portada de BMM


To mark the issue that closes the century, B.MM takes a look back at the cultural scene in Barcelona over the last 25 years. Our overview takes in all the main areas of creativity (music, cinema, plastic arts, architecture and others) except dance, which was covered in a special report in number 52. Several experts devote these pages to a review of the facts, the trends, the events and the actors that moulded the cultural life of the city over this period.

Music: positive overall results despite a few black marks

The renovation - in the case of the "Palau de la Música" -, the reconstruction - in the case of the "Liceu" opera house - and the inauguration - in the case of the "Auditori" - of large musical infrastructures stand out as the most notable events and the most visible changes that have taken place on Barcelona's cultured-music scene in the last 25 years. But, apart from their evident visibility, those actions may also be considered as major achievements from an objective point of view.

In the mid nineteen seventies, the city of Barcelona had approximately the same musical facilities it boasted thirty years earlier. There were two major centres that polarized musical activities in our city: the "Palau de la Música" and the "Teatre del Liceu". From a strictly operational point of view, both facilities had a very short life expectancy: in terms of technical equipment, those historic buildings had become obsolete, artistic activities were consequently hindered by constant operational difficulties and there was a severe lack of safety features. So both edifices were surveyed and plans for their renovation, modernization and extension were drawn up, but the final streamlining and the implementation of those plans would be a laborious process that proceeded very slowly, constantly impeded by financial, legal and technical difficulties and by the overall situation that sometimes obliged the authorities to divert funds from the works to emergency actions in other sectors of activity, thus making the risky decision to leave the implementation of the plans until the following year.

Eventually, in the case of the "Palau de la Música", works could start in time and the building was entirely renovated and modernized without spoiling any of the highly peculiar architectural features that make it unique of its kind in the whole world. The "Palau de la Música" is currently undergoing new structural changes, this time extension works which, among other services, will add to the existing building a chamber-music hall that will serve to palliate the present lack of medium-size music facilities in our city.

Unfortunately, there was no time to carry out the other planned operation as, in January 1994, the "Liceu" opera house was burned to the ground and the original "renovation and extension" scheme had to be hastily rescheduled and reshaped into a "reconstruction and extension" plan. It does not prove easy to analyze the case of the "Liceu" and the ruling issued at the end of the court case that was recently heard in Barcelona more or less stated that the fire which destroyed the building had been caused by an "accident", even though such an accident could have been avoided or, at least, the consequential damages would have been much less severe if the building had been kept in better condition, a task that was part of the responsibilities of the administrative bodies that have authority to decide on which of the numerous civic emergencies available funds ought to be spent and, in the case of the "Liceu", in view of such grievous consequences, public governing bodies made an erroneous decision, or to be more exact, they failed to take the right decision in due time. (...)

Insofar as inaugurations are concerned, the most notable opening is obviously that of the "Auditorium", a large-scale facility that was necessary but the construction of which has been laborious and is not as yet completed. The "Auditorium" was not operational in time for the 92 Olympic Games and, once the fever of the Olympic construction campaign had subsided, it was fully hit by the slump in building activity that followed, so that works were practically stopped for a few years. Eventually, the partially completed building was inaugurated in 1999, even though the chamber-music hall has still to be built and, what is a matter of greater concern, as yet no date has been announced for its inauguration. (...)
(...) However, final results are not positive - or, at least, not positive enough - in all sectors. In terms of teaching facilities, for example, the "Conservatory" has still to undergo a process of in-depth remodelling and modernization (..) that would at last permit it to meet one of the social requirements such an institution is intended to satisfy: to provide the country with well-trained, capable and really competitive professionals, so that Barcelona would not have to "import" musicians any longer (...).

Music: 25 years of sonorous war


LAIE. The death throes of Franco's dictatorship coincided with the definitive blooming of the so-called "Onda Layetana" movement. Under this name, which evoked the Iberian past of Barcelona, a number of musicians gathered, who, without following the same stylistic pattern, shared a common search for their own roots. There was the "Sardana flamenca" by Toti Soler, as well as the more noticeable "Salsa catalana" by the "Orquestra Mirasol", before the traditional Gothic Quarter tune "Oucomballa" ended up achieving rare success in the form of a riotous piece of a riotous piece of vinyl by "Companyia Elèctrica Dharma". At the same time, Sisa produced a terrific brainchild called "Qualsevol nit per sortir el sol", a penetrating portrait of Barcelona's most dreamlike and surreal side. Those were times of intense musical activity. (...)

