The etHALL Gallery has left the Raval neighbourhood of central Barcelona to relocate in L’Hospitalet, in the same building where NoguerasBlanchard, Ana Mas Projects and the Trama 34 artists collective are already established.
L’Hospitalet is well on the way to becoming one of the nerve centres of Catalan art, but what is the attraction for gallery owners and creators?
Jon Otamendi’s installation in etHall. Photo: @ArteEdadSilicio.
Considering the surroundings, I am sure that more than one person would have thought there was some kind of leak on seeing the jet of water hitting the plastic sheet which acts as the backdrop. But this is a thought that is immediately erased by the festive atmosphere and the crowds of people around what is not in fact a leak but an installation by Basque artist Jon Otamendi for the opening of the new etHALL in L’Hospitalet.
Eulàlia Rovira and Adrian Schindler performance in etHALL. Photo: Juan de Jarillo.
The choice could not have been better. “Otamendi’s work reflects the relationships between drawings and architecture, mechanics and nature, image and experience, hypothesis and reality. He uses these dichotomies to question the perception that exists on the outside-inside. In what kind of situations do they occur in a closed space or in the open air? What do we expect to find in art space and how does artistic practice relate to the market? And also the symbolic dimension. What will the audience’s interpretation be?” explains Jorge Bravo who opened etHALL in 2011 in the Raval, which after Carrer Consell de Cent and the Born neighbourhood seemed to be the new centre of art in Barcelona. Seemed because of the nucleus that grew around the heat of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (Macba) only Àngels Barcelona remains.
The new etHALL is located in an old sweet factory and is the complete opposite of the white cube concept. The peeling walls, high ceilings with wooden beams and the curious windows with interior lattices are all clues to the line of the gallery: atypical, experimental and research projects which pay little attention to market demands, such as the works by Eulàlia Rovira and Adrian Schindler, Martín Vitaliti and Marc Vives which have livened up the opening.
Façade of the Isaac Peral street building, in L’Hospitalet. Photo: Mario Santamaría.
etHALL has located on the ground floor of the building in Carrer Isaac Peral 7, alongside NoguerasBlanchard, Ana Mas Projects and the Trama 34 artists collective, made up of Mario Santamaría, Matteo Guidi, Mireia C. Saladrigues, Diego Paonessa and Marc Serra, among others. “Here we can carry out projects that would be unviable in the centre where most of the budget goes on rent and we have never had so much space. Also, let’s not fools ourselves, strollers and tourists have never been our clients, and the only thing we have lost is seeing the odd friend who would stop by for a chat. Clients will come here the same as would go there”, assures Alex Nogueras, who was the first to take the jump, together with the Salamina Collective. Now it is calculated that over 250 artists, designers and architects form the pioneering occupants of the Freixa Building, the Fase group and well-known names such as Antoni Muntadas and Jordi Colomer, who has just opened La Infinita with producer Carolina Olivares and the poet Eduard Escoffet.
The galleries have at least tripled the amount of space they have and considerably reduced their costs.
It is true that L’Hospitalet reimburses 95% of building and occupation taxes for cultural industries and that the galleries that have moved there have at least tripled the amount of space they have and considerably reduced their costs. But the economic question is not the only incentive. This is underlined by Albert Mercadé, artistic director of the L’H Cultural District, a project conceived by Josep Ramoneda when the experts forecast that cultural businesses would leave Barcelona for the outskirts, where they could find bigger, more versatile and cheaper spaces. “My role is to be a mediator between the city and the sector. Based on its ideas and wishes, we produce a programme which has a budget of 200,000 euros and covers a range of initiatives, from participation in the Gallery Weekend and the Loop festival to exhibition in abandoned factory buildings and also public art”, Mercadé explains.
Ad Minolti in Nogueras Blanchard. Photo: @ArteEdadSilicio.
This is the case of the sculpture exhibition that Mónica Planes (Àngels Gallery) and Alejandro Palacín have just opened in the Plaça Europa as part of the Mobile World Congress. “The next project will be at the end of May with David Bestué and another eight artists who will offer a series of workshops and a participative exhibition in a corner of the Santa Eulàlia neighbourhood, says Mercadé, who also runs the Arranz-Bravo Foundation together with Tecla Sala –one of the main artistic institutions in this, our own little Brooklyn.
The girl strangles the boy with her bare hands and stares into the camera. Her murderous eyes penetrate right through the photographer as her victim’s tongue hangs out of the side of his mouth. All framed by the darkness and shadows of the forest.
This could be a still from one of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s films. A sparkling German expressionist, a symphony of horror with the angst-ridden face of Nosferatu about to come into the frame of the image. And yet, it is a photograph taken by my granny when she was a 14-year old girl and had just received a Vest Pocket Kodak for her Saint’s Day. It was the lightest camera on the market and the favourite of the allied soldiers during that summer of 1917 in the trenches.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
Her name was Anita Figueras. She was born and died in Sabadell (1903-1985). During her teenage years she would use this camera and an aesthetic intuition surprising in someone so young to capture images from the bourgeois world that surrounded her: swimming in the sea at Biarritz, flights in a light aircraft over Alicante or motor racing at the Terramar racetrack near Sitges. But not only that. With the cooperation of her young friends she would also capture the disconcerting side of existence: delirious images combined with dark and absurd humour – also surprising in someone so young.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
This first murder we can call Where in hell will I find you? Because it is the photographic negative of the mythical image Where in heaven will I find you? that the pictorialist photographer Joan Vilatobà had taken ten years previously. Vilatobà was a close friend of the young girl’s father, a splendid painter.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
In another photograph (she chose the scene and the position of the camera) it is my granny who kills another girl with an imaginary knife and a look of extreme pleasure. And then there is the scene where she allows herself to be pushed by two boys over the edge of a waterfall – height imagined. Or when she captures herself holding the camera in front of the darkness of a mirror. Or when she makes a portrait of a friend on the beach – I think it was Joan Oliver – with a peg in his hair: possibly the first punk photograph in history.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
And in another photograph, this time stereoscopic, she describes the pain of modernity: somebody run over by a motor car. When you look at the image in three dimensions, the victim looks about to be decapitated by the tyre of the car.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
These photographs are prior and contemporary to the first years of the ‘Colla de Sabadell’ group which, with unknowing Dadaism, turned absurd, dark and corrosive humour into an essential capital of twentieth century Catalan literature. My granny ended up photographing Joan Oliver and his brothers in unnatural positions: lined up with their backs to the camera carrying brooms and watering cans or messing around on the beach.
The Sabadell bourgeoisie practiced black humor in privacy.
The guide tells us that between the First World War and the Civil War, the ‘Colla’ used this humour against the conservative and self-complacent city of Sabadell. But like any reductionist view of class, that is not quite how it was. The only thing they did was to make a public and sublime show of that dark, absurd and corrosive humour, so typical of Sabadell, which all the residents, whether factory owners or workers, consumed in private. The humour that the city practiced and that my granny photographed: racing car wheels crushing necks, pre-punk hairstyles and painful strangulations.
Photo: Anita Figueras.
The most dark and ironic of all is that nowadays this great stamp of the city has also been strangled by its own inhabitants.
In the Year of Our Lord 1474 Isabella of Trastámara was crowned Queen of Segovia.
Four years later Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the decoration of the Sistine Chapel to a number of Florentine painters (Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, among others) signed a bull authorising the Kingdom of Castile to nominate inquisitors to put an end to the “Jewish problem”, in exactly the same style as the SS and the Gestapo.
Bartolomé Bermejo, Pietat Desplà, 1490. Catedral de Barcelona.
It was not the first time that the Jews had been persecuted, whether they were converts or not, in the Kingdoms of Europe and Spain. In fact, the Jews had been expelled from England in 1290 and from France in 1394.
In 1348 they were blamed for the arrival of the Black Death which devastated the population of Europe. In 1391 there were major revolts in Seville, Cordoba and Toledo, and they even reached Barcelona with a fierce attack on the Jewish quarter, the Call.
A century later they would also be expelled from Spain, once Isabella and Ferdinand had conquered Granada. Already, in 1476 in the Court held at Madrigal de las Altas Torres (a town of a thousand inhabitant in Avila where Isabella “the Catholic” had been born) they were prohibited from wearing sumptuous fabrics and were ordered to sew a bright red badge onto their right shoulder so that they could be identified, in exactly the same style as the SS and the Gestapo.
Bartolomé Bermejo, Flagelació de Santa Engràcia, c. 1474-1477. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.
Moving towards 1480 and the persecution became unbearable. The Jews were confined to the Calls which became a kind of ghetto. Almost five hundred years later the same thing happened in the territories of the Third Reich.
One of the converts who decided to make his getaway and escape anti-Semitic persecution was a painter form the Flemish school: Bartolomé Cárdena, better known as Bermejo, the name of the colour of the badge but also the word for red-head, and probably from Cordoba as figures on the work Mercy Desplà from 1490.
Bermejo (possibly still wearing the red badge on his shoulder) left an Andalusia that had been conquered by the Castilian troops, to travel to Aragon, where it would seem that the ills blown by the winds were not so bad.
Bartolomé Bermejo, Descens de Crist al Limb, c. 1475. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.
Gradually he moved closer to Barcelona. Before his arrival he painted in Valencia, Daroca and Saragossa where some of the first works in Spain showing signs of a primitive Flemish influence remain. And in 1486 we find him in Barcelona where he competed unsuccessfully against Jaume Huguet for the commission of the organ doors of the Santa Maria del Mar basilica.
One of his most emblematic works, demonstrating his refined mastery of northern oil techniques, as the above mentioned Mercy Desplà, commissioned by the archdeacon of Barcelona Cathedral, Lluís Desplà i d’Oms, who years later from 1506 to 1509 was President of the Government of Catalonia. Bermejo must have been warmly welcomed by Desplà, who would later oppose the Inquisition in Barcelona, albeit unsuccessfully.
Bartolomé Bermejo, Tríptic de la mare de Déu de Montserrat, c. 1483-1484. Catedrale de Nostra Signora Assunta, Aula Capitolare, Acqui Terme (Alessandria).
In Catalonia it was difficult for the Inquisition to become established in its mission to persecute the Jews who continued to practice their religion, but in 1483 Tomás de Torquemada, confessor of the Catholic Monarchs, was made Grand Inquisitor for the Crowns of Castile and Aragon and the Inquisition was established in Valencia and Saragossa (1484), Barcelona (1486), Mallorca (1488), Sicily (1487) and Sardinia (1492).
Was a perfectionist, with erudite knowledge of colour, forms and nature.
