english


englishtext

Summary




portada de BMM


THE ARTS ON THE THRESHOLD
OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM

the opinion of 22 artists and professionals

"Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània" reaches its 50th edition with the first number of the year 2000. The coincidence of two such special numbers is a good excuse for us to survey the arts world in Barcelona. We questioned 22 personalities with backgrounds in a wide range of different fields and trends so as to achieve a retrospective overview of the arts in the last ten years, and also a prospective view of what could possibly await us over the coming years.

Vicenç Altaió
writer and director of KRTU

(...) Nothing new or deep in a culture of entertainment and mammoth boxes. Humanistic, scientific and technological culture still suffers from very serious levels of illiteracy and subdevelopment, despite the efforts of cultural socialisation made in recent years due to exceptional individuals. The vicissitudes of our political history have led to a serious breach between collective education, perception and civility and the rareness of individuality. Barcelona, said J.V. Foix, lives with its back to the avant-garde. Yes, the political, social and cultural avant-garde. (...) Culture must be much more than "a socio-economic group of people and companies involved in distribution of goods and services and cultural features", and a cultural policy must be more than the ridiculous non-interventionist role, according to which "it is not a question of guiding, leading, or even coordinating; it is limited to guaranteeing the free exchange of goods, widening of the market, supervising working conditions and conservation of our heritage". We must not confuse the association between culture and the liberal market; nor must we confuse tourist kitsch, which leads to a city's degeneration, with mass consumption and mass demands for technological development (...) Here, culture in general is rather incoherent, incomplete, fragile, provisional, unstable...(...)


Félix de Azúa
writer

It may be a cliché but it is also true to say that the most commendable effort of the last ten years has been the creation of the large cultural centres, indispensable and very expensive. It is not my intention here to judge whether these building projects were sensible or outrageous like the National Theatre (...) The second question concerns content. I would say that what is on offer in Barcelona is what you would expect for a medium-sized southern European city. It is probably in keeping with what the public are prepared for. However, it is clear that it is not particularly attractive for an international public, which is increasingly numerous and mobile. Clearly Barcelona is not Paris. Therefore, it should aim for a specific field which will allow the city to be the European cultural centre of something. I think that the initiative could be regained in the area of cinema and music, two activities for which the city is perfectly well prepared and in which it has a solid tradition. A revival of the Film Festival (the only competition at present is from San Sebastián and Valladolid), or even better, the creation of a real Festival of Musics, could serve to place Barcelona on the international circuit of cultural capitals.


Oriol Bohigas
architect

Catalonia has taken a major step forward in democracy. However, we must ask ourselves whether this step was the right one. My belief is that we have not gone far enough in various respects, especially in those areas which are the responsibility of local and national government. It is far from clear what the function of cultural grants and subventions should be. Unfortunately, there has not been any discussion of this matter either. I believe that the institutions should create cultural instruments rather than organise specific events (...). The physical and organisational setting must be provided. Great strides have been made in Barcelona; however, work has taken too long and in some cases has yet to be completed. In general, we are some ten or twelve years behind where we should be. It was fundamental to build an auditorium, but it is also scandalous that the MNAC has not yet been finished. There is a lack of balance in the investments. (...)
The situation is improving however, because the infrastructure is gradually being put in place and the new programmes are beginning to operate. Gradually, they will find the space and resources with which to function.
Another element which is needed if the arts are to flourish and which is not always borne in mind, is education. At present, it is insufficient. (...).


Josep Corredor Matheos
art critic

(...) When you travel abroad and tell people that you're from Barcelona, their reactions show that our city has become a point of reference and even, in some aspects, a model. These are good times for Barcelona. Anyway, there are writers and artists who are being overvalued whereas others fail to draw the kind of attention they deserve. (...) Some of these shortcomings have their roots in the situation that has developped at an international level. There is a good deal of confusion. The reasons for this state of affairs range from the lack of major guiding lines in our collective thought process to the fact that market forces play a dominant role in all spheres of activities in which products happen to have a large-scale selling potential. This situation influences not only painting- the most deeply affected branch within the sphere of plastic arts-, but also anything that might be considered the product of a mass culture- a subculture, in most cases-including novels, so that everything becomes contaminated, even when there is no real economic interests involved. (...) It is deplorable that, generally speaking, Barcelona's art collectors should have failed to show interest in works produced outside Catalonia, which is the reason why there is but a scanty sample of art works from other parts of Spain and foreign countries in our museums. Moreover, Barcelona is suffering from a lack of exhibition facilities. (...)