"ACHILIPUNK". From 1977 onwards, punk established a new order in the rock music world, which opened up to the sound of the suburbs. Groups like "Peligro", "Basura", "Mortimer" and, more especially, "La Banda Trapera del Rio" subverted the Barcelona music scene after a striking launch in the "Casino de l'Aliança" in the Poble Nou district. As a counterpoint to the long productions of the late "Onda Layetana" movement, a limit of two or three minutes was imposed on their songs. Those first groups led the way for a new wave of emerging rockers - such as "Loquillo", "Rebeldes", "Decibelios" and "Los Rápidos" - who quickly became popular in the early eighties. This was particularly spectacular in the case of "El Ultimo de la Fila", (the umpteenth line-up of "Los Rápidos"), the group in which Manolo García and Quimi Portet tasted international success throughout the Hispanic world. (...)

EN TRANSITO. Apart from some illustrious exceptions, the nineteen eighties as a decade was not at all easy for singers -cum-songwriters. After their contribution to the country's political change, our modern-day troubadours were more often than not unfairly forgotten. Despite everything, in 1981, Serrat released an album called "En Tránsito" which, in my opinion, is his masterpiece after "Mediterráneo". Backed up by Rafael Moll's efficiency as a producer, "el nano" (the kid) created a record of great maturity, in which he chose to abandon his usual descriptive tone to give his opinions and philosophize on life in general. With no weak track, the album encapsulates the musical magic of an inspired Ricard Miralles. (...)

THE REGIONAL INVASION. In the second half of the eighties, we witnessed the rebirth of rock music in Catalan. Barcelona found itself by a tidal wave of groups, mostly from other parts of Catalonia, who ended up achieving success in the capital city. "Sopa de Cabra", from Girona, "Sau", from the Osona region, "Sangtrait", from the Empurdà, and "Els Pets", from Tarragona, reached their particular "summit" on a crowded evening in the Palau Sant Jordi in June 1991. Nearly all of them, as well as the highly popular "Umpah-pah", had previously shown their crowd-pulling ability when performing during the popular festivities that take place annually in honour of the "Mercè", Barcelona's patron saint.

CONTEMPORARY PLANETARIUMS. The "Cultural Olympics" was a turning point in the history of Barcelona's musical events and, more particularly so, in the sphere of ethnic and contemporary music. (...) Carles Santos - without a doubt our contemporary artist with the highest profile - left his deep imprint on the "Festival de Tardor" (Autumn Festival). (...) For the past few years, Barcelona's inclination for the contemporary has been expressed in "Sónar", an electronic music festival organized by "Advanced Music", which attracted nearly fifty thousand spectators last year. (...)

FLAMENCO AND JAZZ. The great Tete Montoliu died unexpectedly in 1997, just when local jazz was going through one of its most interesting and lively periods. A young generation of musicians, with experience in the United States playing with emerging names of the stature of Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen and Mark Turner, is now flooding our clubs. (...) The "Taller de Músics" (Musicians' Workshop) has also helped to uncover a new breeding ground for flamenco musicians. Singers such as Mayte Martín, Chicuelo, Ginesa Ortega and Miguel Poveda, who all cut their teeth within the "Taller de Músics" - together with Duquende - make up a substantial scene today. (...) Besides, the nineties saw the establishment of Carles Benavent as an instrumentalist. Summoned by Miles Davis to play in what would be his last concert in Montreux, the bassist from Poble Sec is today an undisputed reference point when considering rhythmic hybridization of flamenco sound within jazz.

Twenty-five years, or the logic of time


Any period is a suitable subject for history or analysis. The results always depend on the chronology and the period in question. A keen eye may obtain a more or less accurate picture of the observed reality, according to the length of the period studied. It is common practice to use the decade as a suitable period of time for reflection. It is a very brief period, but when one studies it one can find a surprising number of changes between the beginning and the end of a decade. The overall picture is not the same and a considerable number of changes have occurred. When the proposal is to go over the last twenty-five years of Catalan literature, the changes are still more evident and the transformation is absolute. We have gone from a time of dictatorship and resistance to Franco to a time of democracy, which means that we have gone from a culture of repression to a culture of freedom, and this has of course radically transformed the cultural and literary registers of this country. Furthermore, twenty-five years can be considered as an important period of time in the life of a person, and the force of time is implacable. Therefore, what has happened in Catalan literature is the inevitable result of the passing of time. The processes are easy to explain. What is more complex is to explain the literary movements or tendencies that clarify the period under study. We will deal with this in parts.

