Friday, September 01, 2006

Barcelona2.0: Gaudi's Avatars, the Egg and the Dog

I don't remember where I read/heard about the artistic trend that seeks to eradicate the cemetery-like ambience inside museums, i.e. the 'Do not touch!' and the 'Do not speak loud' rules that put the visitor in a position of attendee rather than participant – to use Dave Winer's nice distinction between passive (web1.0) and active (web2.0).

Coming back from a visit to Barcelona I couldn't stop thinking about this absolutely unique city, built for participation. But even more unusual was the recurring theme, the leitmotif of this participation: an Identity-check journey into a realm where the border between objects and their representations doesn't exist.

Gaudi's creations – is this a house?

We can participate in all of Gaudi's creations – entering the guts of each house, cathedral or park that Gaudi designed. And in every such a place the same question arises:

Is the Casa Batllo a house, a work of art representing a house or rather a work of art representing nothing but itself?

Is La Sagrada Familia a cathedral – a dead-serious holy place, or is it a childs' adventures castle brought in straight from Disneyland?

Is Parc Güel a city park where children can climb on the Lizard statue and people can sit on Gaudi's benches or is it a museum and therefore children are supposed to respect the artistic monuments and benches are to be left untouched?

Under this perspective Gaudi's creations are more like avatars – they look like the real thing but they are not the real thing, and at the same time they question the realness of the real thing and let you experience this conflict by yourself from the insides of the representation. Being inside Casa Batllo is like being inside an avatar, watching the outside through your own eyes as well as through the house's eyes.

The Agbar Tower and Sexual Identity

Is it an egg – a feminine building, or a penis – a masculine one?

De Profundis? Luna Park in the Sky?

From the Tibidabo mountain Barcelona is seen in its entirety - a breathtaking view, not only because of its beauty but also because of the abyss, the De Profundis, the vertigo sensation issued from being so high and seeing the city so far beneath.

Ten feet from the adventures park there's an immensely high church/cathedral, which was built after the adventure park opened its gates in the early 20th century. I would argue that the church was built in this spot not just because Tibidabo is a high place, but mostly because there's an adventure park ten feet away. Most of us are mentally unprepared to visit an adventure park while passing through dozen Chapels, but those "crazy" Catalans – they are used to live in this duality.

Entering the adventures park – an official participation place - one can immediately see that this is not a "usual" park. Being built on the highest slopes of the Mountain that face the city most of the installations are extending their natural functionality as half of the time they go high above the immense abyss beneath. Double fright.

Is this a Luna Park on Earth or a Luna Park up in the skies?


My wife adores Joan Miro for his childish, innocent and delicate style, so we headed to the Fundació Joan Miró, where we had yet another Catalan surprise. In order to get to the Miro exhibition one must go through many exhibition halls dedicated to Carles Santos. Now, in case you've never heard of this artist (even Wikipedia is [shamefully] unaware of his existence) the combination of Miro and Santes is like the combination of a cathedral and a luna park or of a cathedral towers with fruits.

Towers of La Sagrada Familia

Miro's dog on the left is the "Tapestry of the Foundation" welcoming the visitors to the Miro exhibition. On the right Santos' Dog welcomes the visitors to the Foundation building.

Miro's Dog is a dog. Santos' is a woman or a long-haired man.

Santos is an artist of the "dark" side, meaning his work is darkishly beautiful with many moments of painful watching (cuts, distortions and other atrocities).

The contrast between Miro and Santos is sharp. Catalan Duality. Barcelona.

p.s. All Barcelona's pictures are user-generated - Flickred. Great shots by great photographers. thanks


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