Jordi Dauder
actor
(...) The only thing they take into account is profitability, forgetting that the really profitable course of action is to create human beings capable of knowing, learning and being educated. If you don't act this way, if all you care about is "show-business", you merely create an amorphous, passive society. And that's what the powers that be are interested in, so that they may manipulate people. "You people are just consumers, We are the makers"... That is why nowadays there is an increasingly strong and widespread tendency towards abstention, de-culturization and de-politicization among the public. They are generating a culture medium suitable for the emergence of semi-fascist or populist ideologies. Criticism is neither accepted or assessed as a positive, beneficial fact. Any criticism is immediately inflated up to brutal dimensions when, actually, there is nothing better for the health of a country than criticism. We are not backed by a long tradition of democracy and we are still dragging a certain cultural backwardness along. (...)
Culture either stands up to power or submits to it. We are reaching a point when not saying anything has become a literary deed. More and more importance is attached to form, to the detriment of content. And when the only thing there is is content, content is turned into form. "I don't know what they're talking about, but they're saying it so well !" (...)
Transgressing culture is going through a crisis. The main determining factor in the decision-making process is "the market", and market forces currently tend to encourage individual consumption, the maximum individualization of society, with everybody shutting themselves in their own house. (...)


Daniel Giralt-Miracle
art critic

(...) We are going through dangerous times in which we might easily lapse into an overindulgent contemplation of what we have already achieved and fail to look further ahead, thus neglecting to foster new interactive experiences, at the risk of falling into the trap of self-satisfied localism. The basic required instruments (creators, audiences and spaces) are already available, so that we only have to make a further jump forward in order to prevent people from sinking into narcissistic contemplation or abandoning themselves to laziness.
As far as cultural policies are concerned, the present situation is rather discouraging. During every pre-election campaign, politicians promise us the moon and stars, which is to say greater attention to culture and larger funds for cultural projects. However, soon afterwards, such professions of interest are usually shelved because there is no real commitment to culture and its dynamistic capacity. Freeing culture from bureaucracy, opening doors to emergent ideas and forces, inventing, creating, selling and making a clear assessment of the situation, these ought to be our guiding postulates in this new century which, by all appearances, will be governed by constants such as acceleration and mutation. This is a challenge which, as a matter of fact, the people who live and work in the sphere of culture will have to face up to, not only in Barcelona but also everywhere around the world.


Joan Antoni Gonzàlez i Serret
audiovisual productor

I think that culture has suffered a certain impoverishment. When our administrative bodies talk about "culture forces", it sounnds to me as though they were talking of "police forces", as though it were somehow necessary for creative traffic to be directed and channelled; this can only lead to impoverishment. They say : "Public administrations should direct, channel ...". These are words that frighten me. If we want creativity to be "flowing" easily through all fields of culture, it has to be given complete freedom to move about. Important infrastructures have lately been built- the MACBA, the National Theatre, the Auditorium, the MNAC, the CCCB, etc...-, but the truly high quality of their architecture is not always paralleled by equally interesting contents. The Liceu Opera House is another story. I think that the whole operation should have serve to build a really new opera house, instead of a clone dressed up in state-of-the-art technological fashion. I would like to place special emphasis on the activities of the CCCB which I personally consider to be, by far, the cultural space in which I enjoy the greatest freedom. (...) It would be better if we talked more about the creators themselves and less about the private or public "culture forces" because, nowadays, it seems as though there were an increase in superstructure and a decrease in actual creativity.


Joan Hernández Pijuan

painter

The cultural pact reached at a political level brought forth a wave of enthusiasm that fizzled out right away. In terms of infrastructures, many things have been done, some of which can be considered satisfactory achievements : the TNC, the Auditorium, the MACBA museum, etc... Nevertheless, once you've build a house- which is an enormously positive deed in itself-, you still have to furnish it. Unfortunately, there has not been any in-depth debate about the nature of such contents and the way collections ought to be assembled. Discussions never really got to the heart of the matter. (...)
The administration has played an important role in creating infrastructures. However, I do not believe in "directed" cultures, becase culture, by definition, means freedom. It may be supported, but not directed. (...)
At the present time, there is much higher cultural activity in Madrid. Barcelona is losing ground, not as much in terms of creativity- because there are many young artists who are doing a good job here, even though they keep too quiet about it- as in terms of cultural realities. Barcelona is a city that treats creators, and more particularly young creators, rather harshly. There is a patent lack of support- in the form of scholarships or grants to set up workshops- from art galleries and institutions alike. Twenty years ago, Barcelona was ahead in the game. So, how could we regain lost ground ? Institutions cannot do much in this respect. This is a matter that concerns our whole society since, nowadays, the people of Barcelona seem to be more reluctant to welcome "different" art proposals than they used to be. Maybe it's because they have grown more conformist. (...)