The process
(...) A general idea that unifies all the variants is that at the beginning of the period analysed all the personal and literary references that evoke the past of the war and the immediate post-war period had concluded. (...) The process of reconstruction from scratch (...) is a reference from the past at the opening of a new period, the eighties and nineties, which was not placid but showed a great vitality in comparison with the earlier period.

The second factor that must be borne in mind is the presence of the generation of the seventies. (...) In fact, the period that we are analysing corresponds fully to the process of this generation which now, in 2000, is in its full creative maturity. It was a generation born within the resistance to Franco, which flourished in the seventies, had to adapt to the transformations of the culture of freedom heralded by the eighties, and started to reach its creative and chronological maturity in the nineties. Most of its members are now in their fifties.

And while this was happening, a third phenomenon appeared. In the second half of the eighties a new group emerged. These were the authors born in the sixties whose adolescence was partly occupied by Franco's death and the transition period. Some were already able to study Catalan as the official language at school. With all the social changes, their references were not, and could no longer be, the former ones. Their references are based on freedom and probably, in a culture that has always had to go against the current, their great challenge will be to create a new culture and literature, to find the keys to a modern culture of quality developed under parameters similar to those of other cultures. (...)

The testimony of the renewal of the eighties can be found in several books that were published at the end of the decade, almost all in 1989: an anthology of poetry, Ser del segle (1989) edited by David Castillo; three anthologies of narrative, La profecia (1989), edited by Carles Geli and Jaume Subirana; 10 narradors (1989), edited by Josep Bargalló, focussing on the writers of Tarragona, and Tapis. Narradors a Girona (1990), edited by Lourdes Güell; and a book of criticism, Fahrenheit 212, by the Joan Orja group. In all these books you will find most of the names that belong to the new generation that appeared in the late eighties. The list is long, but includes: A. Vidal, M. Castaño, R. Vallbona, A. Roig, C. Torner, J. Subirana, J. Ballester, J. Cornudella, R. Guillem, M. Pons, X. Lloveras, X. R. Trigo, V. Llorca, L. A. Baulenas, A. Bosch, J. Bras, J. F. Delgado, J. M. Fonolleras, M. Jaén, C. Mengual, T. Pascual, M. Serra, X. Amorós Corbella, J. Cavallé, I. Olesti, M. Palau, J. Arbonés, M. Fañanàs, V. Pagés, M. Pairolí, A. Puigverd, J. Pujol, M. M. Roca, J. N. Santaeulàlia, and O. Izquierdo. Others, who are not included but belong among them by right, are S. Pàmies, G. Galmés, J. Puntí, J. Mata, J. Guillamon, M. P. Janer and M. Ollé.

As I have said, for reasons of biology and personal chronology, the central space is occupied by the authors of the seventies or those born in the immediate post-war period. In poetry, the appearance of these authors led to the absolute revision of the realism that was dominant in the sixties and an opening toward all the models of poetic history and tradition. The new paths were re-oriented toward the legacy that poetry has left in the course of time: Symbolism, Romanticism, Surrealism and Experimentalism. This led to the great rupture of the seventies and the return to voices that illustrate the constants of the genre and are very much alive among the new authors. (...) Without going into the characteristics of each one or the reasons that give rise to them, we will quote a prominent title of each genre. As an example of the novel as a search for form, L'adolescent de sal (1975), by B. Mesquida; of the novel as the chronicle of a generation, Aquell gust agre de l'estel (1977), by R. Saladrigas; of family cycles, Ventada de morts (1978), by J. Albanell; of the feminist novel, L'hora violeta (1980), by M. Roig; of the historical novel, L'evangeli gris (1982), by V. Villatoro, and of the novel of non-urban memory, Camí de sirga (1988), by J. Moncada.
Though these are some possible references, the eighties and nineties have also seen the consolidation of authors and works that have received critical consensus and are representative of these two decades. Examples in poetry are L'edat d'or (1983), by F. Parcerisas; Enigma (1983) and En quarentena (1990), by N. Comadira; Semblança (1986), by F. Formosa; Un viatge d'hivern (1989), by Antoni Marí; Llengua abolida (1989), by M. Marçal; El vendaval (1988) and La llum (1991), by P. Gimferrer, and El llibre de la frontera, by J. Pont. Examples in the novel and narrative are Fra Junoy o l'agonia dels sons (1984) and Senyoria (1991), by J. Cabré; L'illa de Maians (1985) and La magnitud de la tragèdia (1989), by Q. Monzó; Pedra de tartera (1985), by Maria Barbal; Les primaveres i les tardors (1986) and El cor del senglar (1999), by B. Porcel; Memorial de Claudi M. Broch (1986), by R. Saladrigas; Retrat d'un assassí d'ocells (1988), by Emili Teixidor; El jardí dels set crepuscles (1989), by M. de Palol; Figures de calidoscopi (1989), by R. Solsona; Els treballs perduts (1989), by J. F. Mira; Joana E. (1992), by M. A. Oliver; Dins del darrer blau (1994), by C. Riera; La passió segons Renée Vivien (1994), by M. M. Marçal; and L'emperador (1997), by J. Coca.

