Planas Archive iterations
Taxonomia del Hotel Balear según Mohamed, 2019
// Expuesta en Es Baluard // 2019
The image on the postcard shows Mohamed the dromedary, who died at over 80 years of age after ingesting huge amounts of “Túnel” a typical Mallorcan herb liqueur. He posed with tourists for decades on Palma beach and in 1967 his image travelled the world in the form of a postcard 13,069 times.The sale of this type of postcard, produced by Josep Planas, attracted tourists who have increasingly grown in number over the years until reaching our current situation. Josep Planas established a somewhat fictional visual iconography during the 50s, 60s and 70s in order to nurture the image of Mallorca as an exotic destination and attract more visitors to our islands. The image of Mohamed shows a utopian world generated through this fictitious lens at a time when optimism, economic growth and social and cultural openness had taken over a country still under the rule of Franco’s dictatorship. It is an image that pertains to the utopianism of tourism.
The archive highlights the idea of the index, from which reference to the tale written by Borges "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" can be made. The story, which features a means of classifying animals forms part of the collection Other Inquisitions. The animals are divided accordingly: “(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) trained, (d) piglets, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in this classification, (i) those that shake like crazy, (j) uncountable, (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (1) etcetera, (m) those who have just broken the vase, (n) those who from afar look like flies. ”
This piece underscores the practice of how we can learn about bygone days by using the relics of materials left behind and the way these shape our relationship with the past and the construction of meaning in the present. It is worth pointing out the question of the temporary area that the postcard and the archive occupy.
When considering the evolution of photography as it made its way towards the tourist postcard, the most logical step would have been to create postcards with images of donkeys, the Mallorcan black pig, country folk, almond blossom, oranges or the typical Frito Mallorquin dish. In actual fact, many such images were used. The case of Mohamed is a mystery; he was not an icon of Majorcan identity, the poor creature was decontextualized from his own environment, separated from his peers, used and commercialized as a tourist attraction in a territory which had no sense other than to generate a kind of fictional premonition of the travel experience.
Carmelo Vega, in "The Logic of Tourism" explains how the first travellers who took photos of their trips became cataloguers of faraway places and the artefacts and people they encountered. All of these discoveries were; reduced down to the essential, the stereotypical and the commonplace, thus creating a new modern world map, an imaginary museum and a great archive to be consulted by anyone and everyone. Later on, travel photography went from this cataloguing function to become an iconic attraction device, a seductive commodity, merchandise born from a deterministic and Eurocentric vision of the world. This is precisely where the mystery of Mohamed's postcard lies. Mohamed was not a stereotype, nor did he have anything to with Majorcan identity. The simple fact is that Mohamed was actually just another absurd element of the consequences of tourism.
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