Finally, in 1492, between 80,000 and 200,000 Jews were expelled from the peninsula. Around 100,000 came from Castile and about 10,000 from Aragon, ten times fewer. “Tanto monta, monta tanto, Isabel como Fernando”, was the royal motto and roughly translates as “the worth of one is the same as the other” Well, maybe not exactly the “same”.
Bartolomé Bermejo was a perfectionist, with erudite knowledge of colour, forms and nature. He was a Renaissance man, even though that concept did not reach the peninsula until later on. In Mercy Desplà he painted a theme of fauna and flora: over seventy animal and plant species are included in this Catalan Gothic work, which can be seen in the excellent and carefully considered exhibition at the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) on loan from the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Bermejo lived in Aragonese lands until his death in around 1500.
The exhibition Bermejo. The 15th century rebel genius can be visited at the MNAC, in Barcelona, until 19 May.
A group exhibition on time brings together philosophy and contemporary art at Can Felipa. With nine artists and a Heideggerian title that says “Waste time and buy a watch to do so!”
In the Can Felipa factory space hang sheets by Alán Carrasco (Burgos, 1984) listing the number of deaths in labour accidents in Spain in 2018.
In this old textile factory turned exhibition space Júlia Montilla (Barcelona, 1970) document the loss of labour rights of different groups in Barcelona in recent years, in a work that grows and grows. In the space which contained the old Catex looms, Christina Schultz (Munich, 1972) and Juan Luis Moraza (Vitoria, 1960) share slogans about the labour society as a society of pain: Hay que dejar de trabajar/Hay que trabajar el dejar, writes Schultz, while Work Is (All) Over, is Moraza’s ironic message. And it goes on to include new art proposals excellently selected by Clàudia Elies (Barcelona, 1991) and Marc Mela (Mataró, 1989) – winners of the annual competition run by the board of Can Felipa: the former bringing her contemporary art baggage and the latter his education in philosophy and physics.
Theirs is not an easy message. When finding a job continues to be an urgent necessity or most of the population, calling for the end of the tyranny of work requires some explanation, as the curators provide, in fact, in their text. But one step at a time.
Time has never been an easy subject either in philosophy or in art. In his memorable Historias de cronopios y de famas, Julio Cortázar warned that when you receive a watch as a gift you are not only being given an object but you yourself are being gifted to the watch. That is how he condensed that strange human concept that is time. Martin Heidegger also stressed the same point in our unique capacity to anticipate the future and not leave the past (often allowing the intensity of the present to escape us). It is not as though we live within the awareness of time; it is that time lives within us, and this is seen in some of the works of the exhibition.
Juan Luis Moraza.
But this show goes further than a simple existential confirmation. The exhibition insists on the perverse association between time and capitalism. Or, if you like, between the experience of time as a purely productive element and the interest that capital takes from it. If the factories of Poblenou emptied out to the sound of a siren after eight or none hours of alienating work, it is also true that the workers left the looms behind them. But with more recent capitalism where production depends on knowledge and creativity it has come to fill all the hours in the day. Simply because it has become linked to thinking and the mind never stops. It is the intangible and cognitive work which cancels out the old distinction between otium et negotium making all human activity a race for production. Working on your body, your mind, planning holidays…that is “disciplinary time and absolute work” as the curators explain in a text, which allows the works to grow.
The lifespan of the calendar is reduced by pure numerical calculation.
Returning to the exhibition, while the videos of Mariona Moncunill (Tarragona, 1984) provide a good condensation of this outrageously productive regime with the cast-iron discipline of the machines room at the gym, Alberto Gil Cásedas (Saragossa, 1991) focusses on our unhealthy relationship with the calendar, marking off the days like any prison in the world. But he does it with a white pencil on a white sheet of paper. The only testimonies to this useless gesture are the pencil sharpenings, which are seen as an absurd offering by which the lifespan of the calendar is reduced by pure numerical calculation.
Year ago Édith Piaf sang her mythical Je ne veux pas travailler. And even longer ago Friedrich Nietzsche published his atrocious and brave proposal of the eternal return: live every moment as if we wanted it to be repeated again and again. Along these lines of thought about time, Javier Peñafiel (Saragossa, 1964) tries out a new calendar in Can Felipa. Instead of seven days a week and twelve months a year his includes days of his own, days that belong to nobody, common days, similar days and unique days. Try it out. This exhibition is not a call to waste time, but an attempt to make us think about it. And if we think about it, we may be able to turn it around.
The exhibition Perdre el temps i adquirir un rellotge amb aquest propòsit! can be visited at the Center Cívic Can Felipa, Barcelona, until 13 April.
Our simple relationship with technology is the exhibition organised by Mobile Week Barcelona 2019 as the star event in its parallel cultural programme. This exhibit is a reflection on the digital transformation of our society through 14 works by international artists.
All of us without exception enjoy meeting the artist. Inverse triangulation by Solimán López is not seen in its totality in this exhibition but it does reveal its position in this precise moment.
Daniel Canogar, Gust.
The installation is a nod to the famous performance by Marina Abramovic Where is the artist? in which the author’s voice is recited with a metallic voice every 4.33 minutes, in homage to the work by John Cage. Th reading of the coordinates, together with the view of the floor projection offers a ghostly corporal presence which is not actually there but is constantly localised. Converted in data, the body of the artist cannot cease to be present: technology does not allow absences.
Solimán López, Inverse triangulation.
The exhibition sets out from a competition which challenged artists to reconsier the everyday relations between humans and technology, with a particular consideration of Artificial Intelligence. “Far from describing simple connections we seek to trace mutual influential relations which are often not evident in daily life”, says the coordinator of the project, Amanda Masha.
Following an intensive selection process (almost a hundred projects presetned), the exhibition includes 14 works by well-known Spanish and international artists whose apparent simplicity, and in many cases, humour, does not prevent us from approaching the subject of technology in all its complexity.
Martín Nadal and Cesar Escudero, Bittercoin.
Obviously, the generation gap influences the way in which the visitors see the work. Those born into in the digital arts will be quite comfortable with data streaming, cryptocurrency, digital identities ad Artificial Intelligence. On the other hand, those who have lived through the analogical pay more attention to the information posters than to the works, hoping and praying that the words on the wall can offer the key to understanding works which actually are easier to grasp by simple intuition. So, on the one hand there are those who try to relate to the works even though they may not be works which require interaction with the public. And then there is the static viewer who prefers to understand the piece from a safe distance, critically analysing it or rummaging through their knowledge of art history for some kind of relationship which leads them back to traditional aesthetic canons.
Maybe technology has transformed art and also its audiences.
In the words of Aristotle “the truth is in the middle” in his reflections of the Being and Becoming, maybe technology has transformed art and also its audiences. The work is no longer something unalterable but something which evolves and has a “becoming” which depends on its interaction with the viewer, by whichit enriches and gives added meaning and value to its presence.
Eugenio Ampudia, Try Not To Think Too Much.
All the works like of Try Not to Think Too Much by Eugenio Ampudia offer this sense. It is an interactive sculpture which emphasises the side of art as an effective means of communication, playing with the paradox of interrupting communication through noise, which the audience generates by interacting with the circuits of a deconstructed sythnthesisor. The piece is one of the Colección BEEP de Arte Electrónico and one of four in the show alongside Luci by José Manuel Berenguer which reproduces the self-management system of the south-west Asian lights, Gust by Daniel Canogar, a dynamic canvas which turns into real time according to the direction and intensity of the city in which it is intalled and Tycho: Test One by Paul Friedlander, which shows the pioneering research of Tycho Brahe, the first astronomer to see the refraction of light, and his intellectual heir Johannes Kepler.
Paul Friedlander, Tycho: Test One.
Among the most compassionate works, the installation Data gossiping robots by Mónica Rikić, shows a community of neighbours where small robots exchange gossip taken from social networks. The work looks at privacy and the use of technology as a generator of collective intelligence, and forms part of a long-term project on robots, Artificial Intelligence and social relations. It also deals with the collective intelligence of Pos-society by Fidel García Valenzuela which takes a new look on the concept of mass media and the model of information control established by power regimes. Other related projects are Environment Dress 2.0 by María Castellanos and Alberto Valverde, the contradictions of Bit currencies and their energy needs (Bittercoin by Martín Nadal and Cesar Escudero) and the relationship between human beings and the Smartphone (MatchPhone by Adriana Tamargo and Guillermo Escribano).
The exhibition Nuestra sencilla relación con la tecnología can be visited in the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, until 16 March.
“La Infinita is neither an art centre nor a museum”. This is the forthright declaration of the artist Jordi Colomer, as we contemplate the imposing view of L’Hospitalet and Montjuïc from the rear façade of La Infinita, which is enjoying a long 3-day celebration this weekend to mark its maiden flight.
In the last Venice Biennial, Colomer (Barcelona, 1962) made a case in the Spanish pavilion for nomadism and the dissolution of the border in this globalised world. But now it is his turn, alongside his partner the producer Carolina Olivares to remain as the sedentary leader of a unique artistic project in these 700m2 which occupy the third floor of an old industrial building in the Avinguda Carrilet in L’Hospitalet. The nomads in this case are the artists and creators who come to visit and work at La Infinita in infinite disciplines and with infinite talents. And, of course the public which will form a fundamental part of the project.
L’Hospitalet, seen from La Infinita.
La Infinita is the result of the hybridity of contemporary artistic practices and also a collaborative spirit which impregnates all current artistic projects. Colomer himself has been working like this for some time and it is as if La Infinita were a kind of large-scale work of his situated in a specific space in the Cultural District of L’Hospitalet.
But if La Infinita is neither an art centre nor a museum, what is it? “We want to be a laboratory that is open to creation, research and production and is also a meeting point between the visual and performing arts”, explains Colomer. All kinds of creation will fit in, but La Infinita wants to prioritise “Live” and “living arts”. Performance, dance, theatre, sound research, workshops, literature, ephemeral visual works…basically a mix of all these is what the visitor to La Infinita will find. And obviously there will also been exchanges and trade-offs, residences, events and all kinds of presentations with an educational programme which could even contemplate summer schools for children.
La Infinita has been in operation for months in this immense industrial space – a former printworks. The space was reformed by Jordi Colomer himself alongside the architect and film-maker Albert Garcia-Alzorriz, who worked with the artist on the pavilion project for the Venice Biennial. In fact, some of the elements from the Spanish pavilion have been used here, such as the rows of seating for the small space dedicated to video projections, for example, and some of the original shelving and other pieces have also been conserved from the old printworks.
