Semana Santa is coming up. Every city in Andalucía is getting ready. In the north it might be quite solemn, but here in Andalucia it is a fiesta. You dress up, you stay up, you eat well and you hang out on the streets with family and friends. It goes on all night long, all next week. One of the most striking, and perhaps most eerie, spectacles of the festival are the Nazarenos in their tall, pointy hats and matching robes with their faces completely covered, apart from their eyes. The sight of hundreds of slow-moving unidentifiable figures in these ghostly, alarming costumes can be a little unsettling, and they are frequently compared to the Ku Klux Klan. One can be forgiven for believing the Ku Klux Klan and the Semana Santa parades were borne of the same idea, since the costumes of both are practically identical. Despite this, there appears to be no connection whatsoever between the two, although the Nazarenos came first. The Ku Klux Klan used their costumes for disguise, for the Christian connotations and perhaps the fact they were usually white had a racial significance. As for why the costumes are used in Semana Santa celebrations, the origins remain a mystery but the purpose is simple – their faces are covered in mourning, and also as a sign of shame for the sins they have committed throughout the year. Somehow, though, they manage to soften the blow for spectators not in the know by the sneakers they wear visible with their costumes and the can of beer and half-smoked Ducado they are often seen carrying – a reminder that Semana Santa is, essentially, simply a fun festival in Andalusía. (I've quoted Think Spain in some of this)
There’s really not a whole lot out there about Spanish Contemporary Design, but if we take a closer look, we find an exciting alternative to other countries well known for their design. Industrialization came late to Spain. There are still some parts of the country that are untouched by the industrial revolution. As opposed to Germany and Japan, Spain has never been an industrial wonder. Many Spanish designers don’t use high-tech tools. Instead, they offer inventiveness, humor and irony. They’re not known to be restrained either. Here there’s no fear of color in order to produce pleasurable, warm, “happy” objects. The less-known is alive and well. Below is a selection.
ALMERÍA'S NEW GUITAR MUSEUM
Almería is east of us. It’s a nice city. Antonio de Torres was born there in 1817. After a series of setbacks he was able to produce a somewhat larger guitar, with larger template, a deeper body and the perfect fan bracing on the interior of the soundboard that literally pulses the sound outward. This is still the model for guitars today. The Spanish guitar is a Torres guitar, and now it’s in a museum in Almería to see and experience – with film and display and instruments to play.
The Guitar is played almost the world over, but its history before the end of the 15th century is a bit unclear. Most contemporary musicologists still consider its source to be the Iberian Peninsula. During the 16th century one still played the vihuela, but during the 18th century a 5th string was added to the guitar and it became very well-liked. Then, the piano, cello and violin entered the stage and was heard above everything. Time for a 6th string – and by the 19th century the guitar's popularity had increased again. Today we have the electric guitar, sound pedals, reverb, amplifiers and MIDIs, but this hasn’t seemed to quiet the acoustic guitar.
HOW DOES IT SOUND? a selection (click on the photo)
IT'S (NOT REALLY) ABOUT SHERRY - the wine world’s most underestimated wine
Edgar Allen Poe wrote about an irresistible Spanish wine. In the short story The Cask of Amontillado the wine connoisseur Fortunato allows himself to be led down into a wine cellar for tasting and is walled into the alcove where the wine is stored. With the parting words, “rest in peace,” it’s a gruesome story, but the wine really exists. It is still produced today. The grape that it is made from is called “Pedro Ximénez.”
FOR YEARS, CONTEMPORAY PHOTOGRAPHY have played a substantial role in Spain's avant-garde culture. The sociocultural movement La Movida released a wave of suppressed creativity and tested the boundaries of freedom. Spanish photography is still outstanding. Today one is truck by the innovative and intense expression of contemporary Spanish photography which reflects the radical development that has taken place in Spain. In just a few decade, a closed society has been transformed into a multifacetted country in which contemporary culture enjoys a strong position (source: Estelle af Malmberg),The photo above is by Cristina Lucas. Below is a small selection of some of Spain's currently active and interesting photographers.
Ramón Masats, born 1931 in Barcelona and a conscious witness to over five decades of Spanish history, has had, and still has, an enormous influence on later Spanish generations of photographers.
Montserrat Soto, b. 1961, since the beginning of her career Montserrat Soto has focused on the use of photography as a starting point for the exploration of space as a receiver and transmitter of emotions. She is an artist whose work is intimately related to human experience through absence, traces and vestiges.
