Joaquín Bérchez, pleasure of architecture

Luis Fernández-Galiano

Salomonic and Acrostic Sonnet
Joining architecture and shadows, you
Organize a world of fragments,
Arranging elements found by treatises
Qualified by the light of your gaze.
Uniting art and history we often
Invent fiction with precise rules:
Not so your wise and daring eyes,
Baroque like the genius who discerns
Eccentric details, twisted spirals,
Ravelled rows of lined columns,
Contorted bodies and leaning porticoes.
Having the stone quietly beat, you
Embed it in a fold of sensual images,
Zealously fading matter in thin air.

You have chosen “Architecture, pleasure of the gaze” as the title of your exhibition and it is accurate indeed, since your photographs refer more to the ancient Vitruvian venustas, than to Alberti’s voluptas, a genuine sensual pleasure and erotic desire not different from the one shown by the prominent figures of the Hypnerotomaquia Poliphili, always aspiring to make love with one another and with the works of architecture, blurring the boundaries between bodies and buildings. A bit like Nietzsche who would imagine himself transformed into the stones and the porticoes of the Genoese palaces, walking through them as if he were on a journey within his own interior; and this is the way in which we are stimulated by your photographs, which move us to touch and caress the details that they represent with voluptuous meticulousness, probably as Jacques Herzog who filmed himself licking a model, and this is why I have written you a sonnet that pays tribute to your images and, through them, to the architectures that you and your fragments make us desire, a composition that I call

Salomonic and Acrostic Sonnet *

because it has the strong desire to become self-entwined just like your columns become entangled as if they were bodies of lovers: perchance wise lovers; a sonnet that certainly benefits from the happy circumstance of the fourteen letters of your name, a sonnet that I scrutinise here to replace the prologue that I would not want to write because many other people had done it already with so much sense and sensibility that my own would sound rather redundant, and that begins

Joining architecture and shadows, you

ineluctably use light and shade, since they are the tools with which your pupil of historian and photographer represents the built world, thus

Organize a world of fragments

because fragmentary is your perception, as Jaime Siles sharply saw, but of fragments that are fused in a global vision, formulating their own aesthetic Utopia, and so it does,

Arranging elements found by treatises

referring to that belated flowering of treatises that goes from the Précis of Durand to Reynaud or Guadet, where architecture is fractioned and restored with constructive and syntactic elements

Qualified by the light of your gaze

because your uniqueness of vision transforms the parts of the mechanism into flashes of recognition, into lights for the “enlightened”, haunted by the fury and fervor of architecture, an aesthetic ecstasy that I set in contrast with the rhetorical one

Uniting art and history we often

underline that your condition of art historian has not contaminated you with the routine habits of academics, who often

Invent fiction with precise rules

which tries to allude to the bureaucratic rigidity of conventional representation, often faced with the genuine intellectual and artistic creation

Not so your wise and daring eyes

that in fact reconcile the historical erudition with the eager or voracious or covetous determination of the predator of images, guided by his knowledge as well as by his instinct, whose eyes I define as

Baroque like the genius who discerns

because undoubtedly baroque is your gaze, baroque the architectures you have observed with greater wonder, and baroque the talent you shed in your hunt of perusal, pursuing

Eccentric details, twisted spirals

as spiral is the eddy of that vertigo that drags you and drags us inexorably, and as eccentric is your lens of photographer, always seeking the unexpected or the unusual through the vertiginous zoom into the detail, or else thrilled to represent

Ravelled rows of lined columns

that almost are your sign of identity, present in more than one front page, summarized by Antonio Bonet with a clinical and exact alliteration, “columns that copulate”, and that in this Dionysian feast of petreous flesh join

Contorted bodies and leaning porticoes

thus referring to the erotic empathy of your sculptural photographs, or to the wrought fragments of organic seduction that inevitably adorn the facades, and quoting at once that devotion you share with Juan Antonio Ramírez for the Caramuel of the straight and oblique civil architecture

Having the stone quietly beat, you

do as Caramuel himself in Vigevano, so that this peculiar oxymoron of the inert or alive matter, though enlivened only after receiving your genesiacal breath, is confused with the double profile of the bishop who is a writer of treatises and architect, author and builder that would

Embed it in a fold of sensual images

showing the fascinating figures bound, and so allowing the art historian to play the role of the seducer that offers his goods to the gaze, from the Burckhardt that would take to class his huge folder of sheets and who gave up teaching in Karlsruhe because he did not draw well enough or the Wölfflin that followed in the chair of Basel to later introduce the canonical double projection, and up to the teachers who are hostages of the contemporary PowerPoint, whereas you manage to proceed

Zealously fading matter in thin air

finishing off the final rhyming couplet with a slightly pompous declaration, but that wants to use the final zee of the alphabet and your surname to escape the difficult commitment thrust on me, zapping the point or the matter with that light fluid into which your photos and my words vanish, while the tactile matter remains stubborn, resistant in time and perhaps in the memory of us who yearn for it in silence, secret lovers of architecture, happy victims of its addictive and unmentionable pleasure.

*The translation has maintained the acrostic of the Spanish original, but has disregarded measure and rhyme in the benefit of clarity.

[Luis Fernández-Galiano, “Joaquín Bérchez, pleasure of architecture”, Arquitectura, placer de la mirada, 2009]