Anne-Laure Cano: Ussade, 2022

Research output: Other contribution


In 2010, the Catalonian festival performance of Castells – human towers – was inscribed as a form of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Emerging from the festival crowd, the performers (Castellers) stand on each other’s shoulders in front of the balcony of the town hall, creating a human tower that is between six and ten levels (troncs) high. Believed to have developed from the religious Muixeranga dances from Valencia, the existence of Castells was documented in Reus in 1724, though they may have occurred elsewhere as early as 1712.1 As temporary forms of architecture, Castells are declarations and displays of physical agility and technical prowess, the tower symbolising communal togetherness, identity, and belonging. Yet, each yearly iteration of the Castells builds another tier in the history of the form; their repeated appearance at annual festivals connects the present with the past, forging a strong historical sense of regional tradition.

Some of the most striking examples of work in Anne-Laure Cano’s Ussade series take the form of the tower. Like the Castells, her towers seem to quiver as they climb: they appear both fragile and robust, a product of honed technique but also instinctive reaction to the circumstances of the moment. Unlike the Castells, however, Cano’s work does not evince a strong sense of belonging. These bricolage forms thread together disparate materials, as though identity has been expanded and a sense of self has been lost. They raise the spectre of the Tower of Babel, the biblical city on the Shinar plain from which God scattered humanity and created new languages to limit human capability.
Original languageEnglish
TypeWeb Journal
Media of outputWebsite
VolumeCeramics Now
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2022

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