Javier Vallhonrat: "I think the world holds many secrets, we are very mysterious creatures in a mysterious world, though some endeavors to dream that everything is in wikipedia and in the end we will believe that the reality is that it fits in google.So I like that all the photos that interest me look bad on the internet".
Knowledge, people and culture have always been transported over the sea, enriching & developing.
Once it was the sea that united, not divided, countries and people. From the 8th century BCE the Phoenicians, antiquity’s most accomplished seaman, from what is today’s Lebanon, built settlements and trade posts from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. It made it possible to trade and communicate with different lands and peoples. Monte Testaccio, an ancient dump in Rome, is basically made of amphora, terracotta container that were used to transport olive oil from the Iberian peninsula during the first 250 years of the common era. Andalucian folk music from the mountains of Malaga, Los Verdiales, is said to have originally come from Anatolia by way of ancient Greece and Rome taken with them or by the Phoencians. Just to give a few examples.
It has been about 5.3 million years since the Straight of Gibraltar opened up allowing water to flow in. This apparently went rather quickly. It took between a couple months to a couple years to flood the basin. In a few more million years it’s said that the Mediterranean will once again disappear like all other bodies of water on earth.
What is in the Mediterranean?
Bluefin tuna and some 700 other species of fishes, whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles; shipwreck treasures from millennia of trade; coral reefs, wide meadows of seagrasses. However, overfishing and pollution are a constant threat. All 21 bordering countries share the responsibility, but only Spain, up to now, has adopted an IUU-plan to prevent the overexploitation and depletion of Mediterranean fish stocks to unacceptable levels. Read more about what Greenpeace suggests for the future of the sea >
Cutar. photo Micke Berg
LACULTURA #15 March 2014
Really it’s a little misleading when we talk about “Spanish.”
For centuries Spain has been a country of many languages. In the 1970s during the transitional period to democracy language plurality became official. Castilian is the language we refer to as “Spanish.” This is the official language of Spain. However, Galician, Basque and Catalan are the official languages of their respective regions. Also, Spain has a clear legislation regarding the rights of minority languages considered exemplary internationally.
Architecture in Andalusia is as multifaceted as its history. Newsletter # 14 Feb
Here everyone has stopped by, the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, the Arabs. Styles have followed each other, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism, Modernism… In the pueblos there are certainly strong traditions – like narrow streets, white-limed facades and iron-bared windows. From the entry often a passage to an outdoor area, and the kitchen on the bottom level, while foodstuff used to be stored on the second – But in cities it’s layer-upon-layer. Mosques became churches; fish markets are becoming art museums.
And, in turn, now contemporary Spanish Architecture is spreading over the world. Rafael Moneo designed Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Ricardo Bofill spectacular housing blocks in France and Sweden. Santiago Calatrava has designed public buildings in Germany, Switzerland, Argentina and recently the new train station at the WTC in New York. Spanish architecture is highly regarded. But the latest financial crisis has quieted domestic development. Some say that this is just what’s needed. Now it’s time to take advantage of the local history and create a new humane, sustainable and generous architecture in Spain. The Andalusian wave?
Newsletter no 13 from laCultura Jan 2014
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SPANISH FILM?
Modern Spanish film was under strict censorship by the nationalist government for a long time and adapted to these ideological constraint. Escapism and entertainment was the focus. However, from the 50s, film directors began to protest Franco’s cultural politics – among those were Juan Antonio Bardem, Luis Garcia Berlanga and Luis Bunuel – painting a bolder, more realistic picture of Spain. In 1975, after Franco died, censorship was finally eliminated. Earlier taboo-ladened subjects like sexuality, drugs, church, army and the civil war were treated freely on the film screen.
The illustrious work of Montxo Armendariz, Fernando Trueba, Imanol Uribe and Pedro Almodóvar became part of the “new wave” of Spanish film. During the last few decades first-class films have continued to be produced by established filmmakers as well as newcomers. Some of them are Alejandro Amenabar (Thesis), José Luis Garcí (El Abuelo), and of course, Pedro Almodóvar. Since the 90s Spain has also been one of the leading countries for the number of women filmmaker who have attained wide success at national and international film festivals and who have been acclaimed by both public as well as critics. Icíar Bollain, Chus Gutiérrez, Isabel Cixet och Patricia Fereira are among notable names.
