New York Times Books on ‘Solitude’ by Víctor Català

“Unfortunately, very little Catalan literature is available in English. This is a shame, since it’s a rich brew, as various as the region itself, where mountains tower over half-moon-shaped beaches and snow falls 20 minutes’ drive from the seaside.” De Solitud, at @nytimesbooks

Originally tweeted by Mònica Boixader (@MonicaBoixader) on June 10, 2021.

‘Catalonia in Venice’

Architect Olga Subirós is the curator of the exhibiton Catalonia in Venice – air/aria/aire, a Collateral Event of the Biennale Architettura 2021, that is held from May 22 to November 21, 2021.

‘The project reflects upon the central theme of the Biennale, How will we live together?, with an investigation into air as a common asset upon which our survival depends, as pollution as ‘the invisible killer’.

Olga Subirós, who also designed the architecture of the exhibition space, offers a large-format, immersive experience that brings visitors closer to three aspects of air pollution (…).’

You will find more information, some of it rather shocking, as well as illustrations (‘Cartographic Evidence’) on the website air / aria / aire.

Source and photo: Institut Ramon Llull, organizer and producer of the Catalan exhibition.

Exhibition ‘Ground and Underground’

From 11 June till 26 September Patrícia Dauder exhibits her latest project in the Palau de la Virreina (La Rambla, Barcelona) called Ground and Underground.

In June 2015 the artist buried a set of works in an empty plot of land in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. The works had been produced in the studio but were left underground for weeks. A wide range of materials were deliberately exposed to degradation caused by the climate and soil corrosion.

This process outside the studio prolonged the time needed to complete the works. All the works unearthed later evoked the atmospheric conditions that had affected them of which their deteriorated appearance bears witness.

‘Insulana’ (2021)

The exhibition brings together four projects carried out after that summer:
Groundworks – Documents (2021) records the earthworks carried out at the Hospitalet de Llobregat site;
Weather Sticks (2018) is a series of ceramic works manufactured following a process open to the intervention of climatic factors;
Sections (2021) presents on the walls an installation with numerous lithographs;
– a set that prologues the film Insulana (2021), inspired by the volcanic eruption that affected the Azores between 1957 and 1958.

The result is a compendium of the work produced in the studio and the work produced in the open—a  duality that is a recurring feature in Patrícia Dauder’s most recent work.

Source: Ajuntament de Barcelona

A prioress’ throne

Recently the Lleida Museum finished the refurbishment of the Gothic gallery with a new permanent exhibition displaying some fresh showpieces.

One of them is the throne of Blanca of Aragon and Anjou, daughter of King James II and Blanca of Aragon, who was prioress of the monastery of Santa Maria de Sixena between 1321 and 1347.

It is a piece of simple lines that was located at the heart of the church. This is why it boasts paintings on all sides: tempera on wood. The iconography is of heraldic and religious content, linked to the promoter’s family.

The front side of the back of the chair shows the figures of three full-length nuns who are dressed in the habit of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The one in the centre has been identified as the prioress herself. The reverse back is a representation of the Virgin of the Milk flanked by two angels.

Several images of saints, female as well as male, appear in the rest of the piece, some of them related to the prayer book of of the house of Anjou.

The throne of Sixena was a symbol of the power and dignity of the Priory of the monastery before the community, at the same time influencing the concepts of motherhood and wisdom through its iconography.

This below video gives an impression of the Lleida Museum that is well worth a visit:

Source: Lleida Museum

Women & Archives

On the occasion of International Archives Week (7 – 11 June) the regional Catalan archives have made a compilation of their photos, videos, articles, etc. dedicated to women, called Women and Archives. Some of them are online for the first time.

One of the themes is ‘women and sports’ with photographs that you can see here. The above photo of girls practising gymnastics on the beach was taken in the 1920s (collection Ramon Godó i Franch).

Sculpture Award for Stella Rahola

CO(NH2)2 by Stella Rahola (Photo: Fundació Vila Casas)

The Sculpture Award, granted by the Fundació Vila Casas, has just been awarded to Stella Rahola for her creation called CO(NH2)2. This work is composed of glass elements similar to those used for the production of chemical laboratory components, like borosilicate glass remnants, fertilizer crystals, stainless steel and 9 fluorescent tubes.