Apart from the immense rear room with the huge windows, the space is ideal as a multiuse space and place for performances and festivals, including workshops by the resident artists and by Colomer. During this first phase British artists Duncan Gibbs and Joe Highton have worked alongside Víctor Ruiz-Colomer, precisely to prepare the opening.
Although La Infinita “shuns the traditional exhibition format”, there will be a space in the building where artistic interventions will go piling up like an exquisite corpse. The Uruguayan artist resident in Barcelona, Yamandú Canosa, who will represent Uruguay in the next Venice Biennial with the curator David Armengol, is the first artists to take part in the La Infinita Wallpainting – a long corridor wall destined for temporary interventions of six months.
The project should be completely allied to Cultural District of L’Hospitalet.
La Infinita is a self-managed cultural association, founded last year by Colomer and the poet Eduard Escoffet. But there are also other accomplices such as producer Marta Oliveres, former director of the department of visual and performing arts of the Ramon Llull Institute. Its founders are clear that the project should be completely allied to Cultural District of L’Hospitalet, which already has more than 500 independent artists, studios and cultural industrial spaces, many escaping from the high prices in Barcelona. “A lot of them have come from Poblenou”, says Colomer, who has also given up his studio there to establish himself in L’Hospitalet.
For the moment it looks like the opening party is going to be a crazy do. It will start on the night of Friday 22 with a broadcast by Radio Infinita and an opening ceremony designed by the Las Huecas group, who will carry an Olympic torch from Montjuïc to La Infinita. You can find all the information about the activities which go on until Sunday at the website www.lainfinitalh.org.
Many of the old paintings hanging in city apartments have a small gold titleplates with the name of the painter – usually one of the Grand Masters: Murillo, Ribera, Velázquez, Zurbarán.
It is a way of attributing them to, or rather validating the image through, the association with a major painter and a method which was particularly common in the Spanish post-war period.
Junceda, Esteva y Cia., 1915.
The new bourgeoisie, helped by “developmentalism” was growing in the shadow of Francoism and needed to reaffirm its new social position through art. Some of the antique dealers of the time contributed to this craving by selling dreams or paintings with titleplates, driven by a strange mix of enlightened ignorance and economic ambition. The painting arrived home, was hung on the wall and the legend commenced. By word of mouth the families reproduced the excellent qualities of the painting, which had to be priceless since it was by one of the painters that hung in the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Nobody bothered to look at the painting with a clear vision or to study it, taking for granted that it corresponded to the name engraved on the plate in black on gold, like the neon letters of the highway offer the promise of the flesh and the devil. The painting were never verified because there is no greater truth than a family story repeated a thousand times at the dinner table. Something like that is never relativized or discussed because, who would call into question the legend forged through the word established in our roots, in our ancestors?
Benejam, El nuevo rico visita al noble [The new rich visits the nobleman], c. 1946.
The years pass and the paintings remain there, until one day the antique dealers arrive. Whenever I see a painting with a titleplate I am almost certain that the work in the frame does not correspond to the name on the plate. The same happens with the certificates of certain paintings. Several years ago at an auction in Madrid a Sorolla was on sale and when the auctioneer announced the item, certified by an expert the name of whom I would not recommend remembering, somebody in the public jumped up and said, “that is the problem”.
Yes, that was the problem – the certificate penalised the sale more than helping it, and with the nameplate it is the same: it is a source of suspicion. Sometimes I have had my doubts, mostly played down by saying that the work would need to be closely studied to see if the attribution was accurate. And I have encountered owners who were put out by this, some even becoming aggressive and defending their case with incongruent arguments, mainly related to time. Over the years I have learned that there is nothing more difficult in my profession than denying the myth of a titleplate, because for the owner it is an act of faith, it is the truth of his lineage and – let’s face it, nobody goes home and shakes the genealogical true as if they are trying to make apples fall.
On the titleplate I read the dubious name of Goya.
I am not sure if I should be confessing something which happened to me recently. I went to see two sisters in their nineties in a flat in the Eixample district of Barcelona. A melancholic room staircase took me to their front door. They received me in a small entrance room which gave onto a hallway lit by what seemed to be a Toc-h lamp. In the living room hung a portrait of a corpulent man dressed as a marshal. On the titleplate I read the dubious name of Goya. I immediately remembered the original. It was the portrait of his tailor in the Prado. They told me that the painting had been bought by their grandfather and that they wanted to sell it. When they referred to the painting by the surname of the painter a small shiver ran down my spine.
That sale would be their last chance, economically-speaking. They wanted to leave this world with some money to pass on to their niece, who had financial troubles but lived for taking care of them. “She is so good to us and he deserves all the money that this painting can give him to make him a millionaire”, the old woman said with tears in her eyes. While she was talking, curiously I didn’t think of telling her the truth but telling her how much the copy was worth – no more than a thousand euros. I decided to put an end to the visit using any excuse. I haven’t got back to them. I do not want to reveal the truth for the niece to immediately stop looking after them. It is better to live in the deception of a common dream: believing that the titleplate is a signature, a truth as unquestionable as the verses of the Bible.
As a result of the age of its own invention, the motor car cannot have been a theme in art much before the turn of the twentieth century.
However, being a modern contraption with no aesthetic pedigree, it would take some time for it to become a full part of the thematic panorama of Catalan art. Painters seemed uncomfortable painting thing that were not timeless, and although they began to see automobiles in the street they tended to ignore them when it came to choosing motifs for paintings which were destined for serious exhibitions.
Ramon Casas, Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu in a car, 1901. M.N.A.C., Barcelona.
The most visible exception to this is undoubtedly Ramon Casas, who was a car enthusiast from the start and also had sufficient family resources to not have to worry about the fashions or demands of his potential clients. So the motor car appears quite naturally in many of his works, from very early on.
In 1901, in the “Els 4 Gats” tavern, of which he was one of the promoters, he painted a large format oil (now in the National Art Museum of Catalonia – MNAC) of himself and Pere Romeu, who ran the tavern. Both were wearing large fur coats which almost obscure them from view and travelling in one of the first motor cars in the country. It would come to be like an allegory of the twentieth century in the same way that The Tandem – a work of the same dimensions, but with two people on a tandem bicycle (also in the MNAC) – had hung on the walls of “Els 4 Gats” in the last years of the nineteenth century, since it was painted in 1987.
Ramon Casas, Painting, 1902. Cercle del Liceu, Barcelona.
Casas’ most spectacular work on the theme of the motor car still has to be the panel in the rotunda of the Cercle de Liceu de Barcelona (1902) which represents a large car at night in the foreground, with bright headlights shining almost insultingly towards the viewer, while in the background a small orchestra plays in front of a building that is none other than the pavilion built by the Cercle for the Universal Exhibition of 1888. An automobile is also the protagonist in one of the tiles of the series The Advances of the 19th Century which Casas made to reward the subscribers to his magazine “Pèl & Ploma” (Skin and Lead) in 1903. And the fact is that Casas was such a lover of cars that he even printed one in colour with him at the wheel as his letter head. Later on Casas continued to include the odd car pre-eminently in his paintings, such as the The Depot in 1907 (private collection).
Ramon Casas, Advertising postcard, Wertheim, c. 1910.
In the most popular graphic arts there was not the same aversion to motor cars as there was in “serious” painting. Apel·les Mestres – who had actually chauffeured for Casas on occasion – did not have any problem putting cars on the picture cards (c. 1911) that he drew as advertising collectables for chocolate and other products.
Other satirical draughtsmen often showed petrol-driven cars in their works, when these were still a novelty. Joan Junceda and Ricard Opisso, at least, included the automobile in their jokes in “¡Cu-Cut!” in 1904, as Josep Aragay , singed Jacob, would do in the “Papitu” between 1909 and 1911, where he even showed races, and later on from 1924-25 in El Borinot”. Such a bucolic noucentista painter, Aragay showed himself to be quite an addict when it came to including motor cars in his satirical works, and he also often included motorcycles and aeroplanes.
Josep Aragay, Two Continental tire ads, 1912.
The poster was another genre without topical prejudices: here the priority was not “art” but efficiency and communicative capacity. Ramon Casas made posters for motorists (Auto-Garage Central, c. 1903, Copa Catalunya, 1908, and Real Automovil Club de Cataluña. Copa Tibidabo, 1914), and later Dionís Baixeras would also create elegant posters for the world of motoring (1920- c 1923).
Pere Torné-Esquius, who habitually practiced as an illustrator, also sometimes gave centre stage to motor cars when he painted. In his Courtship in oil, most likely from 1903, and now in the collection of Artur Ramon, where two lecherous-looking scoundrels try to pick up two young girls using the attraction of their motorcar as bait. The painting has a communicative freshness about it which seems more like a graphic sketch than an exhibition painting.
Pere Torné-Esquius, Galanteig [Courtship], 1903. Artur Ramon collection, Barcelona.
On the other hand, representing motor cars in a decorative style was not so unusual either. On the main floor apartment of the Casa Burés in Barcelona – a richly Modernist building, there is a dining room containing several reliefs with a sports theme by Joan Carreras i Farré from 1902 to 1904. One of them shows motoring.
Joan Carreras i Farré, Relief at Can Burés, Barcelona, c. 1902-1904.
One serious painter, and the strong arm of Modernism, Lluís Graner, also used the motor car in the foreground of one of his oil paintings. However, this was during his period in the United States, since he never strayed from his topic of landscapes, interiors or genre painting during his time in Catalonia, often using strong contrasts of lighting as his trademark. In The Two Sisters, exhibited in 1916 in the Lawlor Galleries in New York and now in the Hispanic Society of America, a motor car appears in the foreground with its headlights creating those contrasts typical in Graner.
Obviously, it is not such a conceptually daring work as the futuristic racing cars of Giacomo Balla who was working at roughly the same time, but his theme was still much of a liberty in the field of painting at the time.
Lluís Graner, The Two Sisters, c. 1905, Hispanic Society of America, New York.
Ramon Casas was a pioneer in this theme and continued painting it, but gradually several painters of the 1917 Generation started to include cars in their urban landscapes, a pictorial genre which would flourish more than ever from 1930 on in the main art exhibitions, and which especially centred on Barcelona.
In April 1929, Josep Mompou, the creator of a personal Fauvism, headed up the catalogue of his solo exhibition in the Sala Parés in Barcelona with an oil painting entitled Autos, only known to date from black and white photographs. It was the same exhibition in which he presented other works reflecting the modern world such as Tennis, Boxing and Dancing. So the trepidation of showing paintings centred on sport in an art gallery seemed to have disappeared. Like many of his colleagues, Mompou used the motor car as a chromatic stimulus integrated completely in urban life, so often painted with the dynamism of the Fauvist line to which they belonged.
