Sebald Variations – CCCB

Carlos Amorales – Black Cloud, 2007 25.000 papallones nocturnes de paper, Col·lecció de Diane i Bruce Halle © Carlos Amorales / The Collection of Diane and Bruce Halle


Opening Tuesday 10 March at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) is the exhibition Sebald Variations, a conversation between art and literature. It takes as its starting point, the work and the figure of the German writer W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), the author of some of the key books of the turn of the last century, such as The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. Sebald’s universe is shown today in the works of contemporary artists and writers who have been influenced by the author.

Sebald Variations recreates the dialogue between Sebald and renowned artists and writers who have been invited to take part in the project, such as Carlos Amorales, Susan Hiller, Taryn Simon and Trevor Paglen. It will also be presenting new pieces by Jeremy Wood and Andrea Geyer, which have been specially commissioned by the CCCB for the exhibition. The exhibition is curated by the writer and cultural critic Jorge Carrión and the New York-based artist, cultural educator, and writer Pablo Helguera.

A PROJECT THAT QUESTIONS THE HISTORY OF THE 20TH CENTURY AND ITS IMPACT ON THE PRESENT. Sebald’s works are a hybrid of images and texts, of travel writing, novels and essays. They are autobiographical yet interested in collective history. Profoundly poetic, and at times provocatively nostalgic, they explore most of the great themes of the 20th century: migrations, individual memory, historic discourses, political violence, trauma, the figure of the author, travel, tourism, intertextuality, archives, documentaries and art and literature as ethical instruments of restitution.

A PROJECT DESIGNED AS AN EXPERIMENT. The exhibition brings together works by artists and writers that are explicitly or implicitly Sebaldian. It is both a visual and textual essay that gathers the voice of the author and other artists and writers working in different fields and examines the way a number of Sebald’s conceptual strategies – the use of images with texts, his own peculiar reflections on history, the unexpected juxtaposition of scenes – have influenced the visual arts and literature since his death, a little more than ten years ago.

Exhibition elements

- Originals and reproductions of manuscripts and correspondence between Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp from the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach / Museum of German Literature and Jan Peter Tripp’s personal archive. Portrait of Sebald by Jan Peter Tripp.

- Works by 13 contemporary artists. Several of them specially commissioned for the exhibition.

- Sound and video works by four contemporary writers about Sebald’s world.

- The Sebald Theatre. An installation by Pablo Helguera, which will also host different activities during the exhibition.

Artists and writers featured in the exhibition

Artists: Carlos Amorales, Mariana Castillo Deball, Simon Faithfull, Andrea Geyer, Núria Güell, Susan Hiller, Josiah McElheny, Trevor Paglen, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Taryn Simon, Jan Peter Tripp, Guido van der Werve and Jeremy Wood.

Writers: Julià de Jòdar, Reinaldo Laddaga, Valeria Luiselli and Piedad Bonnett.


Sebaldiana is the digital magazine accompanying the exhibition Sebald Variations. It aims to build a bridge between the works on display in the exhibition and the literary nature and narrative devices of the author of Austerlitz. The archive, which is already up and running, features a series of articles written by specialists and authors from the Latin American, European and US scene, whose work is closely connected to W.G. Sebald’s ideas. Jorge Carrión and Mario Hinojos are the editors.


Inaugural activities

Tuesday 10 March at 8pm at the CCCB Theatre: Casa Plarre, performance by Pablo Helguera who revisits Sebald’s book The Emigrants.

Wednesday 11 March at 7.30pm at the CCCB Auditorium: Hi ha boira que no hi ha mirada que pugui dissipar: Els artistes parlen de Sebald. A conversation between Pablo Helguera, Carlos Amorales, Jeremy Wood and Mariana Castillo Deball.

The Sebald Theatre

Sebald Theatre is the work presented by Pablo Helguera inside the exhibition space. It consists of a small theatre screening his audiovisual Extras 1967-C to York and will also host other activities while the exhibition is on, such as performances, film screenings, and reading sessions.

Sebald’s legacy at Kosmopolis 15

Kosmopolis 15. The Amplified Literature Festival, being held at the CCCB from 18th to 22nd March, pays tribute to W. G. Sebald with two conversations, one between Camille de Toledo and Cristina Rivera Garza, and the other between David Grossman and Carles Torner, who will explore the German writer’s legacy in depth.

K15’s audiovisual channel, Canal Alfa, will be devoting part of its programme to Sebald. It will be screening two films. The first will be Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald), made in 2012, which retraces Sebald’s walk through the county of Suffolk (United Kingdom) in The Rings of Saturn. The second is Richard West’s Austerlitz, a medium-length film from 2013, which is based on the German writer’s most famous work.

Debates about Sebald’s universe

Sebald’s literary universe reveals a particular way of exploring the world. Its central elements are travel, the act of losing oneself as a way of finding the unexpected or unusual, and a predilection for those spaces away from the paths that define the mainstream world today. The debates will take place in May and June 2015 with some current writers who have made travel the core theme of their work. Among those participating in May will be Iain Sinclair, a British writer and filmmaker who has created his own particular universe to which the experience of the landscape and the urban environment is central.

A very Sebaldian Xcèntric

From March onwards, Xcèntric will be devoting two sessions to two representatives of North American avant-garde filmmaking whose works have close formal and conceptual links with Sebald’s: Bruce Elder and Stan Brakhage.

Organised activities for everyone

CCCBEducació will be running guided tours of the Sebald Variations every Saturday and Sunday at 11.30am as well as pre-booked tours for schools, the workshop Sebald with the family and the community programme for groups at risk of social exclusion.

Mà de Sebald amb papallona nocturna © Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach


Simon Faithfull – 0º00 Navigation, 2009, vídeo i super 8 transferit a dvd, 55 minuts © Simon Faithfull

Susan Hiller – Judenweg, Neufra, Country Roads, 2003, sèrie de 10 fotografies © Susan Hiller


CCCB – Montalegre 5, Barcelona
10 March – 26 July 2015