Culture: Catalonia´s Flag (IT In Transit #21)


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Culture: Catalonia´s Flag (#21)

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Date: Desember 2013.

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Culture: Catalonia´s Flag (IT In Transit #21)

  1. 1. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 EDITORIAL Culture: Catalonia’s Flag Vicenç Villatoro In order to spread the word abroad as to the existence of a strong and ambitious contemporary Catalan culture and in order to present and make known the very existence of Catalonia, the best means at our disposal are a handful of outstanding names. These artists are known the world over, even by people who are unaware of the existence of Catalonia, Catalan culture and its links to these great individuals, such as Miró, Dalí, Gaudí and Tàpies, to which one can also add Picasso and Barceló. These are some of the wellknown names which serve to raise the profile of Catalan culture and reveal something of the country where this culture is born. Thanks to them, such positive values as creativity, innovation and genius are associated with our nation. Culture is Catalonia’s flag and its calling card to the world. Aside from that sporting miracle (there’s no other word for it) known as Barça FC, Catalonia’s strongest, most permanent and most prestigious asset is its deeply-rooted identity and its civic strength. It is born out of a society’swill to organise itself and to generate its own tools of representation and organisation. Leaving aside this particular aspect of Catalonia, the great names of Catalan culture are what allow us to present ourselves to the world as a modern, ambitious and creative nation. A country that, in keeping with its size and demography, plays a similar role to the nations in its immediate surroundings. Some might say, rightly so, that artistic genius, the creative instinct, is always an individual activity. They might go on to say that using a solitary genius to publicise and provide prestige to a collective phenomenon such as a nation and a national culture is somehow indecent and therefore irrelevant. However, this is not the case. Firstly, a large proportion of these artists, if not all of them, cite the desire to participate in the construction, and some cases the reconstruction, of Catalonia’s national culture as one of the driving forces behind their artistic vocation and creativity. They saw their individual work as forming part of a collective process of building a modern, national, Catalan culture. And on the various occasions in which Spanish military dictatorships have tried to bring that culture to its knees, they have tried to rebuild it, to keep it alive, to prevent its destruction. It is true that cultures should not attempt to appropriate talent and individual genius, which always possesses an element of chance, or as if a miracle, if you will: talent appears wherever it appears. You can’t create genius by decree. It is highly likely that talent and creative genius are distributed in a fairly uniform manner among humanity as a whole. Nevertheless, certain conditions, certain circumstances are more favourable to the emergence of such talent and genius or to its recognition, consolidation and deployment. Much has been written about the special aptitudes of the Jewish people for certain cultural activities, science, music, literature, which can be quantified, whether meaningfully or not, by the density of Nobel prizes they have received. It has been said that a particular value system that awards study and debate, which is based on the importance of the word, that encourages parents to encourage their children to acquire knowledge, makes it more likely that these individual talents will appear. And if they do, that their potential can be realised. Could something similar be the case in Catalonia? Are their certain characteristics unique to the Catalan situation which favour the appearance, the recognition and the implementation of creative genius? One might argue that it is the case. The first such characteristic of this kind is the centrality of culture in the definition of the Catalans, their selfdefinition and their collective identity. They are a people created by the sedimentation of multiple waves of immigration (more people came to Catalonia over the course of the twentieth century than were here at the start of the century). Diverse in their beliefs and origins, they had to base their social cohesion on what was available and what could be shared: their language and culture. If one puts culture at the heart of identity, it is inevitably strengthened. The Catalan project, in which many of these artists have participated with enthusiasm, each according to their particular world view, has been primarily a cultural project. It also possesses another unique characteristic: the desire for modernity. A culture that is seen as the main source of identity, while at the same time having the ambition to excel at modernity, ends up creating a highly unique dialogue between tradition and innovation. If culture was solely about identity it would be wary of innovation, while if it were only interested in modernity, tradition would be a nuisance. Catalan culture has always been obsessed (and obsession is often creative) with combining tradition and modernity, with innovating through tradition and through a dialogue with tradition. This is apparent in figures such as those mentioned at the start: Miró, Dalí, Gaudí, Tàpies and so on. The poet J.V. Foix expresses it almost as a slogan: ‘I’m excited by the new and I love the old’. Simultaneously. Tradition and modernity. Combined with a desire to combine them. Not only the greats: at the most recent Venice Architecture Biennale, the contribution by young Catalan architects was essentially in applying traditional solutions to extremely contemporary architectural problems, with a striking synthesis between tradition and innovation. Tradition as a source of opportunities to innovate. There is one other factor: Catalonia experienced its cultural Golden Age during a part of the twentieth century when it was without political power. It appears to be a contradiction. For half a century culture was persecuted by the state and for the other half a century it was largely ignored. Nevertheless, it excelled. Perhaps this was because energies were focused on culture which had no other outlet or because it placed culture at the forefront
  2. 2. of the collective interest. In addition, the indifference or hostility of a state that ought to have been favourable led to the creation of a strong, cultural, open and participatory civil society. This was also one of the engines of creativity. Creativity and genius are unique, the seed of which may fall anywhere. Nevertheless, some soils are more fertile than others. In closing: all of the individuals I have mentioned originated in the arts. Does this mean that excellence is to be found in this field alone? Not at all. The difference is that in the arts, the creators have not had to overcome the obstacle of translation. The creative impulse need not pass through this filter. Nonetheless, in Catalan culture, writers and artists have always been very close to one another. It is unlikely that artists have a monopoly on genius. It therefore seems logical to expect that thanks to the prestige of its artists, Catalan culture can also ensure that its writers become well known and admired, once they have been translated. Thereby becoming another calling card for the country and its culture, as is already the case with certain individuals. Vicenç Villatoro: (Terrassa, 1957). Writer and journalist. Holds a degree in Information Sciences. Former president of the Ramon Trias Fargas Foundation. As a journalist he has worked for numerous organisations. He was the editor of the Avui newspaper from 1993 to 1996 and head of the culture section of TV3. Between 2002 and 2004 was director general of the Catalan Radio and Television Corporation. He has contributed to a range of media companies, such as Avui, El Periódico, El País, El Temps, Catalunya Ràdio and COM ràdio. As a writer he has written a dozen novels. Currently he is the director of the Institut Ramon LLull. Photo: La Pedrera, by Margaret Luppino.
