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We met Jorge’s work before we met Jorge. Around Christmas 2004, shortly before we moved to Barcelona—in Mariana’s case, moved back—we’d made an appointment to look around the studios at Hangar. Jorge was in residence at the time, yet for whatever reason he wasn’t there, despite the fact that, as we later learned, he was apparently always the first to arrive and the last to leave. We were intrigued by what we saw: delicate pencil drawings that seemed like part of the planning of an heist, or its reconstruction from memory, as if a kind of storybook vignette. Over the next few years we eventually got to know each other in person. And then he was gone, first to Ireland and then to the Netherlands, where we would work together for the first time in 2009, as part of a series of commissions in Rotterdam. The latter involved the return of an ancient rock to its origins. And this episode of Incidents (of Travel) not only entails further encounters with mysterious rocks, but a kind of fleeting Barcelona homecoming for Jorge to his beginnings as an artist. After living for several subsequent years in his native Mexico City, Jorge now calls Bilbao his home, while maintaining a foot in Alcoi, near Valencia, where his family also has roots.

This dispatch is, for us, something of a voyage around our room. Having manifested itself all over the world since 2016 through the perspectives of other curators, Incidents (of Travel) now takes place in a version of our own city, through the itinerary of an artist and friend with whom we currently have the pleasure of working with again, as we begin planning an exhibition that will take place in 2024.

It also brings a curiously auspicious closure to this phase of Incidents (of Travel) in its present format. By chance, this twentieth episode takes place exactly ten years later to the day of the first tour of the first phase of this project, a day we spent with Minerva Cuevas in Mexico City. Yet the date, September 19th, is also a notorious day of the year in Mexico City as it marks the anniversary of two deadly earthquakes, in 1985 and 2017.

We travel up on the Ferrocarrils from Plaça Catalunya to Les Planes after a quick coffee and catch-up at Café Zurich. The train takes us straight from the heart of the city to the heart of Collserola, the extensive forested mountain range that hems in Barcelona’s dense neighborhoods to the northwest. Although it is peppered with development, topped by an emblematic communications tower, and criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails that are increasingly busy post-pandemic, this is an area where, as we’ll discover, a prehistoric past is visible, and where wild boars can still be wild. We walk along a roadside verge, underneath a highway flyover, and then up a winding forest track. The day is heating up already. We reach a research station that has a biomass project and monitors wildlife. Jorge stayed here for several nights in 2016 to produce the work Wrecking the Floor Tiles. We walk past the station’s buildings and take a path deeper through the undergrowth to find the exact spot the scientists from the center had advised him to lay out his carpet of damp clay tiles in order to capture boar prints as the animals foraged at night. A water trough is set in the ground, and there is a large overgrown structure nearby, part cage, part corrugated iron hut, which we guess is some kind of porcine halfway house. Jorge tells us that after an anxious wait of several nights, a boisterous boar party eventually trotted over the clay, and the following morning a dog was set off to sniff out its onward route, leaving its own tracks. The tiles were fired shortly after, and cooled just in time for his exhibition at Blueproject. Insects are beginning to bite, and, scratching our ankles, we retrace our steps to the station and make a short hop back to the previous stop, Baixador de Vallvidrera.

We stroll up through the woods to the Vallvidrera reservoir. Mariana vaguely remembers coming here on a school trip. We pass the blocked-off entrance to a tunnel which once carried water in pipes down from the reservoir to Barcelona’s zona alta below, as well as a little train for daytrippers, apparently the first electrified line in the country. The area around the reservoir has been recently spruced up. Concrete steps are patterned with plane tree leaves, and the real ones that have begun to fall gather on the slabs. The water level of the reservoir seems very low, and we walk around the perimeter without really expecting to catch sight of the salamanders or three species of frog that are among its notable residents, and indeed we don’t. Yet Max does recall that a mutual artist friend has a chronic phobia of amphibians. We ask Jorge about the different neighborhoods he lived in during his time in Barcelona in the early 2000s. He recalls flat shares, semi-squats, and sofabeds, from Sarrià, to Sants, and the streets near CaixaForum. We pass by a house and garage by the reservoir dam that Jorge tells us serves up homemade lunches at the weekend.

We take the train down one stop to catch the funicular railway that takes us up the steep slope to the neighborhood of Vallvidrera, and then connect with a small bus that runs along the hillside below the Tibidabo Amusement Park. On the journey Jorge refers to the curiosity that is our next destination. Two young men who turn out to be archeology students overhear us, and, their interest piqued, they ask what we’re talking about. Jorge elaborates, but is cut short as we arrive at our stop. It is a clear day and the views over Barcelona are spectacular. More than a dozen cargo ships are idling out at sea, waiting to enter the commercial port. We continue on foot along the road, stopping only to apply sunscreen.

