The Kiss of Freedom

“What does freedom mean to you?” asked local newspaper El Periódico, inviting their readers from Barcelona to send a photo as answer. From all the images received, 4,000 of them became the ceramic mosaic The world begins with every kiss (El món neix in cada besada).

The mural was created by Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta as a large (8 by 3.8 metres) puzzle where 80 rows and 50 columns of tiny images are arranged by colour in order to achieve the image of two sensual pairs of lips kissing.

The kiss of freedom mural was installed in Plaça d’Isidre Nonell (halfway between Plaça de Catalunya and the Cathedral) in 2014 as part of Barcelona’s celebrations of 300 years from the end of a devastating war and a 14-months siege of the city. On each September 11, Catalunya commemorates Diada, or the National Day of Catalunya, remembering the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714 and the subsequent loss of Catalan institutions and laws. A plaque next to the mosaic quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“The sound of a kiss is not as loud as that of a cannon, but it’s echo lasts a great deal longer.”

Joan Fontcuberta is a conceptual artist – photographer, writer, editor, teacher and curator, iconoclast and provocateur. His works examine the truthfulness of photography. He worked in advertising, was professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Univeristy of Barcelona, and in 1980 co-founded the Spanish/English visual arts journal PhotoVision, where he is still editor in chief. One of his fingers is missing as a result, he said, of a home-made bomb blowing up in his hand. He says that the missing finger makes him a terrible photographer, although in 2013 he won the Hasselblad International Award in Photography, the Oscar of the photographic world.

He co-opts all forms of media and public communication. In essence, he creates disruptive bodies of work and presents them in scholarly journals, hard-bound “scientific” books, large-scale legitimate museum exhibitions, and as newsworthy “discoveries” that fool even the most professional of experts, journalists, and their readers. His work lies in a sort of gray area between reality and fiction. In 1997 he made up a story about a Russian cosmonaut named Ivan Istochnikov (the surname means “the covered fountain” in Russian or Fontcuberta in Catalan) who was lost in space and deserted by the Russian government. The exhibition, titled Sputnik, caused all sorts of outrage until people realized it was nothing but a brilliant hoax. Now the photo is included in the book and itinerant exhibition 50 Photos with History.

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