Nomads resulted from Ribas’ long-standing research into the interplay between architecture, commerce and history, and the impact that they exert on urban life. He focuses on complex relationships between past and present, and the ways in which they intersect with public, private and commercial spaces. ‘For Xavier Ribas photography is a medium belonging equally to many disciplines: documentary, anthropology, history, politics, social geography and art’ (David Campany, 2010).
Shown for the first time at ProjecteSD, Barcelona, Nomads (2009) comprised a series of 33 black and white photographs, two colour photographs of storm clouds, a text, and a print on photographic paper taken from an aerial image obtained from Google Earth. These photographs conveyed the destructive impact wrought on the urban landscape by property developers who intimidated and violently evicted about 60 gypsy families living on an industrial plot in the Poblenou district of Barcelona. The rubble-dominated environment resulting from the use of industrial diggers and pneumatic drills to render the land uninhabitable demonstrated the economic value of destruction for controlling space. As Campany wrote when Nomads was shown as part of the ‘This Must Be the Place’ exhibition at the Jerwood Space, London (2010): ‘The chaotic forms of the site are made all the more striking by the diligent, quasi-forensic documentation and the geometry of his presentation.’ Ribas himself wrote that, ‘The broken ground, the fissures and fragments of concrete slabs standing up like remnants of ancient Mayan stellas give testimony, still today, of this displacement.’
When installed in exhibition format the images are presented in three tiered rows, bringing a sense of structure to the broken elements of the urban landscape whilst endowing the grid with some of the qualities of an urban plan, as in the accompanying composite images of the site from Google Earth.
The project was also published as a book, Concrete Geographies [Nomads] (2012).