We come to a spot where a small sign on the opposite side of the road points up through a gap in the woods to “Coll de la Vinassa, Serra de’n Cardona, Turó d’en Puig.” The path ascends steeply over tree-root steps and then turns into uncannily smooth stone, wrinkled like a brain. Jorge has been here before but the path seems unfamiliar as we go on up. He realizes we must have walked too far, so we retrace our steps. Jorge eventually sees what we’re looking for and we follow him down a barely discernible trail that opens up into a clearing where there is a large dun-coloured stone, like a giant potato, more than a meter across. Known as the Collserola Stone, it is thought that this megalithic monument was brought to this place around 5,000 years ago because of its privileged position at the intersection of two ancient trails. On its top surface there are several carved-out hollows. It is said to be a kind of sacrificial altar aligned North to South, and the cavities are where the different organs of the body would have been placed. There is a crevice which is speculated would have served to let blood run off.

Menhirs, dolmens, and other giant stones have been of abiding interest to Jorge and have made several appearances in his work over the last fifteen years. The fascination lies not only in their capacity for myth-making and syncretism—it is impossible to truly know their prehistoric purpose—but in how they represent a form of sculpture before sculptors, architecture before architects, and have become integral parts of landscape, although they were made by man. We look for a car wreck that Jorge remembers finding nearby on his last visit here, the vehicle having been apparently propelled up into the ungrowth following what must have been a high-speed crash. It seems to have vanished. We make our way back to the bus stop, passing a group of a dozen motorbikers who are out on a scenic tour in their matching T-shirts. Back in Vallvidrera village we stop for lunch at Casa Trampa, a classic restaurant founded in 1804 and known for its hearty dishes. Max orders the botifarra, Mariana the escalopa, and Jorge takes the last portion of galtes.

Enlivened by coffee, we descend via funicular and train to Sarrià station and wind our way through the streets to the Monastery of Pedralbes. We’re here to see what is, after the Collserola Stone, the only other known megalith in Barcelona: the Pedralbes Menhir. The builders of the monastery in the fourteenth century respected the powers of this standing stone to such a degree that they not only preserved it, but constructed a gateway in the perimeter wall around it. The bulk of the stone lurks below the paved surface like a lithic iceberg, its obstinate presence in a doorway from the middle ages a kind of rude protuberance of prehistory and geologic time into a continuous present.

We take a long bus ride down through the neighborhoods of Les Corts and Sants to the end of the V5 line, and walk along the back of some warehouses to one of the entrances to the vast Montjuïc Cemetery. We’d planned to make our way up to the highest point before descending into the city center, but we notice that the gate near the Botanical Gardens is marked as closed on Google Maps, so with only an hour left until closing we try and reach a vantage point over the port without getting ourselves lost in the labyrinth of sepulchers and graves. We seem to be the only ones here. A road snakes up through the site in a series of hairpin bends, but we cut up through the neo-gothic crypts to where the hillside turns into high walls embedded with tombstones commemorating the more recently departed. Here most of the bunches of flowers have wilted and dried in their cellophane wrappers, yet we pass a spill of still fresh red and white roses from a recent interment. We talk about day of the dead rituals in Mexico and, with so many faded faces staring out from the glass-fronted vaults, feel the melancholy weight of the place. Arriving at a sort of cul-de-sac terrace that affords a lookout over the port, the contrast with the bustle of cranes, cargo, and cruise ships couldn’t be more jarring.

Returning back at the main gates we catch a taxi which takes us right into the center of the city. It drops us on La Rambla near the Boqueria market and we cut through the streets past tacky souvenir shops to the Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi, the Gothic “St. Mary of the Pine”. We must have walked by this church hundreds of times, usually dodging tourists, but we’ve never heard of the story that Jorge tells us about it. It is said that on the 99th and 100th steps of the belltower one can find footprints. Not the tracks of a Collserola boar, but the unmistakably ungulate footprints of the devil himself. The builder had made a diabolical deal in order to finish the works on time, and this was a kind of satanic franking of the agreement. We find a website that warns of the extreme narrowness of the ascent up the tower, which sounds like a claustrophobe’s nightmare. It seems that visits have to be pre-booked, and only run twice a day. Other sources suggest the supposed hoofprints were actually removed decades ago when the church authorities became resentful that more people were interested in seeing the devil’s work than the church itself. These days they put on Spanish guitar concerts inside several times a week, and there are people hawking tickets, but today nobody is there to ask about access to the belltower. Mustafà and Elisenda, local processional giants who stand in a glass case in the porch, offer no clues either. We decide to call it a day and, stopping first to browse the plethora of scissors and knives in the venerable window displays of Ganiveteria Roca, we go for a quick drink at La Grangeta on Joaquín Costa and say our goodbyes, as Jorge has an early train the next morning.

