Clemente Bernad

Before the Threshold

Online photography exhibition /
Museo Reina Sofía, April 2020

Activity: Online conversation between Clemente Bernad and Jorge Moreno Andrés
Tuesday 21 April - 6pm / Capacity: 100 people in order of arrival
Zoom link: Clemente Bernad y Jorge Moreno, “Ante el umbral” (Spanish conversation)
Meeting ID: 976 2653 5653 / Password: 759478

The lone square (grey air,

blackened trees, the earth

with a smattering of snow),

seemed not as reality, but a

sad copy with no reality. Then,

before the threshold, you

said: living here you would be

a ghost of yourself.


Limbo, Luis Cernuda

From the time the pandemic took hold in Madrid and forced its citizens into lockdown, photographer Clemente Bernad has carried out the same daily ritual: crossing his doorway, roaming the city, taking pictures of everything he comes across and returning home with images from the outside. Under normal circumstances this practice would be of no particular relevance. Right now it has become a kind of otherworldly journey. The streets Bernad travels through today are not the streets of yesterday; they may appear familiar but there is an atmosphere that has turned a familiar environment into something strange. We see this strangeness in ordinarily full spaces that are now completely empty, as if a long night had settled over the beating heart of the city and refused to budge. Therefore, the photographer walks around familiar landscapes as if wandering around a suburb or through dark alleys, a terrain where limits and distances blur into a threat. Walking past somebody in this frame of mind can generate suspicion and fear, where body movements verge on retreat or escape. The city becomes a threshold. In this situation you either flee or roam; you never stroll. There are those that wander where nobody remains, those covering themselves with cardboard boxes, the doors to their landings always open. Solitary bodies which in an empty city bring to mind the detritus of a wreckage. Alongside these bodies are the others, those floating on the concrete, aimlessly, those gloves that first helped us save ourselves and are now disowned and mutilated on pavements, evoking every body without mourning, those discarded by this pandemic. The photographer examines them closely, finding in them the precise way to represent pain that can be seen and shared… far from figures and numbers. Among visible, masked, wandering and deserted beings Clemente Bernad roams like a spectre, prowling around this kind of atmosphere or Stygian lagoon the street has become.

A photographer asks questions of the world by questioning appearances in every frame of their work, in each photo they take. Akin to the poet, they follow a way of travelling across the border of the obvious to find places from which to make out images which, paradoxically, enable us to see that which happens and surrounds us, but which we do not see (even less so in our domestic confinement). This is precisely Bernad’s undertaking in the work he shows us here: leaning into the threshold. Yet returning from the netherworld with the camera full of scenes that help us to get our bearings is a disquieting task from which it is not easy to leave unscathed. When he returns, crossing through the last streets close to home, no one looks back at him, and it is then that he is tempted to look in the mirror to confirm his existence. He is not another spectre, but could easily become one. He takes glimpses and presses the shutter of his camera on his own body, reflected in shop windows. The void returns a deformed version of himself, a phantasmagorical self, alone, with no community. This seems to define the subject that currently moves through a desolate city.

Clemente Bernad holds a degree in Fine Arts, specialising in Photography, Film and Video, from Universitat de Barcelona (UCB), and a diploma in Advanced Sociology Studies from the Public University of Navarre (UPNA), and has worked as a photographer and documentary film-maker since 1986, focusing on social issues and politics in the cultural context surrounding him. His work includes the photography series Jornaleros (1987-1992), Mujeres sin tierra (1994), Pobres de nosotros (1995), Canopus (2001), the book and documentary El sueño de Malika (2004), Basque chronicles (1987-2015), on political conflict in the Basque Country, and Donde habita el recuerdo (2003–in progress), on the exhumations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War, including the documentaries Morir de sueños and A sus muertos. Currently, his output revolves around the present socio-political situation as an independent professional, in the broadest sense.

Jorge Moreno Andrés is an anthropologist, photographer and film-maker with a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology, specialising in anthropology of the image. He is director of the research project Mapas de Memoria from the National Distance Education University (UNED), where he is also a professor and currently curator of the touring exhibition Las pequeñas cosas for the same university. Moreover, he is artistic director of the international competition of documentary film on migration and exile in Mexico (CEME DOC). His publications most notably include El duelo revelado. La vida social de las fotografías familiares de las víctimas del franquismo (CSIC, 2018), which won the National University Publishing Prize for the best art and humanities monograph in 2019. As a photographer and film-maker, he has created photographic essays that include The Pig Slaughter (2013) and documentaries like What Remains (2015).

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Reina Sofía, online exhibition, April 2020
Jorge Moreno Andrés

Clemente Bernad