Plastic arts: the contemporary art map

There is absolutely no doubt that the opening of the Miró Foundation on June 10th, 1975 - with an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and graphic works which the artist himself had handed over to the Foundation - and the start of a programme of temporary exhibitions in November of that same year with the "Tantric Art" exhibition - which, as we ought to recall, opened its doors at a time when, with Franco at death's door, the future was particularly uncertain - were events that, in our city, marked the dawn of a new era in the sphere of contemporary art as it started to escape from the grey, limbo-like situation it had been trapped in during the post-war years, advancing in parallel with the progressive creation - by both private and public bodies - of a number of new institutions that were meant to give it a new identity of its own. And, without trying to assess to what extent initial expectations have actually been fulfilled, we can at least assert that the new situation has served to shape and define working patterns and features quite different from the ones considered usual until now. Thanks to Miró's expressed will that his Foundation be close to younger generations, a body called "Ambit de Recerca" (Research Space), managed by young artists, was set up and, even though it disappeared but a short time later due to internal tensions and problems, it was the starting point for the creation of the "Espai 10", through which young art critics were given an opportunity to start working in the field of exhibition commissioning. That decision, and the fact that other institutions - such as the La Caixa Foundation in its gallery on carrer Montcada, or the City Council in places like the "Capella de l'Antic Hospital" and the unfortunately closed down "L'Artesà de Gràcia" - followed suit, have long constituted a characteristic unique to Barcelona's art world - even though other Spanish cities would later adopt it - and which made it possible for many future art critics and exhibition commissioners to get good initial training. (...)

With the opening - in November 1995 - of the "Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona" (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art), it first seemed as though a long-standing expectation that had been claimed for over 25 years, ever since the first attempts within the "Cúpula del Coliseum", had at last been fulfilled. The museum's first undertakings, however, merely proved to be another sucession of inaccurate steps on the controversial path it had been blundering along from the start. At the present time, now that things have quietened down after a consensus was, of necessity, reached amongst all parties involved - including the artists themselves -, the museum ought to make up for those nearly ten years lost in a maze of erroneous decisions and pointless power struggles. The task in hand is far from easy because, considering the constant changes our society is subject to, the museum institution should reconsider its course of action as soon as possible if it does not want to get lost again in a frenetic race of exhibitions and other cultural activities merely aimed at attracting crowds of visitors, or end up appearing as a storehouse with a contemporary veneer. It should neither disregard the context it is working in, nor go into raptures exclusively over what is happening abroad. But it also ought to work out a coherent balance between what it advocates in ideological terms and the role it is actually playing today as well the one it might play in the future.

Now, once established that sort of artistic map which shows so many diverse initiatives, the next step should be to foster positive coordination between them, making it prevail over existing political and institutional differences, so that Barcelona might truly become a "city of contemporary art".

Barcelona, a contradictorily contemporary city

There is a milestone in the evolution of contemporary art in Barcelona over the last twenty-five years, an event that actually served as the basis on which the whole contradictory development of modern Catalan art would be structured over the following three decades. We are talking about the opening exhibition at the Miró Foundation in June, 1975. (...) The year 1975 also marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one in the sphere of conceptual art as it witnessed the start of a process which, not too successfully, attempted to make art break away from restricted circles and open up in search of a larger audience. (...)

Within the Miró Foundation, an independent group of artists joined together to create a collective called "Ambit de Reserca" (Research Space). (...) This collective, however, would soon found itself in disagreement with the Foundation's board of trustees and, at the beginning of the year 1977, it was dissolved. In an attempt to continue to support young artists, the Miró Foundation then created the "Espai 10", an association which would some time later change its name and is known today as "Espai 13". (...) Similar initiatives were carried out by "La Capella", under the auspices of the City Council of Barcelona, and the "Sala Montcada", run by the La Caixa Foundation (...).

At the end of the nineteen seventies, in Barcelona, a few collectors joined together to form a collective intended to support conceptual art. One of the most influential was industrialist Rafael Tous who, in 1980, set up the "Sala Metrònom", a private exhibition space that would become a place of artistic reference in the city.