Jordi Herralde

publisher

In the 90s, Barcelona stood out for the predominance of stone (architecture, urban planning) with remarkable success and yet various blunders. Our cinema continues to stagnate, whereas the theatre has flourished. In the area of communication- newspapers, magazines, television- there has been a growing and worrying loss of protagonism to Madrid. A positive feature is the continued strength of the publishing industry, due solely and exclusively to private initiative, our famous "civil society". The previous response could be seen as a reflection of the situation. With regard to the future, it is obviously necessary to have a cultural policy with more imagination, resources and spirit.



Angels Margarit
choreographer and dancer

(...) Our city is having difficulty breathing. (...) We need a clearly established, long-term strategy to act on where infrastructures and programmes are concerned. Barcelona advertises itself quite well, it's a city that is constantly talking about its own virtues. (...) People bring forward ideas, but ideas end up becoming mere slogans if they are not put into practice. With regard to dance, I don't know of any public institution actually willing to get dowm to work. The whole process of planning and producing theatre and dance shows requires true co-ordination between institutions. The kind of city I would like Barcelona to be in the future is one that would project greater shock waves. A city open to the interchange of ideas in many different directions, a city with the capacity for communicating not only with Catalonia and Spain, but also with Europe and South America. Barcelona cannot remain enclosed any longer, new bridges ought to be built.


Ferran Mascarell

town councillor for culture

The decade of the nineteen nineties will go down in the cultural history of our city as the most effective period of the century. More particularly in a very concrete field : the availability of cultural facilities. Over the last ten years, Barcelona will have modernized a whole structure of cultural centres that had become obsolete for essentially political reasons. The years of Franco's dictatorship had left the whole cultural structure that dated back to the years of the "Mancomunitat" city government in a state of terrible neglect and ageing. Franco's regime imposed an ever widening gap between Spain's network of cultural institutions and those of neighbouring countries, at least until the nineteen sixties, when those institutions started to undergo an extraordinary process of renovation that affected both conceptual and physical aspects. Nevertheless, we might say that such material efforts were not always paralleled by equally satisfactory results in terms of either artistic or managerial performances. (...)

Miquel Milà
designer

The world of urban design, i.e. urban furniture designing and architecture, which is the particular field I am working in within the sphere of culture, has lately improved quite signifiantly. The people who are governing the city are much more cultured, more sensitized to culture, and it shows. Our streets have experienced notable improvements aesthetically speaking. The façades of the buildings have acquired a much better appearance, and the shop signs have been made more attractive. What has been achieved over the last years was a question of putting things in order so as to prevent chaos to develop further. In earlier years, decision-making did not depend on sensitive people's criteria, but on speculative interests and the same old power games. The administration had great responsibilities regarding the righting of that situation and acted accordingly. Over the last two or three years, however, things have slightly slowed down, but I think that now, with the appointment of Acebillo (the new city councillor)- a man with whom I personally may agree or disagree about certain concrete matters-, the situation will change for the better. He is a sensitive man. I still have a criticism to express though, an opinion I keep reiterating and which nobody pays attention to. It concerns signposting. In that field, no progress has been made. (...)


Enric Miralles

architect

It is difficult to be objective.
Barcelona as a place of passage for so many travellers.
Offers that kind of culture and information closely linked with travelling...
It offers itself.
The same thing which, as a traveller, I myself find in other places.
It seems as if cultural production were very closely linked with travelling...
Since it carries news from one place to another.
Barcelona is quite good in this domain.
Barcelona functions like a real city, not like a set of institutions.


Joaquim Molas

professor of catalan literature

(...) In my opinion, the causes of the current downward trend in cultural activity could be, among others, the following :
1) the resignation, in principle, of civil society that, either out of distrust or for lack of fiscal incentives, has transferred its cultural obligations to public institutions, including the powerful savings banks, the "Caixes"; 2) public institutions have handed culture over to civil servants or bureaucrats- as the case may be- who are not always endowed with a sufficiently imaginative mind and who only endeavour to fill up the required "official reports"; 3) this way, civil servants or bureaucrats, applying scientific criteria to the world of culture, organize research activities into a series of programmes designed for statistical purposes which are devoid of really meaningful content in spite of the impressive labels they display (i.e. "projects", "networks", etc...); 4) they set up groups, foundations and associations of all kinds, each of them duly complete with a chairman and a secretary, and proceed to convene competitions, special gatherings, symposiums and seminars- the more international, the better- destined to provide material they use to "plump up" their annual reports; furthermore, 5) most publishing houses have now entered the globalization, mass-production and industrialization game but, on the other hand, they have not made any real attempt to balance that move by fostering what we could call "hard-core" production, i.e. creative and investigative works. (...)