Josep Mompou, La Rambla, 1954. Museu de Valls.
In the autumn of the same year, Xavier Güell, natural of Tarragona and a unique and versatile artist, dared to present at the Modern National and Foreign Art Exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries in Barcelona, organised from Paris by Torres-Garcia. The work was the sonorous Asphalt, which included a car horn, making him one of the first, albeit fleetingly, Catalan Avant-garde artists. The work was shown next to other by Mondrian, Arp, Van Doesburg, Freundlich, Hélion, Lhote, Planell, Sandalinas and also, of course, Torres-Garcia, among others, and was bought by France after which nothing more is known about it. But it was certainly celebrated and at the same time reviled in Catalonia during its time.
The car was a very characteristic element of the petit-bourgeois world.
During the Spanish post-war period it was not unusual to see automobile themes in the art galleries. In 1955 on a trip to New York, Josep Beet Espuny, from Tortosa, changed the Gothic cathedrals and medieval palaces that were familiar in Europe for skyscrapers and great piles of cars in large parking lots at a time when this was not really seen here.
Josep Benet Espuny, Parking lot in New York, 1956.
Even then you still saw more motor cars on posters than in paintings in galleries. Tomàs Vellvé created imaginative posters for the International Motor Show in Barcelona in the 1960s and 70s. And cars also appeared a lot in comics: to give just one example, in the Ulysses Family by Marino Benejam in “TBO” the car was a very characteristic element of the petit-bourgeois world that he wanted to reflect.
Marino Benejam, La familia Ulises.
With the success of the second Avant-gardists, artistic criteria changed radically. As part of the MAN new art exhibitions in Barcelona, painter Amèlia Riera was behind an impressive group exhibition in the central thoroughfare of Rambla de Catalunya in 1974, where the best Catalan artists of the time each manipulated the chassis of a car – which Amèlia had managed to get of herself through her friendship with the director of the SEAT plant – to produce explosive creations. Apart from her, those taking part in the chassis exhibition, generally with vague pop influences were J.J.Tharrats, Arranz Bravo & Bartolozzi, Joan Vilacasas, Ràfols Casamada, Artigau, Hernàndez Pijuan among many others, such as Jordi Pericot, the most talked-about (but not written about, obviously – this was in the middle of the Franco dictatorship and censorship was at its height). A car painted grey like the armed police, the windows of which exuded a magma-like ochre-coloured mass that made you think of shit.
Joan Josep Tharrats, Tòtem, 1974. One of the works made from the Seat chassis installed in Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona.
There are many other examples in many other genres, but this is an article for information and not a motoring handbook.
The presentation of the exhibition by Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi (Rome, 1914 – São Paulo, 1992), is the first event to take place since the storm blew up about the Miró Foundation as a result of several dismissals and its financial losses, falling numbers of visitors and a fall in demand for travelling monographic exhibitions about Joan Miró which the foundation produces.
As we announced, Lina Bo Bardi Drawing, is a good exhibition, better than anticipated even, but not one which is capable of generating the kind of effect that the foundation seems to need.
Lina Bo Bardi, Furniture designs for the Mondadori House, Milan, 1945.
This doesn’t take anything away from the approach of the exhibition where the drawings are tackled not from a professional perspective, but as personal expressions. Intimate and delicate, it is an introspective show which requires attention and a love for details; in a way it is a silent exhibition in an ever-noisy world, which might make it difficult to attract the new audiences mentioned by director Marko Daniel in his assessment of the situation.
Bob Wolfenson, Lina Bo Bardi, 1978. IBCV Archives.
For his part the curator Zeuler Rocha Lima has defined drawing as “a tool for resistance against the black hole of the iPhone, advertising and commercialism”. The open nature of its installation, in keeping with the instructions of Bo Bardi, integrates the works in the space (and not stuck to the wall) to emphasise their three-dimensional character, is particularly successful. It manages to shape the multi-faceted personality of the architect, her way of seeing the world, the ambiguity of her thinking and her search for simplicity and originality. “She loved the theatre. Her drawings are like theatre sets, like Brecht who did not want to separate the audience from the work”, Lima has said.
Lina Bo Bardi, Set design study for Caligula at the Castro Alves Theatre, Salvador, Bahia, 1960.
Unlike other women from her generation, Bo Bardi was always present in her field – she was neither ignored before or discovered afterwards, not even on the hundredth anniversary of her birth four years ago, when exhibitions of her work were organised around the world. So, despite the undoubtable interest in her as a person, a controversial woman still capable of serving up surprises, it will be difficult to achieve long queues for this show.
“Miró and the temporary exhibitions should have a symbiotic relationship.”
Daniel, well aware that the foreign visitors come to the foundation to admire the Mirós, has defended the spirit of the institution which on the express wishes of its founder needs to be working with emerging contemporary art, even though for the last six years this has been relegated to the Espai 13. “Miró and the temporary exhibitions should have a symbiotic relationship”, says Daniel, who is working on a bailout and a sustainable financial plan to reach the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation in 2025 with healthy accounts.
Lina Bo Bardi, Interior for the Casa de Vidro, São Paulo, 1951.
The “painful and exceptional decision” to let seven of the workers go and not renew the contract of an eighth remains, but there will be no more dismissals. While waiting for the audit to be completed, Daniel was able to say that in 2017 the deficit stood at 199,447 euros, thanks to an extraordinary contribution by Barcelona City Council of 400,000 euros and that in 2018 the debt of 655,000 was reduced to 290,000 euros thanks to another bailout by the council of 365,000 euros.
Currently there are still 458,575 euros left to find. Daniel says that the situation, which he has defined as being “extremely delicate”, has mainly been caused by a fall in the numbers of visitors, from 583,883 in 2011 to 352,903 in 2018, since the institution covers 80 per cent of its budget from its own resources. Another reason has been a sharp fall in the demand for exhibitions of Miró’s work, which has always been the foundation’s classic resource. “They have gone from five in 2014 to none in 2018”, Daniel remarks, reminding us that the “travelling exhibitions have to be found and worked on and that is what we will do”.
Other measures implemented are a reduction in infrastructure costs, extension of opening times, a rise in the general entrance price to 13 euros, promotion and marketing campaigns and the production of shared projects. Daniel insists on speaking in the future tense and has rejected any analysis of past mistakes – at least publicly – which could have led to the current situation. He has also rejected the idea of using the collection of graphic works that Joan Miró left to be cold in exceptional circumstances. He concluded by saying, “The objective is to balance the books. This is a conjectural deficit, not a structural one”.
The exhibition Lina Bo Bardi Drawing can be visited at the Joan Miró Foundation, in Barcelona, until 26 May.
“I have been making video installations for some time. They allow me to continue making films in different ways. Because in cinema films there are some things that cannot be done. Either because of the format, or the context, or the audiences, which have become very conservative.”
These are the words of Isaki Lacuesta (Girona, 1975) during an interview carried out on the occasion of his exhibition in Girona, which was also shown last year at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It can be seen at Bòlit, Girona’s contemporary art centre which, although it was established in the midst of the crisis and had to give up on the idea of having a dedicated building, ten years on and it has a stable programme and is well connected with other European centres of creation.
Isaki Lacuesta, Les imatges eco. Photo: Jorge Fuembuena.
Maker of now cult award-winning films such as Entre dos aguas and Los pasos dobles (Conxa d’Or award in San Sebastián in 2018 and 2011), Isaki Lacuesta’s exhibition offers a retrospective made from material produced from 2000 to the present. Curated by Sylvie Pras and Judith Revault in Paris and per Carme Sais in Girona, it occupies three spaces in Bòlit, each with a different title but all pointing in the same direction: to the idea of duplicity and plurality, of resonance, opposition and symmetry.
Isaki Lacuesta, Les imatges eco. Photo: Jorge Fuembuena,
Els films dobles occupy most of the exhibition, with nine screens and two projections on each: one on the left and one on the right where two stories grow in parallel. If Lacuesta shuns the clichés of experimental stories – his could not be further from surrealism and other common places of the now classical avant-gardes – they develop as a great exercise in the construction of the way in which they are seen. Some of his double films show a great visual affinity. Others do not. Some combine fiction and documentary. Others present the same central characters but with different dialogue. Yet others are constructed using medical resonance imagery. And finally, others seek images “tuned” by Google Earth to whiten certain geographical points where unconfessable realities exist.
Isaki Lacuesta, La tercera cara de la Lluna. Photo: Jorge Fuembuena.
But in all of them the storyline comes from the side of those who sees it, who have to decide which beginning and ending they will have, which scenes should serve at each moment, how to manage the eye which jumps from one screen to the other, and how to apply criteria which depend exclusively on them, the viewers. Lacuesta’s works leave it quite clear how the responsibility of seeing them works: even when they shun the experimental register, even in the classic case of a single screen, the end result always comes from the viewer.
Isaki Lacuesta, La tercera cara de la Lluna. Photo: Jorge Fuembuena.
However, Isaki Lacuesta demands yet another thing of the viewer. He demands that they ask themselves what level of truth they are prepared to assume. His micro-stories, constructed to a large extent with his partner and screenwriter Isa Campo, explore subjects such as the effects of a devastating crisis on the collective imagery of a country, clandestine excavations of common graves from a civil war or the path that society has to follow to abandon armed struggle. But they also open up lines of philosophical and sensory investigation such as seeing what happens in the brain when it is fed emotionally significant stimuli or trying to recreate the optical journey of a baby before it is born. This is how he jumps between documentary, fiction, drama, comedy, true stories, ethnography, politics and neurology, etc. With great freedom to invalidate all categories, both narrative and epistemological.
“It allows me to do what I cannot do in films.”
In his exhibition in Girona, together with his friend and sculptor Pep Admetlla, Lacuesta has produced a forceful installation for the chapel of Sant Nicolau, which is one of the spaces of Bòlit. This is a “transitive sculpture, at the line between architecture and sculpture”, as described by its creators. Poetic and mystical its geometry of light and sound evokes the ancient architecture of Mesopotamia and at the same time the futuristic dystopias of the great visual stories like Blade Runner. La tercera cara de la lluna (the third side of the moon) brings together the modus operandi of Pep Admetlla, a renaissance creator who does not understand the drawing without the architecture or the human anatomy without sculpture, and the unique narrative capacity of Isaki Lacuesta: “It allows me to do what I cannot do in films: make the viewer move through the space, achieve more than one point of view. Make them the final editor”.
And that is precisely the effect of Isaki Lacuesta’s proposal: you are put in the unusual and not always comfortable position of being the final editor. In May the exhibition will travel to Arts Santa Mònica in Barcelona. Don’t miss it!
