Sergio Vega — Borges in the Alhambra



Sergio Vega
Borges in the Alhambra

Past: November 4 → December 23, 2017

The Galerie Karsten Greve presents Borges in the Alhambra, a fascinating project by photographer Sergio Vega dedicated to Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century, and a key cultural figure in the Spanish-speaking world.


In 1918, when he is still a child, Jorge Luis Borges (Argentinian novelist, poet and man of culture) visits the Alhambra in Grenada for the first time. Since that visit, both the architecture of this monument — deeply tied to Islamic poetry and philosophy — and the history of Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula become part of the writer’s fictional landscape. In 1976, during his second visit with his companion Maria Kodama, Borges, henceforth at the apex of his career and international renown, is blind. He suffers from retinitis pigmentosa that causes blindness, which he defines as ‘modest’: whereas one eye sees nothing, the other manages to perceive a world veiled in a yellow film, a golden reality.

He sees the Alhambra therefore through his companion’s eyes, through her descriptions, but mostly by getting to know it thanks to the numerous gurgling fountains and the chirping of the birds hidden in the garden’s lemon trees. In Borges’ vision, Alhambra becomes a dreamscape through which one can immerse oneself in the history of the Moorish dynasties, or in the cosmology that governs the architectural composition of this fantastic place. Borges wanted to share this unique way of looking and feeling; he wanted to give it as a gift to his wife in the form of a poem, Alhambra. In this poem his feelings of gratitude for being able to feel Grenada once again alternate with a sense of irreparable loss.

Sergio Vega’s aesthetic journey offers a contemplative reconstruction of this second visit: by training his eye on the site’s architectural spaces. To do so, Vega turns to a primary photography technique: tintype. A metal plate is soaked in a photosensitive solution that, upon contact with light, sets a permanent image. The result in these thirty aluminum-plate photographs is quasi-aqueous, creating phantasmagorical images from ghost-like traces. Alhambra’s architectural details — organized according to strict mathematical principles — emerge from a rather twilight dimness like epiphanies.

Sergio Vega has embarked on a quest, using eminently visual artistic means, to show those who can see what indeed a blind person sees. But it is thanks only to the spoken and written words that Borges has left behind (in interviews and writings) that Vega is now able to rebuild his hypothesis about seeing: seeing while comforted by the voice of a lover and by the noises that belong to these magical places. Borges in the Alhambra does not only require the visitor to look but also to listen, and eventually to close their eyes.

  • Opening Saturday, November 4, 2017 6 PM → 8 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

5, rue Debelleyme

75003 Paris

T. 01 42 77 19 37 — F. 01 42 77 05 58

Official website

Filles du Calvaire

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM

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The artist

  • Sergio Vega