Dionisio González

Halong VI, 2009

Diptychon | C-print photography, diasec on alu-dibond | 150 x 500 cm

In his photographic work, Dionisio González takes the beholder to utopian spaces. In so doing, he acts as a field researcher or a critical documentarian who reveals the hidden. His interest is focused on the architecture used by the poor and excluded to appropriate previously unseen spaces. The study of these cultural technologies is accompanied by the question of how social asymmetry is perceived.
Usually, shantytowns, slums, or favelas are located in the peripheries. It is only in exceptional cases are they subjected to the exotic gaze of the ethnographer or the tourist. This is true for example of the shantytowns in Halong Bay, which were declared world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1994, or favelas such as Nueva Heliópolis in the vibrant metropolis of São Paulo. For González, the visibility of these slums contains the paradoxical danger of invisibility. Here, he has in mind Foucault’s dictum that power tolerates no shadows: power creates transparency so that individuals are seen directly as an anonymous collective. In this sense, the limited perception of the tourist suppresses all difference. Instead of seeking out an engagement with the local population, the gaze of the tourist levels everything, all difference is pacified in order to not disturb the sense of well being promised by the holiday package. One of González’ »case studies« is Halong Bay in the northern vietnamese province of Quang Ninh, close to the Chinese border 170 kilometers east of Hanoi on the Gulf of Tonkin. In this landscape of breathtaking beauty, on the water, among islands and cliffs, a huge slum has emerged. González takes photographs of these shantytowns with a surprising richness of detail.
Disturbingly beautiful images emerge, that use light in the style of the Old Masters. By using a targeted manipulation of the images, González rids the images of all trace of suffering. In so doing, the impression of hygienic, solid constructions emerges. And all the same, the architecture of the slums can be recognized in its formal diversity and the failure to separate the private and the public. With his digitally manipulated images, González pays homage to the cultural techniques and life forms that emerge under adverse conditions. In that González explores other, possible city spaces, he creates with his art possibilities of personal intervention. In so doing, the artist is pursuing the utopia that he understands as a necessity in the sense of Marc Augé.


Dionisio González (*1965 Gijón, Spain) lives and works in Seville, Spain.