  3. 3. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 FURTHER READING Catalan art in the world Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya At the end of the nineteenth century, modernism impregnated a good part of the works of the artists of the time. This was the case with Pablo Picasso who, in Barcelona, created some of the most emblematic works of his ‘blue’ period, like ‘The life9, which is today housed in The Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1904, the painter from Málaga took up residence in Paris and, in spite of events, would often return to spend some time in Barcelona. During one of these stays, at Horta de Sant Joan, in 1909, what would later be known as cubism matured, and he painted ‘The factory of Horta’, which can be seen at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Picasso established deep friendly ties with the Catalan artists who were residing in Paris, and he slowly became a member of the new avant-garde movements. In 1920 he took an artist under his wing who would later be a referent in the art world: Joan Miró. Testimony to the friendship between the two geniuses is ‘Self-portrait of Joan Miró’ (1919), which is conserved in the Picasso Museum in Paris. Miró allowed himself to be seduced by the surrealist trends, and accomplished a great international career, which saw his works hung in museums all over the world. One of his paintings, ‘La Masia’ [The Country house], which represents the surroundings of a traditional Catalan farmer’s house and which belonged to the North-American writer Ernest Hemingway, can be seen in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York owns some of the most important paintings of the Barcelonan painter, like ‘Catalan Landscape’ and ‘Dutch Interior’. The mark of Miró can also be seen in the central headquarters of UNESCO in Paris: on its walls we find the ceramic mural of the sun and the moon that Miró created in 1958 with the Catalan potter Josep Llorens Artigas. In the same building we can see ‘All the things’, by Antoni Tàpies, another great contemporary artist. If Picasso took-in Miró in Paris, Miró did the same in 1928 with another artist of enormous talent, Salvador Dalí, who hailed from the Empordà region. Miró put Dalí in touch with the surrealists, which was an artistic avant-garde trend that Dalí would later lead. In 1934 Dalí travelled to New York and his work awakened the interest of North-American collectors. Amongst these, we find the matrimony formed by Albert Reynolds Morse and Eleanora Morse. The Morse initiated their relationship with the Catalan artist in 1942 and, over time, managed to amass an extraordinary collection. Forty years later, in 1982, this material was important enough to create the Salvador Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The stimulus of Pablo Picasso was just as decisive upon the works of Juli González, who was also known as Julio González. González was a great innovator in the field of sculpture and the foremost representative of contemporary sculpture in iron. His work can be seen in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, in Paris. One of his most important works was ‘La Montserrat’, which belonged to the legendary pavilion, where there was also ‘Guernica’ by Picasso, of the Spanish Republic at the International Exposition of Paris in 1937. This impressive sculpture can be found in the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam. Another of the representatives of international avant-garde art was Joaquim Torres García. Torres García had been born in Uruguay, but his family, who was Catalan in origin, moved to Barcelona in 1891. It was in the Catalan capital where this artist turned into one of the most distinguished representatives of the artistic ambience of the beginning of the twentieth century. Later on he moved to Paris, as Picasso, Miró and Dalí had done before him, where he developed his own constructivist personal language which was a style that, at the end of his life, had been diffused throughout South America. A great deal of his work is conserved in the Torres García Museum of Montevideo. Josep Maria Sert also had an extraordinary international career. His grand mural decorations can be seen in the Rockefeller Centre of New York and in the Palace of the Nations in Geneva. During the nineteenth century, Catalan art was quite successful in the Caribbean and Southern American countries. In Buenos Aires we can see the ‘Monument to the Magna Charter and the four Argentinean regions’; in Guayaquil, the ‘Column of the heroes of the Independence’; in Lima, the ‘Monument to Colonel Bolognesi’, and in Havana, the ‘Monument to the fire-fighters’, by Agustí Querol. Another Catalan sculptor who exported his work was Miquel Blay, the author of ‘Monument to Mariano Moreno’ in Buenos Aires: the ‘Monument to José Pedro Valera’ in Montevideo, and the ‘Monument to Vasco Núñez de Balboa’ in Panama. Another Catalan artist who was successful in America was the architect Ferran Romeu who, together with the sculptor Pere Carbonell, created the ‘Mausoleum of Columbus’ in Santo Domingo. Catalan modernism especially seduced the Cubans: in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey we can see some of the architectural works that are quite representative of this movement. One of the Catalan artists who accomplished the most international recognition during the nineteenth century was Marià Fortuny Marsal. The French art dealer Adolphe Goupil helped gave much assistance to the projection of the work of this Catalan artist and gave him an international notoriety. In the main, people liked Fortuny’s evocation of Goya’s Spain or the Spain of the time of the Arabs. His son, Mariano Fortuny, accomplished great fame as a provider of scenery and as a designer. In Valencia there is a museum dedicated to his memory.
  4. 4. The Spanish Civil War forced many of the Catalan artists to take the route to exile: this was the case of Antoni Bonet Castellana and Josep Lluís Sert. Castellana continued his career in Argentina and Uruguay, and Sert took up residence in Harvard in 1953 and produced important works, like the Maeght Foundation in SaintPaul de Vence or the complex of the United States’ embassy in Bagdad. The most contemporary Catalan architects have accomplished an enormous international significance. This is the case with Ricardo Bofill, Enric Miralles, Òscar Tusquets, MBM (Martorell-Bohigas-Mackay) studio and Alfredo Arribas. Amongst the Catalan sculptors of the twentieth century who have managed to fascinate the public throughout the world, we must point out Enric Monjo, with his works of a religious nature that can be seen in Miami and Washington; Josep Maria Subirachs, who has monuments in Mexico and Seoul; and Jaume Plensa, who is the author of ‘Crown Fountain’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Catalan Medieval, Romanesque and Gothic art can also be found in museums and libraries all over Europe and America. The Bibles of Ripoll, which are enlightened manuscripts from the eleventh century, are preserved in the National Library of France and the Vatican Apostolic Library. The paintings of Bernat Martorell and Jaume Huguet can be found in the Louvre Museum. The ‘Biblioteca Nacional Marciana’ [Marciana National Library] in Valencia keeps a book of hours that belonged to Queen Maria of Navarra; the Museum of Sarajevo, a Catalan Haggadic from the fourteenth century; and the National Museum of Old Art in Lisbon, gothic painting. The museums on the other side of the Atlantic also own important old Catalan works: the altarpiece of Anglesola, of the mural paintings of the Castle of Mur, can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In the section entitled ‘The Cloisters’ of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York we can see the pantheon of the counts of Urgell and in the Chicago Art Institute, the altarpiece of Saint George by Bernat Martorell. In the San Francisco Art Museum we find the relief of the central altarpiece of the Seu Vella of Lleida; in the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore we can see the Romanesque frontispiece of Saint Martin. Other museums that bring Catalan art to the North-American public are the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Hispanic Society of America, which has gathered together excellent examples of Catalan art of all periods. Photo: Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya
  5. 5. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 FURTHER READING Barcelona will be Guest of Honour at the Beijing Design week Catalan News Agency The Ramon Llull Institute, the Department of Culture, and the City Council had been in talks for two years, defending Barcelona’s invitation at the Beijing Design Week of 2014. And they got their answer on the last weekend of September, when the organizers of the Beijing Design Week announced Barcelona would indeed be Guest of Honour. Àlex Susanna stated that being invited at the BJDW was a “unique opportunity” to put on display Catalan Design, Architecture, and Urbanism on an international level. He then added that one of the event’s main objectives was to “help Catalan Design and Architecture Companies find new openings with the Gigantic Asian Market.” Susanna specifically mentioned the Chinese market, where Design, Urban Planning, Architecture, and Contemporary Art are particularly relevant. Some sectors, he explained, have majorly contributed to defining Barcelona. “Ahead of us is the true cultural project that follows our invitation to the Frankfurt Book Fair”, he said. The Director of The Ramon Llull Institute also explained it would be an incredible opportunity for the Catalan Culture to be known around the world and that the project would generate new business opportunities. The budget is currently set at half a million euros and Susanna stressed this was a starting point. He also said it was too soon to talk about the contents of the BJDW program. “It has been 15 days since the announcement and we haven’t had the time to contact the professionals in the sector and to build our project yet”. In fact, the main outline will be announced in February 2014. Susanna explained that two different commissions would work on the project with one of them functioning as an executive. He also assured there would be more than one commissioner. “This didn’t come out of nowhere” he commented. They chose Barcelona “because here there are other Messis around, and they are the people who innovate, create, and design new objects on a daily basis”. Minister for Culture Ferran Mascarell responded to the announcement by stating Barcelona and Catalonia would become “an extraordinary dynamic place both economically and culturally”. He added that picking Barcelona was a “great opportunity for Catalonia” and that he was impatient to start working towards this goal. Beijing Design Week The BJDW was designed by the Beijing Municipal Government along with the Ministries of Culture, Education, Science and Technology of China. Design and Architecture Companies have also closely collaborated. The festival offers a very comprehensive program to its visitors, with exhibitions, debates, and other activities related to Contemporary Art. Since its creation, one of the world’s leading cities in Design or Architecture is invited by the BJDW as Guest of Honour. Each year, this city plays a significant part in programming the event. Previous honoured cities include London in 2011, Milan in 2012, and Amsterdam in 2013. The oneweek-festival is attended by 3 and a half million visitors not only from China but from all over the world, a fact underlined at the press conference on Thursday. Photo: The mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, Minister for Culture Ferran Mascarell, Director of the Ramon Llull Institute for Catalan Culture Àlex Susanna and deputy Mayor Jaume Ciurana (by ACN)
