space thus emerges. There is an essential correspondence between the experience of learning and a school, between the sensation of power and a palace, or between the feeling of the sacred and a church.

In the Cartesian philosophical tradition, reflective consciousness is in contrast with the outer sphere, with the world of the senses. Descartes saw in the subjective self-consciousness the fundament against scepticism, Kant fostered subjectivism by stating the impossibility of knowing “the thing in itself”, and German Idealism even maintained that the world is created by the subject. Within this tradition of thought, the leading role clearly belongs to the inner sphere of the person. By unilaterally founding knowledge in human consciousness, the outer world appears as something that exists solely as a function of the inner self-reflection. The consciousness of the subject is the sole absolute and hence comprehension of the outer world becomes problematic. In the end, then, subjectivism leads to generalised doubt regarding the reality of the outer world, i.e., precisely to the scepticism that Descartes sought to refute. St. Augustine coined the fitting image of the “vast palaces of memory”, which establishes that connection between inner and exterior space which subjectivist philosophy subsequently complicated. By means of this metaphor, St. Augustine expressed how, in a certain sense, the inner sphere possesses the same qualities as a large space with an endless number of rooms. Our mind is like a building in which perceptions, thoughts and feelings reside, that is, life experiences in the outer world interact with the inner sphere.

Now, among other things, the installations by J. Ignacio Díaz de Rábago show the multiple passages existing between the inner and outer sphere. In the series of installations under the title “The Library of Babel”, Díaz de Rábago illustrates in a most suggestive way the abysmal facet of any library. The books that levitate – or fall? – upward and threaten to destroy the strict order of library cataloguing, show how the individual runs the risk of losing himself in cultural tradition. Perhaps it would be feasible to interiorize the contents of a given library by a skilled reader, but the references inscribed in the volumes of this same library – references that lead to the entire history of universal culture – would exceed in every sense both the outerness and innerness of this selfsame reader. On the other hand, the reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel also suggests the continuity between the inner and outer sphere. The story that appears in Book 11 of Genesis narrates how the ambition to reach the heavens arises from inside man and how this ambition becomes concrete, exterior, in the form of a huge tower. This building is, however, frustrated by divine intervention and those viewing the installation are exposed to the futility of this timeless dream, manifested in so many outer ways, of being the master of all things.

Similarly, the installation “Numbered Room - II” shows the porosity existing between the inner and outer world. The installation refers, on the one hand, to very specific exterior spaces: to the city of Gijón, by means of the colours green and red, and to the Principality of Asturias, via the piled up cider crates. At the same time, the arches and the rectangular area belong to another type of space, as they refer to the capacity of the human mind to conceive ideal forms. Whether these ideal forms reach us via a Platonic anamnesis, whether we abstract them from the world of the senses or whether we deduce them exclusively by means of our reason is, within this context, irrelevant. It is a fact that the capacity to conceive these forms leads to the construction of rooms like the present one; that is to say, the building of exterior spaces is a result of our possibility to conceive, thanks to our mental faculties, an ideal, speculative space. In addition to this, in this installation we find the reference to a higher space, one that is above the duality of the inner and outer spheres. This transcendent space is revealed by means of the vertical axis, the piled up cider crates, which, as the artist has stated, refer to the “ axis mundi”, that mythical centre of the universe around which all things gyrate. Thus, starting off from concrete space (the installation), the viewer is led to transcendent space (the world’s axis) thanks to a faculty located in inner space (the capacity to conceive ideal forms). At the same time, this is possible because the three levels of space are inherently connected.

Innerness, outerness, the transcendent sphere… these are the axes around which Díaz de Rábago’s installations are constructed. One is thus shown an artist who does not reject “the spiritual in art” (Kandinsky), while at the same time not rejecting either the smile or ingenuity as important factors in the carrying out of his work. And so, his playful attitude transmits to us, when all is said and done, a humoristic wink that may perhaps be the most characteristic feature of his work.

© Julio Jensen
Senior Lecturer, University of Copenhagen.



Introduction text for the catalogue of the project: "Attacking the Vertical". Brandts KlædefabrikI Museum, Odense, 1989.