In 1983, the "Sala Metrònom" (...) moved to new premises on carrer Fussina, in the Born neighbourhood. It was part of an attempt to make the Ribera district a sort of local Soho. However, the "Sala Metrònom" was closed down for lack of proper funding in 1990. With the support of the City Council of Barcelona, it opened again in 1995. At the present time, its programme of events embraces plastic arts, photography and the latest musical currents (...). The "Sala Metrònom" was intended to be (...) a driving force in the renewal process of the Ribera district (...). But the dream did not come true (...).

The construction of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (...) also suggested that the early nineties would definitely see the creation of a section of the city more especifically centred on the diffusion of contemporary art. The prices of the premises located in the neighbourhood of the plaça dels Angels began to rise steeply. Many old shops were turned into establishments with renewed art offerings. From the Ribera district, gallery owner Carles Poy moved to carrer Doctor Dou. Other gallery owners followed suit. Nevertheless. Poy would eventually be the first to throw in the sponge. But, despite defections, a significant number of galleries are still open today (...).

However, we are now witnessing a new movement backwards. In the eighties, in the "new painting" sphere, there was a special happening that would leave a long-lasting imprint on the evolution of the contemporary art market: the sudden appearance of a phenomenon called Miquel Barcelò. Where his works are concerned, regardless of their genuine artistic value, there were many anomalies in the valuation and prizing process. The market had gone crazy. People were eager to get rid of their dirty money as a result of the measures taken by the Socialists - who had just come to power in Spain - so as to clean up and clarify the economic situation. (...) A real opportunity to provide the art marhet with a more stable structure and to integrate new collectors into the existing circuit was thus missed because of an excess of speculative operations. (...)

Within that range of newly-built art facilities, we cannot fail to mention the inauguration, in 1988, of the "Centre d'Art Santa Mònica" (Santa Mònica Art Centre) - administered by the Generalitat autonomous government -, the activity of which is more specially aimed at recalling and reviving interest in the recent history of Catalan modern art (...). The Tàpies Foundation has also played an outstanding role in enriching the range of Barcelona's art offerings. (...)

To give a final summation of what has been achieved over the last twenty-five years, we might say that, at present, the city has a sufficient number of newly created infrastructures to allow the professionals involved to exhibit contemporary art works as well as to perform an efficient didactic task in the sphere of contemporary artistic creation. Efforts have also been made to diffuse knowledge of contemporary art works and artists from all over the world. So, overall objective conditions are rather encouraging, but the sector still lacks the kind of commercial dynamism that would proportionately befit the large population of artists who are currently living and working in our city as well as the high quality of their respective forms of artistic expression. (...)

Traditional modernity

(...) There is still a fourth period, extending over the last twenty-five years, that has revitalized the worldwide image of Barcelona's architecture and for which, nevertheless, a list of honourable mentions for architectural merits has still to be made.

(...) General Franco's death, in 1975, marked the end of an era in many spheres, including architecture: it was around that time that the latest works by those mature architects who - living either abroad in exile or in Spain - had kept on fanning the flames of modernity in the post-war years, were completed: the building of the Miró Foundation, designed by Sert, was finished in 1975, and Coderch had already planned what would a posthumous work, i.e. the sinuously shaped new extension to the School of Architecture.

Then it was time for a whole new generation of professionals - headed by Oriol Bohigas - to take over. (...). And, under the all-encompassing leadership of a man like Bohigas, who controlled municipal architecture and town-planing during the crucial decade of the nineteen eighties, many opportunities opened up and there was considerable work done in Barcelona, not only by the architects who had gained experience and training at his side - i.e. the members of the so-called "Barcelona School" -, but also by those who had eventually thrown off his tutelage and also established some of the stylistic patterns used in the architectural transformation of the city. In this respect, the new "Plaça dels Països Catalans" (Catalan Countries Square) (1981-83) (...) designed by Albert Viaplana, Helio Piñon and Enric Miralles, then a young man, is a construction that can be considered truly emblematic of that period.

THE OLYMPIC CROP. Whereas the aforementioned square was meant as a manifesto in favour of a new kind of modernity, the main architectural change witnessed by Barcelona in the last quarter of a century proved to be a distilled expression of a more traditional modernity.