Echo Images. Isaki Lacuesta can be visited in Bòlit. Centre d’Art Contemporani, Bòlit_StNicolau and Bòlit_LaRambla, of Girona, until 28 April 2019.
The AES+F group doesn’t care whether they are labelled as frivolous or kitsch. Their aesthetic is generally considered to be on the verge of bad taste.
But for these four Russian artists (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyasky and Vladimir Fridkes, all brought up during the Soviet period), the language of art, pure and simple, and the iconographic references to the western artistic tradition are tools for their artistic practice. The group was established in 1987, and since then, whether through photographs, video or large multimedia installations, their work has been exhibited in places such as the Venice Biennial, George Pompidou Centre and the Tate. They are a reference for contemporary Russian art.
AES+F, Mare Mediterraneum.
Now, having just been exhibited at the Manifesta 12 in Palermo, their project Mare Mediterraneum can now be seen at the Senda gallery in Barcelona. The project deals uncompromisingly with the drama of migrations and refugees and European policies on this situation.
Obviously this topic is not new in current artistic practices. But what differentiates the work of AES+F from other projects on the same subject is the language that they use, and this is where the provocation of the group lies. Modelled on the Neo-Rococo style kitsch of the Italian region of Capodimonte, nine porcelain sculptures represents very unusual scenes of sea rescues. In luxury yachts and sports craft, beautiful, young and rich tourists take on board immigrants who look exactly like their rescuers. It sometimes seems like a celestial scene from the Baroque. The fraternisation is total; they all look happy on the swell of golden waves.
We all know that such a glamourous scene in these circumstances is complete fantasy. The irony is extreme and might even be annoying. Not just for the scene that is represented but for the use of an aesthetic associated with the most vulgar type of tourism, which here reminds us more than anything of Lladró ornaments.
The sea is as beautiful as it is menacing.
But AES+F know what they want: to provoke the viewer directly. Similarly, there is also a video projection in the exhibition which shows a digital sea that changes colour according to the time of day and the weather. It is as beautiful as it is menacing, with no signs of life, which makes you think more of the hidden deaths of so many people with the dream of a better life.
The AES + F group reminds us that in ancient times the Mediterranean united an entire world. Now it is synonymous with tragedy and intolerance. “This is the privilege of art, of the language that speaks directly to the viewer, of visual impact. Other ways of approaching this topic, which are a camouflage of art, seen dehumanised”, they say. They propose the use of the language of kitsch as a political message. It is as legitimate as a documentary project and has a more “serious” format, which does not usually tug so much on the conscience of the viewer. Therein lies the dilemma.
The AES +F exhibition Mare Mediterraneum can be seen in the Senda gallery in Barcelona until 23 March.
One of the most famous paintings by Titian is Venus and Adonis, and it enjoyed so much success at the time that many replicas were made of it, with minimal variations. In the work, the artist does not focus on the myth portrayed by Ovid, but is a free version and one which, to this day, we cannot be sure whether it is of his own invention.
It encapsulates opposing standards of behaviour, male and female, which have impregnated most societies for centuries and centuries.
Palmira Puig-Giró, Palmira Puig and Marcel Giró. Courtesy RocioSantaCruz.
Titian’s Adonis is a stocky young man, in the strictest sense of the word, with a round face framed by chestnut-coloured curls. His clothes only half cover his chest and he is walking decisively forward, pulled by three large hunting dogs. Venus, completely naked, is crowned by golden plaits. She is with her back to the viewer, leaning back with her right arm across the torso of the boy, clinging on to stop him from leaving. They are looking at each other intently, but he is moving forward, almost dragging her with him because she will not let go, and the dogs are pulling hard. We do not know if they have just made love…but we should probably assume they have because the of the presence of the little Cupid or Eros, who is lying asleep in the branches on the left of the background. In Ovid’s story, she foresees, in vain, the danger that will lead him ominously to his death if he goes hunting. Another interpretation of the scene, although one which is not now the case, is that Adonis is gay and not sexually interested in ladies.
Tiziano, Venere e Adone, 1554. Museo del Prado, Madrid.
But beyond the beauty of the work, Adonis, the man, represents movement, decision, moving forward, and Venus, the woman, represents calm and sensuality. He is moving on and is unstoppable while she is relegated to make him stay by offering pleasure at the table and in bed. The Bible, the origin of all inequalities of gender and the most pronounced of all sexism begins by establishing the abyss between the two sexes right from the start, ennobling the male and denigrating the female. Eve is not the rib of Adam because all you will find on a rib is a chunk of meat and fat, and there are no metaphors for that.
The three hunting dogs have become a shiny, new Jaguar convertible.
Almost five hundred years after Titian, the Venus and Adonis appears again, , in a double self-portrait, this time by the Estudi Giró, on the outskirts of São Paulo. The year is around 1950 and everything seems to have radically, at least as far as those two are concerned. They are wearing bathing suits. Adonis is still stocky, from working out at the gym, Physical Culture style, and Venus is sitting beside him with one leg tucked under and she is not tugging at him. Nobody is holding anyone back. The three hunting dogs have become a shiny, new Jaguar convertible –an XK 120 Roadster model, parked on the beach. There is no hint of tension and judging by the type of car they are sitting in, and also their relaxed appearance it would seem that things are going very well for them. Eros/Cupid doesn’t get a look in because this couple don’t need any incentives.
Palmira Puig-Giró, Estudo, c. 1950. Courtesy RocioSantaCruz.
Marcel Giró, the Adonis in the photo, fled Catalonia at the end of the Civil War and went to Columbia. Palmira Puig, the Venus of the Jag, was also from a Republican family, and went to find him as soon as she was able to leave Spain, after entering into a marriage of convenience in 1943. From Columbia they moved to Brazil. Giró, who was from Badalona, tried his luck in the textile industry but it didn’t work out. Palmira set up a photographic studio for advertising and marketing, with which she did really well, and it would soon become one of the biggest in the country. That must be where the Jaguar came from! Two years ago, the RocioSantaCruz gallery presented a magnificent exhibition of the work of Marcel Giró which was a total revelation. In fact, since 2011 Giró’s work has gone from strength to strength, first in South America in the context of the review of the so-called Paulist School, which was a pioneer in introducing modernity to Brazil in the field of photography.
Palmira Puig-Giró, Untitled, c. 1950. Courtesy RocioSantaCruz.
As one studies and goes deeper into Giró’s work, a surprise appears, in that Palmira was actually the author of many of the works that until now everyone thought were by him, because when they went out to take photographs, they used the same camera, passing it from one to the other with complete naturalness. It doesn’t seem as if either Marcel or Palmira nursed any desire to be famous through their creations. They exhibited every once in a while, in group exhibition at the Cine Club Bandeirante, of which they were both members, and carried on working. Nor does it seem that there was any competitiveness or relation of superiority between them. The worked together and took forward together creative work which was also a business and one which worked very well for them. If in 2017 the RocioSantCruz gallery offered us a better understanding of the impeccable and exquisite photographic production of Marcel, now it brings us Palmira, who has so much in common with him. And it is a fantastic idea that one day we might just be able to call them Estudi Giró because one day we may not need to distinguish them.
The exhibition Palmira Puig-Giró, photographer can be seen at the RocioSantaCruz gallery in Barcelona, until 16 March 2019.
When Barcelona had no share in the computer games industry, it suddenly often appeared as the setting for one. Now that it has become the unarguable capital of said industry, the computer games no longer appear. Does anyone know what is going on?
The first time that the city of Barcelona appeared in print was in 1593 in the book Civitates Orbis Terrarum, with texts by Georg Braun and engravings by Frans Hogenberg. The first time that the image of Barcelona appeared in a computer games was in 1987, in one of the platform games for ZX Spectrum entitled Screwie.
Frans Hogenberg, Barcelona. Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1572.
By the way, the image was the façade of the Cathedral of Barcelona, dedicated to the Holy Cross and Santa Eulàlia.
But the first world-famous classic in which a reference to Barcelona appeared was the addictive arcade game Pang, also known as Buster Bros (1989): in three screens the Sagrada Familia appeared as a backdrop…and of course Gaudí is de rigeur in any kind of digital localisation of Barcelona. Two years after the Chernobyl tragedy, in 1988, there was an arcade game of the runner genre, set in a post-nuclear world called Chelnov. Atomic Runner. Among the main apocalyptic scenes you can see La Pedrera and the Sagrada Familia.
And don’t forget that one of the most frequently visited building of the city – Camp Nou – has formed part of the FIFA series since 1998.
Another genre which is in love with Barcelona is motor racing. The first appearance was Outrunners (1993). The genre would return in 1999 with Toyland Racing, which includes scenes of the most attractive cities in the world: Hong Kong, New York, Moscow, etc… This was followed by Europe Racing (2001), Project Gotham Racing 2 (2003), Grid 2 (2013) and the hyperrealist Grid: Autosport (2014), with breathtaking views of the Plaça Espanya, Passeig Colom and, of course, the Sagrada Familia.
Camp Nou. FIFA 18, 2017.
Barcelona also provides the setting for games involving role. Well, the interiors don’t show a lot but they do suggest that you are in Barcelona. These are medieval adventure games which include an episode here, like Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (2003), Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery (in the great 2009 version for portable consoles) and Lost Chronicles of Zerzura (2012), with clichés like the Spanish Inquisition.
There is a Flamenco tablao in front of the Sagrada Família.
But it is not all clichés: the great skateboard game Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004) shows scenes of Sants railway station, Park Güell and the port… along with a bull that we need to send packing by throwing tomatoes at him. In the scene “Fireworks over Barcelona” from Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (2012) there is a Flamenco tablao in front of the Sagrada Família.
Fireworks over Barcelona. Tekken Tag Tournament 2, 2012.
Barcelona appears briefly in Interpol: The trail of Dr. Chaos (2007), Invizimals 2 (2010), the FPS GoldenEye 007, and in Scenery Spain 2: Spanish airports, a complement to Flight Simulator 2002 where you can fly low over the city and take in all the details.
But the games that give the best and most detailed view of Barcelona are: Wheelman (2009), with Vin Diesel driving and shooting down the Rambles. And Warcelona (2011),a map of Left 4 Dead 2, with a faithfully produced scene of the Plaça Espanya… zombies and all. The creator, Carlos Coronado, told me that he had to dodge the security guards in the metro to be able to take real measurements of the scenes.
Carlos Coronado, Warcelona, 2011.
Barcelona is a city with 150 companies producing computer games, and a tourist attraction that knows no limits. Anyone fancy creating a game which features the city?
