I was born in 1972, so Franco was still alive. The problem was that with Franco Catalan was a forbidden language, and Catalan names were not allowed. When my parents had me, they named me Arnau, a Catalan name. But naming me Arnau was forbidden, so when they couldn’t register me as Arnau, they resgistered me as Arnaldo, the Spanish version of Arnau. When Franco died in 1975, the first things my parents did was go change my name on the registry so that I would again be named Arnau, my original and actual name.
That’s quite the reaction to the death of Franco, do you have any anecdotes of things that people did?
Anecdotes of that time. When Franco died, there was a huge demonstration here in Barcelona. I was three and went there with my auntie, aunt Paquita. I still have photos of that first demonstration being just three that I’m sure has much to do with this Catalan spirit of getting together, demonstrating, going against oppression. When I was little I was already going, with with a ‘estelada’ [lit. starry], a Catalan flag. Even though I don’t really like the flags, neither ones or the others, when I was little they already pushed me to carry it. It was an explosion of freedom, people were partying, people were getting drunk on the street. Even though there was the danger that, after Franco’s death, a new dictator would take his place. There was a substitute, Carrero Blanco, who was ready. The thing is that ETA killed him with a bomb under the car.
And just a little more about you, what is your occupation and/or your passion? Which I assume in your case is the same, but maybe not.
My job and my passion are one. I dedicate my life to theater, although the line is somewhat blurry. It’s not only theater, I think it’s art. Slowly I realize that theater is a way to get closer to art and maybe beauty or the seek for a kind of humanity. And the tool I have is theater, which allows me to slowly know people and know myself and communicate with them through stories or actions. And theater is one of the tools that I know better and that I’ve practiced longest. It’s my passion, it’s my job.
And in what part of the city did you group up? Has it changed since then?
I grew up, for the most part, on the neighborhoods of Sant Antoni [lit. Saint Anthony] and Poble Sec [lit. dry town]. The first years I lived in Sant Antoni, in the Urgell street, at my grandparent’s house. The curious part of my story is that my parents conceived me being very young; my mother was 16 and my father 21. But they did it so that they could go away from home. It wasn’t an accident, according to them and other people I know. Their idea was to get away from home, but they had me and what they expected didn’t happen. We ended up living at my grandparent’s house, by my mother’s side. There lived 7 people in 54 yd2.
We lived like that for three years. Already as a little kid my artistic inclination was showing, because I was dancing and singing all day, all day party, party, party. Then, when I was three, I came to Poble Sec. I came to live to the flat where I live now, an old tax rental flat, that we still maintain through my father. First Sant Antoni, then Poble Sec, and then, when I was eleven, back to Sant Antoni. But only three minutes from there, I crossed Paral·lel [lit. parallel] street, that’s the frontier, and went to Manso street [lit. docile], where is the family home.
And at the same time I studied in Montjuïc, which is in Sant Antoni, it the Bosc school [lit. forest] that’s besides the Joan Miró foundation. With the names they call it, the Olympic mountain or now the mountain of theatre, it’s all very funny symbology.
As I know, Sant Antoni represents this area of Paral·lel, the are of big theatres, and where the national theatre of Spain comes, you’ve got Sant Antoni which is the hipster neighborhood, which has become really popular, it’s very famous for tourists but I think natives don’t cross it very much. How has that changed, either since Franco’s time or since when you where young?
Truth is, these neighborhoods have changed a lot, both Poble Sec and Sant Antoni. For us it was a popular neighborhood, I went to a public school, and in the mountain, there were gypsies in campers. But with the Olympiads, they drove them out. For example, Parlament [lit parliament] street, in Sant Antoni, has become the hipster street. For us it was the street of the orxata store Sirvent, we would only go there to buy orxata.
Now it’s a street where you get your beard trimmed, dine in cool places, there’s a groovy bookstore; and the same is happening in Poble Sec. I think it’s happening all over Barcelona, it’s becoming a sort of touristic amusement park. And the popular neighborhoods, where people has lived for ever, they start to have cleaners, public laundromats. It is the first sign that foreigners with a greater income that are taking over Barcelona in a way. For us it is a great change, because in the Raval streets, for example, I would go buy LPs from David Bowie when I was young, about twelve or thirteen. Now it’s turning into this kind of supercool fashion stores. And the atmostphere is a bit lost.
But I suppose we’re all victims, I myself am a victim of this. Or help auspice this. And there’s also the theater part, it’s always been a theater neighborhood. Paral·lel was one of the arteries of commercial theater. But there’s also, specially in Montjuïc, all this part of the Lliure theater [lit. free], the Mercat de les Flors [lit. market of the flowers], where there’s a pseudo commercial author theater. There’s the Institut del teatre [lit. Institute of the theater] which is the great university of theater.
It’s a neighborhood that changes a lot, the Olympiads brought about a great change, specially to Poble Sec. The Olympic games were fantastic.
I studied in a school and played soccer, and to go from school to the soccer field, I had to cross a field where there were gypsies. I had to run because we were scared of them, they were a bit different.
Around the 90s all that was torn down. They turned it into a very in neighborhood. They built some really cool stadiums, the public swimming pools, that have a great view of the city, they restored the Greek theatre…
Barcelona is a city in constant change, that moves [???]. The Olympic games were one, the Fòrum de les cultures [lit. Forum of the cultures], and great changes happen.
I know from my grandmother, although she was born that year, the 1928 it was the second great universal exposition. To it we owe plaça Espanya [lit. Spain square] and all Maria Cristina [palace] and the venetian towers. It was another event that made Barcelona chage. As a part of the neighborhood we saw those changes constantly.
Something you said that I found interesting is that you used the word ‘victim’ and since a lot of these questions have to do with the time when the Catalans were victims of Franco, you could say they were cultural victims of Franco, and now you’re talking about a different kind of victimisation? I wonder if that’s as a Catalan as well or you consider it a different kind of victim.
When I say ‘victims’, I mean a more global victim. I don’t consider myself a victim of Spain, although I do believe that spain makes many mistakes because it doesn’t consider the diferent sensitivities in a nation. I think that Catalonia has its own identity, obviously, we have our own language and traditions. I don’t believe in nationalisms, so I don’t care if I’m Catalan or Spanish or American or European English. It doesn’t make much sense, but it gains sense when it feels like you’re losing your identity. I think that it’s not only us, the world is losing its identity before the great corporations. I think it’s the great corporations that favor us becoming victims of a system. It is a system where the predilection is exploitation, quick cash and forgetting that there’s people, there are stories, there are families, there are individuals trying to live the world in a dignified way.