  6. 6. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 FURTHER READING Art cinema Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya The artistic ‘avant gardes’ of the early twentieth century have paved the ground for international experimental cinema. The ‘avant garde’ movements, which had an influence on the evolution of 20th century painting and sculpture, also determine the conception of filmmaking and the projection of moving images. Surrealism has in the figure of the Catalan painter Salvador Dalí one of its best examples. His collaborations with filmmaker Luis Buñuel in ‘Un chien andalou’ (1929) and ‘L’âge d’or’ (1930), have become unique works of art made up of visual impact, dream-like narration twists and subversive elements. The lyrical tinges of these French productions overlap with amateur cinema made in Catalonia. In the field of experimental animation –often labelled under the name of fantasy cinema–, the name of Joaquim Puigvert i Pastells should be noted. This filmmaker devoted himself to doing, during the 50’s, pictorial animation influenced by the Canadian Norman McLaren, a celebrated representative of hand painted cinema. Jordi Artigas is another filmmaker of abstract animation, also known as ‘camera-free’ cinema. The ideas of the visual poet Joan Brossa and the musical compositions by Carles Santos inspired Pere Portabella in developing rich and multi-faceted work related to New American Cinema from New York. His most representative film is ‘Vampir-Cuadecuc’ (1970), a film shot on 16 mm, a marginal film outside mainstream cinema. ‘Esquizo’ (1970), by Ricard Bofill, is another noted work filmed within Escola de Barcelona. Around this time, the contributions of the underground cinema of the Tarragona-born artist Antoni Padrós and the militant cinema of Llorenç Soler should also be noted. Around conceptual art of the 70’s, there was a series of filming collaborations of a group of Catalan artists based in Paris. Benet Rossell, Joan Rabascall, Antoni Miralda and Jaume Xifra are some of them. Criticism to the media by means of recycled images and formal research into structural cinema range among two of the main interests of Eugènia Balcells and Eugeni Bonet, the creators of such unusual films as ‘133’ (1978-79). Catalan video art is represented by Antoni Muntadas and Francesc Torres as two of its most internationally renowned artists. The arrival of video format in Catalonia widens the possibilities of some artists who blend several audiovisual media to implement their art expression using video creation, video installation, video clip, fiction cinema, creative TV and heterodox documentaries. Isaki Lacuesta, Lluís Escartín and Oriol Sánchez are some of the big names of Art Cinema currently in Catalonia. Photo: Joan Brossa, by Pilar Aymerich
  7. 7. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 FURTHER READING The landscapes of culture and art: from a Catalan ethos to a European Ricard Planas - Catalan International View According to Horace, ‘human countenances, as they smile on those who smile, so they weep with those that weep’. It appears to be highly relevant to how the central government in Madrid approaches its (cultural) policies. In charge of an obsolete state which is rapidly falling apart while it is sheltered from the woes of the economic crisis. A government (rather than the public itself, who are generally more worthy than their leaders), which has systematically neglected the entirely understandable and rational tears of a centuries old Catalan culture, whether from a lack of understanding, neglect or a simple lack of clarity. Catalan culture is facing the twentieth century with a firm commitment to a Europe, which is reinvented with each new crisis. Hopefully Europe will change itself for the better, in order to broaden the framework of understanding and diversity that has always led to more wealth and that has always been exemplified by Catalonia. Nevertheless, the bitter tears stopped flowing some time ago, dried up like the cycle of drought that is ceaselessly plaguing the planet on a global scale. Now is not the time to protest a lack of understanding, it is the time for decisive leadership, for action, for the desire to rewrite the rules. The economic crisis is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and rethink certain overgrown, unsustainable societies, which are as often as not against their own people. Santi Vila, the former mayor of Figueres and the current Minister of Territory and Sustainability for the Generalitat of Catalonia said, ‘we don’t want our own state so that we can be against anyone, or out of a sense of idealism. We want our own state because we love our people and their welfare’ and reaffirmed ‘Catalonia is a welcoming country; it is our reason for being. Catalonia is European and pro-European and needs a state of its own in order to grow as a society, with culture as one of its foundations’. Culture, within this ecosystem full of confusion that fleeting postmodernism has left asa legacy, becomes a key, substantial element of cohesion. A poultice of peace, reflection and critical analysis. Culture becomes widespread, to such an extent that some years ago a French Culture Minister stated that, in an ideal state, a Ministry or Department of Culture ought not to exist since ‘Culture is everything. Everything is Culture’. It is a way of thinking which is also corroborated and defended by one of the great creators of the twentieth century, the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. Culture, cross-culturalism and identity: the ethos L’Observatori del Paisatge de Catalunya (The Landscape Observatory of Catalonia) is a fundamental instrument which helps promote the cultural aspect, support the cross-cultural aspect as part of its arguments while emphasising that, ‘Contemporary Catalan nationalism, in contrast to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, has been unable to incorporate the landscape in the process of nation building. Nevertheless, it continues to form a part of the national identity. The great diversity and wealth of Catalonia’s landscape forms a part of our collective heritage and is an expression of our history and a reflection of our identity, while also continuing to generate a strong sense of belonging among the population’. The landscape, the territory, these words are both elusive and key. They are an essential frame of reference. Art and Culture adapt to these geographical paradigms in order to find their place. This is in spite of the fact that thanks to a form of modernity now known as ‘liquid’ (or ‘late’) artistic practices have involved the annihilation or exclusion of a local (which is not to say parochial) contribution, in favour of de-localised and globalised proposals which involve an inherent degree of depersonalisation. Now is the time to seek references from hyper-proximity while they still exist, as many of them have long since collapsed or have fallen out of fashion, alas! Fashion (and its instruments of diffusion) and its quirks that appeal to that humanity which is so homo and so little sapiens. While we are sheltered by a Europe which hopefully wants to be more European (by adding such cultural landscapes as Catalonia), the economic crisis has exposed the weaknesses to such an extent that it has caused our points of agreement to be reborn, phoenix-like, from the ashes. Perhaps we should ask beforehand what cultural ethos should inform the new Catalonia we are building. In other words, what is the cultural ethos that we want for the new Europe we are building apace? Or, to put it another way, while peace reigned when Europe’s founding ethos was being established (and by extension that of Catalonia), how are we now to build an identity that ranges from the Mediterranean, the birthplace of all civilizations, to a quasi-Siberian northern Europe? ‘Believing in Europe requires a rational understanding of the joint project, as well as sharing a common destiny and desires. It is almost an act of faith on behalf of both believers and non-believers’, according to the former president of Spain and Europhile Felipe González. The former president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Jordi Pujol constantly reminds us of this fact. Such a view sees a Europe that is both a museum and a laboratory, perhaps still more the former than the latter. A Europe with a unique Catalonia ahead of its time asking if it can go it alone. It is aware of the global mega-regions, with Barcelona-Lyon being one of the 12 most important, according to Richard Florida. Catalonia has a key role to play in the Mediterranean railway corridor, which also has a cultural dimension. To speak of mega-regions is also to speak of city-states, smart cities and cultural centres belonging to cities. Barcelona, with public centres such as the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (which is currently in a precarious economic situation thanks to the Spanish state defaulting on its debts), the Museu Nacional
  8. 8. d’Art de Catalunya and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, the Fundació Miró, Fundació Tàpies and private organisations such as La Pedrera, Caixafòrum, Fundació Vila Casas, Fundació Gòdia and Fundació Sunyol, Fundació Dalí in Figueres, the soon to be inaugurated Bulli Foundation in Roses, and many other successful examples in Tarragona, Lleida, Girona and throughout Catalonia. In a free Catalonia, these centres would all be eligible for infinitely greater direct resources. In some instances, such as the Teatre-Museu Dalí, the shared management by numerous governing bodies cause obvious tensions regarding the work’s continued existence in Catalonia. Mega-regions also interact with concepts such as Eurasia and define first class, multifaceted cultural alphabets, weaving the new language we should embrace at the local level, rather than dislocating us. Moving towards a degree of cohesion or coherence is difficult when we have nothing but monetary union. This is when Culture can play a major part. Nevertheless, in the Europe of diversity, of a thousand faces, the cohesive elements often come from Anglo-Saxon culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes these are so deeply embedded that European ties are made through the absorption of prevailing American paradigms. Likewise, it should be noted that America is simultaneously a mirror and an explosive jumble of European cultures. Appealing once again to the European ethos, we ought once more to reference territory, geography and linguistic diversity as cornerstones in the construction of this new reality we call Europe. These physical, material landscapes, full of references to the intimate and the personal have to live with the virtual landscapes which are universal yet increasingly individual, of a place, an origin. Free Catalonia, cultural Catalonia, economic Catalonia