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“The Tree of Memory” mapping this weekend in BCN City Hall


Visual artist Xavi Bové directs “L’Arbre de la Memòria” (“The Tree of Memory”), an installation of video-mapping, light and sound that will be projected on the facade of Barcelona City Hall on Friday 16th, Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th March, coinciding with the bombing of Barcelona by the fascist Italian aviation in 1938. The installation, which can be seen every 15 minutes, is part of the commemorations honouring the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the city organized by the Barcelona City Hall.

“L’Arbre de la Memòria” (“The Tree of Memory”) becomes an image of life and humanity. In the words of Xavi Bové, “I didn’t want to make a representation of pain and destruction, but on the contrary, to create a defence for peace. That’s why, unlike the bombs that fall from the sky to the ground, the figure of the tree grows from the earth upwards.”

The installation draws a gigantic tree on the façade of Barcelona City Hall, an axial figure generated from small short, interrupted strokes, which refer to the discontinuous bombardment ordered by Mussolini and which spread terror in the population. Each stroke is simultaneously paired to a thread of voice, subtle and individual, which together end up creating a global heart, a cry for peace and freedom.

The tree grows and expands into branches, leaves and fruits until it becomes a magnificent tree. From each fruit a powerful light is projected that points towards the sky, inviting the public to look up without fear, thus becoming a ray of light that can be seen from all parts of the city.

This conceptual project uses video-mapping techniques, but avoids the typical effects of conventional mappings, creating an impressive work that appeals to the emotions of the spectators. This video content has been generated by the expert mapping studio of Barcelona Onionlab.

The intriguing sounds featured in Zinkman‘s composition are made up of voices of women, men and children, exploring the possible registers but without text, thus reaching the heart of the audience through the universal language–music. Throughout the work the sound increases in intensity, starting with naked voices and ending in great rhythmic force, with classical instruments and electronic elements.

At a technical level, “L’Arbre de la Memòria” (“The Tree of Memory”) is formed by 30 spotlights moving organically and synchronized with the movement of the tree projected in the video. To achieve this synchronization, a complex system for controlling images and moving lights has been designed for this occasion.

The installation, directed by Xavi Bové, is curated by the journalist, publisher and professor Daniela Aronica, and has the artistic direction of Xavi Bové together with Jordi Pont from Onionlab studio.

The historical context of “The Tree of Memory”

Starting at 22.08 on March 16, 1938, and lasting during 41 endless hours, the bombing trimotors circled the sky of Barcelona, releasing their deadly burden on the unarmed population. In fact, Mussolini’s aviation had long been indiscriminately attacking numerous cities on the Mediterranean coast. Firstly, as a measure of pressure against Franco’s dilatory strategy in conducting the war, and secondly, as a weapon to weaken the morale of the Republican enemy. Barcelona itself had already suffered bombings and, in fact, January had been a particularly bloody month.

But what happened in March was different. The raids were sequenced at a previously unknown pace and seemed to have no end. For two days and two nights, the alarms kept sounding. Two days and two nights in which the demographic centre of the city was constantly in the crosshairs of the bombers. According to the first official figures, the terror campaign against the Catalan capital left 551 dead and more than 1,151 injured. “These figures are low estimates,” writes historian Daniela Aronica.

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