Then corporations, beyond the reach of big nations like Spain, are what is favoring the change into victims of this kind of, as I said, amusement park of Barcelona, an absolute beast of tourism.
Beyond Spain, that also makes mistakes, like Catalonia, like Barcelona, like everyone. But we are victims of a kind of having a privileged city. A city with great living standards, a great temperature, great food; a city that even despite the economic crisis still endures, surely because of this tourist part. And this makes people want to come to Barcelona, which is a city that has been boiling for several years. It remains to be seen how deep the boil goes, but I think that there’s no deep boiling: not London nor New York, they’re temporal boiling, but Barcelona is in that moment. Then people want to come, and this kind of brutality happens.
It’s true that when I go out the country I don’t say that I’m Spanish or that I’m Catalan, I say I’m from Barcelona. This shows that we’re very proud of the city, but we’re victims as well. Only, when I’m in Barcelona I say I’m from Poble Sec. It’s a way to locate myself.
What did you do for fun as a child?
When I was a kid, one of the things that I liked most was of course playing soccer. Here in Barcelona playing soccer is almost a religion. But I was a bit of a hooligan, I think I still am. Back then I would walk down Montjuïc, and I would pick up ‘cireres bordes’ [lit. bastard cherries], cherries that can’t be eaten because they’re hurtful, and I would throw them at people, specially policemen.
I already had this rebel part, as a kid, that surely has a lot to do with my family, the atmosphere I grew up in, an atmosphere of rejection against authority. It has a lot to do with this Catalan feeling, Catalans in general tend to mistrust authority, specially authority in uniforms. Because uniformed authority, during Franco, was strongly established, and that caused some violence. I used to do that. There’s one of those times when I picked up big, rotten oranges. Then there was a police car passing by and threw it to them. The window was open, it hit the window, and the orange burst and spilt all over the cop. I ran away and they didn’t catch me.
But two days later the cops came to the school seeking me. It was even better because I wasn’t at school because I had pretended to be sick not to go, so it grew even bigger. When they caught me nothing big happened, of course but at school I got scolded. When I explained to my parents what I had done, the way to justify myself in front of my father was: “The cops are followers of the Madrid”.
It was a way to get away, of course, I didn’t know if the cops were followers of Madrid or Barça, but I knew that my father, being was a great follower of Barça, would be lighter if I told him that. Well, the hassle was just as big, but it was a way to get away. There’s also this dichotomy Madrid-Barcelona and authority-people that has always been here. In my case, very strongly.
Did your parents or other relations tell you stories of their lives in the 1960s or earlier life under Franco? Can you tell us about it?
Yes, stories about Franco time before I was born I have many, specially from my grandmothers. I have a mixed family, I am a Xarneu, because I have a Catalan mother and a Spanish father, from Cuenca. When I was three I lived here but my grandparents are from a small town in Cuenca, in the middle of Spain. My grandfather fought against Franco and against Hitler. He was in a concentration camp, well, a refugee camp in Arles, southern France. Then they had to keep running away from everywhere.
At my grandparents, in Hospitalet, when they settled in Barcelona, or Catalonia, they actually lived in Hospitalet where my grandmother still lives. They had all day long guests, they would rent rooms to be able to survive and buy food.
Then there are also stories about my other grandmother, the Catalan grandmother, so to speak. My Catalan grandmother had a brother named Adolfo, curious name, who had to run away and ended up in Argentina. After she was 20, she never heard again from her brother. But recently, she managed to contact her brother’s children, and even some grandkids, who live in Argentina.
Then there are many stories about the rationing, the rationing cards. After the war, since there wasn’t food they would go with the rationing card to get food. And the many things that they ended up doing, from killing pigeons to eat to working in curious things. They have explained many times as well the feeling of the bombing. The Catalan grandmother, so to say, both were called Maria, tells me that when they felt the bombs or heard the alarms hid in the subway and spent hours day, sometimes over a day. They bombed Barcelona very heavily.
It was one of the last to fall. Barcelona has a strong anarchist tradition, Catalonia as well. And of course, Franco and anarchism weren’t best of pals. Then the attacks on Barcelona were constant, so my grandmother would have to hide constantly with her family. She told me how her mother, because her father had to flee and died out of the country, raised a family with three kids, working any job and trying to bring up a family.
Yes, those are the specific things.
You were a toddler when Franco died, quite young between a period of uncertainty between his death and the signing constitution. Did you have a sense that big important changes were occurring even though you were that young?
I lived those changes on my very skin and the atmosphere. These changes like being able to vote, I was very young when Spain was allowed to vote, but you felt it in the atmosphere. I felt the voting, Franco’s death only by the demonstration, the coup d’état. There was a coup by Tejero, they tried to stage a coup with the military, rising up against democracy. Those were the military remains of Franco, that still endure today. But in that occasion, they rose and tried to occupy the Spanish Cortes.
I remember this perfectly. I was at school and it was a moment of total tension, because while we didn’t fully understand, being so little, but we knew that if it went on all the freedom we thought we had achieved would crumble.
I also remember the change from a centrist party to the socialists, the arrival of Felipe Gonzalez the year 80. I remember the 82 as well, the year of the soccer world cup, another event that changed the city. I also had the luck of going to the inaugural act. I had much luck, curiously I have been in all these events, the Olympic games as well, but this time working.
Those were chronological landmarks. I think I lived some huge moments, although I wasn’t conscious of what was happening, but it could be felt in the atmosphere. The arrival of the socialists was a very freeing moment for many people. Today’s socialists are pitiful, but back then there was a moment of freedom.
I also remember the referendum, now that the referendum is being talked about. There was a referendum about the NATO, about entering or not the NATO. I remember perfectly the movement to stay out and the movement to go in. How the socialists started their decline towards a not so socialist socialism and went for the NATO. Then, Spain entered the NATO by a referendum.
Now that the referendum is being talked about, it’s good to talk about this, remember that one was already held. Remember that it is a completely democratic tool, we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Whether we agree with independence or not, let’s talk about vote, let’s vote.
I remember the Olympic games perfectly because I worked back then. The Fòrum de les Cultures was an attempt they made, but there was a huge transformation of part of the city, where I also worked. I have been in curious places and been able to see them first hand. Surely we’ve all been able to live them, but because of luck and the different jobs I did, at the time I was able to be there.
I don’t know if it’s interesting for Todd or not, but now that you’ve mentioned referendum, there’s the referendum coming up in september, can you just explain really quickly what it represents?
