Monday, May 17, 2010


Nothing like one’s last night in Barcelona coinciding with the city’s beloved football team, FC Barcelona, winning the Spanish League Championship. They were celebrating until 2 am along the Rambla and in the Plaça de la Catalunya, which just happened to be a block away from our hotel. A welcome distraction, no doubt, from all the restraint measures recently introduced by the Spanish government to stave off what's recently happened in Greece.

Boy do Barcelona’s football fans ever know how to celebrate. They trump North American pigskin followers any day, not to mention diehard Vancouver Canucks fans—and their team actually rewards them by winning! As far as I can tell, supporting FC Barcelona involves a lot of slagging of rival Madrid, which was the case last night, even though it was Malaga, and not Madrid, that was in the final.

Madrid is where we’re off to today (I’m typing this in the train station, although won't likely post it till later this evening upon reaching our destination). We’ve already planned our trips to the Prado and the Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s Guernica and Velasquez’s Las Meninas, among other iconic works. It will be especially interesting to reacquaint myself with the latter work, having made so many references—good Foucauldian that I am—to it in various lectures in the intervening years to “illustrate” a point about the self-referential loop of representation, and especially having just seen Picasso’s own inimitable Cubist take on the painting at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Needless to say, Picasso makes Velasquez himself the dominant figure of his painting—a portrait of the portrait of the artist as giant ego AND unleashed id.

I was also pleased to discover that our visit coincides with the first week of Madrid’s annual Spring Festival of Autumn (go figure!). Some theatre and dance favourites will be in town, and while we’ll miss Forced Entertainment’s Quizoola! and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet’s latest collaboration, Babel, there’s plenty else on offer (including a work that references the theories of Giorgio Agamben), and hopefully we’ll get to take something in. Then, too, there’s more football fallout to look forward to, as the UEFA Champions League final (featuring Bayern Munich and Internazionale) is being played while we’re there.

One last note on Barcelona, however: yesterday, while most of the city was gearing up for the big football match, Richard and I fulfilled a long held dream by visiting the German pavilion Mies van der Rohe designed for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. Actually, the pavilion is a meticulous reconstruction of the one Mies designed, the original having been torn down right away in 1930 following the end of the Fair. Quite the scandal when it was unveiled in 1929—especially as it stood distinctly apart from the other baroque and neoclassical buildings that constituted the main exhibition grounds—the pavilion is a marvel of light, space, and functional materiality. And, there, in the centre of the building’s main room were the two Barcelona chairs that Mies and partner Lily Reich designed especially for the King and Queen of Spain’s visit to the pavilion. Apparently the royals never sat on them, but the chairs were a hit nonetheless, and with a few modifications (out went the white pigskin and in came black leather) the chairs became a classic of modernist chair design and continue to fill chic offices, hotel lobbies, and streamlined homes the world over.

By the way, stay tuned for more on chairs in future posts, as I’ve written a whole play about them. And, much to my continued amazement, the play is actually going to be produced this September.


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