There are some new and interesting ‘presences’ on the streets of Jerez right now. ‘Proyecto Presencias‘ by Juan Carlos Toro are giant-sized black and white photographic images of flamenco performers, men and women singers, on the sides of old buildings around the town, but especially in the barrios most associated with flamenco. It’s something of a shock, though an engaging one, to turn a corner and come across one of these images. They’re not just to be found in the big squares in the centre of town, or on public buildings, but in the back streets too. See below for a video of how these enormous pictures ended up on the walls of the city.
The image on the side of the Teatro Villamarta ( below right ) is not the only image in the little plaza in front of the theatre building. It’s pleasant to sit outside the little bar next door to the theatre in the day-time, having a coffee and reading the Diario, purchased from the kiosk there, while listening to the sound of clapping, stamping and music from the theatre rehearsal rooms. On Sunday evening, a fortnight ago, we sat there sipping our sherries ( and pretending that it wasn’t cold ) while waiting for the theatre doors to open, when we were surprised by a son et lumiere display. We, and the sizeable crowd milling around in the square, turned to see colour images projected on to the side of the large Post Office building opposite the theatre, to a dramatic soundtrack ( of orchestral music ). This was ‘A Compas del Tiempo‘. All the images were from the Festival in years past.
More colour photography, often of the time-lapse, spectacular kind can be found in Arenal, where two rows of five foot high and six-foot wide photographs march up and down the square under the watchful eyes of the equestrian statue of de Rivera at its centre. This is ‘Objectivo Flamenco‘ by Juan Salido and again collects together images from Festivals past. I was gratified to recognise some of them, because they were of performances which I had attended in the past. It made me feel like a seasoned Festival goer.
Other exhibitions, though indoors, can be found in the Convento de San Agustin ( photographs ), in the Flamenco Centre in the Palacio Pelmartin ( paintings and other artworks ), in the exhibition space of the Diario, the local paper ( photographs ) and in the Cloisters of Santo Domingo ( designs for flamenco posters and costumes – see Indomitable Women ).
The festival organisers have really gone to town this year with the supporting exhibitions, given the twentieth anniversary and they have been imaginative in their choices. Unveiled as part of the 2016 Festival these exhibitions will be in place only until the middle of March, so not so long now. It is to be hoped that some of them tour ( though the giant posters, perhaps the most imaginative, will not travel ).