a) Everyone is entitled to equal access to culture and the development of their creative skills, whether individual or collective. b) Everyone has the duty to respect and preserve cultural heritage. c) The authorities of Catalonia shall promote research and quality scientific investigation, artistic creativity and the preservation and promotion of Catalonia’s cultural heritage. d) The authorities of Catalonia shall take the necessary measures to enable all individuals to have access to culture, goods and cultural services and Catalonia’s cultural, archaeological, historical, industrial and artistic heritage. These are the four fundamental principles relating to the world of culture which appear in the Statute passed by the parliament of Catalonia. What would have happened if the Statute, agreed upon by a sovereign, democratically elected parliament, hadn’t been castrated by a virtually unconstitutional court? What if they had been able to put it into practice with all the strength the government and the people of Catalonia desired? Aside from the fact that the Spanish state employs intrusive mechanisms that generate useless, duplicated ministries. In terms of culture, central government spending on Catalonia has fallen by 63.87% since 2010. Is this a coincidence or a deliberate attempt to put a stop to a European people’s desire for independence? Let me quote some figures: Spain’s average annual deficit with Catalonia is 16,000 million euros, the cost of recovering from a tsunami every year. If the Catalan Ministry of Culture’s budget is 1% of the Generalitat’s total, it would represent 160 million euros more for Catalan culture (approximately 60% more than its current budget). Another example is growing unrest surrounding the comparative cultural capital of Barcelona and Madrid: though Barcelona received 9.5 million in 2011, so far this year it has received absolutely nothing. In spite of these handicaps, the Catalan cultural cluster occupies 5th place in Europe. Obviously, things would change with an injection of new money into an independent state, thus restoring its fiscal balance. Nonetheless, the Generalitat’s current contribution to culture is not in line with the European average, which stands some two to three points higher than ours. Nor is it understandable why Catalan culture and art contribute more towards GDP than investments made in it, yet art and culture almost always tend to be considered an expense rather than an investment. It is for these reasons that those involved in culture have repeatedly spoken out against the increase in VAT to 21%, thanks to its disastrous effects on culture. Meanwhile, successive Spanish finance ministers have been unable to create a ‘patronage law’ to compensate for the shortfall. If we had a Catalan state I would like to think that these changes would be quickly implemented. Against such a backdrop, certain actions are taking place in Catalonia, with variable results, but which nevertheless indicate a way forward. The creation of the Council for Cultural Arts’ Strategic Plan for Culture 2021, for example, which organises meetings between people from the world of culture at the local and national level. Then there is the National Cultural Agreement, which lists 100 agreements and commitments on different aspects such as language, identity, social cohesion, installations, finance, science and research and internationalisation. Omnibus Laws: in the cultural milieu these have principally determined the creation of the OSIC (Office for the Support for Cultural Initiatives), to provide more flexibility in processing and resolving grant applications, and the creation of the Heritage Agency. One of its priorities is contributing to Cultural Heritage and the PNL (National Reading Plan) with the aim of unifying the efforts of different sectors and levels of society to encourage the public to read more, thereby increasing Catalonia’s knowledge and cultural capital. The PNL has created the ‘Active Bookstore Plan’ in order to promote said sector. Creators and contexts To conclude, how are Catalonia and its creators represented in this, our Europe, named after the Greek goddess who managed to seduce us all? The answer is: to different degrees. Names like Antoni Gaudí, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tàpies, Jaume Plensa and Miquel Barceló have all become internationally renowned. So too have greats such as Antoni Clavé, Joan Brossa, Joan Fontcuberta, Perejaume, Antoni Muntades, ArranzBravo, Xavier Corberó, Albert Serra, Isaki Lacuesta, Carles Pazos, Antoni Miralda and Cesc Gay among many others. Nevertheless, as the historian Xavier Barral noted, sometimes it is not easy to live like a Catalan, with a degree of independence when Spain wants to assimilate us. Spain does not want us to be either European or Catalan but exclusively Spanish. The lack of perspective which is present in such an attitude, among other variables, has fragmented Spanish cohesion. Finally, as Winston Churchill said rather eloquently (although ‘British’ and ‘Europhilia’ are hardly synonymous concepts, especially of late), and which I should like to apply to the current situation in Catalonia, ‘A kite flies against the wind, not with it.’ Photo: Close-up of the rooftop terrace of the Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, by the architect Antoni Gaudí Catalan (Internationa View).
  9. 9. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 FURTHER READING Raising awareness of Catalan culture, raising awareness of Catalonia: Catalan cultural projection strategies Vicenç Villatoro - Catalan International View In the coming years, Catalonia’s institutional and political future will mainly be played out abroad. International public opinion may be able to protect a Catalan-led process towards a democratic decision as to the country’s own future as well as to what Catalonia really means, proudly, yet modestly, as one of the realities of which Europe is composed. In this international context, Catalonia’s calling card is its culture. Catalonia’s international strategy (whatever institutional support it may receive) is inevitably, and I would say all importantly, to give its culture and language a higher profile, associating it with certain positive values: creativity, diversity, participation and freedom. It is for this reason that policies aimed at cultural awareness ought to form a central part of Catalan foreign policy. And so too should the visibility of Catalonia’s culture, which is the best, most effective and most positive means of raising a country’s profile. For Catalonia, there is a significant point to be made. Catalan culture can be legitimately defined geographically or in terms of language. The two do not entirely overlap, but they are complimentary. Catalan culture extends beyond the borders of Catalonia: Catalan is spoken and is culturally alive and well in other geographical areas. However, there are many more languages besides Catalan in Catalonia, with Spanish in particular displaying cultural vitality. Nowadays, promoting Catalan culture abroad means two things. First: promoting all Catalan culture wherever it takes place in the world and therefore outside what can strictly be called Catalonia’s administrative limits. Second: promoting cultural content as a whole in Catalonia, whichever language it may be in, even if it is without linguistic support. From this we can infer a guiding principle: promote the cultural output made in Catalonia in Catalan more intensively, without ignoring the promotion of the remaining cultural output. We at the Institut Ramon Llull, which I have the honour to serve as director, are charged with the explicit task of carrying out said promotion and developing the most effective strategies for raising awareness of Catalan culture and, therefore, Catalonia as a whole. Twelve years ago, while I was the Director of Cultural Promotion of the Catalan Government, I had the pleasure of inaugurating an art exhibition in Prague and Warsaw entitled ‘Catalan Masters of the Twentieth Century’. The exhibition featured works by Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Tàpies, Gaudí, Barceló and Clavé among many others. When I spoke to an enthusiastic, well-informed visitor to the exhibition in Prague they asked me two key questions. The first was how come the exhibition featured works by Picasso, who was born outside of Catalonia. I replied that without wishing to lay exclusive claim to the artist, Picasso had a long relationship with Catalan culture thanks to his formative years, place of residence, acquaintances and interests, making it perfectly natural to include his work in the exhibition. In other words, the adoption of a Catalan identity is largely an act of will that occurs in the cultural field. It has more to do with cultural reference than one’s place of birth or where one’s parents were born. The second question was more of a declaration: my Czech interlocutor asked me if I was aware that for a country of six million people we had an almost disproportionate number of great artists, bordering on the excessive. A lot of big names for a small, virtually unknown culture. There is not much I could have said in reply to this second comment, aside from a polite ‘thank you’. Nevertheless, perhaps I was a little discourteous. I told my interlocutor that Picasso, Miró, Gaudí, Dalí, Tàpies, the big names which he knew and in many cases admired, belonged to broad cultural movements which also included poets, novelists and essayists. The names of these writers would probably mean nothing to him: Riba, Espriu, Maragall, Carner, Alcover, Foix, Pla, Rodoreda and so on. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that in a multidisciplinary cultural movement the painters alone would have universal appeal, while the writers did not. Therefore, it is more than likely that the writers, the friends of the great painters, were at least as significant and meaningful as the latter. So, how come some were well-known while others were not? The reason is because visual artists, musicians and architects do not need to be translated, whereas writers do. There is a physical barrier between the members of the same cultural generation, who in all probability are of equal worth. Some received global recognition, while others, especially at that time, were unknown, even among well-educated Europeans. In a sense, the conversation I had some twelve years ago holds the key to how the Institut Ramon Llull should and indeed does project Catalan culture to the world. It even suggests some strategies to follow. A fact to begin with: Catalan culture has an extraordinary calling card, it includes world famous, household names: Miró, Dalí, Gaudí and so on. However, these big names are only known as individuals, their place within a particular culture that they help to construct and which to a large extent can explain them is often not very obvious (as was demonstrated by the recent Miró exhibition at the Tate Modern). In short, my brief conversation in Prague and the above thoughts suggest three strategic approaches for raising the profile of Catalan culture abroad. First, we should begin with the big names, strengthening the image of Catalan culture as an organic whole, as diverse and pluralistic in the choices made by its aesthetic, ideological and cultural sectors, while having a shared tradition and participating in a dialogue with other cultures. Miró is a creator with universal appeal who needs no introduction, but it is indeed possible to explain him, and expand on the explanation, placing it in the context of a culture, of a time and a space. Miró is Miró, but he is also explicable in terms of his time and the universal movements related to the time in which he lived, which permeate different cultures. Miró is also the son of a history, of a landscape and a tradition, in other words, of a culture. Miró is Catalan culture in the same way that Catalan culture is Miró. Therefore, the visibility of Catalan culture as a generic label must