Josep Ramoneda

manager of the CCCB
(Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture)
(...) If there is a criticism that may be voiced against the development of the cultural policies pursued over the last years, it concerns the lack of official support in the fields of production and creation. (...) Even today, many of the art exhibitions being held in Barcelona have been bought abroad. (...) A true culture-orientated project means more than that, especially if we consider that a city that wants to "be" something in the world ought to be a model and not a copy. (...) Another outstanding problem that needs working on is how to bridge the gap between current media coverage and Barcelona's everyday creative reality (...), how to foster both horizontal and vertical communications between all the cultural creators who live and work in Barcelona- at times in isolation or in tribe-like sorts of preserves- and the mass media, which are too much given to following the trends and criteria set by the cultural "star system".
(...) Local consumers of cultural goods are few. The present educational system, which fails to engender the necessary stimuli, is in large part to blame. (...) However, it also depends on the cultural, moral and social attitudes a country chooses to cultivate. (...) In this respect, I think that the "Generalitat" government's obsessive interest in reducing its cultural policy to a merely linguistic policy has proved to be enormously harmful to this country, because it has ended up fostering the idea that working for culture is only a matter of translating everything into Catalan.


Xavier Rubert de Ventós
philosopher

There was a time when culture and people began to make themselves seen, and there were certain places where it happened. There was a general impression, both here and in Madrid, that Barcelona was going through a particularly cosmopolitan period. With the arrival of democracy, this cosmopolitan role, which had served as a way of self-expression in the absence of any other, vanished, and the prevailing remark became "you Catalans, who were so European, so cosmopolitan and open, and now you have closed in to yourselves". I think it was necessary move, just as it had earlier been necessary to adopt these, at times, somewhat frivolous, pro-European attitudes; there had been a diastole, and now it was the time for a strategic systole, providing the chance for rethinking and redefinition, which from outside was perceived negatively and received with criticism. I think that period was positive. In addition, there was also a certain nostalgia for the cosmopolitanism of the sixties, which was a little silly, naive, avant-garde, daring, amusing. (…)


Ricard Salvat i Ferré
theatre director

This game of the families of power must end, with its exasperating theory of ostracisation - despite the fact that a well-known left-wing party thinker has claimed that Democracy by its nature leads to ostracisation. It is also time to get rid of the provincialism of the majority of the newspapers, the few that are left. And it is time to put an end to the extreme provincialism of the subsidised theatres which go on inviting guest directors without any artistic merit or value, and we must end this fear among the intellectuals who are becoming mere servants of power. (...).
Public positions and buildings cannot continue to be doled out as if this were some kind of banana republic, rather we must follow the model established by the British Council and the Swedish Council for the Arts, Architecture and Urbanism. It is worrying that throughout all these years of Democracy we still have not managed to develop a National Film industry, and that the word theatre is increasingly a synonym of commercial theatre, in a city where even the alternative theatres put on plays by Harold Pinter, which 25 or 30 years ago would have been running in the city's largest theatres. It is true that Barcelona has been given a place in the world and is a well-known and admired city in terms of tourism; however, its cultural and artistic life cannot match that of the European cities with which it is now on an equal footing in the tourist ratings.


Carles Santos

musician and composer

(...) Nowadays, you always have to count the cost of any new undertaking, to calculate how many people will come to see the show, to consider whether it is worthy or not to give it, whether you'll come off well or badly, whether there is a possibility to get a grant, etc... It has become a kind of art business. (...) The audience is larger than ever before, people are better informed, though not too much so, which means that there are no great exigencies or expectations to be met but, on the other hand, artistic creation does not get any real material or intellectual support. So that we have to remain within the sphere of what we could call "good jobs well done", rather like what happened in the cinema industry: films have to be "well done", music has to be "good", it has to be original, but not too strange, or too aggressive. Which confirms that there is no room for avant-garde in the art world any more. Because, if what we mean by "avant-garde" behaviour is a will to achieve the renovation of society, such a transformation now depends on technology and science; artists no longer have that mission which was historically theirs. A few artists still believe that they can change society through their militancy or sufferings. But the actual situation is quite different and, personally, I think that it's a good thing because it allows me to work at my leisure, without being pressured into attempting to renovate things or having to feel constantly and rabidly avant-garde, a feeling that is unbearable in the long run. (...)