The idea of a referendum to become an independent state or not I think goes further than being independent. I don’t consider myself independentist in that sense, well, maybe yes, but I can’t tell. But I don’t mean independentism as in Catalan independentism. I think that independentism in the sense of being able to change things always must be there. Who doesn’t wish to change things has a problem, the wat I see things. The fact that a country like Catalonia; because in a way is obviously a country, not official but by tradition, the language, the culture; wants to decide about its future seems positive and necessary.
A different topic is what I will vote. Maybe I will vote no. But I think that it’s important to be able to vote and ask for the people’s voice. Because the people’s voice is key to understand what we want. I don’t want to vote against Spain, because I don’t want to vote against anything, I want to vote for building something. Also, part of my family is Spanish, so I don’t fight against anyone. But I do think that the right to vote is important. Unfortunately I think that we don’t live in a democracy anywhere in the world, but specially less in this case.
For someone in the USA that doesn’t know about Catalunya, can you explain in two or three sentences what the referendum in September is about?
The referendum in September mainly asks if we want to continue being tied to Spain or not. That’s the legal part. What it represents for many people is the fact of being able to decide their own future. For someone like me, who isn’t independentist but believes in social justice, I think it’s a chance to have better control over justice.
That’s why I have a strong dilemma about what to vote. I don’t believe in independence because I believe countries are better when open, but I believe that a more open control of institutions allows for a better sharing of goods and justice, and a better control. There’s corruption in Spain, Catalonia, the United States, Italy, France, everywhere. Having the eye closer should allow to control it better, I think it’s one of the tools.
Can we go back to the Olympics? Which you worked at. It brought many changes to Barcelona, some good, some bad. How did Barcelona change and what were the effects in your eyes?
I think there is a pre-Olympic effect, which I will always remember, that is the pride of Barelona. I was fourteen when the IOC assigned Barcelona as the seat of the next Olympic games. I was at school, and classes couldn’t continue. We were so happy that we were singing and shouting around school. We were jubilant. There aren’t many times I’ve felt an energy so strong and spontaneous in people. Of course, this comes from a preparation and a big feeling of city, which created a pride of Barcelona. Like I said, many people from Barcelona say they are from Barcelona, not Catalan or Spanish. That was a huge moment. Then, the transformation of the city, it must be admitted was positive in many cases. I think Barcelona has a great subway and public transport, and it’s mostly because of this.
Some modernizations of neighborhoods but also some loss of tradition, which is the negative side. What I was telling you about the gypsies in the campers were taken out of the city or moved to different places. It was a bit like a dresser: showing the good things but hiding the bad ones, which always happens in these things. It also created a lot of jobs, I worked as a computer engineer because back then I was studying a degree in computer engineering. I was only in my first year and they hired me, such was the need for that.
I think that the most important, positive effect is the citizen pride and the modernization. It also needs to be considered that Barcelona was the first big Olympic games with volunteers, and the number of volunteers was huge. The Olympic games in Barcelona were successful because of the volunteers. I was a volunteer, but was hired for the Olympic Games so I had to stop being a volunteer.
We even did courses to be a volunteer: how to help and how to be in different places. It was a great moment, and I saw it as a volunteer first and worker later. The pride of Barcelona was huge. Furthermore, those Olympic games were seen, by the world, as one of the best that had ever been done. The inauguration of the Olympic games in Barcelona was done by the Fura dels Baus, a company with which I later worked as actor and co-director.
Now all the Olympic games have this kind of inaugurations, but the first was Barcelona’s. This traditions of Catalan theater were joined here: street theatre, correfoc [lit. fire run], castells [lit. castles]. All this was shown, with its Mediterranean spirit, and it was beautiful.
Catalan modernism has touched a bit all the arts. What is Catalan modernism in relation to theatre and does it still endure in the theater written and performed today?
If we talk about Modernism here, specially Barcelona but all of Catalunya, Gaudí is key, the great Catalan vanguard. Modernism was just the pretext. Not long ago, I was reading on El País [lit. the country], that the Sagrada Família is the most visited museum-monument in all of Spain, over the museum of the Barça or the Madrid.
The Sagrada Família is a huge cathedral. But the effect is incredible. One of the curious things you find out when reading history and finding out about the history of your city, is that during Franco’s regime, was to somehow hide this architectonical jewel we have.
Barcelona is a Roman city. Phoenician as well, in part. But the most important we have, what draws more attention and makes us different from the rest of the world, is Gaudí. It is Modernism, and Gaudí as its big exponent. There’s also Domènech, Cadafalch, Jujol, and others. But it is modernism what makes the city something special.
Franco, in a way – not Franco, but his cronies – hid that jewel. Because Barcelona is such a strong point economically and culturally in Spain, and hiding it makes it less strong. Of course, when Barcelona opens up and starts to recover Modernism, it soaks it up.
And with this I’m going to theater. Gaudí’s Modernism, specially go for the origin of the land, all these sculptures being very rooted, making earthly shapes stones, rocks, leaves. It has a lot to do with our Mediterranean tradition. I think Barcelona is not a Spanish or Catalan city, but a Mediterranean one. It’s a city with sea, which is another of the effects of the olympic games that I didn’t mention. Through the olympic games, Barcelona opened to the sea.
Barcelona, during the time of Franco, was built poorly. Well, all cities. First there were the medieval walls, which were torn down. Besides the Eixample, which is a great example of perfect urban planning, the rest wasn’t properly planned. With this opening to the sea, now we have an ease to go there that wasn’t normal. I lived in a sea city, but it wasn’t so…
I used to go to the sea but a bit far away, not on Barcelona. Now, for a few years, I can go to Barcelona easily, there’s no problem. It opened up, they cleaned the beaches. What does it mean? When it opened up to the Mediterranean, it opened to a tradition that is ours, the tradition of the sea, the nature, the wind, the water, the stone weathered against the water. And that’s very Modernist.
That is in our art as well. The visual arts, and in theater I think as well, a kind of theater that’s more organic, from the guts. A theater lived from a deeper history because the Mediterranean is the origin of occidental history, with the Greeks who were also here.
So we have a very Mediterranean tradition in the culture and the art as well. This more volcanic thing. Even though they say that Catalans are cold when compared to other Spaniards, there’s a volcano inside, there’s earth, there’s water, there’s sand, there’s something volcanic, that’s very Modernist.
Can you speak to the history of street performances, which you already started to do? And how it’s changed in the last twenty years.
In Catalonia there are two kinds, well, there are more, but the Catalan theatrical tradition comes mostly from pastorets [lit. little shepherds] and amateur, and from street theater. Street theater are the correfocs and could be considered as well that manifestations such as castells are a quasi-theatrical event. An architectonic building made of men, that says a lot about the Catalan spirit as well.