The sculpture, which is one and a half meter high and long, for 65 centimeters wide, invites questions about the production and knowledge of manual work, but also about the reuse and useful life of objects.

The second prize has gone to Anna III for her Desaparèixer cap endins (Disappearing inwards), in which she reflects upon vulnerability and loss.

‘Libertad’ to Cannes Film Festival

Libertad, the first feature film directed by Clara Roquet, known for her short films and screen plays, has just been selected for the ‘International Critics’ Week’ of the Cannes Film Festival, to be held from 7 to 15 July. The film has been shot entirely in Catalonia.

The film’s argument is about Nora (15) whose life ‘will change when Libertad (15), the daughter of the Colombian maid that takes care of her grandmother, arrives at her family’s summer home. The new and intense friendship between the two girls from different backgrounds will mark her awakening to adolescence.’ (Catalan Films)

The Critics’ Week was born in 1962 and its goal is to showcase first and second works by directors from all over the world who do not succumb to commercial tendencies.

Lyrical Abstraction

This year Catalonia is celebrating the 100th birthday of poetess and visual artist Felícia Fuster. As her Fundació remarks, the artist ‘developed a strong desire for freedom in all areas of her life’.

Below an example of her work, in this case an oil painting on wood of the series ‘Lyrical Abstraction’.

About her artwork the philosopher and art critic Arnau Puig is quite clear: “Fuster’s creative actions deserve attention because they always show an aim to elaborate unknown worlds and realities, which is Art’s main pursuit”.

Poetry set to music

Recently the website ‘Música de poetes‘ launched a Spotify playing list dedicated to Catalan female voices. Listen to the music of Judit Nedderman, Meritxell Gené, Gemma Humet, Anaïs Vila, Mirna Vilasís and other women who, all in their own style, interpret work of several Catalan poets.

Click here to listen to the playing list or first get a taste for what these artists have in store for you watching this video in which jazz singer Celeste Alías performs ‘Sovint diem’ (‘We often say’), a poem by Montserrat Abelló set to music by Celeste herself.

Museu de les Trementinaires

Today, 18 May, we celebrate International Museum Day, so we put the spotlight on the Museu de les Trementinaires in Tuixent, municipality of Josa i Tuixén, at the foot of the mountain range of the Serra del Cadí.

A charming museum that tells the story of women of this mountainous area who from mid-19C onwards gathered remedial herbs and essential oils, prepared and sold them among farms and villages in Catalonia walking hundreds of miles for months once or twice a year.

During the visit to this museum you will learn who the trementinaires were, what herbs and remedies they were marketing and how they organized their routes from the valley of La Vansa and Tuixent to the plains of the interior and the coast of Catalonia. Sofia Ossera was the one who made the last trip as trementinaire in 1982.

In the nearby Botanical Garden you can see and get to know the main features and uses of the plants they handled.

The woman of the photo is Maria Majoral who started working as a trementinaire in 1889 and kept going until 1956.

Victory in Champions League for women’s football team

They had already won the Spanish Women’s Super League, but last night (16 May) Barça’s women’s team also beat Chelsea with a goal blitz in the first half not answered by the English team, so that they could take the Champions League Cup back to Barcelona with them.

During the first minute of the game the first goal was made laying the foundation of the historic success in a thrilling two hours.

Note: later the team would also win the Spanish Copa de la Reina (the Queen’s Cup), turning the end of the season into a triple winning streak.

Photo: Europa Press

Typewriting as an art

View of the Cathedral of Barcelona

It may not be your cup of tea, but Montserrat Alberich‘s art undeniably is striking. Using the typewriter as a paint-brush she created a large number of realistic paintings of landscapes, monuments, rural scenes as well as portraits. Her work won admiration among a broad national, and international public and museums and libraries acquired some significant pieces.

Professional typist
When Montserrat was born in 1912, typewriters were already common in offices for some thirty years. At that time more and more women began to enter the field of typists, thus playing a major role in liberating them from the domestic role that had been assigned to them.

At the beginning of the 20C being a typist gradually became the right choice for a “good girl”, meaning women who present themselves as being chaste and having good conduct. So schools, like the Acadèmia Cots of Barcelona, had to adapt their politics and open up their curriculums for young girls.