  10. 10. stem from its visible connection with the big names and consolidate itself, without distorting reality, as a prestigious brand associated with concepts such as vitality, a rich heritage, internal diversity, contemporaneity and creative energy. The second strategic approach is to use the big names and the image they create of ‘Catalan Culture’, to provide added value to Catalan creativity and its cultural industry as a whole, creating a kind of umbrella that attracts attention to them all and connects them with international movements. When the Institut Ramon Llull strongly committed itself to the Miró exhibition in London and Washington, we were (rightly) asked why we had made such an effort, when it is clear that Miró does not need the Institut Ramon Llull to achieve international recognition. Our reply was that while Miró does not need the Institut Llull, the Institut Llull needs Miró to internationalize Catalan culture. While Miró’s image opens the door to the world, we can let other, less visible artists pass through. These may be newer, often fiercely contemporary, who thanks to this idea (that if someone is interested in Miró and Miró belongs to Catalan culture, so they may also be interested in the culture he belongs to as a whole) can receive a burst of attention and receptivity. From this starting point, every creator and every creative action will have greater or lesser success in the international arena, depending on their particular merits, their characteristics and depending on how they adapt to the central debates in world culture. Nevertheless, the door will be open. The third approach can also be inferred from the conversation I once had in Prague: all those areas of culture which have language as an essential component (literature of course, but also lyrical music, film, drama and so on), need a specific, added impulse to achieve internationalization: translation. In other words, without leaving Miró behind, we can bring young, Catalan visual artists to the world by saying that they belong to Miró’s cultural tradition. If we wish to encourage new poets and novelists, however, they need to be translated. The promotion of translation is a key element to fully exploiting this culture internationally. In other words, publishers all over the world need to be aware of Catalan cultural output. In order for this to happen they should have certain incentives to include Catalan writers in their catalogues, which would also mean having suitably trained translators able to undertake this work in every language. The task of training translators (and also academics, cultural ambassadors and respected individuals who are knowledgeable of Catalan culture) forms the basis of another of the Institut Ramon Llull’s strategic objectives: helping universities around the world which are interested in organizing Catalan studies, which in most cases go far beyond mere language skills. The Institut coordinates a network of Catalan study programmes in foreign countries involving one hundred and fifty universities, mainly located in Europe and North America. The list includes some of the most prestigious academic institutions. It is an exceptional network when compared with other languages with a similar number of speakers. It also serves as a calling card for the Catalan language and the culture which it expresses: a language spoken by ten million people in four European countries, which publishes some seven thousand new titles each year, of which around one hundred twenty works are translated each year, and which is the fifteenth most used language on the Internet. The last and most relevant observation that can be made following my conversation in Prague: in order for a culture to be globally visible and appreciated it must have strategies and tools at its disposal such as the Institut Ramon Llull. Nevertheless, for it to work one needs a culture which is especially deep, significant, rich and active. Catalan culture is all of these things. Any tools or strategies which can improve its position are more than welcome. Vicenç Villatoro. (Terrassa, 1957). Writer and journalist. Holds a degree in Information Sciences. Former president of the Ramon Trias Fargas Foundation. As a journalist he has worked for numerous organisations. He was the editor of the Avui newspaper from 1993 to 1996 and head of the culture section of TV3. Between 2002 and 2004 was director general of the Catalan Radio and Television Corporation. He has contributed to a range of media companies, such as Avui, El Periódico, El País, El Temps, Catalunya Ràdio and COM ràdio. As a writer he has written a dozen novels. Currently he is the director of the Institut Ramon LLull. Photo: The Dalí Museum, Figueres by Catalan International View
  11. 11. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 OPINION Catalan demands of a referendum and the EU role, centre of debate at the UCL Catalan News Agency 26-10-2013 The first part of the conference consisted in outlining the situation in Catalonia. Former British Consul General in Barcelona Geoff Cowling briefly accounted for Catalan History up to today’s demonstrations. He underlined the fact that certain members of the army had retaliated with violent threats at the possibility of independence. Cowling stated that the Catalan movement for independence was “from the bottomup”, in opposition to Scotland, where the politicians had set the pace for the ordinary people. Miquel Strubell, as the representative of the Catalan National Assembly, and Chairman of the Department for Multilingualism at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), devoted his presentation to recent-years public actions, such as protest marches or local referendums. He emphasized events such as the 11th of September 2012 demonstration, and the human chain of September 2013. Meanwhile, journalist Xavier Vidal-Folch argued that “Scotland was no Catalonia, and that the UK was no Spain”. He added that according to him, finding the “Third Way” –a solution between full independence and the statuts quo- was “very difficult” but not impossible. “The Third Way is hard to reach, but Independence is even more difficult”, he said. The European Union’s role The second part of the University College London conference was dedicated to discussing the acceptance of a new Scottish or CatalanState within the EU. Director of the Constitutional Department of UCL Robert Hazell, Professor of Oxford Graham Avery, Professor of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London Montserrat Guibernau, and Distinguished Doctor at the University of Edinburgh and former Judge Sir David Edward all took part in the debate. All the participants agreed to say that an independent Scotland within the EU would be more easily accepted than an independent CatalanState. Indeed, the British Government has stated they would accept the outcome of the Scottish Referendum, whatever it may be. “In Catalonia there is a fundamental difference, in the sense that there is a strong separatist movement, but it has yet to find an agreement with the National Authorities” said Oxford Professor Graham Avery. “If you cannot find a way to move the project forward with an agreement, it becomes difficult to see a positive resolution from an EU point of view”, he regretted. In the same vein, University of Edinburgh Professor Sir David Edwards said it would be “extremely difficult or impossible” for the EU State Members to “negotiate with an independent Catalonia, if Spain had not recognized it as such”. Both Edwards and Avery believe that independence and acceptance in the EU could be negotiated during the 1 or 2 year period between a referendum and the official declaration of independence. Edward stated that in such a situation, it would be “fundamental” to see whether the independence of Catalonia would be recognized “not only by Spain, but by other countries around the world, within the EU or not”. Edwards admitted such a situation was unprecedented and that nobody could know “what the reaction would be”. “The only certainty is that there are many uncertainties”, agreed all the participants. Professor at Queen Mary University of London Montserrat Guibernau, also intervened in the debate. She argued that the growing separatist sentiment in Catalonia could be linked to the democratization of the country. She explained the feeling was dominant for the generations born after the end of the dictatorship: “Young people wish to use their right to be consulted, and wonder why they are denied it”, she said. Guibernau argued that the failure to organize a referendum could result in the population becoming “greatly frustrated” and she urged the politicians to find an agreement to let the people decide for themselves. Director of Constitutional Unit of UCL Robert Hazell explained that the UK recognized the right to SelfDetermination of their nations. He added that even Conservative politicians like Margaret Thatcher had always defended the possibility of an independent ScottishState. The internationalization of the process The Secretary for Foreign and European Affairs of the Catalan Government, Roger Albinyana, explained on Friday that the London Conference could help “normalize the debate” outside of Catalonia. He added that for the Catalans it had become part of their daily lives, but for outsiders, such discussions were still unusual. Albinyana underlined the will of the “people of Catalonia to decide about their future through a referendum”. He argued that it was “political problems, and not legalities”, that stood in the way of the referendum. He then indicated that so far, each time the Catalan Government had tried negociating with Madrid, they had “come up against a brick wall”.
  12. 12. General Secretary of Diplocat, Albert Royo, launched the conference on Friday. The Public Diplomacy Council landed in London after a visit to Paris last June. Several other Catalan public figures attended the event back then, notably Muriel Casals, President of the Òmnium Cultural, a Barcelona based Cultural and Political Institute, and three European MEP: Ramon Tremosa, Maria Badia and Raül Romeva. They were joined by other distinguished scholers and journalists from other countries. Events such as these are part of the Government’s Diplomatic Strategy to improve the world’s knowledge and understanding of Catalonia. By doing so, the Catalan Government is hoping for a positively influence on the International Public Opinion. The Catalan Diplomacy or Diplocat’s original purpose was to consolidate Catalonia’s image and reputation by exporting ideas, values, knowledge, and experience in relevant countries. Photo: The conference at the UCL. From left to righ: Sir David Edward, Graham Avery, Montserrat Guibernau, Robert Hazell and Uta Staiger (by ACN).