During the late seventies, early eighties, the democratic opening in the institutions, allowed some companies that did popular theater to open un their frontiers. I speak of people like the Fura dels Baus, of course; but also, Els Comediants [lit. the comedians], who make very curious street theater and animation; and Els Joglars [lit. the buffoons], with their political critique.
What they did was use our pure tradition and take it to the streets. Actually, Fura dels Baus were people from a town in Mollet del Vallés, who had the tradition of performing street theater. They did the dimonis [lit. devils], correfocs… And this became an expression and artistic medium. But it wasn’t void of political critique, a certain opening.
I think that Catalan theater has lost strength, because it doesn’t fight against anything. It has become more bourgeoisie. I think that theatre in Madrid has more punch because there they have had very reactionary governments. Then reaction against reaction generates art.
And we have settled from a fighting point of view. Now this fight is about independence.
I think it’s very tied to street theater. I think that manifestations, such as the statues in the Rambles, have become a trademark of sorts, but were born out of need. Then it became a trademark and then started to get banned.
Because for a time here in Barcelona there was a very conservative government, and it slowly removed traditions that aimed for liberty. Art is a tool of liberty, and of course some regimes won’t allow it.
So, everything that was street or bringing theater or arts to the street, and then thought to the street, slowly was removed. I think that now we are in a moment where it can come back, I think it is a good moment because there are town hall conditions that allow to maybe go a bit further.
And not only for the public. The statues of the Rambla started out of need and a will to express, and slowly became a trademark. The people that do statues in the Rambla tour around the world and they are the statues of the Rambla de Barcelona and they toured in Canada. Out of context it is like building a McDonald’s out of castellers, it makes no sense. The statues are there because they are born from… But I suppose that the need for business is there, so they become a business.
You can work as a sitter just at the bottom of la Rambla, right?
Yes, now they are only at the end of the Rambla. They messed up the Rambla when they changed the stalls of animals and flowers and placed stalls with waffles and Barça pins. The Rambla wasn’t that.
As someone from Barcelona, I think they should make a platform that builds bridges to go over the Rambla, so we wouldn’t have to see it. But not only the tourists, but also by what the institutions have done to turn the Rambla into an amusement park, the waffle land.
Do you have recollections of the Liceu opera fire? And does it represent something different than what it represented before the fire?
The Liceu burned down twice: first when I was alive, I think the year 95. I was working as an instructor in a school, and remember the moment it burned. People said, and maybe they aren’t wrong, that they burned it to make it bigger. It couldn’t grow so they burnt it and they could expand it, it’s a possibility. It also burned before around 1898. Some anarchists placed a bomb against the bourgeoise that went to the Liceu. And here we go back to the class fight, very Catalan. In Catalonia, there was a big bourgeoisie but also a big working class, so there was always battle.
The Liceu was a clear sign of bourgeoisie. I had been there with school to see small things and just a month before it burnt, it’s curious, I went to see a play by Donizetti, and next month it burned down. So, I could see it before and after. Now I’ve gone a few times, but not many. It’s a symbol of bourgeoisie in a completely popular neighborhood. The Liceu has a curious story, which I know because as an actor I’ve done some tours. The Liceu was in what was known as the Chinese neighborhood, that we now know as el Raval. The bourgeoise went to see operas with their wives but during the halfway rest, or before, they went to the whores by the side, because brothels were just at the side.
Those were brothels made for when the American sailors arrives, they would go whoring to the Chinese neighborhood. Then they had the prostitutes or they went up some streets over the Rambleswhere they had their lovers, who lived in flats paid by them. One of the curious things that happened in the Liceu is that when the husbands left, the women stayed and argued to see which of their husbands had the most interesting lover.
It is one of the curious things that have been known later, the bourgeoise had a wife, a lover, factories, because there was an economically very strong bourgeoisie in Catalunya. The Eixample was finished being built, this city of prodigies that they say. They had a lover and the women would fight to see who had the best lover. That was the Liceu, a metaphor of Catalunya, specially Barcelona.
Can you talk to us about the important art places and theatres in Barcelona, and also about your theatre?
Barcelona is a traditionally theatric city. More than Madrid, because there’s a lot of cinema in Madrid. Now there’s a lot of theater in Madrid, because it’s a city that has grown and is huge, so there’s a bit of everything. But Barcelona was and is a very theatrical city, with historic theaters like the Lliure. Now the Lliure is an institution, but back then it was a cooperative of people who got together and decided to perform theater, and companies like I said before the Fura dels Baus, Joglars, Comediants, Dagoll Dagom, Tricicle [lit. tricycle], la Cubana [lit. The Cuban]. There are many companies of all kind that are born in Barcelona or at least ended up in Barcelona.
There’s the Lliure theater that has become a kind of relatively alternative institution, because it has influence from the outside and isn’t only complacent. Like the Teatre Nacional [de Catalunya] [lit. Calonia’s National Theater], which has a more complacent part, theater better performed but innocuous from a social or political point of view. It is something that fills the need of culture for the institution.
Then there’s commercial theatres. There’s a theater called Alternatiu [lit. alternative], but it’s not true. It is a theater that tries to copy the structures of big theaters.
There are other theaters where interesting things can happen. There’s the Hiroshima here in Poble Sec, that’s an interesting theater where curious things happen. There’s the Antic Teatre [lit. old theater], were curious things are tried. But I’d say that the theatrical Catalan or Barcelonese fabric is made up of companies rather than places.
There’s all these historic places and then there’s the companies, I’m part of one of them. We try to make a more personal theater, a theater about our concerns. There’s theater that talks a lot about the self, and there’s also theater like we do, the theater of the Enjòlit from which I’m part. We try to do social theater, a theater that asks, points at what we think are unjust things or wrong concepts according to our criteria.
From what I’ve told you, it makes a lot of sense for me to be part of this company. It has a historic sense, of having born in a family that fought against Franco, that somehow lived oppression. As a kid, I was a bit a rebel against authority.
The theater has that sense and the sense of community. And that’s another very Catalan idea. There are things that I criticize about the Catalan spirit, but if there’s something interesting about it is the spirit of community, the spirit of going all together. Even with people with whom you don’t agree with, something a bit conflictive, happens politically.
And I think that, for example, we are a company that has been together for ten years and we’re still there in a world that keeps getting individual. That five people still fight together is very heartening, from my point of view.
It’s very related to this Catalan tradition of the castells, all together, the sardana, all together. It’s not a dance of two or three, it’s a dance of fifty or sixty, an action of hundreds, and I think that’s very related to the Catalan spirit. It’s something that I think I would take from our spirit, that it’s not so individualist. If there’s something of going together, we go. And I think it happens in theater as well. I mixed up things.