As early as 1879 Ramon Cots had foreseen future demands of typing and secretarial courses and had grasped the opportunity. His school at the Portal de l’Àngel, 38 offered education from general culture to specialized classes, such as bookkeeping in accordance with tax laws. The advertising poster emphasizes the ‘different classrooms for separation of both sexes’, the target group being ‘selected classes’.

Contests, technique, recognition and media coverage

Nurse turned into war correspondent

‘Peoples who are called civilised use their admirable science and long years of persevering studies to look for barbarian and efficient procedures to destroy other peoples, because these have (…) more extensive industrial markets (…)’

When voluntary Red Cross nurse Àngela Graupera went to work in Serbia and Greece and there witnessed the horrors of WWI, she felt compelled to describe her experiences and send her chronicles (104) to the Barcelona newspaper Las Noticias: analytic with pondered criticism using precise prose with a visual impact.

The above quotation is from her book El gran crimen. Lo que yo he visto en la guerra (The Great Crime. What I saw during the war) (1935).

This portrait of Àngela is a drawing by Robert Pérez after a photograph, the only known image.

On the occasion of International Nurses Day 2021 (12 May).

Washing at the ‘safareig’

Before the introduction of running water to houses, Catalan villages and towns used to have a public washing place called safareig where the local women came to do their laundry.

Generally they were sited on a spring or set over or beside a river or stream; some of them were even provided with roofs for shelter. Many of these safaretjos still exist.

Usually groups of women got together and socialized and talked while they were washing the family’s clothes and bedding. No wonder the expression fer safareig arose which means ‘to gossip’.

Above you see some washing places in the Alt and Baix Empordà:
Verges. Unidentified photographer, 1910/1925
Torroella de Montgrí. By Valentí Fargnoli Iannetta, 1911/1936
Castell de Púbol (now the Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum), La Pera. By Pablo García Cortés, 1968
Darnius. By Narcís Sans Prats, 1971

These photos are part of the Europeana Collections and are under license of Creative Commons.

Bite

Bite
Like the verse not written
that sharpens the senses
the poem bites
desperation.

October 1982

Original text:
Mossec
Com el vers no escrit
que aviva els sentits
mossega el poema
la desesperança.


From: Cel rebel (Rebellious Sky), Proa, 2001 By: Tònia Passola, born on this day in 1952.
Translation: Marga Demmers

Listen to Tònia reciting some poems from this collection on ‘Fonoteca de Poesia’:

Flowers and Maria Cobarsí

Last year the flower exhibition ‘Girona Temps de flors’ (‘Girona Flower Season’) was cancelled, but this time the show is on from 8 to 16 May! You can read all about it on the website (click here), where you can find out details about its history, old and new photos and the latest news.

This show began in 1954 with a small, informal display organized by a group of friends. Over the years it has developed into an event that has been recognized all over the world, for example by the prestigious magazine National Geographic.

One of the driving forces behind it was Maria Cobarsí (d. 2013). She grew up on a farm, surrounded by nature. In an interview she once confessed that she intensely lived every season, especially spring. Each year she marveled when the flowers appeared and she smelled their aroma.

Years later this experience leads her to take the initiative for an exhibition that would turn into one of the jewels on Girona’s crown.

Edition 2021

When athletics is your passion

In the 1920s two young men and a little girl get up every day at 4.00 a.m., leave their home in Badalona and travel to the Montjuïc stadium of Barcelona. The men do their daily training, while the girl is watching them. Little do they know that in later years the men’s sportive successes will be eclipsed by the girl. This is the story of track and field athlete Anna Maria Tugas i Masachs (1911-2015).

Determination
When Anna was about one year old, her father died. In retrospect, this tragedy determined the course of her life. Anna was left in the care of her brothers Felip and Josep who were dedicated athletes training and competing with flying colours at home and abroad in the four most prominent throwing for distance sports in track and field: discus throw, hammer throw, javelin throw and shot put. As they did not want to leave their little sister at home, they took her with them in order to keep an eye on her.