  13. 13. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 OPINION ‘Moderates’ against the Referendum Saül Gordillo - El Periódico 04-11-2013 By Restraint, that stalwart of Catalan ‘pactism’ and now also of Spanish immobility ought to be related to political centrality. This new centrality has been appearing since the Constitutional Court’s speedy ruling which overturned the reform of the Statute. The desire for independence which sets the political agenda and the seats which one election after another are won by CiU and ERC stir up Pujol’s centrist legacy. When Jordi Pujol was president, marginality used to be found in the Fossar de les Moreres. Nowadays, what is both ‘marginal’ and respectable is the 12-O [movement] in Plaça Catalunya. Faced with this political earthquake, brought about by the State’s refusal to be plurinational, the linguistic trick is to label as ‘moderate’ what was previously seen as ‘centre’ (the space occupied by CiU and PSC, the dual Catalonia) and label as radical what now emerges as centre (the post-Pujolist CDC, ERC, and at the other end of the political spectrum perhaps, Ciutadans). It is a means to combat the hegemonies emerging from the establishment. Is Wert’s law ‘moderate’? Or recentralization, the systematic attack on Catalan self-rule and the fiscal asphyxiation of one of the Mediterranean’s economic motors? Denying democracy is not moderate either (what we call ‘the right to decide’, the referendum) in the name of a Constitution which has failed to evolve and if it were to be put to the vote would be rejected in Catalonia. What is the least moderate nowadays is standing still, doing nothing, in the style of Mariano Rajoy. There is nothing moderate about threatening Catalonia with the bogeyman in the guise of Europe and repeating a thousand times that ‘if you leave home we’ll do our utmost to make sure you don’t get a job and you lose all your friends’. Fear, threats and signs of foul play don’t sound ‘moderate’ to me. Photo: Twitter account @saulgordillo
  14. 14. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 OPINION The Year of the Great Disconnect Francesc-Marc Álvaro 01-09-2013 Just one year ago, a particular event grabbed Catalonia’s attention like no other. The multitudinous September 11th demonstration which took place in Barcelona exceeded all expectations and transformed the agenda of the mainstream political parties overnight, bringing events to a point of no return. A few days after this landmark event, the refusal by the President of the Spanish government to negotiate a new fiscal pact for Catalonia served to highlight the fact that the road to regional autonomy was leading nowhere. In reality, this point had already been made clear in June 2010, when the Constitutional Court issued its ruling which mutilated and spoiled the Statute of Autonomy which the Catalan people had previously approved in a referendum. That day, the Spanish Transition came to an abrupt close in Catalonia. Egged on by the mood on the street and faced with intransigence from Madrid, President Mas called an election on the 25th November 2012. The election marked a historic turning point in the CiU federation, which for the first time put forward a manifesto which suggested that Catalonia should be an independent state in its own right. When Artur Mas was originally sworn in as president in 2010, he had spoken of the need for a ‘national transition’, but his vision was proposed without reference to a particular timetable or deadline. The outcome of the elections produced a complicated scenario that almost no one had anticipated: the parties in favour of holding a referendum obtained far more MPs than the opposition, while Mas lost twelve seats. As a result, his leadership of a process of historical significance was seriously affected. It’s ironic that the first separatist president of present-day Catalonia is leading a party which was punished by the voters just one month after having been applauded during Catalonia’s National Day, which had set everything in motion in the first place. My hypothesis, based on the shuffling of vote between the various parties on offer, is not that Mas was rejected punished for having taken up the cause. On the contrary, he was punished for other reasons, such as budget cuts, having led a poor campaign, uncertainties as to political alliances or the grave attacks on Mas’ honour, spread by a part of the Madrid press. Simultaneously, the results of the elections of the 25th November indicate that there are fractures within Catalonia’s map of centrist parties (Convergència and socialists), while the small and medium-sized groups are gaining ground. Finally, thanks to an agreement with ERC, the winners of the elections were able to form a minority government, amid a climate of growing social unrest and the challenges associated with running an administration while lacking the necessary resources. The key to the agreement between CiU and ERC was Mas’ commitment to holding a referendum on Catalonia’s future. This is to take place in 2014, unless certain exceptional circumstances should arise. It is worth noting that, in recent elections, the Republicans were able to beat the socialists to second place, something that has not occurred since 1980. The first step on the road to Catalonia’s national transition took place on the 23rd January this year. Parliament voted in favour (with the backing of 85 MPs out of a total 135) of a, ‘Declaration of sovereignty and the people of Catalonia’s right to decide’, which defines our solemnly people as, ‘sovereign political and legal subjects’. This expression clashes head on with the Spanish Constitution of 1978, according to which there is only one ‘Spanish people’ and ‘Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards’. It is a rupture with Spanish legality that is unprecedented since the return of democracy, which aims to bring to the foreground the existence of a Catalan demos, systematically denied by the Spanish establishment. The mere mention of the Catalan people as a political entity automatically puts one outside of the realm of the Spanish Constitution. It challenges the very foundations of the edifice we inhabit. Accordingly, on May 8th, the Constitutional Court decided to provisionally suspend the Parliament of Catalonia’s declaration of sovereignty thanks to an appeal from the Spanish government. The suspension seeks to block the sovereignty process from the start and make one think that the Spanish authorities are determined to prohibit any move aimed at holding a referendum in which the Catalans have the last word on their own future. We are now in an uncertain situation, in which the ball is in the court of our elected representatives. There is a feeling that every gesture and every word require enormous amounts of energy. Meanwhile, in everything related to sovereignty, there is a growing tendency to discuss everyday peripheral matters which cover up the key issues in this context. One year ago, the optimism of an active and significant part of Catalan society generated an impressive wave of democratic feeling. For many months now, the political parties have been trying this energy into a controlled (and if possible agreed) rupture with Spain. The objective appears to be impossible, especially since, aside from having to fight against powerful adversaries, the sovereign cause is subject to serious internal weaknesses and lacks important external allies. In my opinion, the main problems facing the pro-independence political parties and politicians is the lack of unity, an excess of jostling for position, the toxic effects of mistrust and a worrying mix of naivety and amateurism. Perhaps I am judging them too harshly, but the situation does not call for much optimism, aside from congratulating Mas for his courage and Junqueras for his aptitude. They face the formal and de facto powers which the Spanish state will use without hesitation: all manner of legal, diplomatic and media mechanisms, together with foul-play, which is particularly when it comes to the person of the president of Catalonia. When Spanish unity is called into question, it appears as if the separation of power and the presumption of innocence are principles which become relative. Is politics able to bring about a democratic consultation (whether in accordance with Spanish law or not) in
  15. 15. a binding and clear way, in which the Catalans are able to choose to remain in Spain or to leave peacefully? For now this is the key question. The credibility of the parties and the pro-independence leaders (Mas in particular) depend on the answer. If, one way or another, the question isn’t put to the Catalan people within a reasonable timeframe, no one will be able to understand it. The loss of credibility, ridicule and frustration would be enormous. Civil society has a key role in this process, which it is failing to carry out. In my opinion, leaving aside certain negative impulses that undermine one’s enthusiasm, the obsession of most organizations and pro-independence groups with bringing forward the date of the referendum as much as possible is a grave error. This is for three reasons: a) control over political the timetable is the hardest part and should be based on a combination of refined information and intuition, rather than good intentions; b) achieving a comfortable victory in favour of an independent state requires taking the time needed to spread the message to the numerous sectors of society which are currently resistant to Catalan independence; c) constant pressure on the government and political parties for them to call an immediate referendum is not the best way to help our representatives, especially when one considers that the Spanish authorities are also applying pressure in the opposite direction and this creates turmoil that can lead to confusion. Instead of adopting as their slogan the phrase ‘We’re in a hurry’ and putting it into practice on a daily basis, that sector of civil society which participates in the independence process should focus all their efforts, actions and words on increasing the number of voters in favour of secession for the day that we are called to choose. In spite of the growth in pro-independence feeling among the electorate and its influence in Parliament, anyone who cares to analyse the opinion polls which have been carried out, or who is familiar with Catalonia’s towns and villages, will know that people who want their own state are yet to be in a socially hegemonic position. Aside from those who openly declare themselves to be in