Bon cop de falç* – Poble Sec, Barcelona. Homesession Art Space. 7.12.2012

Belongings, cultural diversity and inclusion – Fragments, notes and sketches from a two days fieldwork in Barcelona.

Poble Sec is s former working class neighborhood, recently turned into a multicultural one. On November 25th elections took place: Catalan people decided to go trough a referendum in order to obtain the full independence from Spain. Is is a traditionally leftist (used to be anti-franchist) movement – but recently the cause of independence was embraced by the center-right party ruling the local governement. A sector of Spanish army threatened Cataluña with a military invasion. This subject is dominating the public discourse at my arrival in Barcelona, starting from the urban landscape: Catalan flags are in fact hung everywhere on the buildings. Poble Sec, being at the same time  a globally displaced and firmly “emplaced” Catalan working class neighborhood,  is a peculiar point of observation of the current identity effervescence.

2012-12-07 20.03.58Today 7.12.2012 at 9 PM is the opening of the exhibition “What’s wrong with visual pleasure?” at Homesession Art Space in Poble Sec, Barcellona, curated by Andrea Liu, from New York. I decided to share with the audience my notes and sketches collected during a very intense 2 days fieldwork here in the neighborhood. I’m therefore archiving this visual material + blogging just during the opening, as a performative action. This gives me the opportunity to include in my blogging the knowledges of  the audience: Catalan language rudiments, cultural productions concerning Cataluña, perspectives etc. / Voy air actualizar el blog a medida  que el publico va contribuyendo, en tiempo real. It is not easy, writing is usually a very intimate-private matter, but I try. Thanks Berta for this contribution:     –  An outsider perspective is always an interesting way to approach a topic. Moreover “otherness” – both in anthropological and philosophical terms – could be the point of observation of our behaviors, attitudes etc. /  kids are curious about my activity and especially about my Chinese-sustainable-sun-cat / Another suggestions from the audience: Miralda foodcultura, un exemplo de como se puede tratar el tema multicultural desde el punto de vista de la comida:

Aniré actualitzant el blog els propers dies. Gràcies! Catalunya, triomfant, tornarà a ser rica i plena! / Endarrera aquesta gent / tan ufana i tan superba! / Bon cop de falç! / Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra! / Bon cop de falç! / Ara és hora, segadors! / Ara és hora d’estar alerta! / Per quan vingui un altre juny / esmolem ben bé les eines! / Bon cop de falç! / Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra! / Bon cop de falç! / Que tremoli l’enemic / en veient la nostra ensenya: / com fem caure espigues d’or, / quan convé seguem cadenes! / Bon cop de falç! / Bon cop de falç, defensors de la terra! / Bon cop de falç!

Fieldwork Poble Sec – food and beverages, Catalan edification. 

Flash back on 5.12.2012. Just arrived in Barcelona, starving. Finally a small restaurant on the corner, it looks very inexpensive. The owners and guests teach me how to drink from a strange glass-bottle called in Catalan “Porró”. The red wine is cool and nice. I eat for the first time in my life fidevà. It is slowly cooking in a huge pam, it remembers me the one used for paella. Però fidevà és molt diferent: porc, pasta i verdures.

Coses i menjars catalans I – Restaurant “Frankfurt Elkano”. C. Elkano 62 bis., Barcellona:

documentoss 005cosas catalanasedification

This small restaurant is my Catalan folk training camp! basically concerning food and wine – but we know how meanings and identity patterns are deeply embodied in food practices.

Paella ChinoCatalanaMaybe it is a paradox, but i was guided in Catalan food&more culture both by local people and immigrants. Especially Chinese entrepreneurs – bar and restaurant owners – helped me in researching about Cataluña -> Barcellona -> Poble Sec identity. Especially in Carrere Blasco de Garay 47, at “Bar-restaurante Casa Axin – Brasseria tapes cassolanes”. Here I had in facts the best paella in my live for only 9 euro (big one) and Axine, the owner, is a Chinese immigrant from Shanghai. I spent hours in this bar-restaurant observing the convivial interaction of the Chinese owner with the Catalan-Spanish-Immigrant customers. In Italy we are not used to intercultural conviviality. Beside Paella I had a great bacalau with peppers in tomato sauce and a sort of bruschetta with peppers, tuna, anchovies and olives. Outstanding and enlightening in terms of food pleasure, catalan edification and authenticity. Authenticity is of course a avery controversial term – since could refer to different forms of cultural essentialism, potential conservatism etc. – but not if the chef is Chinese. Paellas Chino-Catalanas can be translated as “she jing guo fang” or “he cien fang”; Different pinyin interpretations .