She did not have a very strong constitution, so when she was about 17 the brothers encouraged her to train with them to build up her strength. Watching them in the stadium, Anna had become very enthousiastic about athletics and eagerly put on her espardenyes and began developing her sporting skills. Although she tried out almost every discipline, like her brothers she favoured above all the throwing sports.

But Anna was not satisfied with training alone…

Two jazzy women

On the occasion of International Jazz Day 2021 we put the spotlight on two jazz musicians.

Aurora Bertrana (1892-1974) wanted to be a writer, but her father opposed her plans and sent her to study the cello in Girona. Later she moved to Barcelona where she made a living playing the cello in a women’s trio in night clubs. In 1923 she continued her music studies in Geneva, played in a trio at the Hotel Chamonix and shortly founded there her own ensemble Jazz Women, the first jazz band made up entirely of women. Some six years later Aurora finally published her first book, but that is another story.

A present-day performer is the versatile jazz singer Laura Simó. For a taste of her musical talent listen to ‘Down Here on the Ground’, composed by Lalo Schifrin from the prison drama film ‘Cool Hand Luke‘. Enjoy!

Felícia Fuster, poetess and visual artist

The fact is that, like some poets as Eluard, Chard or Octavio Paz, Felícia Fuster has an existential touch which achieves its aims through research on the meaning of language“.

Francesc Parcerisas, poet and literary critic

This quote appears on the website of the Fundació Felícia Fuster, a private, non-profit organization created by the poet and artist Felicia Fuster herself. Its aims are “introducing the poetry and art of the author, awarding young artists’ projects, and spreading Catalan language abroad. The Foundation also provides scholarships for people without financial means.”

Felícia was born in 1921, so this year it is time to celebrate the ‘Any Felíca Fuster‘. That is why you will regularly read a post concerning this versatile woman.

‘Learning to Talk to Plants’

Marta Orriols doesn’t talk to plants, and neither does Paula, the main character of the widely acclaimed novel that turned Orriols into a household name in contemporary Catalan literature. 

Published in 2018, Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes (translated as Learning to Talk to Plants) tells the story of unexpected loss and how a 40-year-old neonatologist must cope with grief while navigating through bustling Barcelona life. 

“She must learn to do what plants do in real life, to set roots, go to the light, and open up to other people,” Orriols said in an interview with Catalan News.”

For the rest of the article in which she talks about book clubs, Barcelona and translations of Catalan literature and more, click here.

Photo of Marta Orriols by Carola Melguizo. The translation of the novel is by Mara Faye Lethem.

Celebrating Sant Jordi today!

Haute couture, made in Catalonia

Asunción Bastida™ was a well-known and celebrated haute couture brand during the greater part of the last century. The motor of this successful house was Asunción Bastida herself, born in Barcelona in 1902, an all-round professional in times not always propitious for female executives.

Innovations
One of her great finds was the use of cotton and linen fabrics she popularized for street and evening dresses as well as for summer outfits. What is more, she was one of the first Catalan fashion houses to include a boutique with accessories, sports and prêt-a-porter lines, called Asunción Bastida Sport.

In this way Asunción capitalized on the then prevailing style trends. Towards the end of the 40s the social activities of the wealthier classes were increasing and all those different events required different clothes and accessories. So the women of the Spanish high society had to be prepared and wear another design on each occasion. Within this rigid etiquette you should have street clothes, smart clothes, cocktail clothes for daytime parties as well as evening clothes. Asunción’s merit was that she offered haute couture for every possible social event and even added a sports mode.

The beginning
Asunción was a self-made couturier whose career started as a dressmaker in her father’s fabric shop. During the mid twenties she opened a house specialized in knit garments first on the Carrer de Girona, later relocating to the Passeig de Gràcia 96 of Barcelona that soon became an important centre of haute couture fashion. On its first floor, the former atelier of the modernist painter Ramon Casas, she had her sumptuous parlour whose original decoration of 1898 she respected: a monumental stone fireplace and golden Solomonic columns, the perfect Modernist background for her designs.

One of her first fashion shows was held during the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The goal of this big exhibition was to highlight the city’s further technological progress and increase awareness abroad of modern Catalan industry. It also meant the beginning of Asunción’s international career. However, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) temporarily put a stop to all her plans: she was obliged to close her Barcelona shop as well as the branch in Madrid that she had inaugurated in 1934 at Hermosilla street in the Salamanca district. As soon as the war was over, she reopened both establishments.

