A star’s injured past

Many sculptures in this free guide around Poble Nou and along Barcelona’s beaches are the result of the urban development undertaken for the 1992 Olympic Games. Eight installations of particular value were unveiled under the exhibition title Configuracions urbanes [Urban Configurations]. This is the case of l’Estel ferit [The Injured Star, 1992] by Rebecca Horn.

This piece, also known as Homenatge a la Barceloneta [Homage to Barceloneta], consists of four, large iron boxes piled up into a crooked tower like an abandoned lighthouse [dimensions: 10.60 x 5.17 x 5.17 m]. The installation recalls aspects of Barceloneta’s historical development from an isolated sand spit to a densely inhabited metropolitan area. It mimics the rational, geometric layout of low-rise buildings imposed by military engineer Joris Prosper Van Verboom, who designed the street plan in 1753.

Residents had been displaced here from la Ribera neighbourhood due to construction of the Ciutadella fortress, and the authorities saw the need to impose order on this rapidly expanding fishing village. The installation’s salt-encrusted windows reveal an internal mast-like structure that evokes the area’s maritime past. Also referenced are the ramshackle beachfront restaurants (defying all sanitary or building regulations with anarchist bravado) which once extended their tables right down onto the sand and were popular eating places even as late as 1990. The mast carries neon tubes to light up the sculpture at night.

In her own words, Horn claims that “In 1964 I was 20 years old and living in Barcelona, in one of those hotels where you rent rooms by the hour. I was working with fibreglass, without a mask, because nobody said it was dangerous, and I got very sick.” Because of this, she spent a year in hospital, during which time her parents died, contributing to her isolation. Perhaps the piece’s title is a reference to this period. Yet the changes which these constrictions forced upon her work led to her well-known body modifications in pieces such as Unicorn [1970/72] or Pencil Mask [1972], and also to creating softer, cocoon-like creations like The Feathered Prison Fan [1978].

L’Estel Ferit [The Injured Star] by Rebecca Horn, 1992. Passeig Marítim, Barceloneta Beach.


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