The painter Ramon Casas was the great columnist for one of the most brilliant and convulsive periods of the history of Catalonia. The Gothsland Gallery has put on a magnificent exhibition of his work, which accompanies the presentation of the first volume of the Complete Catalogue of the artist.
Ramon Casas (Barcelona, 1866-1932) is one of the best-known Catalan painters. But his international fame is not the same as that for the young artists who succeeded him: Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. Even though Picasso earned his living falsifying Casas’ work.
Gabriel Pinós at the Ramon Casas exhibition. Photo: © Enrique Marco.
He was an establishment painter, but also an extremely popular creator of advertisements and advertising icons such as the famous Anís del Mono. He was also the author of the monumental and canonical oil painting of the socially reclamatory The Charge 1899). He also reflected the new role of women in modern metropolitan societies and gave the urban masses a pictoric presence, incorporating new technologies such as the bicycle, the motor car, the water heater and the gramophone, etc. In an artistic repertoire which was limited up until then.
Ramon Casas, The garage, 1907.
Ramon Casas is infinite…and obvious. So obvious that 30 monographs have been published of his and there are yet things to be said. Isabell Coll published a catalogued which included more than 670 works. Gabriel Pinós, the person behind the Gothsland Gallery and the recently created Ramon Casas Estate, has just published the first complete catalogue of the artist, with almost one thousand works.
Ramon Casas. Complete Works (there are versions in Catalan, Spanish and English) is composed of 12 specialist studies (Gabriel Pinós reserves a double chapter for the two- and four-wheeled vehicles of the artist) each dealing with a specific theme. For example, Ramon Cases through his own image, by Juan C. Bejarano, Casas as a portrait painter of the famous, friends and family, by Jordi Sánchez i Ruiz, Júlia Peraire as the definitive artist’s muse, by Emiliano Cano Díaz, and his famous side as a poster artist by Santi Barjau.
Ramon Casas, At the gates of the Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1900.
This 340-page volume with over a thousand illustrations costs 120 euros. Apparently this is expensive for a small format paperback publication. But this is a reference work with articles written in an accessible but rigorous language, full of hitherto unpublished contributions. It is a private initiative with no institutional funding. In short, it is a necessary contribution which is both useful and, on the part of those who have produced it, highly risky commercially speaking.
An exhibition featuring a monumental Renault 8 hp from 1908.
On the other hand, what is free is access to the Gothsland Gallery where, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary and the launch of the first volume of the Complete Works of Ramon Casas, there is an exhibition featuring a monumental Renault 8 hp from 1908, almost identical to many of the cars which the Catalan artist owned. And besides this – thirty works: paintings, drawings, posters and even series of tiles Els adelantos del segle XIX (c. 1903) which ironize the technological revolution of the turn of the century in terms of popular art.
Ramon Casas, Els adelantos del segle XIX, c. 1903.
Casas during the period 1880-1910 is the painter of modern life. He makes portraits of the big names of the time – politicians, businessmen, thinkers, creators: he highlights the role of women in high society, he talks of the masses and, through advertising, to the masses. There is sport – let there be no doubt that sport was a modern invention – and he travelled widely, whenever possible by car. And you cannot imagine what it was like to drive from Barcelona to Paris in 1902!. In short, beyond his personal circumstances (he was born into a rich family and never wanted for anything throughout his lifetime) the pictoric work of Casas goes well beyond his social standing.
Some artists are so evident, versatile and present that it takes an effort to rediscover them. The Ramon Casas exhibition at the Gothsland Gallery in Barcelona (until 28 February) and the first volume of the Complete Works offer us a unique opportunity.
The density of techniques, materials and content which can come together in a single work of Josep Guinovart is almost infinite.
If, for example, we take a specific painting, El cor de l’era (2003) (and this not one of my favourites which are included in the retrospective which occupies the entire space of the Espais Volart of the Vila Casa Foundation) – the readings overlap: there are grains of wheat – a material which is included from 1957 – there is a luminous blue which appears; a drawing like a graffiti artist; and there is also a clockwork mechanism which marks the seconds in the centre of the era represented, in a gesture that shows the limits of kineticism, the conceptual and pop art. The era, the rural space par excellence, marking the rhythm of the time of the universe.
Josep Guinovart, El cor de l’era, 2003. Col·lecció particular.
The title of the exhibition Josep Guinovart. Transformed Reality is a good one since this Barcelona artist, who died 2007, dedicated his art to an attempt to change the world, as he saw it, as he perceived it, as he wanted it to be. Curated by Llucià Homs, this is the exhibition that closes the commemorations for the tenth anniversary of his death. Although he always appears as an informalist artist, Guinovart is difficult to label and this exhibition demonstrates that in the correct decision of not having set it up chronologically. We can find paint dripping outside the surface of the canvas and encrustations of objects in the style of Rauschenberg albeit with the more intimate spirit than the American artist.
Josep Guinovart, Contorn-Entorn, 1976. Fundació Privada Espai Guinovart.
Iconic installations such as the beautiful Contorn-Entorn have been recovered, which surprised the public of the Maeght Gallery (now gone) in 1976 with a forest of painted and tuned tree trunks. Some of the works painted asbestos are shown, dignifying this cheap but highly toxic material. Years later, when there were many victims of its toxicity, Guinovart used it for the work Treballadors de la Rocalla (1997) to denounce the brutal genocide of workers in the 1950s.
Josep Guinovart, Mapa dels EUA, 1978. Fundació Privada Espai Guinovart.
Guinovart’s work may sometimes be overloaded but it is also hypnotic, with masterpieces such as Rake (1975). It also requires quality filters – was it really necessary to include the wooden cows from the year 2000? But it is also a work that invites you take a closer look at, and to talk to the person next to you about. With no clear intention to be so Guino’s art is participative and that is a rabidly contemporary thing.
Guinovart is “the victim of his own energy”.
The poet and art critic, and one of Guinovart’s strongest defenders, José Corredor-Matheos is right when one of his poets dedicated to Guino in 1999 begins with the line: Life happens ebulliently. It is true – the art pours out of Guinovart’s work, sometimes like a steady drizzle and others like a deafening downpour. Like other prolific creators, Guinovart is “the victim of his own energy”, as the curator of the Year of Guinovart, Àlex Susanna, assures us, but also like all great artists he continues to engage us ten years after his death.
Josep Guinovart. Transformed Reality can be seen at the Espais Volart of the Vila Casas Foundation until 19 May.
Jordi Mitjà, Jon Uriarte and Ingrid Guardiola have taken the fourth episode from Terra-lab.cat –the visual laboratory of the region– to the Museum of the Empordà in Figueres and the Museum of Exile in La Jonquera.
I discovered Terra-lab.cat at the Museum of Granollers in October 2017. Even then its experimental outlook on territory (in this case Montseny) gave me an unusual and removed view of all the clichés that I had ever heard about this wooded bastion on the Catalan map. Creators from different disciplines were invited to “revise, from the point of view of artistic creation, an imagery of the countryside which had become obsolete”, explains Vicenç Altaió, one of the driving forces of the project.
Exhibition view at the Museu de l’Empordà. Photos: Jon Uriarte.
While there, I also found out that it formed part of a project of projects, like a kind of territorial macroproject to be carried out at ten points around the country. Until now, it has been in the Museum of Granollers, the Museum of Rural Life in l’Espluga de Francolí, Can Mario in Palafrugell and the Palau de Caldes d’Estrac Foundation. And now it returns to the Alt Empordà with research presented at the Museum of Exile in la Jonquera (go there if you haven’t already been!) and the Museum of the Empordà in Figueres, in the hall of the old slaughterhouse.
The format is the same: three creators carry out fieldwork at a point in the immediate vicinity. In this case it was visual artist Jordi Mitjà, who is used to working on projects with specific geographies; the Basque photographer Jon Uriarte and the essayist Ingrid Guardiola. The chosen landscape was the least known of the Empordà. A landscape that, luckily, has remained outside the public eye: the Albera mountain range which goes from the borders of La Jonquera to the coves of Portbou. Ésser expropiat / Anarxiu is the project that Mitjà, Uriarte and Guardiola have carried out in this forgotten territory between two large states.
Twenty-five kilometres of oak, chestnut, holly and holm-oak forests of amazingly Alpine beauty. Ignored by all those who think that the Empordà is just a feature of the summer and silenced by those who live there, Ésser expropiat / Anarxiu focusses on the military base of Sant Climent Sescebes, which was expropriated by the Spanish government for military use and extended to other villages in the area.
The military base was established in the 1960s closing it off from the local community. During the years of maximum occupation at the beginning of the 1980s, this village of 500 inhabitants had 59 bars and a brothel. Today there are no longer soldiers in the military site of Albera. It is a training ground for international missions and the Military Emergency Unit. The territory is closed off, expropriated. However, as the project shows, it is true that this anomalous condition of a military territory has protected the area from the kind of urbanistic chaos that has occurred in other areas.
An antiarxiu or an antiguia supported by data, images, objects and experiences collected in Albera.
But the military occupation is not the only use of Albera that Mitjà, Uriarte and Guardiola demonstrate. The annual revisions of the border carried out by France and Spain; illegal hunting; the fact of being a pioneering zone of nineteenth century social mutualism; the megalithic – one of the places in the peninsular with most Neolithic constructions – and the vineyards which have been abandoned as a result of the phylloxera, all form part of the work of this new episode of Terra-lab.cat. An antiarxiu or an antiguia, as the authors of this work say, are supported by data, images, objects and experiences collected in Albera. Videos of young soldiers, the charcoaled wood of forest fires, dogs caged by hunters or souvenirs made from bullets recovered from the land are presented in metallic shelves emulating an unorthodox archive.
The result is a landscape which is minutely dignified, but not with the dignity imposed by those who are looking from a distance, from the city, but in the line that Pierre Michon offers in his miniscule lives when, as he explains, he feels the Obligation of raising his minimal humanity. This is the Albera of Mitjà, Uriarte and Guardiola, with all the magnitude of the miniscule landscape.
Terra-lab.cat can be visited at the Museu de l’Exili, La Jonquera, until 24 of February; and in the Sala Escorxador of the Museu de l’Empordà, in Figueres, until 31 of March.
In this world there is a city almost as unreal as The Invisible Cities as described by Italo Calvino.
It is a city where the two most central streets, which lead onto the City Council building, do not have the name of any pedestal politician, victorious military officer, supposedly glorious battle or any other memorable historical event, which would be normal – or at least would have been in the Ancien Régime. No, they bear the names of a comic strip artist and a comic strip writer. Comic or BD, bande-dessinée. This city is called Angoulême and the streets are Rue Hergé and Rue Goscinny. In addition, there are street numbers that are not inscribed in a normal box, but in a bulle or speech bubble.