favour of Spanish unity (of whichever political hue they may be), there are thousands of Catalans who are unable to decide between the various territorial options which are available or who have, as yet, stayed out of such debates. The pro-independence movement has yet to carry out the mammoth educational task among social sectors located outside of the pro-Catalan heartland. This may be due to an excess of optimism or the apathy which hampering actions by those who are already convinced. While some organizations have begun to organize events in areas where sovereignty is less popular (such as the area around Barcelona), in order to win a referendum the critical mass of supporters of a Catalan state will need to be beefed up substantially. Sometimes the pro-independence groups are not sufficiently aware of the resources available to the powers-that-be who wish to retain the status quo and the various tricks they have up their sleeve. Twelve months after the outbreak of the pro-sovereignty movement, three things are apparent: a significant and highly active part of Catalan society has psychologically disengaged itself from Spain and will not be turning back; the Spain of autonomous regions is rapidly becoming unravelled, both from inside and outside of Catalonia, subject as it is to insurmountable economic, political, social and cultural contradictions; those who oppose an independent Catalonia have no credible alternative to offer that can seriously compete with the proindependence project and thereby support their arguments which are based on fear, coercion and the threat of disaster. This third factor (together with the centralist policies promoted by the PP and PSOE) provides a great deal of support for the creation of a Catalan state and generates many followers. The process is not yet over. There is more to be said. We are living in exhilarating, yet difficult times in which we are all called upon to stop being mere spectators, in order that one day we can say to our grandchildren that we were able to exchange our disappointments for responsibility and a challenge. First published in: Francesc-Marc Álvaro’s blog
  16. 16. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 IN DEPTH Getting to know Europe in Catalan Natàlia Boronat - Catalan International View Jordi Gimeno, a Catalan teacher who is part of the Assistantship Network of the Institut Ramon Llull at the University of Szeged in Hungary, and one of the organizers of the first meeting, explained that, ‘the main objective behind meeting in different cities and getting to know Europe in Catalan is to provide more reasons to learn Catalan by doing activities which are fun and appealing to students’. Gimeno believes in things which are ‘quick and easy’ and explains that the network is used for students from various countries to make friends in Catalan and see that they are not alone in learning the language. These seminars are organized without any financial support, but Gimeno points out that, ‘the upside of not having funding is that you’re not indebted to anyone’. ‘Motivation is essential for learning any language’, according to philologist Alba Codina, lecturer in Catalan at the Moscow State University and joint organizer of the St. Petersburg meeting together with Anna Brases. Codina explains that the initiative’s main objective is to ‘teach students other functions of the language through Catalan, not only the linguistic aspect but also the sociocultural and how thanks to a language one can get to know the culture it forms part of as well as other cultures, since they meet people from different countries, in this case the Russian culture’. The students played a very active role in the meeting, especially those from Moscow and St. Petersburg, since they had to prepare the visits in Catalan, translate Russian poetry into Catalan for the recitals and also serve as interpreters at the various museums. In doing so, as Codina sees it they, ‘work on another function of the language, mediating between speakers of different languages and at the same time learning about Russian culture’. Nadia Pristavko and Valeria Kopteva are two 20-year olds from St. Petersburg, in their fourth year as philology students. They were delighted with their role as hosts of the meeting and having the opportunity to tell everyone about their city and be understood in Catalan. Pristavko began to study Catalan by ‘sheer chance’, but now she is unable to stop because, ‘first the teacher, Anna Brases, then her visits, her friends, the culture, the writers, the music... everything draws you in’. For Kopteva it was also, ‘a complete accident that has led to us organising this cultural exchange that allows me to meet so many people’. Both girls realise that learning Catalan and also Galician has changed their idea of the Iberian Peninsula and they are now trying to change the stereotypes that people have of the Spain of flamenco and bullfighting by speaking about the political and cultural diversity that exists. Alex Smitchenko has attended both meetings and values them as, ‘a highly positive experience because Catalan opens doors which were otherwise closed. I had never been to Hungary before and I discovered Budapest thanks to Catalan which I now think of as a language of international communication. Here, for example, we are from nine different countries and it’s what unites us’. Alex’s friend Inari Listenmaa is also participating in the meeting. They met at a linguistic campus in Mallorca and Andorra and she is a student of computational linguistics in Finland. Many of the students of Catalan in Russia will be philologists in the future, but there are always exceptions. Svetlana Rudnik, a fifth-year History student at the Moscow State University, was responsible during the meeting of giving a presentation in Catalan on Moscow and St. Petersburg. In her first year Rudnik began studying Spanish and gradually looked deeper into all aspects of the Hispanic world and became curious when her teacher told them that, ‘there are others languages in the Iberian Peninsula that mustn’t be ignored when we speak about Spain and the country’s linguistic situation’. In her third year Rudnik chose to specialize in contemporary Spanish history and the tutor decided that for her dissertation she should write about the 2006 Statute of Catalonia. As a result she decided to learn Catalan. Rudnik explains that the Statute is translated into Russian but in order to conduct an objective study a knowledge of Catalan is essential to understanding the parliamentary reports and the opinions of experts. Two years ago Rudnik’s rationale for studying Catalan was to have access to original sources, but then she realised that, ‘to write about the Statute, or anything else about a country, you need to know the culture, the way of thinking and lifestyle of the people you’re talking about, their mentality... and the language lets you get closer to all this. This 21-year old Russian has completed the history of the 2006 Statute up to its parliamentary approval and is now working on, ‘the second part of the ordeal, relating to the resources of the PP, the Ombudsman, certain autonomous regions and of course, the Constitutional Court’s ruling’. Catalan students in Russia now have a much easier time learning the language than they used to. Now there are the two language assistants from the Institut Ramon Llull, one in Moscow and the other in St. Petersburg
  17. 17. as well as other centres that teach Catalan; the possibility of obtaining grants for summer camps; the student exchange programme between Moscow State and St. Petersburg Universities and the University of Barcelona; and the opportunities for language learning that the internet provide. Moreover, Catalonia is currently very popular in Russia as a tourist destination. It receives 70% of the Russian tourists who visit Spain, and is the third most-visited destination for Russians after Turkey and Egypt. In 2012, some 745,000 tourists from the Russian Federation visited Catalonia. The political climate has also helped make things easier. For many years the Soviet Union and Franco’s Spain were both isolated countries and theoretically ideologically opposed, circumstances which did little to encourage Russians to get to know the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Spanish state. The St. Petersburg State University, which hosted the event, has a long tradition of Catalan Studies, many works have been translated into Russian and Catalan has been taught since 1978. With the restoration of diplomatic relations between post-Franco Spain and the Soviet Union in 1977 the Department of Spanish did not feel as threatened as it did in the fifties and was able to undertake new activities. In accordance with the policy adopted by the Department of Romance Philology of conducting comparative studies of Romance languages, the university began to teach the theory and practice of Catalan. A native Catalan teaching assistant has worked there since 1989, with the post being the responsibility of the Institut Ramon Llull since 2002. Olga Nikolayeva, professor of Spanish at the State University of St. Petersburg, is doing her doctoral thesis on Salvador Espriu, having based her dissertation on this renowned Catalan poet in 1994, and having participated in the 2003 International Symposium dedicated to him in Barcelona and Arenys de Mar. Nikolayeva recalls the time when she was a student at the same centre: ‘I began to study Catalan in the early 90’s in classes given by Arantzazu Fonts, a teacher from Reus. She was the first person I met from Spain and obviously she told me about the way of life and customs of her country, Catalonia. That’s how I learnt how to appreciate this country that is both real and magical at the same time’. The teacher and the student became friends and Nikolayeva discovered Espriu thanks to a record by Raimon that Fonts gave her. The driving force and assistance which led to the State University of Moscow beginning to offer classes in Catalan, also in 1978, as well as a large library, came from the controversial figure of Joan Antoni Samaranch, who at the time was Spain’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. Marina Abramova, Professor of Literature at Moscow State University and one of the greatest translators of Russian to Catalan remembers Samaranch as, ‘a person who came across as a real Catalan nationalist’. She was very surprised when she went to Catalonia and was told who he was and his relationship with the Franco regime. Abramova began studying Catalan in 1978, the