Do you deal with Catalan identity, Catalan history, Catalan politics in your work?
Our theater questions our society. The closest one we have is Barcelonese, Catalan, Spanish, although we aim to the generic to talk about the specific, we’re a bit Marxists in that. We look to the generic but act on the specific.
There’s a reality here, but as I was saying before we can’t abstract from the world. We can say that Spain denies us the chance to speak in Catalan, but what is also happening is that our restaurants are becoming McDonald’s. And McDonald’s isn’t a Spanish company, not even American. McDonald’s is McDonald’s, it is over all that.
We talk about this criminal globalization that affects the Barcelonese, Catalan or Poblesecan individual.
We talk about that, but we also critique or point a finger or complain about the institutions here that allow that to happen and the individual like us that allows it to happen. It’s not only the institution, it’s the individual that allows it to affect them.
We talk about this world that’s a bit killing the particular culture and the particular society, if you know what I mean.
How supported are in Barcelona the arts and its artists?
It’s hard to tell how a city or institutions support or not art. I’ve had the luck of living in different places around the world, and I complain a lot about here, which is what I’ve got to do, complain that there’s not enough support because there’s never enough.
According to my criteria, art is the most important thing that man can do. Not what man needs more, he needs food, needs doctors, but what man can generate that’s most important, humanity, man and woman, are art. The furthest thing we can do is art, so there will never be enough support.
But I have to say, I’ve been to England, the United States, France and Italy, more or less, and we’re not that bad. But it’s not enough. Of course, France is an Eden compared to us, but if I compare us with the United States, Italy or even England, in some things, I think the support is relatively good, taking into account the resources.
We can talk about a country like the United States, that has a lot of resources but doesn’t use them for the people; or England, that also has many and doesn’t use them as much either because it is an elitist culture, we’re not that bad. Italy is a chaos that doesn’t count, that’s every man for himself.
I think that art is more supported here because people complains, and this relates back to the spirit of community. I think people has a sense of rebellion, not accepting what’s given to us.
Which, surely, comes from our story with Franco. I go to those places and they say “Damn, Catalans are fighters”. We, my generation at least, still remember or have lived in our skin what it’s like not being able to be named Arnau, not being able not to be a believer.
I’m not baptized, which now is very normal, especially in Catalonia. But there was a time where you had to be “español i Cristiano” [lit. Spanish and Christian o “católico apostólico romano” [lit. Catholic apostolic and Roman]. Not being so was a big rebellion.
So my name’s Arnau and I’m not baptized and I’m not a believer. I’m agnostic, no, atheist, clearly. Not being that in that time was a big rebellion. So many of us still have that spirit of fight, that I think that every generation is losing it because they live more in commodity.
When I went to the United States I saw that clearly. The “land of plenty” has made people completely “numb” or “dumb” in the sense that why should I fight, if I’ll have a big TV.
In Italy the same has happened, because Italy had very good time since the sixties so they are completely comfortable[?]. Catalonia is still, but we don’t have much, rebel. But we’ll lose that, we are losing it. You’re saying that there’s a passion in the sense of rebellion that’s being lost more and more, particularly in the arts.
I think that part of the rebellion is being lost also because when institutions start having economic strength, which Catalonia now relatively has, it can now control more the arts, and help only those that are innocuous.
This kind of support is a bit dangerous. It’s where we, as artists, should rebel against it. And that surely means not accepting doing things for money, which is extremely difficult since we need to eat. But we also need to be free, and maybe it’s better not to be paid.
But that’s a debate that will always be in the arts, because by being paid our work is dignified. But the debate is always that, and it’s always going on inside me. Yes, I need to be paid, deserve being paid because I’ve studied a lot, prepare a lot,what I do I do thoroughly and professionally, but I also need freedom, because I’m an artist.
When money rules, art always loses.
How is practicing, performing and teaching theatre different from Barcelona? Can you tell a Catalan audience from a non-Catalan audience?
Teaching in Catalonia always depends. Like everywhere else I think. It depends on the teacher and depends as well on the students. The teacher is so important that it needs to disappear when teaching, because the teacher is a tool for them. That’s where there should be no differences. I’ve taught classes in Italy, Luxembourg, some courses in England, and the difference I see is where the flame to perform is born.
As I said before, we are Mediterranean. Our flame is very organic, it has an organic part that is huge. It’s true that Lorca wasn’t Catalan, but Lorca’s plays premiered in Catalonia. It was Margarita Xirgu who first performed Lorca. One of the great Catalan actresses, she too had to leave Spain because of Franco. Actually, the square where the Lliure theater is, is called Margarita Xirgu, the great Catalan actress, sho had to leave and premiered Lorca’s plays on the Romea theater.
Lorca’s great plays, Bernarda Alba, Yerma [lit. sterile], Bodas de Sangre [lit. weddings of blood], were premiered in Catalonia by a Catalan actress by an Andalusian playwright. Here is where I see our cultures touching most. Lorca is a great representative of what I’d call Hispanic theatre, in the meaning of what would be Hispania or what’s called the skin of the bull, that is this Mediterranean part of ours.
I think my students here live things with a passion that I haven’t felt in other places, the same passion I have. When I’ve been a student outside if something has stood out and fascinated them is this passion, because they draw from elsewhere.
In United States, it is from the entertainment; in England, there’s a big part from thought and distance: in France, the institution is important; in Italy, there’s game but is a bit chaotic. Every country has its way because we come from a land and that land is a certain way, and we are quite passional.
Catalan audiences are strange, they’re cold up to a point that, when crossed, becomes very passional. I think that’s a very Catalan thing. We are cold because we take a certain distance, due to this analysis thing.
Maybe this thing of being is Spain and up north, maybe makes us look at Spain from afar but we’re not that far away. Then, when the look goes away, we’re passionate, we applaud as much or more than the others, we shout as much or more than others, that’s why we’re not so far from Andalusians or French. At first, we seem French, then, we seem Andalusian. That’s our nature: there’s this part of control but there’s always passion. We’re both passionate and calculators. We’re a bit Phoenicians, because they were in Catalonia and that can be felt in the calculating part.
We’re actually told that we’re Spain’s Hebrews, the Spanish Jews, because of all the industry and ecnomoy as well. I think there’s a moment where we’re passionate and distant at the same time. This is an interesting dichotomy and the inner conflict is big, and it can be told in the audience.
