We live in an era in which the world has been split by a technological and cultural divide that is easy to perceive, although its effects are difficult to calculate.
Shot of Plaça Coromines, during the dialogue between Judith Butler, Marta Segarra and Fina Birulés.
PHOTO: MIQUEL TAVERNA
TEXT: GUILLEM MARTÍNEZ
– BARCELONA, BARCELONA, BARCELONA. BCN, I’m rushing towards Plaça de Joan Coromines. Which requires several explanations that might tell you about BCN. Here they are. Joan Coromines was a titan. Author of the best etymological dictionaries for Spanish and Catalan. He spent his life with a book under his nose. Easily said. He was the son of Pere Coromines, one of the anarchists condemned to death for the 1896 Corpus Christi bomb attack, which was carried out by a French madman but led to the arrest of a wide spectrum of anarchists. That wave of arrests, torture and death sentences was the first time BCN featured in the international press. By the way, Plaça Joan Coromines also has a unique building. It is what remains of the Teatre de la Santa Creu, built under the licence granted by Philip II. With a difference of a couple of months compared to Madrid, this was home to all the Castilian theatre of the Golden Age. It was crazy. In the 19th century Romanticism appeared with a play in which a boy marries a girl who is a single mother. Anarchism appeared on the scene too. The word “anarchist” was uttered in a play in this theatre in 1835. At the time, it was an insult, but the character used it with a positive connotation. The square is behind MACBA. The museum building, designed by Maier, received its highest number of visitors when it was empty and people went to see the building. That could be a good reflection of modern art. And of BCN. On one side of MACBA there is another square full of skateboarders, and ladies and gentlemen of all colours. A city is Babylon. Incomprehensible, unfathomable, amusing and, if you become monotheistic, the epitome of absolute sin. A city is, in fact, a point of erosion of clear ideas, of dogmas. Unlike nations, states or the Liga BBVA, a city is something concrete, in which things happen. As I make my way to Plaça Joan Coromines, various people come to mind, such as Flowers. Flowers was a popular figure in BCN in the 1970s. A former Soul-star photographer who, whenever you bumped into him, would try to sell you a dummy. I “dribble” people with Flowers footwork. BCN, a warm and cold city, where it is hard to start or finish, creates “dribbling” citizens. That’s why we like Messi. God, how I love Barcelona. Wow, I’ve already reached Plaça Coromines.
THE BIENNIAL IS WHOEVER PUTS WORKS INTO IT. My destination is, in fact, one of the events at Open City Biennial of Thought. This is a project related to other, similar projects that have come out of Italian town halls/municipalities. Contrary to how it may appear, Italy is cool when you actually take a look at it. It has resources and ways to periodically avoid insanity. The Turin Biennial, for example, which revolves around the idea of democracy. This rarity was only possible in the State, but it seems to acquire substance, tension, new rights and sexy values in the municipality. There are others in other cities. On philosophy, for example. People go and talk. Which is a good metaphor for a city. But perhaps the Barcelona model is more akin to Turin. This first Open City Biennial is hosting more than one hundred events where, as I said, people, go and speak, and people from the city, from Catalonia, from the State, from the world over come to talk about thoughts. Or what they know how to do. The guests, in turn, draw a new team of staff – a new selection of people and themes, created and managed in a network. It’s something similar to a generation, but much broader than a generation. It’s an era. An era in which the whole world has been split, across all its continents, by a technological and cultural divide that is easy to perceive, although its effects are difficult to calculate. This divide not only marks generations, but also cultures, themes, tools, and attitudes. It creates two worlds, with two different clocks. Perhaps the biennial is an opportunity to look at this new clock. Or to set the right time. Today, for example, Judith Butler is speaking in Plaça Coromines. Another clock. Another way of seeing time pass by. In other words, what happens. The title of the event: L'embolic del gènere. Per què els cossos importen? / The gender problem. Why do bodies matter?
– TIC-TOCK. The square is full. No more people fit. There are perhaps more women than men. But they don't overwhelmingly outnumber them. There’s not just one type of person either. In the end, as regards things we ignore, we are types. Various types of shoes, for example. Here you can find high heels, flat and extra-flat shoes, others with thick soles. What does strike you is the generational/cultural gap, which I alluded to in the previous paragraph. The public, in short, tends to be under 50 and have another world in their hearts, or wherever one carries the world. Maybe in our shoes. No idea. It’s starting. On stage, Marta Segarra, Professor of French Literature and Gender Studies at the UB, presents the speakers, or whatever you call them when they are not giving talks. It’s Fina Birulés, Professor of Philosophy at the UB, who specialises in feminist theory and Hannah Arendt. Who, for whatever reason, we call Annah Harendt down here. It must mean something, even if I don’t know what it means. And Judith Butler, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, an intellectual and activist who is well versed in the topic of gender; that concept formulated perhaps for the first time by Simone de Beauvoir, and which is a tool that runs flat out in one of the two clocks on the planet. Next to me, a girl with the new clock explains Butler to me. “She’s a queer activist and philosopher. Supported by gender, she represents a broad feminism, which admits transsexuals and men. I think it’s really great: the subject needs broadening out. She went to Brazil recently, and the evangelists organised a huge demo against her.” Oh my, they’re starting to talk already. The event turns out to be a discussion about feminism in Europe and the USA. A concept that, like everyone, and among other variables and differences, has two clocks. They talk about the phenomenon of the last 8M, or the #MeToo thing. Of the growing trend of anti-gender ideologies. Of the need for transnational resistance and activism. Of the need for an inclusive feminism –“a transphobic feminism is not feminism”, said Butler, to applause. About institutional violence. About how to combat violence through non-violence. About the concept of vulnerability. Then they opened the floor for questions. The first one was asked by a man. A woman friend: “When it comes to the questions at the end of a meeting, the first one is always asked by a man,” she says. And she adds: “They are long and complicated questions. Then come the women’s, which are short and to the point. That is explained by a complex. But I don’t know whose.” Butler, or Birulés – I’ve got muddled up with my notes – alludes, in one answer, to the fact that feminism is not a panacea either, that freedom is not an individual problem, and that there are many more phenomena of violence and inequality in the world – one world, two clocks – which cannot be summed up with a single description.
MORE TOMORROW. I’m going to cover the biennial. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other. Tomorrow, for example. BCN, cities, clocks, etc.