Porc, rise and semantics – Bar O’ Carballino, Calle Carrer Blai 68,  Barcellona. The bar in Carrer Blai, about 30 meters from Homesession Art Space, was another great point of observation over the anthropological landscape of the neighborhood. And here i made many friends. The bar is managed by a Chinese family. they come from Wenzhou and they spent many years in Italy – it looks like they are both missing China and Italy. We talk spanish and italian, we mixed them and we end up by speaking “itaniolo”.

cerdosPork + roof = family, home. The character of family, home, is created by adding the radical of “roof” above “pork”. In rural china only by owning a pork it was possible to plan a future (create a family, build a home etc.). Mala palabra, buena palabra. “Pork” in western country is a derogatory term, in China is related at the contrary with good luck, opulence etc.

Rurality, naiveté, economical recession and visual pleasure:

visual pleasure

“what’s wrong with visual pleasure?” 

The title of the exhibition is explicitly questioning the role of visual pleasure in the Arts. But so far I dealt with other forms of pleasure, especially the culinary-cognitive one, within the very anthropologically intense frame of the neighborhood. Bars, restaurants and tapas places are the ideal frame for such borderline researches. But, by getting lost in food and identity paradoxes, beer and endless conversations with local people, I was answering the question in a very indirect way, just by giving for granted that visual pleasure is something irrelevant for my art practices. I was answering “by doing” and, moreover, “by ignoring” the question. However I smashed into an explicit answer. maybe. And maybe it is no coincidence that this happened in a bar crowded with all sorts of people and held by a moroccan lady perfectly camouflaged in an environment dominated by south american immigrants – she speaks a perfect Castilian, she changed her name in Maria and the waitress, from Dominican Republic, looks just like her daughter. The clients are South Americans, Catalans and Spanish, Moroccan, a guy from Havana. This place is like a microcosm, a working class microcosm. And here i spent many hours, chatting with people about sports, politics (the Spanish-Catalan issue),  the weather and, of course, the economical crisis. A naive painting hanged on the purple wall is observing us and our urban dramas from the otherness of the idealized bucolic life. Traditions, ethical values, hard work, social nets, abundant sobriety. This “stereotypical” imagery is balancing the harshness of the real and the painting is widely appreciated by the costumers. The painting becomes my favorite topic. It coagulates hopes and regrets, visions and Weltanschauungs. And, above all, they consider it beautiful; the paint is therefore beautiful, not for all of them, but at least for the majority. So, maybe this is why visual pleasure is wrong.

I wanted to include this painting in the show and I started to negotiate my project with Andrea Liu, the Chinese-Newyorker curator of the exhibition. She was a little bit perplexed about this irruption: The painting would have caused disruption to the harmony of the show, and its presence would have been offensive for the other participant artists. In my opinion the “translation” of the painting from the bar to the art space would have been the “excuse” fro a very concrete transformation of the audience: the paint would have drawn in Homesession Art Space the people from the bar, from the street. Together with them we could have discussed about “visual pleasure” finally in therm of “visual pleasures”. However at the end I gave up with my experiment, at least in the frame of the collective art show – which should respect parameters, rules etc. – but not here on the blog. The blog is just another location were to keep discussing about visual pleasure(s).

Si apre il dibattito.

Andrea answered by quoting Bourdieu. Here I’m quoting Andrea’s quotation: “A beholder who lacks the specific code feels lost in a chaos of sounds and rhythms, colours and lines, without rhyme or reason. Not having learned to adopt the adequate disposition […] Everything takes place as if the working class audience vaguely grasped what is implied in conspicuous formality, both in art and in life, i.e. a sort of censorship of the expressive content which explodes in the calculated coldness of all formal exploration, a refusal to communicate concealed at the heart of communication itself, both in art which takes back and refuses what it seems to deliver and in bourgeois politeness, whose impeccable formalism is a permanent warning against the temptation of familiarity, conversely, popular entertainment secures the spectator’s participation in the show and collective participation in the festivity which it occasions.”        

A very good argument against the “bourgeois” visual pleasure. At the same time the naive painting is very codified, and the customers of the bar in Poble Sec are able to read it – and enjoying it – according with their visual backgrounds. To step out from this contradiction I’m proposing visual pleasure as a plural container.

I will (provisionally) answer the question by saying that nothing is wrong with visual pleasureS.

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