Serie Sistema nervioso (Nervous System Series)

Barbara Brändli

Schaffhausen, Switzerland, 1932 - Caracas, Capital District, Venezuela, 2011
  • Date: 
    1972-1975 (circa) / Vintage prints
  • Technique: 
    Gelatin silver print on paper
  • Category: 
  • Register number: 
    DO03671 – DO03676
  • Long-term loan of Fundación Museo Reina Sofía, 2020 (Donation of Diana López and Herman Sifontes)

Swiss photographer Barbara Brändli moved to Caracas in 1959 and, through her photographs, brought into focus a diverse, contradictory and changing side of Venezuela. Using the camera as an instrument to register, transmit and preserve, she built visual documents of transforming contexts, beliefs, rites and customs at risk of disappearing: from the urban environment and the country’s political and cultural figures to local craft, the rural life of Andean farmers, inhabitants of the increasingly depopulated wilderness and the indigenous peoples of the Venezuelan Amazon. In 1975, in a commission from the Neumann Foundation, she published the photobook Sistema nervioso (Nervous System), described as a visual poem devoted to Caracas. The seed of the project dates back to 1972, the year Brändli had started to take pictures with the aim of “showing the chaos, improvisation and humour, the grotesque and the graphic” of the Venezuelan capital. The publication is a kind of “pop manifesto” full of images of adverts, graffiti, typefaces and urban posters which play the same central role as the city’s inhabitants in an era when the country implemented dizzying developmentalism policies. John Lange put forward a design and layout that inspired the texts of Román Chalbaud, in poetic correspondence with the images of the major city and the resolve to “look for an underground truth that has become a sign”. The book resulting from this combination of photography, design and text is considered among the finest photo-typographical visual poems.