Shortly afterwards, in 1940, she founded the Haute Couture Cooperative …

The voice of Mariona Sagarra

Today is World Voice Day with the central theme ‘One World, Many Voices’. So it is the perfect moment to enjoy this video of performer Mariona Sagarra, voice and effects unit, who loves to explore the possibilities of her voice combining it with poetry: ‘Dues dones’ (‘Two Women’), a poem by Maria-Mercè Marçal.

On her website Mariona describes her art as follows: ‘Music, voice and poetry. My intention has been to weave different worlds together, internal dynamics, possible combinations, improvisations and surprises, timbres and emotions. Sonorities tainted with tradition.’

Her latest CD is called ‘Deixa’m tornar-te a dir’ (‘Let me tell you once more’), inspired by Montserrat Abelló’s poetry.

Sant Jordi coming up!

Another two weeks and it is 23 April: Sant Jordi, and nowadays also World Book Day. So the perfect occasion to visit your local bookshop and buy or order some books and surprise your loved one (or yourself, of course) with works written by Catalan women poets and novelists.

If you do not master (sufficiently) the language, you can browse the catalogue of literary translations from Catalan into other languages on TRAC, the database of the Institut Ramon Llull, or ask your bookseller. Here are some suggestions.

In case you like to read fiction, look for

  • Caterina Albert who wrote under the penname of Victor Català (Solitud)
  • Maria Barbal (Pedra de tartera, País íntim)
  • Carme Riera (Dins el darrer blau, La meitat de l’ànima)
  • Mercè Rodoreda (La Plaça del Diamant, El carrer de les Camèlies, Jardí vora el mar, Mirall trencat)
  • Montserrat Roig (Ramona, adéu, El temps de les cireres, La veu melodiosa)

or novels by a new generation of writers:

For poetry ideas:

The tradition of Sant Jordi

‘Are you really a journalist?’
‘You bet!’
‘And … tell me something’,
he ventured to ask me, ‘how do you manage to know things before they appear in the newspapers …?’

Journalist Irene Polo in ‘La fascinació del periodisme’, L’Opinió, 4 June 1933

Irene Polo (Barcelona, 1909 – Buenos Aires, 1942)

This quote appears in Catalanes del XX, Pilar Godayol (ed.), Vic, Eumo Editorial, 2006

The tourism pioneers of Lloret de Mar

Nowadays Lloret de Mar is chiefly known as a seaside resort where tourism is booming business (well, before Covid-19 made its appearance anyway). But this is a relatively recent development. It was during the 1950s and 60s that this small fishing town was turned into a crowded holiday centre pushing its inhabitants into modernity.

Women played a crucial role in this process, thus not only changing dramatically the day-to-day life of their families but also that of Lloret itself, only compared to the metamorphosing effects on society of the gold rushes in the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Few attention has been paid to this phenomenon, an interesting example of socio-economic history in which women are the principal characters.

It is very well explained in the documentary Pensió Completa (2011), directed by Amaranta Gibert, on which part of this article is based.

Still from the documentary ‘Pensió completa’
How tourism changed Lloret and its inhabitants

Mariona Berenguer in Berlin

This year artist Mariona Berenguer has been invited as Berlin’s GlogauAIR’s guest resident. Her project bears the title The Empty Nest and “is part of an ongoing investigation into the subject of desire.

Following this continuing line of development, the exhibition is comprised of a series of works that explore the notions of need and longing, and the complex emotional, philosophical, and conceptual positions surrounding these topics.”

The residence program aims to “create a dialogue between Berlin and the world, the Berlin Guest Residents share their perspectives and their work while they engage in the process of exploration, creation, and exhibition over the period of three months.” They also organize open events during which the public can see for itself the result of the program.

On GlogauAIR’s website you can find more information and photos of her work. Founded in 2006 by the artist Chema Alvargonzalez and supported today by La Memoria Artística Chema Alvargonzalez, GlogauAIR is a non-profit art space and residency in a historic building in Kreuzberg open to new ideas.

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