You can feel at first that they are measuring you up. In the theater it can be seem, but in the field of the Barça, the great exponent of entertainment, because soccer is an entertainment, it’s amazing how a team like the Barça, that is the great jewel of the Barcelonese and Catalan crown. People, when you go to a foreign country and say you’re from Barcelona, they say “Oh, Messi, Messi” or “Ronaldinho”, they don’t say Gaudí.
You go there [Camp Nou, lit. new field] and what happens has to be very exceptional for the audience to go wild. In the last few years, the Barça has won everything, but people doesn’t go wild. That’s because of this distant part. But when you cross the barrier of wit, people go completely wild, and that’s very Catalan.
There’s something you’ve mentioned that I’ve always wanted to ask about applause, because in my experience it’s true,I thought it was incredible how much applause they give, too much for me, more than most. There seems to be an obligatory three bows, you bow once, twice and thrice. Is there a reason or is it just the passion?
Usually it is between two and three times. Three is a lot but it does happen.
The fact that people come out three times to bow, I think is a mix. I think there’s a kind of indulgence to foreigners, they applaud like okay, you’ve performed for me so I applaud you. There’s also the festive side,I think that people when clapping many times outside, unless it is something undeniable that you’ve seen a wonder and can’t help it. We do that more and I hope others would to it more, I’ve been with French, English or American audiences and they saw wonders and clapped coldly even though inside they were dying to clap, and that’s a mistake on the other end.
I believe the public has to be honest with what it feels. Sometimes here it is too festive, “Let’s go! Viva! Fiesta!”. There’s a bit of that, but when it is honestly brilliant, here we’re more honest than in other countries.
Are there certain plays, films, books or poems that you see as holding up a mirror to certain periods of history, different social and cultural significance?
On poetry, I’m a huge fan of Goytisolo or Jaime Gil de Biedma, who talk about that perfectly. It’s curious that Jaime Gil de Biedma was a poet from a good family but a homosexual during Franco’s time, so he got into a lot of trouble; and Goytisolo comes from a family of artists and ended up commiting suicide, but had always been fighting Franco. There’s that, those are two poets that are worth bringing back.
There’s much song, what’s called the Nova Cançó [lit. New Song] that was also against Franco. Els Setze Jutges [lit. The Sixteen Judges] or making a group of singers and artists rebelling against Franco. There was much art against.
In literature there’s Pedrolo, who is interesting. There’s Mendoza, a curious case, because he’s a Catalan writer who writes in Spanish and very known in the world. But many Catalans don’t want to recognize him because he writes in Spanish, and many Spaniards don’t want to recognize him because he’s Catalan. And he’s a magnificient writer who has written a wonderful book about the city called “La Ciudad de los Prodigios” [lit. the city of prodigies] that talks about all the change in Barcelona with the universal exposition.
In theater, there are many young authors. Now that we’re talking about art against, I think that Catalan art for the past 40 years has had a clear connotation of fighting against (a regime, a way to be) and I think that one of the Catalan plays, I think it’s a trilogy, that’s having the most international success is called “Contra” [lit. Against], against politics, against love.
It’s a great metaphor, a play named “Contra” and it has a lot to do with our way to see things, those who still feel in our skin the pain of prohibition or annulation of identity. They were written by Esteve Soler, and they are interesting because they’re gaining international recognition and awards.
There’s a lot of social theater in Catalonia, more than in other places. But every time it’s buried deeper.
Are there Catalan theater artists who served as an inspiration to you?
Yes, there are many authors that bring me closer to my reality. It’s true that having a formation as actor, director, teacher, I don’t even know what I am, eclectic and international, sometimes I tend to look outside. As time passes I look more often inside, but I look more to the roots not artistically but rather in general, where the impulse is born.
But there are authors. The thing is that I think that Catalonia and especially Barcelona is a great nurturing ground for actors and directors. There are also many great authors, but I think our forte are actors and, maybe I’m blowing my own horn, directors as well.
There are many directors such as Calixto Bieito, Àlex Rigola, people who go outside because there’s this fighting thing and people sees that, it’s evident. There’s this thing of seeking, conflict not yet settled, that I think artists from here have. Is being from somewhere or not, coming from somewhere we don’t like and being someplace we’re not sure we like. And that generates a conflict, a violence, that helps make the stage more interesting.
Today you have many science fiction films, science ficiton books about alternative timelines. Are there any such films or books about Catalunya, what would have happened if Franco had never been in power? Have you seen any of that in the medio? If not, how do you think it would go?
The truth is that I’ve never thought about there being a futuristic tradition. Barcelona has been used as a setting, because modernism makes us think of a strange future. I think it’d be quite interesting. Catalan cinema is growing bigger because there are schools that stake more, but there’s no industry. It’s difficult to generate this kind of cinema like Brazil or something like it, a “dystrophic” future.
It would be really interesting what would have happened if Franco wasn’t and the anarchists had continued. Not quite governing, because anarchists didn’t take a mother-country or a government, but if they had been not wiped out of earth.
And what would have happened if, say, the anarchist and revolutionary movement had finished all the catholic tradition, because one of the things that anarchists did in Catalonia and Spain was burn down churches as symbols of moral and ethical oppression. What would have happened if that had continued, it’s interesting. I think it would have been better, but that’s an opinion.
As far as I know there are no movies that talk about that, and I watch a lot of cinema, so I don’t think there’s any. Or if there is, it is from a hidden perspective. But I think it’d be a great movie, seeing what would have happened if Franco hadn’t existed and the dynamic had continued… Maybe it would have burnt out, turned into a kind of dangerous Stalinism. I don’t know, it’s a curious think, you have to give it thought.
Anarchism had greater presence here than anywhere in the world. Do you see the arts being pressed by the city’s anarchist baggage?
I think there’s a kind of reverence in Catalan art, even in people who claim to be a believer. For example, if you look at Gaudí, who was a huge believer, you see a rebellion against tradition. There’s a lot of rebellion against tradition here in Catalonia. I think it’s one of our biggest engines, and that allows art to be irreverent. Here seeing people naked, blooded people, burning crosses, is something quite normal.
As I was saying, the Fura dels Baus, with I had the luck of working on some projects, exemplifies this. Like others, such as Joglars in the time where they were eminently political and rebellious, not now that they’ve become a kind of company obliging towards power. When they were non accommodating with power they would break all the taboos.
There’s this confrontation thing, I believe that art and violence go together. They need each other and feed each other, and we’ve lived violence in many ways, against and in favor, because Catalonia has been an empire too.
With the famous Almogavars, who went to Greece to blow everything up and rape everyone, it could be said that we’ve been a fascist Empire, although the term wasn’t used back then.