An outstanding prologue to that olympic architectural crop was the construction of the magnificent "Velodrome" designed by Bonell and Rius and inaugurated in 1984 in the Horta neighbourhood. That prologue would soon be followed by two large-scale packages of town-planning projects (the so-called "Anillo Olímpico" (Olympic Ring) and the "Olympic Village" itself) that appeared as paradigmatical expressions of the above mentioned "traditional modernity". Where the "Olympic Ring" is concerned, the general layout of the area, designed by Correa and Milà, shows unmistakable echoes of Classicism and even of the Catalan style known as "Noucentisme". We would like to stress the originality and impressiveness of constructions such as the "Palau Sant Jordi" sports complex, a project that bears Arata Isozaki's signature, and (...) the "Telefónica" Communications Tower, designed by Santiago Calatrava. (...)

MICROSURGERY IN THE RAVAL DISTRICT. (...) The City Council of Barcelona granted Ricard Meier's white and rationalistic peculiar brand of architecture the capacity to start working on the regeneration of the old Raval district. Meier's major work in Barcelona - the building that houses the MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) - undoubtedly is one of the most emblematic examples of urban renovation. Its construction was paralleled (...) by those of the CCCB, designed by Viaplana and Piñon (...) and the "Facultad de Ciencias de la Imagen", planned by Dani Freixes, among others.

MIXED MARRIAGES. Architects and engineers (...) occasionally carried out collaborative projects and succeeded in producing a few milestones of urban construction in Barcelona. (...) Among those, (...) the most outstanding example is the "Collserola" Communications Tower (1988-92), designed by Norman Foster. (...) Mention should also be made of the remodelled Barcelona airport after the enlargement works planned and directed by Ricardo Bofill. (...)

CORPORATE ZONE. The last quarter of a century has also been marked by diverse town-planning actions intended to revitalize the stretch of Diagonal Avenue between plaça Francesc Macià and the "Ciudad Universitaria" (University Campus) area. (...) In this respect, the "Illa Diagonal" shopping centre (1980-92) and the so-called "Rascacielos Acostado" (Lying Skyscraper), designed by Rafael Moneo and Manuel de Solà-Morales, are remarkable cases in point. (...)

THE LAST BATCHES. The list of building works that have been completed over the last five years is shorter. In any event, very few people dare to make a high valuation of one of the most pompous of those constructions: the "World Trade Centre", planned by I.M. Pei. (...) Just as there are few declared admirers of the architecture of the "National Theatre" building, designed by Bofill and erected in the "Glories" neighbourhood, close to Moneo's more skilfully balanced and sober-looking "Auditorium". (...)

2004 HORIZONS. (...) The closing stage of the nineties was one of frantic building activity. On the one hand, this was due (...) to the works intended to open up the main artery of Barcelona - the Diagonal avenue - to the Mediterranan, a series of town-planning actions which is now culminating in the development of the area called "Diagonal-Mar". On the other hand, (...) the construction of all the facilities necessary for the development of the "Fòrum de les Cultures 2004" (2004 Forum for Cultures) is prompting a resurgence of that urbanizing frenzy. (...)

(...) I think that it is appropriate to conclude this article with a mention of other architectural projects that are bound to have a significant impact on Barcelona's architectural skyline, should they finally be carried out. I am referring to the various skyscrapers (...) which architects such as Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, Richard Rogers, Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Ricardo Bofill or Miralles-Tagliabue are planning to erect in our city.

Theatre: truly, the best of all possible worlds

A positive change in the attitudes of government and business companies has taken place - both in the public and private domain - concerning the previously overlooked textual theatre of the nineteen seventies. This includes the misnamed "return of text", which took place and was discussed all over Europe throughout the eighties, and has given such original fruits of mutual understanding, co-operation and recognition between directors and authors such as Bob Wilson and Heiner Müller, or Patrice Chéreau and B.M. Koltes.

In Catalonia, the beginnings of the revival of text theatre can be traced back to approximately 1985. In fact, the CDG, especially, and the "Teatre Lliure", to a lesser extent, were the pioneers in giving contemporary Catalan writing special prominence. They also revived some of the authors of the nineteen sixties and seventies for the stage - as in the case of Benet i Jornet, Sirera and Gomis - while others such as Llorenç Villalonga, Salvador Espriu, Joan Oliver, Manuel de Pedrolo and Joan Brossa disappeared for good. Throughout the eighties, the playwrights of the sixties and seventies as a group were subject to a period of critical revision and a substantial rectification of forms, techniques and contents of their respective dramatic worlds. These universes had been created basically as a result of stimulation by and reference to Brecht and epic theatre. This change in direction was the result of the formulation of another dramatic pattern or model, centred above all on the dissection of the most private and hidden parts of the human being's inner world.

