The series ‘Untitled (Refugios)’ (2007) consists of nine photographs that are installed in a grid at the beginning of the show. Straightforward prints of small brick huts in the Jordanian desert, they recall David Goldblatt’s photographs of architectural vestiges and simple dwellings in the South African landscape, and also undoubtedly echo the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. There are no people in the frames; they depict only rudimentary structures and the barren land surrounding them. The colours are bleak but clear: the dust of the desert mixes with the grey concrete and the sky adds only a touch of blue to the overall pallor.
The main focus of the show is works from the series ‘Vistas Veladas’ (2007), comprising large, overexposed photographs of the city of Amman taken from different hotel room windows. The overexposed effect wasn’t initially intentional; Malagrida’s negatives were damaged going through the security checks in the lobbies of luxury hotels. The bleached, washed-out surface of the urban views of architecture, traffic and pedestrians could serve as a barrier, a filter to keep the viewer at bay and accentuate a feeling of alienation. Conversely, while Amman is fading and we cannot seem to seize it, hints of colour on cars, roofs and billboards slowly emerge and ask for a second glance.
Danza de mujer (2007) is the only video work in the show, consisting of one long shot of a black curtain fluttering in the breeze in front of a small window looking out on the sky; it is as if the viewer now inhabits one of those huts in the desert. Whenever the cloth blows to the side, the brightness of the exterior eradicates the window pains and creates a dazzling flare in the centre of the frame. The process repeats itself: the curtain dancing in the draft occasionally exposes what is on the other side of the wall, almost tantalizing, as if every burst of light may be an epiphany. The dark room, the single view and the illuminating flashes also allude to photography itself, which is fundamentally the subject of Malagrida’s exhibition. The legacy of the Bechers and their students’ large-scale photography looms candidly here, but Malagrida is developing her own aesthetic, following on from her predecessors, not merely replicating.
The dichotomies of interior and exterior; seeing and not seeing; belonging and not belonging, are certainly at play here. Peering through windows draws to mind voyeurism, and the bleached quality of the photographs in ‘Vistas Veladas’ also emphasizes the act of looking; that Malagrida shows us Amman from a distance, as if through a fog and obscured by a whitewashed film, begs a closer look.