2013 wasn’t Spain’s best film year. Not as many films. Not as many great films. Rather quiet in Berlin, Cannes and Venice. Some claim the reasons for this can be found in the hardening political and social climate. The economy has been failing, there is less support, raised taxes, and we find ourselves in a hardening cultural and political climate. However, in difficult times talents intensify, so we know the coming years will bring surprises and new eminence, not in the least by women, who seemed to have taken the largest step back this year.
But let's keep in mind, more than a handful made it through 2013, and did it more than well.
THESE ARE THE BEST SPANISH FILM IN 2013 according to El Pais:
NO 10 STOCKHOLM directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen del Amo
A man and woman, male and female, tension and repulsion, sexuality and the Stockholm syndrome. All this in a daily and common environment. A nightclub, a street, a house, a night and the next morning. It is a provocative film that will not leave anyone indifferent, and that is one of the aspects that interest the director: as a viewer you are enthralled, you identify, but you also feel uncomfortable with opinions you start assuming during the film.
NO 9 KANIMAMBO by Abdelatif Hwidar, Carla Subirana & Adán Aliaga
Three directors, three trips, three views. Three directors venture into Mozambique, to them an unknown country of great purity and authenticity, looking for characters that allow them to create exciting stories. Marked by the stigma of the civil war, the war of independence, and poverty and disease, Kanimambo presents men and women as heroes of everyday life, whose sole purpose is to fight for a better life. Kanimambo is a reflection of the contrast and different perceptions of life in Africa and in the West.
NO 8 LOS ILUSOS by Jonás Trueba
A film about the desire to make movies, or what some filmmakers do when they make film. About wasting time and lost time. A film about drunkenness, meals and routines, on walk outs, about being in love, about being alone and being with friends, and about building future memories for future films.
NO 7 TODAS LAS MUJERES by Mariano Barroso
Nacho tells the story of a veterinarian facing the women who have meant something in his life. His lover, his mother, his psychologist, his partner, his ex-girlfriend and her sister appear. They all have things they need to resolve with him.
NO 6 CANÍBAL by Manuel Martín Cuenca
Inspired by a short story by Humberto Arenal, Cuenca tells the story of Carlos, Granada's most prestigious tailor. He is a respectable man. His life is work and eat, but not just anything. Carlos is cannibalistic. He feeds on women; tourists, and strangers. He is used to not having any emotional attachments. However, all that changes the day he meets Nina, a Romanian woman desperately searching for her twin sister. The sister's name is Alexandra, she worked as a masseuse and ... was Carlo's neighbor . Nina is desperate and needs help. Carlos is her only hope. A reflection on the dialectics between evil and love, cannibalism and tenderness.
NO 5 LA HERIDA by Fernando Franco
Ana is 28 years old. She feels useful and fulfilled in their routine work helping others. However, outside of working hours, she has serious relationship problems. She is socially awkward and even aggressive with her nearest and dearest and can't control this behavior or her emotions. She becomes more and more isolated, when in reality she just wants others to be happy. Ana suffers from what psychiatrists call borderline personality disorder or borderline syndrome, but she doesn't know it.
NO 4 A PUERTA FRÍA by Xavi Puebla
"When did you fuck it up?" Salva asks in the hotel bar where an important fair is held. He was a star seller at a multinational company who now is facing being fired if he doesn't close a big sale in two days. A film about astonished generational changes and disloyalty in an industry that has became indifferent to those employees who yesterday were indispensable. A current "western", which instead of happening in a desert, takes place in the lobby of a luxury hotel.
NO 3 GENTE EN SITIOS by Juan Cavestany
Shot without a budget and with handheld camera "Gente en Sitios" is a kaleidoscopic story, a walking comedy with drama, social interventions, horror and surrealism, with the irreducible poetry of the human condition against the onslaught of the bizarre and chaotic as the common denominator.
NO 2 MAPA by León Siminiani
A young Spanish director is dismissed from his work in television. To realize his dream of making films he travels to India with the intention of making his first feature film, but soon discovers that what he really wants is not to be found in India but in Madrid. Filmed over several years with a very limited budget it is a "film-diary" that narrates, in the first person, situations of the everyday life of the filmmaker.
NO 1 VIVIR ES FÁCIL CON LOS OJOS CERRADOS by David Trueba
Antonio is a teacher who uses Beatles songs to teach English in Spain in 1966. When he learns that his idol John Lennon is making a film in Almería, he decides to travel there to meet him. En route he picks up Juanjoer, a 16 year old boy who has run away from home, and Bethlehem a 21 year old also appears to be a run-away.
I AM ELÉN
and I am responsible for this blog. These days I live in a tiny village in Axarquía in southern Spain.