On the way back home Mariana receives an alert on her mobile. Unbelievably yet another September 19th earthquake has just shaken Mexico, a 7.7 magnitude tremor. WhatsApps fly back and forth during the next hours. Jorge’s family is safe, and the side of Mariana’s family that is there is too. The probability of three quakes hitting on the same date is freakishly low; fortunately it transpires there has been no major loss of life. Following a day of extraordinary encounters with two elusive sets of footprints (textbook evidence of presence, neither of which we actually see) and two ancient giant stones (placed quite deliberately but beyond anyone’s understanding) as well as with the eerie layers of the city’s necropolis counterpart, the perverse synchronicity of the seismic event seems like another sobering reminder that what we don’t know vastly outweighs what we do.


The route I am proposing begins far away from the city, taking as its starting point an attempt to find the place where an event that no one witnessed took place on a summer night in 2016. We continue to a natural site created not long ago that has become inseparable from the memory I have of Barcelona, and following that, we visit a couple of monuments of which we do not know much, yet which have produced multiple meanings. Then we will approach the city center, following the trail of a footprint that apparently no longer exists, yet not without first visiting some tombs in front of the sea.

CAN BALASCH BIOLOGICAL STATION In the summer of 2016 I spent a long period in Barcelona for the first time since I had left the city in 2007. I was there to make an artwork with the help of the team at Can Balasch Biological Station, as well as many other people.

Close to the station there is a hidden area where groups of wild boars tend to wallow in the earth during the night. There we installed a fresh clay floor of approximately 17 m2. During the second night, a couple of boars walked over it. The next morning, when I discovered the hoof prints, Nuk, a hunting dog living at the station, tried to follow the route of the boars, and left its own footprints.

VALLVIDRERA RESERVOIR This reservoir was built in the middle of the 19th century to supply water to Barcelona’s upper neighborhoods. In 1908 a small train was installed to transport Barcelona citizens who wanted to spend a day of leisure in the Collserola hills, above the north-eastern part of the city, traveling through the same tunnel through which the water was channeled. The train operated for a very short time yet nowadays the tunnel continues transporting water, although in the opposite direction, to Sant Cugat del Vallès and Sabadell.

The reservoir is an important amphibian sanctuary although in recent years it has had to be dried twice to eradicate invasive species. I often like to go and eat here when I visit Barcelona. There is a lady who lives right in front of the bridge who every weekend sets up tables and sells food cooked in the garage of her house.

STONE OF COLLSEROLA Below the Tibidabo Amusement Park, just where the BV-1418 and BP-1417 roads meet, there are some stairs that go up into the forest. Climbing them, a few meters up on the right, we will find a large stone hidden among the trees. This site is little known, although it is widely believed that the various holes on the surface of the stone were made by prehistoric man and probably served to place the organs of sacrificed bodies. It is also said that it may have served as a trap for animals.

PEDRALBES MONASTERY MENHIR This monastery was founded by Jaume II of Aragon and his wife Elisenda de Montcada, and was completed in 1327. As with many Christian constructions, the location of the enclosure was determined by previous pagan sacred sites. In one of the two entrances that we find in its fortified walls, the one on Carrer de Montevideo, we find a large stone blocking the way. It is believed that this stone is the upper point of a buried menhir of unidentified height and age. It is also known as the Angel’s Menhir and it is said that if someone hits their head on its surface they will hear angels singing inside.

MONTJUÏC CEMETERY Before public transport from Barcelona to the Collserola mountain range was available, Montjuïc was the most popular weekend recreation area. As a result of the turn-of-the-century growth of the city, a cemetery was inaugurated on the hill in 1883. If one arrives into the city from the south, along the road by the sea, it is the first image one has of Barcelona, together with the industrial port right in front of it. Its architecture recalls steps of a mountain sculpted by a quarry. It currently has 152,327 graves and is the largest cemetery in the city.

DEVIL’S HOOF PRINTS, SANTA MARIA DEL PI It is said that on steps 99 and 100 leading to the bell tower of the church the devil left his mark after agreeing a pact with the master builder, who had asked him for help in finishing the construction of the tower. The devil accepted the deal in exchange for taking the soul of the worker when he’d built the 100th step. Yet the builder managed to evade the pact by never surpassing that step; his successor concluded the remaining work in 1497. Currently these marks are erased by order of a rector who wanted to stem the curiosity of the parishioners and visitors.