Alexia Medici It started with water

Alexia Medici

It started with water

For more information on the other works of art participating in the exhibition, see Related Exhibitions down below.


As art historian T.J. Clark states, “it takes more than seeing to make things visible”. John Berger, renowned English art critic, novelist, painter and poet asserts that what we see depends on when we see it, and how we see it (Ways of Seeing, 1972) 

In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1935) Walter Benjamin states that mechanical reproduction devalues the aura (uniqueness) of an objet d’art. In conversation with this statement I wonder: how does this relate when the artwork, be it a painting, sculpture or installation conceived as an object or action is specifically created to be photographed and represented on a mobile phone, or displayed on a website?

In Illuminations (1968), he declares that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” Again confounded on how this relates to this art project, I question: what is more true, a reproduction of an artwork specifically created to be viewed on screen connecting to the location it was originally intended to be experienced, or does its aura remain more intact when presented as the art object itself manipulated by the artist in a gallery?

Observe how artists with the calibre of Sergi Aguilar (Barcelona, 1946), Ely Daou (Beirut, 1986), Logan B. Fields (United States, 1996), Teresa Gancedo (León, 1937), Marc Larré (Barcelona, 1978), Rebecca Lyne (Cambridgeshire, 1974), Josep Miracle (Barcelona, 1904), Lizette Nin (Dominican Republic, 1984) and Rubén Verdú (Caracas, 1962) create artworks that dialogue in a site-specific conversation across existing dimensions of space and time.

It is of interest to note that in keeping with the subject of multiple perspectives, this exhibition has been conceived and processed in English, Catalan and Spanish, and thus no visitor will see the entire project in its original language.


This project came up as a reaction to the confinement and mobility restrictions suffered in 2020 as a consequence to the novel covid-19 pandemic which abruptly interrupted, suspended and endangered our lives. In Spain, the population was strictly quarantined within their homes for two months, starting in mid-March. At the beginning of May 2020 a slow transition to resuming activities after full lockdown began.  The loosening of restrictions included a short daily walk within specific time slots with one household member within a radius of one kilometer from home. 

Va començar amb l’aigua was conceived and implemented during this time of limited social contact. In order to connect with the local community, stickers were placed on site thus marking a site of interest. These stickers included questions such as “Who was Denis Papin?”, “Do you know the history of can Mantega?” or “Did you know there is an underground shelter underneath you?”. Via a QR code placed on the sticker, the public could read about the history of the location in dialogue with a site specific artistic intervention.  

Eventually, when the sanitary situation allowed, six site-specific exhibitions were presented in the public and private space. Now, during the project’s final phase it will adapt to an indoor exhibition format, thus bringing the outside inside. Finally, between May and July 2022, the artworks can be seen together, in dialogue with each other in an exhibition aptly named Exterior|Interior.


This is a collection of stories that were told to me by the descendants of those who helped forge the identity of our neighbourhood – stories were often lost in the palimpsest of time.

This narrative starts in 1819 with the inauguration of the water channel known as the Canal de la Infanta bringing water from the Llobregat River to the independent village of Sants. The channel was constructed for purely agricultural purposes, with the objective of transforming the fertile lands in this area to irrigated ones, and thus increasing productivity, expanding the variety of crops and reducing production costs. This initial objective was achieved quickly and far exceeded the expectations of its promoters. At the same time, the channel provided a benefit to this neighbourhood that had not been foreseen: the industrialization of this land. 

Historian Agus Giralt points outexplains that when the Spanish Industrial Revolution broke out, Barcelona was still enclosed within the Roman walls. Its huge population density and the sprouting of countless new industries pushed entrepreneurs to look for large spaces, well connected to the city, where water was plentiful to build their large factories. Giralt continues that the installation of the Vapor Güell i Ramis – popularly known as the Vapor Vell, between 1844 and 1846 – was the starting point for the transformation of the old village of Santa Maria de Sants. Within a few years, this traditional village would become one of the most industrialised areas of Catalonia. 

Agriculture, followed by industry and commerce brought about an exponential economic and population growth, thus changing the inherent social fabric of Sants. The old quarter expanded, rural land was developed, and construction flourished; even water was commercialised. 

The Spanish Industrial Revolution also brought about, or perhaps, you can say, resurfaced unresolved conflicts from the past which still haunt us to this day. Violent acts originally targeted the “Self Acting” (automatic) machines which caused job loss and subsequent poverty. 

However, soon violent confrontations escalated. The years between 1918 and 1923 were known as the “the years of gun violence”, which in turn led to the military coup by General Primo de Rivera between 1923 and 1930. This coup further heightened social tensions eventually leading to a full-scale Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939, resulting in General Francisco Franco’s long dictatorship between 1939 and 1975.

Aside from these chapters of violence, these 120 years witnessed an assortment of beginnings and endings, ranging from the start of the post-colonial era in the Americas, the ascent and consequent suppression of Spiritualism by the Church, the celebration of two Barcelona Universal Expositions and the rise and fall of two Spanish Republics, amongst others. 

The same people who experienced these dramatic chapters constructed the buildings, named the streets and opened up the parks that serve as backdrop to our daily routines. Their invisible stories are etched in the old brick walls, coloured and textured by the actions of history and the passing of time.


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