From the eighties onward, the continuity of Catalan dramatic literature was also reinforced by the appearance of new names that are firmly today established on our theatrical scene. This new process started with Sergi Belbel, surely the most internationally famous Catalan playwright nowadays after Angel Guimera, it continued with Jordi Galceran and Lluisa Cunillé, and it ended with David Plana and Sergi Pompermayer, among others.

(...) We would also put emphasis on the gradual development and consolidation of the Catalan private theatre business, which has helped to partially restore the legendary pre-war "Paral.lel" theatre, with two other popular theatres - the "Victoria" and the "Condal" - making a special contribution, alternating various types of textual theatre performances with revues and musical comedies. The rebirth of a genuinely Catalan commercial theatre, however, has not been matched by the Spanish theatre holding its own in Catalonia, as it still tends towards the conventional, is often scarce and is most of the time staged in older premises, such as the "Goya" theatre in the city centre. Meanwhile, other theatres such as the "Villaroel", the "Teatreneu" or, more recently, the now restored "Teatre Principal" and "Teatre Tivoli", have chosen more ambitious commercial theatre paths and commitments, with a predominance of works in the Catalan language. (...)

The "Sala Beckett" plays an important role both socially and theatrically. This theatre was established in 1988 by José Sanchis Sinisterra as a venue for the productions of the "Teatro Fronterizo" group (1977), and also to promote textual drama works, providing a productive training field for young artists and playwrights. (...) But the current presence and scenic vitality of a number of "alternative" venues contrasts with the disappearance - in the last twenty-five years - of historic venues, such as the "Capsa", "Calderón", "Moratin" and "Talia" theatres, not to forget the much missed "El Molino".

The significant role played by events such as the "Sitges Teatre International" - even though it had to go through a few bad patches - or the "Festival de Titelles" (Puppet Show Festival) which, like the Tàrrega Street Theatre Festival, act as marketplaces for theatrical novelties, showing the remarkable wealth and diversity of theatrical ideas in Catalonia today.

Besides, a new group of promising actors have raised their profile over the last years thanks to various television series, so that their growing fame has created a kind of Catalan "Star system" with a great deal of potential in terms of diffusion and popularity. (...)

Catalan cinema: a failure by decree

(...) What happened - or, rather, what did not happen - to Catalan cinema after Franco's death ? Catalan cinematographic industry could be compared to a small haberdasher's that the whims of modernity and governing politicians have turned into a bargain basement: and, all in all, to end up merely dubbing films into Catalan, mainly those produced by the allpowerful, American-based multinational companies - more particularly, Disney -, in a poor attempt to resuscitate an infrastructure and a production centre that, years ago, ranked second only to Madrid in the whole of Spain. (...)

Lately, there seems to be an inverted trend that manifests itself in an almost massive exodus of professionals of the Catalan film world who flow to Madrid as a result of the dismantling of an industry (...) that, in the past, had found its own local David O. Selznick figure in Iquino, even though he also produced many Spanish films. (...)

Catalan cinema has fallen victim to an institutionalized framework that obliges it to be a Catalan-speaking cinema, as a consequence of the aberrant prevailing attitudes that confuse culture (...) with linguistic normalization. After the Spanish dictator's death and the disappearance of the so-called "Barcelona School" (...), the accumulated effects of Francoist repression had made the ground ready for the appearance of a cathartic cinema focused on nationalistic vindication (...), of which Antoni Ribas would be the staunchest supporter and a leading exponent in films (...) such as "La ciutat cremada" (1976), the trilogy called "Victòria!" (1983-84), (...) and "Terra de canons" (2000).

Besides, there was an unavoidable hagiographic current to which Josep Maria Forn (the director of an outstanding film, "La piel quemada", in 1966) contributed a touch of artistic decorum with "Companys, procés a Catalunya" (1979). (...) The different artistic options available in those times of political transition are perfectly illustrated by the works of film-makers such as Jaime Camino ("La vieja memoria", 1978), Bigas Luna ("Bilbao", 1976), Francesc Bellmunt ("L'orgia", 1978), Ventura Pons ("Ocaña, retrat intermitent", 1978) or Vicente Aranda ("La muchacha de las bragas de oro", 1980). (...)