2, Rue Hergé. Photo: Joan Tirbió.
The artist of The Adventures of Tintin and the writer of Asterix and a good part of Morris’s Lucky Luke series, among others, deserve the highest honours in this city, located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France. And this fact alone, this gesture of full recognition of the value of an art which is underrated in many other parts, will put a smile on the face of any comic-lover.
From 1974 to the present (and hopefully the future too) each winter at the end of January, Angoulême has hosted a Comic Fair (later to become known as a Festival) which in just a few years became one of the biggest in Europe, along with that in Lucca, Italy.
The event always had the support and presence of the best authors. Hugo Pratt designed the first poster, André Franquin was the first to receive the Grand Prix, but it was the presence of Hergé in 1977 that really gave a major boost to the fair, which was the initiative of just a few people (Groux, Mardikian, Pierre Pascal) in a city far from the Capital. In France, centralism is occasionally compensated for by a series of festivals outside Paris: the Cannes Film Festival, the Theatre Festival of Avignon, the Photography Festival in Arles. The last Angoulême Festival was number 46. And possibly the most glorious one was in 1989, when two memorable exhibitions dedicated to Hergé and Franquin coincided, with original drawings, sketches and the odd trace of a pentimento, as it should be.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
In Angoulême, love for the ninth art (the eighth being photography even though it appeared before the cinema) is expressed in a range of different ways. During the festival the city, which normally has a population of almost 50,000, is literally invaded by the comic. For a few days, children and teenagers sit around on public benches reading the comic strips or visiting the stands at the fair, instead of learning to subtract or calculate square roots. They are accompanied by teachers who want to see what is new but also have to keep an eye on them. Then you go out into the street and suddenly a bus passes, it is painted with versions of characters by Franquin, Uderzo and Morris drawn by Zep. In the maison de la presse the news seller tells you that this Thursday he is going to sell hundreds of copies of the daily Libération, in a special annual edition, illustrated exclusively by comic artists, including the cover page. This year included a strip by Willem about the ambitious extermination projects of the Brazilian neofascist president that was absolutely spot on.
Then you go to have lunch or dinner at a certain restaurant and instead of a tablecloth there is a large paper cloth and a pile of markers so that you can draw to your heart’s content while you are waiting for your starter. The obsession with drawing is well known in this trade. The image I have of Robert Crumb in Angoulême in the mid-1980s is one of a blokes who barely spoke but never stopped drawing on any surface that remotely appeared to be paper. Faced with people like that – talented and compulsive – the best thing to do is to offer the appropriate materials. Then, the drawing stays in the restaurant or the author takes it with them. There is also freedom for this. While the waiters clear the tables they can contemplate the beautifully executed tablecloth drawings.
Being a city with a smallish historical centre, in Angoulême the artists, writers and publishers do not disappear off into different bars as happens in the Barcelona trade fairs. So it is not surprising when the person at the next table or sitting beside you at the bar is one of the best comic artists in the world. Someone like Lorenzo Mattotti or Joost Swarte, for example. This year, Swarte finally presented the complete edition of Passi, Messa!, and there was also recently a wonderful compilation of his drawings in The New Yorker. In Angoulême you will find some of your favourite artists and writers without having to make an appointment. In the 1980s this would be in the Café de la Paix, and after that excellent source of Calvados closed down, the same has been the case in any of the bars in the centre. At night and between drinks, conversations tend to be much more fun and deep than in a purely professional context.
Once the festival is over, it seems that this friendly invasion has not been a fleeting one. Walking through the city at any time of the year you can see more than twenty buildings whose side walls or façades have become huge murals of comic strips, book covers or popular characters. Public art in Angoulême is not a question of imported sculptures or graffiti. This city is different, distinctive. This trend began in 1982 with an enormous Hommage à la Bande Dessinée by pop painter Erró, and it has gone on from there with mural versions of most of the best comic artists in the French-speaking area, from different generations and genres. For example, shafts of galactic light drawn by Philippe Druillet, which rhyme graphically with the stripes of the zebra crossing.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
Not far away, above the dark entrance to a car park, a surrealist forest rises up, drawn by François Boucq.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
On another building, Boule & Bill, characters by Roba, swing in a minimalist space in which the lack of figures contrasts with the proliferation of funny little creatures by Florence Cestac (yes, women can draw comics too!). Close to a cold pool there is a beach scene drawn by Loustal. On some of the bricked-up windows there are characters like Gaston Lagaffe and the Dalton Brothers, not far from Lucky Luke. And sometimes the drawing fits in with the building itself. The provincial archive is wrapped in a huge drawing of the metaphysical files of Schuiten and Peeters.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
Apart from that, in any corner or shopfront you can find traces of the love for the illustrated narrative that exists in the French-speaking capital of comic. The mascot of Angoulême is a little beast (fauve) drawn by Lewis Trondheim.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
In 1984 I went to Angoulême for the first time and it just so happened that that year the French minister for culture Jack Lang, announced the creation of a museum dedicated to comic, which was a pioneer in that genre. Now it is an institutional tradition that the French minister for culture attends the event every year, something which doesn’t happen in other countries. Also, in 1984 the Joan Miró Foundation was a pioneer internationally when it organised a large exhibition dedicated to comic, an art which up until then had been generally ignored by museums around the world. The exhibition, which I co-curated with the designer Peret, was an international homage to Hergé. We proposed it when Hergé was still alive, but it wasn’t accepted until after his death. It is curious to note now, 35 years later, that the last four books by Charles Burns feature a kind of grim-looking Tintin, a nightmare version. And Burns’ last book, entitled Vortex, is a derivation of the first drawing full of mutant pseudotintins which he made especially for the Barcelona exhibition. I asked him for it by phone from the Joan Miró Foundation and until then Burns had not yet published any kind of version (or perversion) of Hergé’s character.
Tintin continues to inspire other works, some of them interesting such as the anticolonialist (per)version Pappa in Afrika, by Anton Kannemeyer. It is a kind of back-handed criticism of Tintin in the Congo, the worst book by the creator of such masterpieces as Tintin in Tibet.
In the new Musée de la Bande Dessinée, re-located on the north bank of the River Charente, you can see temporary exhibitions (this year, for example, there is a show dedicated to the publisher Futuropolis) and different presentations from the collection. This winter the semi-permanent show includes a copy of the first ever comic strip. Although the American always insist that they invented the comic, in the museum in Angoulême you can see Monsieur Jabot, a story by Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer which was published in French in 1833, long before the appearance of The Yellow Kid (1895). Goethe loved Töpffer’s cartoon and clearly was able to see by intuition the possibilities of this new means of expression. The dialogues weren’t in speech bubbles but then neither is it in quite a few modern comics.
In the main hall of the museum there are some quotes from different artists. This one, for example:
“La seule chose que je regrette c’est de ne pas avoir fait de la bande dessinée” (Pablo Picasso) (My only regret is never having drawn a comic).
There are also equally eulogistic phrases by Federico Fellini, Balthus and others.
Photo: Joan Tirbió.
The Angoulême Festival has always been visited by many comic amateurs and professionals from Catalonia and the Basque Country especially, but also from other parts of Spain. It is, then, shocking to see the lack of attention over almost half a century towards the southern neighbour. It would seem that France has not realised that places like Barcelona, Valencia, Vitoria, Mallorca and Madrid have been producing and publishing for decades works just as brilliant as the best of the French, English or Japanese comics which have been exhibited and awarded prizes. If they ever discover Guillem Cifré, Antoni Calonge or Micharmut, it will be posthumously.
The problem is that Martí is from Barcelona, not American or French.
In the 2019 Festival two Spanish authors, Keko and Altarriba, presented works recently translated into French. And it was a nice surprise to see that thirty years later, a major publisher has discovered one of the best comic artists in Barcelona. Cornelius has just published a splendid edition of Docteur Vertigo by Martí Riera, which was presented alongside his previous book Taxista. In the French edition the prologue which I wrote for the original publication of Taxista is replaced by an equally eulogistic text by Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus. These two books by Martí are exhibited together with well-known works by Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns, who are his American counterparts. In the 1980s Martí Riera drew fictitious stories which anticipated tone which appears in the films of the Coen brothers. The problem is that Martí is from Barcelona, not American or French.
Only in countries that function relatively well there is the necessary, essential support, for the pioneering and avantgarde initiatives, which are always the most difficult. That is probably why we do not have a good Museum of Comic Art in Catalonia. A cultural capital only works if the necessary personal initiatives for the community can also count on a certain institutional and social complicity which allow them to develop and maintain continuity.
The SÂLMON Festival, which is in its seventh year with an extended programme, is always a stimulating event for measuring the pulse of new tendencies in dance, performance arts and contemporary live art.
The binary structures which mobilise a good part of our thinking and organisation of experiences are hard, rigid, static, chauvinist. So we arm ourselves with degreasing fluid to approach one set of pieces to be enjoyed at the SÂLMON Festival.
Iniciativa Sexual Femenina, Catalina.
“Excuse me, where is the exit?”. To the strident tones of the song “Al fondo a la derecha” by Siniestro Total, Catalina begins, performed by the group Iniciativa Sexual Femenina formed in 2017. Its members, Elise Moreau, Cristina Morales and Elisa Keisanen run from the emergency exit door and throw themselves against the back wall of the stage in the Antic Teatre losing themselves in the chaos of the punk music. This is just the calling card. The origin of the show is bastard. “Excuse me, where is your fucking mother?”.
Sweating and semi-naked they gob on the stage. Some spit first on their own bodies and we see the saliva dripping down onto the floor. “If you want good sex you have to take the initiative” one of them shouts while running around frenetically. The machinery is degreased and ready for this initiative. But hold on, what kind of initiative are we talking about?
Stealing the title of another of Siniestro Total’s songs which is played in the show we could say that this group is proposing an asexual initiative of pre-school bestiality. Bestial and pre-school because they are established in a pleasant proposal as an emancipatory tool from the hybrid, the intense and the exploratory without prejudice. And stealing the title from Paul B. Preciado we could also say that this group is proposal a contra-sexual initiative. In the Manifiesto contra-sexual (2002), this queer philosopher offered an instructions manual to change the body into a “more intense political space to carry out operations that are counterproductive of pleasure”. Like the manifesto, Catalina also stand up as recipe book for operations that are counterproductive of pleasure. Above all, shunning the act of obtaining heterocentric, genitalocentric and monogamous pleasure, we are invited to move the erogenousness around in multiple directions and to different elements. Elise, Cristina and Elisa become excited sucking skin, licking chins and brushing elbows and knees. The three contra-sexual Bacchae decorate in garlands one of those metal bar tables – the kind where you eat olives and crisps. And then they fuck it.