By Lars Schwander

Ignacio Rábago is fond of simple forms, and he find this simplicity in a long series of objects: bases, cubes, pillars and chimneys. He views these elements as artistic in themselves; potential objects which are the starting point for a whole range of new forms. The simpler and the stricter the shape, the greater the beauty. In this sense, Rábago appears, paradoxically enough, to be a classic. His sketches, his final drafts and the entire descriptions of projects appears as classical. The difference, the actuality, lies only in his choice of materials.
In an immediate sense, his work is reminiscent of the architect´s, in the elaboration of possible shapes and in the long series of calculations which can always be found in his projects. This is why it is not coincidence that Rábago, in this exhibition has selected the chimney as triumphing object, as his objet d´amour.
Rábago started out by observing the chimney as an object, and then proceeded to recreate it in numerous sketches and photographs. Pictures that froze an entirely concrete object. In the darkroom, he formalized the object by equalizing differences until the "pure" shape appeared. A shape which, in this case as he bearer of a myth brought to life by the architectural numbers on which the structure of the construction is based,. Even more important for Rábago is the fact, that the chimney´s dimensions to certain extent are connected to the human anatomy.
His former exhibition, "Hvor?", was based upon another architectural tradition, the labyrinthical monument of Copenhagen university building in Amager. Rábago chose this building out of spite, as a kind of challenge. He took long strolls through the university, of which he says in the exhibition´s catalogue:
" It became gradually apparent to me that rhythmical sequences played an important part in the distribution and the configuration of the rooms. By rhythmical sequence I mean the relationship that exists between light, benches, watches, doors, steps...and specially the columns, which are the most important part of this project. They are the fundament of the building, it is they who bring order in the way in which the building is distributed. I want to create disorder in this order."
Rábago thereby accepts the architecture´s premises, with the express purpose of counteracting the structure. He himself created the numerous columns that, on one hand are breaking the rhythmics of the building, and on the other hand are hiding the exhibition, which is why it was called "Hvor?" ("Where?"). The architecture is radically modified by the slanting columns, and it is as if it has become a falling monument. The work on the exhibition provided Rábago with surprising physical and mental hardships. But the final result could not be mistaken; the building suddenly existed as an expression of temperament.

In connection with the "Hvor?" project, and in addition to the extensive installation, Rábago prepared two videos. They illustrate his great sensitivity towards the materials. A sensitivity that reaches far deeper than an immediate fascination by rags, paper, cleaning sponges, etc. On the videos, Rábago demonstrates how he works by inductive search; he touches the objects, squeezes them, or put them in new contexts. And as with the choice of object, Rábago casts affection upon a chosen material concrete, wood, strings, or as in the current exhibition, bricks. This is also a material he has worked with in earlier exhibitions, Málaga among others. But it is the bricks´present form and condition that shapes the exhibition if, for instance, there had been holes in the stones, then this would have "dictated" other possible shapes. The stones could have been hanging from the ceiling. This must not lead one to believe that Rábago creates "arbitrary" productions. His own characteristic style is transformed with certainty into the given processing of the object.

The exhibitions are preceded by hundreds of drawings, sketches and calculations. Rábago examines the material and the shape´s possibilities with mathematical and systematical meticulousness. He creates his own axis upon which the project exists, to which one must add all the new potentials gravitating around this axis: The trunk as the established principle from which possible variations branches out with the utmost finesse.

His method of inductive search is also apparent in the current exhibition: What would happen ifcars were hanging down from the chimney? Or if the chimney could be re-created indoors, hanging across the room? Etc. This is how the concepts of space and shape are extended. Actually quite fantastically, because Rábago is not a coldly calculating statistician. On the contrary, he creates surprises, he plays, he adds humour. And in the end, warmth.
All those balanced elements in the exhibitions show Rábago´s inclination for surprises, for the transfer or even transformation of the fascination of the materials to the spectator. The same playfulness appears in his photographs. This is where Ràbago places made up, staged images, and displays the possible combinations of objects. The photographs are at the same time sculptural and once again inductive investigations of balances in space. Actually, there exists a parallel between his three dimensional, physical act of balance between elements, and the two dimensional nature of photography. Rábago´s elements are truly in balance, but his photographs creates an illusion. The pictures are usually taken in his workshop, which can be found in B&W´s disused factory hall, in Copenhagen. The central arregement in his part of the large factory hall consists of two desks, and a platform in the middle: A bare stretch in the room is where he primarily does his experiments; concrete blocks, mounted in stings, are tied to the floor ant to the ceiling. Here lies the preparation, and even the the precondition, of Rábago´s present exhibition.

The object in itself the abandoned chimney has been the inspiration, the point of departure. Rabago´s has now lived with it for a longer period of time, and his objet d´amour is probably guided by so much love, that presumably wishes the chimney a better future in Brandts Klædefabrik.


© Lars Schwander
Director of the Photo Center of Copenhagen
Director of the Photo Department of Louisiana Museum