After the exhibition last year at the Macba Not here or anywhere, Domènec (Mataró, 1962) returns to show the tensions between utopia and reality in modern architecture in the exhibition And the earth shall be paradise, at the ADN Gallery in Barcelona.

A couple of decades back this artist from Mataró became a kind of dissector of the ideological, social and economic factors that are more or less directly present in many large architectural and urban planning projects.

Exhibition view.

Domènec’s research involves the whole conglomerate of circumstances, as if he were a historian, anthropologist, sociologist or documentary maker, and then he exposes them through the language of art. And lately, art has become the most honest territory for constructing alternative and parallel stories about the society in which we live.

That’s why it has to be done well: clearly, rigorously, with a poetic sensitivity and social commitment because if not the art and political documentary moves away from its primary objective and, more frequently, end up marginalising part of the audience who read the works as something cryptic and super-elitist. It has to be said that without making any concessions, Domènec is one of those artists that manages to do it well. He demonstrated this in the exhibition at the Macba and is now showing it at the ADN, which is a perfect complement to the former.

In the projects Domènec has called out many things: how political institutions abandon social and housing policies; situations of slavery in the twentieth century, as you can see in the Spanish Architecture project, with plans of large building and monuments constructed by republican prisoners during the Franco regime: or how from the powers of different colours, the architecture of social housing is always aesthetically aberrant and non-functional in all corners of the world to frustrate and prevent the rise of its inhabitants up the social ladder, as you can see in the And the earth shall be paradise project, made especially for this exhibition.

Domènec shows how socio-political control has some suggestive cracks.

But Domènec goes one step further because he does not only call these things to task but also shows how socio-political control has some suggestive cracks. In one of the projects, the artist explains how one the construction companies and the institutions left the Corviale residential development on the outskirts of Rome half-finished (a huge building of over a kilometre in length which was supposed to contain all kinds of services, along the lines of the Le Corbusier collective housing model), its inhabitants turned the empty spaces into a “Architectural self-management laboratory”.

Domènec photographed some of the inhabitants of the building holding a model of one of Le Corbusier’s buildings. This empowers the inhabitants in the same way as images of ancient paintings where the donor is holding a small building. Empathy, tenderness and a glimmer of hope.

The exhibition Domènec. And the earth shall be paradise can be seen at the ADN Gallery in Barcelona until 16 March.