year she began her doctorate. It was suggested she do a course in Catalan literature and that she also do her doctoral thesis on Tirant lo Blanc. Since then Catalan literature has been a real passion. With the opening up of Russia following perestroika in the mid 80’s, Abramova made her first trip to Catalonia in 1988, returning many times since on holiday and for study visits. Tirant lo Blanc has accompanied Abramova for much of her life as she is one of four people who worked for ten years on the Russian translation. Thanks to this work, which Abramova recalls as ‘an enormous and exciting undertaking’ she was paid $300 with which she bought a carpet for her hallway. Thirty-five years later, Abramova fondly recalls the suggestion to take the first course of Catalan literature in Moscow, something she was to do for 20 years. It was ‘a gift of fate’, at a time when the Soviet Union was still very closed to the outside world. Due to certain parallels that can be drawn between the Franco regime and Stalinism, Abramova immediately began to feel very close to Catalan literature and the classes were, ‘a good way to express our problems, because behind everything we were told you could also see our own history’. Natàlia Boronat. She holds a degree in Information Sciences from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and in Slavic Philology from the Universitat de Barcelona. Since 2001 she has spent most of her time in Russia. She worked in St. Petersburg as a Catalan lecturer at the State University and in the tourism industry. She now lives in Moscow, where she works as a freelance journalist for different Catalan media organisations and reports on the current situation in the post-Soviet arena. Photo:
  18. 18. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter Culture: Catalonia’s Flag issue #21 - november 2013 OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY Catalan in mass comunication Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya With the advance of Franco’s troops – in 1936 they occupied the Balearics, in 1938 Lleida and in 1939 the rest of the Principality – the process of cultural normalisation and democratisation was cut short. The Civil War had grave consequences for the culture of the region. The first act of the rebel troops was that they barged into a city, burnt the books of private libraries and commercial editors in Catalan or turned them into paper pulp. This was the case of the Pompeu Fabra library. On other occasions, as in the case of the library of Joaquim Xirau, they occupied the residence and dispersed the books; and finally, as happened to Antoni Rovira Virgili, they decommissioned and moved the documents and works to Salamanca. Therefore, it was a general hatred towards the cultural difference and the aim was to destroy the Catalan system of communication. Thus, the newspaper ‘La Publicitat’ was bombed and ‘La Humanitat’ ransacked by the victors – as happened to all the newspapers –. ‘La Veu de Catalunya’ was appropriated by the anarchists. With this systematic annulment of communication, Franco’s supporters accomplished their objective that Catalan would be almost invisible for nearly half a century. After this, an extremely cautious Democratic Transition did not solve decades of silence. If it had not been for the persecution and destruction, the disappeared editorial business ‘La Veu de Catalunya’ would nowadays be, in proportion, like that of ‘ABC’; that of ‘La Humanitat’ would be like that of ‘El País’. Consequently, the years of freedom of the Transition were unable to rebuild the market, the industry or the means. In Catalonia before the Civil War, there was a very varied and complete system of communication: generally specialised in local and provincial newspapers, magazines with a large presence on the news-stands and in society, collections of popular novels and all manner of annuals. Catalan was the essential language of communication for any person of modest culture. There were successful children’s magazines, like ‘En Patufet’, for adults there was ‘Papitu’, humoristic ones like ‘La Campana de Gràcia’ and ‘El Be Negre’, cultural ones such as ‘Mirador’ and ‘Revista de Catalunya’, and cosmopolitan ones like ‘D’Ací i d’Allà’. All in all, there were heterogeneous publications for all types of audiences. The hard repression and destruction of the market explains why the journalistic industry of the masses, in Catalan, could not take hold. Not even when there have been initiatives, which have been successful with regards to quality or audience, and even commercially successful, as with songs, where there has been a rooting because the global communicative system was in Spanish and this has been the language of communication. The same has occurred with the more popular theatre, from cabaret to comedy, passing through the circus. Spanish has always been used, and Catalan has been destined to cultured theatre, which has been very successful, or popular theatre which comes from the base and does not have intermediary businesses as in the case of ‘Els Pastorets’ [The Shepherd Plays]. Therefore, our taste, the market, and our sensibility have been educated in Spanish. The things which have contributed to the consolidation of this situation range from main festival songs to commercial publicity. Moreover, in many communicative fields, as for example in the tabloids and free magazines, Catalan has been considered a commercial and operative obstacle, and therefore its normalisation has never been sought. In general, this normalisation has not even been possible through institutional action or with popular effort, which has not faltered over time. Some examples of this popular effort are ‘Cultura’, ‘El Pati de Valls’, ‘Hora Nova’ and ‘L’Empordà de Figueres’ which are popular, democratic, useful publications of informative quality. Success accompanies both ‘Regió 7’, ‘El 9 Nou’ and ‘El Punt’. This is a press which has more than eight-hundred thousand readers according to the fourth wave of the Barometer of Communication and Culture. There are other successful initiatives like ‘Presència’, placed in weekly publications and Sunday papers, the ‘Balears’ on the Islands or ‘El Punt’ in the Principality. We must also add free magazines, of which there exists almost one per city, and cultural, associative, literary, academic, religious and political magazines, which are predominantly written in Catalan. All this without forgetting the institutional press, from the veteran monthly ‘Revista de Girona’, to the multitude of techniques of the government, some of which are of enormous distribution and reach hundreds of thousands of issues passing through the groups or private entities, such as the RACC, Caprabo supermarket and Barcelona Football Club, with issues that surpass a hundred thousand examples. In contrast, the daily free press of Barcelona is published in Spanish, with a miniscule presence of Catalan. The daily sports and economical press is also in Spanish, with the exception of the supplement of ‘El Punt’. Daily press, of which ‘La Vanguardia’ and ‘El Periódico’ take the lion’s share, with two-hundred thousand units each, has a presence in Catalan thanks to our own editions: ‘Avui’, ‘El Punt’, ‘Diari de Girona’, or double editions like ‘El Periódico’ and ‘Segre’. Press relating to a general field, with the exception of ‘Catalunya Cristiana’, ‘Cuina’, ‘El Temps’, ‘Sapiens’ and ‘L’Avenç’, has to be purchased by subscription or, in reduced distribution: ‘Revista de Catalunya’, ‘Cavall Fort’ and ‘Directa’.
  19. 19. In the digital field, the progression of Catalan has been spectacular: there are tens of newspapers and hundreds of magazines and bulletins, with live debates and opinions. There are disparate tendencies, like ‘Tribuna catalana’, ‘E-notícies’ and ‘El Singular Digital’, to mention just a few examples which evidence the force of the Catalan society which chooses when it can, and from the base of Catalan, as has also occurred with local press. The impulse of Catalan on the Internet is evident with the number of websites, consultations, usage and great works, like the Encyclopaedia or the Moll dictionary. In contrast, in new technologies, as in games, programmes or pre-installations, the presence of Catalan is miniscule and does not have a bearing on the number of speakers. Only the deliberate institutional action of large users such as the Generalitat, town halls, universities and building societies has a true influence upon the makers and distributors when using Catalan. It was not until 1984, that is, more than ten years after the death of the dictator that Catalan became present in the audiovisual media with the birth of TV3. Before that time there had been some emissions, few in quantity and at awkward times, yet some were of quite good quality, presented on TVE (Spanish Television). The presence of public channels (TV3, 33, K3, 300, TVC and 3/24), with the intermittency of the local and private channels, which often alternate Spanish, plus the reception of the channel TV-IB3 of the Balearics in the Principality, has enriched the presence of Catalan on the wave lengths. The fact that it is broadcast in Catalan, in spite of the criticisms from different sectors – both those who want it to have more Catalan identity and those who aspire for Catalan to be residual or ‘anthropological’ – has been the most relevant communicative event since 1939 with regards to ratings. ‘Canal 9’ in Valencia has a programming where Spanish predominates. On the local channels, the day-time hours are full of information and autochthonous programming, while in the evening, leasing to third-parties predominates, – tarots and similar establishments –, and Spanish is abundant, whereas Catalan is marginalised. In cinema and musical theatre there is little choice, in spite of the fact when there is choice, the public are not slow on the uptake when the number of performances and salons are appropriate. On the radio, Catalan has consolidated on specialised broadcasters, like Ràdio Estel or Ràdio Barça; generalised ones like Cat Ràdio or COM Ràdio; musical stations like Flaixbac and others; various stations of the Catalan Corporation and, even broadcasters in difficult surroundings, like Ràdio Arrels in Northern Catalonia. Therefore, all in all, the communication means in Catalan has an irregular impact, motivated by history and lack of resources. In spite of this, the constant increase in the number of Catalan speakers is a stimulus for the vitality of these means. Photo: Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013