Us Catalans are not, and I don’t know what I mean with are, but we can’t consider ourselves as only victims. No way. There’s no country that’s only a victim, it doesn’t exist. Catalans were also an Empire, and sent ships to America as well, and colonized America as well, and Cuba and Naples and Sardinia and Greece and southern France.
If we talk about Franco, we talk about this. We can’t forget, like many other empires. Like the Catholics that now complain they are bombed, like the jews, that now complain that… Everyone has been or is a social bully or an oppressor empire, and we have been. Now it works for us, but let’s not forget, because there’s a small step from victim to oppressor.
How has the city changed since the economic crisis in 2008? You talked a bit about the prices of things and how things were owned, can you talk a bit more about that?
Regarding this, the economic crisis in Spain and Catalonia and Barcelona, I analyze it from the Spanish economic boom. In the 2000 Spain grew in a completely unreal and irrational economic boom, the construction boom. It was suffered in Catalonia too, although maybe not as much as in other parts of Spain, and it Barcelona it was clearly because of the tourism.
Tourism has been both a blessing and a sin. In the same way that it has helped Barcelona, it has also pushed it down. I think the Spanish and Catalan or Barcelonese crisis can’t be understood without the great boom.
From the 98 onward, or maybe 97, I wouldn’t know, I’m no economist, Spain was the bee’s knees economically. What happened is what we are suffering now, that in Madrid and Barcelona and other big cities, but specially Barcelona and Madrid, rents skyrocketed. Barcelona went from a city with a rent a quarter that of London to almost reaching the same prices in London in 10 years. And this was brutal for people here.
But of course, since the individual economy was growing along, we lived it normally. Then the economic crisis came and rents were up here and people couldn’t keep up, it was devastating. Having worked with the syndicate of actors and the part of working class fight I know for a fact that Barcelona, as a city, didn’t have a huge crisis.
The individual did, but the city of Barcelona didn’t stop growing even during the crisis. They haven’t stopped improving the subway, maybe at a slower rate, but it has been constantly improving. The reason is that there was tourism, this wild tourism of beaches, sangria and Mexican hat in the Rambla, which has allowed Barcelona to keep up.
But this doesn’t mean that the individual kept up. With there was a drop in the price of rents. Now, they say that economy is starting to grow. As soon as it begins growing, the rents in Barcelona skyrocket again.
Barcelona is again awfully expensive. It used to be, then it went down a bit, but now it’s up again.
I think that that has really hit hard small businesses. Barcelona was very, it’s a very famous concept, botiguer [lit. shopkeeper]. Actually, there’s an auca named “L’auca del Senyor Esteve” [lit. Mr. Esteve’s auca] that is about the Catalan small shopkeeper. If someone wants to understand the Catalan small commerce, they have to read “L’auca del Senyor Esteve”. It talks about the Catalan small business, the small shopkeeper.
This small shopkeeper that has been portrayed in many ways and has a certain nasty part, of looking for his own stall, is disappearing in a dangerous way.
This is due to franchises, but not only franchises, even people who sets up businesses as one planting flowers. In a fast, conscienceless way. In a predatory way, this wild way that I set up a business, I’ll get rich because Barcelona is in and I burn it out and then I go somewhere else and that’s that. Or in ten years I get rich and then go.
That makes that certain neighborhoods that have always had local commerce are losing them now. We, as a company are in the neighborhood el Born that is the greatest exponent of the Barcelona way of life. This city of design that at the same time has history and so. But what that is causing is, for example, the other I read that in the neighborhood of el Born, a person from there has to walk a kilometer to make a photocopy.
That didn’t use to happen, just by you there’d be a photocopier. To make a photocopy you have to walk a kilometer, what does that mean?
This means that now there are only cool stores that change every two months, tattoo parlors, groovy barbershops, everything is very cool. But then, people who live there and need to make a photocopy or buy a piece of fruit has to walk outside the neighborhood to shop.
It’s a bit dangerous this movement, but I think that it is now slowing down. The new government in the town hall is trying to slow it down, but it’s a very strong thing. There’s people from Barcelona who doesn’t live in those neighborhoods that look at this with good eyes.
It’s not only the multinational companies, not only the tourism that comes with Ryanair and everything is good, you eat cheap and since you’re a week don’t mind spending; but it’s the people from Barcelona itself, who don’t live on that area, who see that as good, because they see Barcelonese economy grow.
It does grow, but it does so in a way that is erasing its identity. This is strange that some who defend independence are the same that defend this model. They defend independence because they say they don’t want to lose the identity but at the same time support a model that rips identity apart. That’s why the independence is a bit dangerous, it comes from movements with which I don’t agree at all.
Barcelona is a popular destination for foreigners. What are your feelings about tourism today? Do you think there is a way for conscious tourism?
I think there’s a way to achieve a tourism that is conscious. Evidently, I don’t know how to do that, but I do believe that everywhere, including Barcelona, including Catalonia, including Spain, including the world, they have things to offer that need not to be exploited.
What’s the point of coming to Barcelona three days, passing by the Sagrada Família in or outside, take twenty liters of sangria and going to the beach and getting red, if you don’t expand a bit your knowledge?
I think this is, as always, an educational issue, and a global one. We live in a world of “events” as they’d be called on Facebook. Now, visiting Barcelona is yet another “event” and gets crossed off the map. Done, I’ve seen Barcelona, like I’ve seen New York, like I’ve seen London… Instead of maybe taking some time or trying to approach in a more open way and not so much pleasure as knowledge of what’s happening.
But we don’t want to know, we want to consume. And this is a global issue. I think that this is the fast tourism. We live in a world of fast food, but not only in the meaning of food, but in the sense of now and that’s it, let’s burn it out because it’s ending.
I think that has to do with a social, political and economic idea of the world that is that the best is to get rich fast and to burn it out. Or the best is to eat everything now and burst instead of eating a bit and savoring it, instead of earning ten euros because I’ve earned them with effort, or instead of going to places that allow me to grow as a human being.
I think that people comes to Barcelona, but not only Barcelona, and it doesn’t change their lives. And a journey should be a small change. But it’s a cultural issue, a social issue. It’s not only about tourism in Barcelona, but tourism in Barcelona is the clear example.
I was recently in Madrid and went to see an exhibit to the Prado museum that I was really interested in. And even though Madrid has this tourism as well, there are some really cool museums, like London or Paris or New York, but even then people who go to the museums follow the arrow and tick it as done. They tick the Prado or the British or the MoMA they don’t try that the experience bring about a change or a deepening: and that’s an endemic evil.
And this has to do with a system, and I’ll sound old fashioned, but it has to do with a system of wild capitalism. And Barcelona is just another example. And that’s a pity, because it was a city where there was anarchism, collectivization… There still is, because there are trends and now we have a mayor that comes from this, so there’s a little hope. But I think this is global, unfortunately.
