Adam Cohen

October 1996

Work in progress el Barrio Chino de Barcelona. 20', Barcelona 1996.
Late City Final. 7'. USA 1992
Blind Grace. 20'. USA 1993.

The Author:

Filmmaker Adam Cohen (New York, 1953) focuses his work on the observation of urban environments. His videographic work recovers the aesthetic of the early days of documentaries -before television- and often show events related to disappearance and extinction, to memory and oblivion. His camerawork is done in 8mm film, the postproduction in video, converting the creative process in almost a metaphor of all that he is trying to conserve and at the same time forget. Adam Cohen will show and comment on his latest tape, a “work in progress” about the transformation/destruction of the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona. A broad and complex project he has been working on for more than two years. By showing this tape along with other earlier pieces, Adam Cohen hopes to stress the parallels between what is happening to the emblematic 42nd Street of new York and this neighborhood in our city.

Notes for a work in progress:

In November of 1994 I travelled from New York to Barcelona in hopes of conserving on film what remained of the original Barrio Chino. It could be said that in the moment when I arrived in the neighborhood it had already begun to disappear. At present its demolition and transformation within a massive urban remodelling plan proceeds. The Barrio Chino was a working class “ghetto” and a place for all those considered marginal, always on the fringe, but historically and geographically inserted in the heart of Barcelona.

“The places we have known not only pertain to the world of space...none of them became much more than a fragment, sustained amongst the continuous impressions that make up our lives in that moment. The memory of an exact moment is no more than the lamentation for a singular moment, and houses, roads and avenues are as fugitive as the years.” Marcel Proust.

This video deals as much with images of absence as with those of presence, of places and phantoms you can´t see and the things and people you can. It deals with streets in their day bursting with life that no longer exist, with identities and history in transit toward a grey and indeterminate place.

Now the Chino is on hold. On hold, while memory is disconnected from any place or function. Turning from what one day had a center, toward the white light of novelty, urban periphery. But it seems it isn´t only the promotors and City Hall who want to forget the Chino. Referring to the complexity of things, some of the Chino´s own residents affirm that, looking back, it´s better to forget than remember.

About the vanished ghetto of Prague, Franz Kafka said the following:

“it still lives inside us, our hearts know nothing of the levelled neighborhood already fallen into oblivion. The unhealthy old city inside us is much more real than the new and hygienic city which surrounds us. We walk through a dream with open eyes, we, ourselves, are nothing more than the ghost of an extinguished age.”

Decadence and future life, memory and oblivion: entropy as history.

  • El Barri Xinès (work in progress) and other City films