During the performance you get the feeling that this female, bestial, pre-school and counter-sexual, sexual initiative, created in the Can Vies independent social centre, has been learning new ways of intense and dissident pleasure all this time – accompanied by the necessary pain – and that now there is no going back. Once you have been turned on by an elbow and the leg of a table, it is more than probable that you will carry on. “Almudena tiene una hiena que es lo único que la llena”.
Marlene Monteiro, Las bacantes – Preludio para una purga. © Filipe Ferreira.
Last year, the choreographer Marlene Monteiro received the Silver Lion at the 2018 Venice Biennale for her piece Les bacants – Preludi per a una purga (The Bacchae – prelude to a purge). The trophy is a representation of another beast: a sphinx.
Les bacants begins with a spectacular entrance to a reggae beat with five live trumpeters who weave in and out of eight performers. Monteiro herself moves in a frontal and squeezed space in full harmony with the painting of (the?) Greek vases, adorned with a golden bathing cap and a satin robe of oriental inspiration – in reference to the possible origins of the god of wine – on which we see her hanging a kind of horse’s tail. Her figure rapidly undergoes a metamorphosis. The performer puts on the robe and bends over and her back to the audience. Now the hair frames her arse-face to which she draws up the microphone which amplifies strange sounds as she moves restlessly and energetically around the stage. We could think that this creature embodies the monologue of Dionysius in from the Cadmus Palace at the beginning of “The Bacchae”, where he claims the hearts of the Bacchae who hold up their drums and begin those dances that that make the royal mansions teeter.
At last we can clearly hear the sound of an irregular heartbeat.
However, this piece is by no means an adaptation of the work of the last great tragedies. The choreographic reading of Euripides text pursues the generation of a repertory of hybrid and ecstatic figures, situated beyond what is rational, which will finally allow us to purge, liberate and reduce any embers of order that are within us. In one of the first figures of this Dionysic repertoire one performer brings close to another a sleeve with a funnel that connects his heart to a microphone. The first time he does it we scarcely perceive the heartbeat. The performer dances convulsively and puts the sleeve on again. Now we can hear the rhythm of the organ a bit faster, but still not enough. The performer continues to move around frantically and then replaces the apparatus. At last we can clearly hear the sound of an irregular heartbeat.
The figures that run through “The Bacchae” will be an insistent repetition of the amplified heartbeat of the Bacchae, sometimes more frenetic and others more at rest, as if the swaying of the reggae that the piece opened with was marking out its overall rhythm. The music stand behind which the musicians sit unmoving turn into the main fetish of Dionysian chaos: absurd objects, carrying no scores, deforming umbrellas of the face; phallic pistons introduced into tthe mouth or masturbated. The musicians deform the face with their trumpets, the performers belch, stammering out their announcement that “they fuck us all in the worst possible way”, they dribble, they twerk, they play the castanets or a sinister lip sync of an undigestible “Unchained Melody”.
Jefta van Dinther, Dark Field Analysis. © BenMergelsberg.
Blood is the storyline of Dark Field Analysis – a piece by choreographer Jefta van Dinther. The title refers to a branch of alternative medicine which uses a dark field microscope to diagnose systemic illnesses which originate in the blood. Performed by Juan Pablo Cámara and Roger Sala Reyner, this piece expands the repertoire of the corporal possibilities include in the different works of the SÂLMON Festival.
Despite the attraction of the cyberfeminist fantasies, where the union with technology would allow a multiplication of the range of identifying experiences, van Dinther is able to install us in another corporal dimension through the plasticity of the naked body, sound, space and lighting. The two performers are investigators, with half of the show in virtual darkness, giving us only a few clues as to the pre- or post-human character of their existences. At the beginning of the piece the performer who present s repertoire of more mechanical gestures demands of the other (who is apparently closer to what we understand as human) that he open his mouth. We immediately have access to a journey of artificial sounds, of ceramics, which in turn are confused with the “nature” of this individual.
In the same way as violent birth filmed by Kazuo Hara and included in The Bacchae, we are led to research in which the rug that provided the limit for the performers will be pulled from under them and taken away; where bodies become confused and hybridised, and where the human and the artificial, the abysmal and the post-human come together in a vicious circle.
The SÂLMON Festival takes place in Barcelona until 10 February.
The walls of the chapel of the Ancient Hospital of Barcelona, La Capella, are oozing with history. Health history, religious history and artistic history.
But the most attractive part of its medieval architecture, La Capella, which is owned by the city council, has been the scene of different artistic events since the 1950s such as the Salons de Maig (1956-1969) and the historic Joan Miró exhibition of 1968.
Lucía Egaña, Pajas mentales, 2012.
But 25 years ago, use centred on the promotion of emerging art and, now, the exhibition Les escenes. 25 anys després to celebrate this. But don’t expect to see a show which takes you back through the last quarter century, or any kind of nostalgic review. Les escenes, as the title indicates, is composed of six chapters which follow sometimes one after the other and sometimes overlapping, up to the middle of June. Don’t be surprised, then, if you go to see the exhibition early on, it may seem rather empty and charmless. But this is just the prologue to a project constructed from fragments, cut-offs and also a little nod to the past, and is more ambitious than it may first appear.
Julia Spínola, Fardo, 1998.
The project is ambitious because for a start it has a curatorship team made up of five big names: David Armengol, Sonia Fernández Pau, Eloy Fernández Porta, Sabel Gavaldón and Anna Manubens. Then, because it has involved over thirty artists who will come and go, some of them alternating, within the framework of the six episodes of the show. The whole exhibition is alike a big metaphor for the many ways of working contemporary art these days: collaborative practices, fragmentation, works in progress…everything which over 25 years, and especially since the happy initiative of Barcelona Producció, which started up in 2006 from the Icub to incentivise emergent artistic production, has been exhibited at La Capella.
This is just a minimalist prelude to an exhibition series in six chapters.
Already emergent were the two fantastic circles curated by the talent of manel Clot at the beginning of the story of La Capella, opening up the way for a series of artistic practices that were alternative at the time and that now, on the other hand, are dominant in the ambit of contemporary art. In the first episode of Les escenes there are paintings by the Argentinean artist Gustavo Marrone from the beginning of the 1990s, which connect with Clot’s first exhibition. These are powerful works and are accompanied by two new installations; a forceful sentence written on a wall, L’evidència va poder amb totes les especulacions estètiques; and a simple but loaded installation with covers of celebrity weeklies about the Spanish royal family going back 25 years, which certainly have a tale or two to tell.
Gustavo Marrone, 4_0.
The strength of Marrone’s pictoric images, paired in part with drawings by Lucía Egaña, sit alongside an equally forceful object – a large bundle by Julia Spinola in the middle of the room. Marc Vives has risked re-writing the youth novel Melodramas, while the voice of Laia Estruch offers a musical accompaniment to a declaration of intentions as an author. Bearing in mind that this is just the minimalist prelude to an exhibition series in six chapters, this article is to be continued…
Les escenes. 25 anys després can be seen at La Capella in Barcelona until 23 June.
More unpublished declarations of Anna Maria Dalí about the prolonged conflict that the artist had with his father.
This excerpt corresponds to the unpublished diaries of art critic, poet and translator Rafael Santos Torroella (Portbou, 1914-Barcelona, 2002).
From left to right: Don Salvador Dalí, Eulàlia Bas Dalí and Anna Maria Dalí. Eulàlia Bas Dalí Archive.
Cadaqués, 31 August 1985. Yesterday during the whole of the late afternoon, from 6pm to 9pm, with Anna Maria Dalí in her house in Llané. Anna Maria reminds me of things. The family drama or tragedy had three phases:
1st. 1929. When Gala and Éluard came to Cadaqués. René Magritte and his wife Georgette were also there and together with Camille and Ivonne Goemans they stayed in one of the houses in the village, whose owner (known by them as “la vieille sorcière”) lived on the ground floor. (I seem to remember Anna Maria telling me that the house was the same as the one the Romero’s had spent their summers for years; that meant that they were a long way from the others, both the Éluards and the Dalís, suggesting that they there was no great friendship between them). Éluard and Gala were in the Hotel Cap de Creus. “Georgette Magritte –Anna Maria tells me– cried the whole time” and talking of the other surrealists (Gala, Éluard, Buñuel) she had nothing more to say than: “ils sont méchants, sont méchants…”
In December of that year “around about Christmas time” was when the father demanded of Dalí a public retraction for the exhibition in the Goemans Gallery in November and when Salvador was not forthcoming in that respect he was thrown out of the house.
2nd. 1934-35. Through his uncle Rafael (who the nephews referred to as “El Galeno”), Salvador asked his father for forgiveness. They travelled together from Barcelona to Figueres. The scene in the Dalí house in Figueres was told to me by Montserrat Dalí. The two brothers Salvador, father, the notary public, and Rafael, the doctor, both as stubborn and dramatic as the other, fought tooth and nail. Meanwhile, Salvador junior was in the hallway, crying and threatening suicide if his father did not forgive him. In the end Don Salvador relented…”. But all those people –Anna Maria tells me her father said, referring to the surrealists– need not even think about even walking in front of the house!”.
Salvador junior told his father that he was unable to make a public rectification because it was impossible for him to leave the surrealist group.
They spat on the street when they passed Gala.
3rd. 1939. This was when they fled France in the event of the German invasion. Gala went to Lisbon. Salvador spent several days between Figueres and Cadaqués, while his father was organising the paperwork so that he would be subject to responsibilities as a result of the Civil War. Anna Maria also had to go to Girona to see the governor for the same reason. From Figueres they even tried to resolve the situation of both Gala and Salvador in Lisbon through a friend of the family, Maria Gorgot, whose husband, José María Genís, had business interests in Portugal in the cork industry. He managed to solve their problems, even as far as facilitating Gala and Salvador passage on the ship of some transatlantic company or other.
“The epilogue”. When in 1948 they returned from America, Salvador was insistent on living with gala in the house at Llané while the builders were working on their house in Portlligat, which was uninhabitable. “They thought – Anna Maria went on – that since we had done them so many favours, everything would be alright…”. But that was not the case, and she confirmed to me the poor show that she and the auntie had displayed toward Gala, taking advantage of any small thing to show their disapproval. Montserrat had already spoken to me about this, saying that they even spat on the street when they walked past her – something that Anna Maria does not deny when I mention it.
That was when his father arranged the inheritance, so that Anna Maria would fare well and would not have to depend on her brother or the people around him.