We americans know, because of travel books, about Gaudí, the Rambla or La Boqueria, but beyond that it is unknown. What would you like that every American understands about Barcelona?
It’d be great if American toursists would go closer to the people. It’s a cliché what I am saying, of course. And how we’d get close to the people of Barcelona? Getting close to people who do group things. We mentioned before this community spirit that still is in Catalonia.
I think that for Americans, which is an eminently individualist society, going to see castells, but not only see them like a tourist, but going under the castells. Even going to see the Sardana, which are a bit boring, but at the same time you see people together that are doing something. Even groups more focused on political action, or even urban gardens, things that are happening where the neighborhood goes together.
I think that here Americans would fall in love and there’d be a change for them. It’d be a way to see that as a group you can. Because I think that the United States are the pioneers, sadly, of this kind of catastrophe that the self is the only important being. Life is short, better to burn it now. I think that the first lab is the United States, but here is already starting to be one too. I think Americans are victims of this too, creators but victims as well like we are creators and victims.
I think the strength here is the group. It think there’s some group part that can strike, more than other places.
You think a place like USA is a place like the epitome of individualist society, while Catalunya is a bit in between an individualist and collective society, a bit in the middle.
Catalonia has a big group tradition, but living in this eminently individualist society that tells you that it is important to watch tv alone for a while, with the family but still watching tv. I think that we have a very cool interesting group tradition.
What drew you to the arts? Is there a tradition in your family?
In my family, there are no artists in the professional sense of the word. But for example, my grandfather was great at drawing. He was a jeweler, would forge jewels, and in him there was the artistic spirit.
Is interesting that I have dedicated myself to the arts, it’s something that everyone asks me because we are four brothers. I am the elder, and perform theater; but the second son, Roger, is a musician; and the third is a photographer. All three of us have gone down the artistic path.
I think that, and I’ll always be grateful for it to my parents over everyhthing, it is the fact that they have taught us or emboldened us that everything is possible and we have to fight for our dreams, whichever those might be.
And that’s something that makes us strong, because working in the arts is a constant fight. Everything is always precarious. You see the world, and everyone is okay, they have homes, cars, and we don’t.
I think that there’s a search for beauty, there’s something very human in art. Is what I was saying before, I think I have dedicated myself to art in part due to this trying to understand myself, which I haven’t managed to, and the world we live in. It’s true that we make art, but there’s always a political implication and that’s closely related to the familiar tradition. I think that art is a tool to talk about issues that worry us. It might be the human connection or society, something that worries us. At my home we talk a lot of politics, we’re very politically inclined. And art is a tool.
I don’t know where it comes from, I just know that as a kid I was always doing, let’s say artistic things, I danced, sang, made up and performed my own theatrical plays, cross-dressed, constantly. I think that in my case it is a feeling of constant game, I’m goofy, adventurer. I like playing. Theater is a game and there there’s room for me, and I think that’s what brought me there
Were you told stories from your older mentors about the experience of writing and performing under Franco?
One of those stories that was told to me by one of the most important teachers I’ve had, Pilippe Gaulier, who was my teacher in London and Paris, is related to Franco. He’d say that when Franco died he was in France with some friends of his that were clearly leftists. They filled up a car with champagne and went to Barcelona to celebrate. It’s closely related with this moment of euphoria, collective craze that was lived when Franco died, that people went to the streets to celebrate.
And he came from France with his friends. And he’d tell the whole class the feeling of pleasure and complete insanity and also fear and danger. Because Franco had died, but the regime was still on.
He made the whole trip, from Paris I think, with the car full of champagne to be able to celebrate the death of the dictator. And that tells much of the euphoria that was lived not only here, but outside as well. This was felt as an oppression, a crime against liberty. Specially art, the first one to suffer in dictatorships, specially right-winged ones.
Though Barcelona is metropolitan, its Catalan residents are said to have an affinity for the land, which is where the spirit catalan lies. This is also often comes, where the subject of Joan Miró’s “The Farm” comes up. Where does this come from, and is this still true?
Catalonia is a privilege. In a sense of space, of land. We have the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, the city like Barcelona, an internationally recognized metropolis with fascinating architecture but at the same time is in constant movement. And that makes our…
I’m by nature metropolitan. I live very poorly in small villages, I don’t know how to. I haven’t tried because I know I’d go crazy, that’s why I’ve always lived in cities bigger than Barcelona. Barcelona is actually the smallest one I’ve lived in.
But it’s true that there’s this relationship that we have with the land, the sea, with the colors that bring us to nature. I speak of cities where I’ve lived like New York, London or Paris, fascinating cities, very alive, gorgeous in many ways, but they don’t have colors like we do.
I think that the sky in Barcelona, despite the pollution, but being by the sea, the sky of Barcelona, Catalunya or maybe the Mediterranean, makes us have an interesting perspective of art.
Miró, as you were saying, is a great exemple of this. He was Barcelonese, but identifies himself with a village in Tarragona because from there he could see the light. Even though it sounds like a spiritual metaphor, we actually mean the light. There’s a light here that many people say “damn, the sky in Barcelona”. I say Barcelona because there are many tourists here, in Catalonia, the Mediterranean Sea or the coast.
Also, Catalonia is quite rich agriculturally because it’s not too dry, unlike many other places in Spain that, sadly, are dry. Then there’s much fruit, so there’s lots of color. We also have the Pyrenees, which are a relatively tall mountain range where there’s snow. In two hours we’re in the snow, in three minutes in the beach. That’s a privilege. That makes nature have a lot of weight. Great Catalan artist such as Dalí or Pau Casals even though he wasn’t from here.
Dalí, for example, came from an area where the wind, in all the Empordà, hits hard and with brutal strength. That’s why nature is so present.
I think that we’re linked with nature because it’s so organic. I’ll say it again: we’re organic people. We’re not like the German, and I’m generalizing, that have lots of philosophers because they’re all day here. We are here, in contact. They are here, we need the contact, generally we’re organic. Of sounds, lights, fire. The traditions with fire and sand, the tradition with fruit, the tomato, strawberries. There are colors here.
Actually, if we look at design, and there’s much design here, with trademarks. But if one would be characteristic from Barcelona it’s Desigual. It’s very Barcelonese, except for all the business setup. But something like Desigual can only be born in Barcelona, because it has a feeling of color, disorder that you won’t see in New York, you won’t see in Paris, you won’t see in Milan. It’s clearly Barcelonese, like Gaudí. Well, Barcelonese or Catalan, this color thing.