Enric Satué
designer and historian

Institutional, financial and commercial labels will soon invade practically every corner of our world. (...)
However, there is no need for us to get worked up over it. There always will be someone, a man or a woman- probably an architect or a designer-, who will eventually emerge as the sculptor or painter of the next century.
Maybe there will also be some exceptions among entrepreneurs; were there to be only one businessman or one businesswoman among one thousand not interested in speculative dealings, that would be enough to ensure that all creators are granted freedom of expression. (...)
While the major events currently taking place in Catalonia are trade fairs, commercial exhibitions and markets (money talks ...), we have to go to Madrid (Reina Sofia Museum), Valencia (IVAM) or Bilbao (Guggenheim Museum) if we want to acquaint ourselves with the most important manifestations of contemporary aesthetics. I don't really know the reasons for that situation, but I trust that next year, next century or next millemium, things will eventually take a turn for the better...
Vladimir de Semir proposing councillor of the city of knowledge
If we talk of art for the majority - as opposed to art for an elite, which already has its established channels, although clearly for a minority - then it is clear that what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu refers to as "fast thinking" is coming to the fore. The influence of the audio-visual media have been central to the new emphasis on playing on emotions and sensations and relegating the sphere of ideas to a secondary position. At the same time, it is also clear that the media have not managed to develop fast enough to adapt properly to the role they really play nowadays, and even worse: they are now run in accordance with the tenets of the marketing directors more than the demands of information providers. This patently obvious cultural reductionism or dumbing down, driven by the private, but also public, communication media - in obedience to the dominant model - is also conditioned by the multiple vested interests, political and economic, which surround it. In consequence, the panorama could not be more pessimistic, although there are some developments which allows us to glimpse a ray of hope, such as Le Monde, which we should try to imitate here as well. (...).


Rosa Vergès
film director

(...) The "Barcelona label" should include a cultural aspect, a diffusion-orientated facet that would also be connected with its projected image of a tourist city in which the development of "leisure culture" is an increasingly important asset. This is an interesting period of time, because finding itself in the spotlight provides Barcelona with opportunities to carry out projects nobody could have dreamt of undertaking in earlier times. But such a development also implies the risk- as in the case of those "museum boutiques" so much in fashion throughout the world- of turning culture into the consumption of objects instead of the diffusion of the art works themselves. (...) Film production is a sector which has been badly neglected over the last twenty years, not only in Barcelona but also in the whole of Catalonia. Politicization reached such heights that it ended up ruining the local cinema industry. As a result, most film companies chose to move to Madrid. Under these circumstances, each film produced by a Catalan company is like a small island that struggles to be self-sufficient whereas, in my opinion, efforts should be made to increase local production. (...) Barcelona remains immersed in a state of self-absorbed contemplation that leads it to invest more time and money in its image than in more fundamental matters. Culture very often manifests itself as an upward movement, going from smaller things to greater ones, not the other way round. (...)


Jorge Wagensberg
director of the science museum of the "La Caixa" foundation

(...) There is a project- called "Barcelona, Ciutat del Coneixement" (Barcelona, City of Knowledge)- which I find interesting as an idea. I like the fact that they chose to use knowledge as a symbol. The crux of the matter lies in ascertaining how to put the wheels in motion so that it would not remain a mere symbol. I personally attended some of their meetings and the opinion I expressed was that the initiative should be based on the creation of spaces with the capacity to foster knowledge. It is essentially a matter of providing stimuli. I am convinced that Barcelona is a city that proves stimulating for both creators and consumers of cultural goods. However, it has to open up to the outside world. It is not a question of giving grants, approving programmes and developping them only to file away résumés of the results in some basement storeroom. Not at all. It is a question of building structures, setting up organizations within which people from different spheres of activity could work side by side, more especially those who, under normal conditions, would never have the opportunity to be together, a physicist and a musician for instance. And those places should be open to professionals from all parts of the world, so as to encourage contacts between Barcelona residents and people from other places. In my opinion, the success of that project must lie in achieving that aim. It is impossible to design a policy that would actually force such situation, but it is still possible to create an atmosphere favourable to its development.