During that same period of time, Barcelona witnessed the closure of several studios, among them those run by Iquino, Isasi, Balcázar, etc... Coincident with those disappearances, the large-scale multinational film distributors - that had traditionally made Barcelona the launching pad for their operations in the whole Spanish State - had moved their central offices to Madrid. (...) Now, what was the Catalan authorities' answer to the dismantlement of an infrastructure that was necessary to allow the local film industry to remain even minimally operational ? An orthopaedic procedure which stated that only Catalan-speaking cinema could be truly considered to be Catalan cinema. However, thanks to the good offices of "Barcelona Plató", it is still easy to shoot a film in our city (...), which has made it possible for Pedro Almodovar's Oscar-winner "All about my mother" to become a very successful instrument of promotion for Barcelona (...). Just as it may also happen now with "Gaudi afternoon", a film which was also shot in Barcelona by American director Susan Seidelman. (...)

In any event, can anyone actually oblige cinema to speak a given language by decree ? Franco did it in 1941 when he issued an order that forbade the public showing of any film in which dialogues were not in Spanish. (...)

Issued as an extension of the "Llei de Política Linguística" (Linguistic Policy Law), the hastily concocted, poorly diffused and inconsistently agreed decree that was meant to regulate the use of the Catalan language in films and that considered the establishment of a progressive dubbing quota system as well as the imposition of economic sanctions, was short-lived (from 1988 until its derogation in the year 2000) and ended up appearing as one of the most ridiculous and derided measures ever taken by a government. (...) Nowadays, the unfortunate truth is that the strangulation of the local film industry has caused a heavy drain on the sector, forcing many professionals to go away. (...) There is no scarcity of local talent, but rather a severe lack of openings and of a policy that would set aside provincialism.

Design: a period of consolidation

(...) The nineteen sixties were marked by the activity of designers such as André Ricard, Rafael Marquina, Miguel Milà and Leopoldo Milá, architects such as Antoni de Moragas, Jose Antonio Coderch, Correa-Milà, and Martorell-Bohigas-Mackay, or graphic artist Yves Zimmermann and other contemporaries. All of them representative of a generation that has played a determining role over the last decades of this century, not only because they served as points of reference for younger professionals of the sector, but also because, in most cases, their activity has followed a constantly updated line of development. Objects such as Miguel Milà's TMC lamp - which was awarded a Delta Prize in 1961 and which now, forty years laters, continues to be a best-selling product - are perfect illustrations of that reality. We might say that the most characteristic feature of those outstanding professionals' work is their attachment to rationality.

(...) In the seventies, there was a significant consolidation of the links between design and industry. And, actually, it was a two-way process. On the one hand, following a proposal put forward by members of the ADI, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation decided to grant financial support to BCD ("Barcelona Centre de Disseny"), a local institution that had been created on the pattern of other European design centres. The appearance of a number of small manufacturing companies, more particularly in the furniture sector, sparked off a process of utilization and appreciation of design that differed in perspective from the larger manufacturing companies' usual practices.

(...) A new generation of professionals entered the labour market following a line of thinking that took into account not only functionalist rationality when necessary, but also the expressive powers of the projected image as well as its particular language. The result was that, even though local technological means did not permit the creation of products as spectacular as those designed in Italy, for instance, their offer was comprised of objects that departed from existing typologies and displayed an added touch of humour. Between 1977 and 1979, the ADI-FAD organization provided a framework for such iniatives with their "Disueño" design displays and prizes that paralleled the more orthodox "Delta" awards.The new spirit showed in some commercial ventures - a case in point is the "Vinçon" store, run by Ferran Amat - and the appearance of several specialized publications such as "ON" served to make the users at large more familiar with design.

It was that new generation that, over the following decade, witnessed the generalized use of design which extended to more and more different spheres of activity, a process that paralleled their own professional expansion. That period was called "the eighties' design boom" and, in those years, it really seemed as though the design world had the capacity for expanding practically infinitely, being used as an incentive capable of enhancing the competitive value of almost every product, revitalizing the whole creation process so that it might produce exportable goods. (...) In those times, as design developed quickly so as to answer a growing need to generate images that would be both representative and worthy to be exported, it kept gaining in popularity among the general public. Some extreme opinions were voiced. On the one hand, there were people who considered that all the virtues and capacities which design was being credited with were but accurate reflections of reality while, on the other hand, there were others who denied that design ever had any of those qualities. All of them might have been right, somehow, but none of them were absolutely right. Now that years have elapsed and the novelty has worn off, the most outstanding fact is that the use of design has become generalized and that this has led to a better understanding and a recognition of its existence by the general public.

(...) After the boom days of the eighties, the nineties appear to be the decade in which the design situation started to normalize. The 92 Olympic Games and the train of events they set off, marked the end of a stage in the development of design in Catalonia and, having overcome the hangover that logically followed those times of revelry, design reached a new stage, strengthened by experience and facing the future with greater serenity. (...)