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Todorov, a CCCB Stalwart

February 15th, 2017 No Comments

John Berger, Zygmunt Bauman, Tzvetan Todorov. These renowned authors who have made extraordinary contributions to culture and critical thought have left us this winter of 2017. With them, we are losing a generation that is central to European history, a group of thinkers who still had direct or indirect memory of the continent’s horrors. They were all united in their denunciation of totalitarian thought, their tenaciousness in trying to understand human complexity, and their resolute defence of democracy and diversity. Last week we received the sad news of the death, at the age of seventy-seven, of the Bulgarian historian and essayist, Tzvetan Todorov. A gentle, friendly man with an unhurried way of speaking, Todorov was a thinker in every sense of the word, one who shunned disciplinary confines and encouraged reflection without dogmatism. Todorov was one of the guest speakers at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) from its early days and, during the years of forging this relationship, his influence was considerable. He gave four lectures at the CCCB, all of them highly topical today, and available in the BREUS collection.

Tzvetan Todorov al Debat de Barcelona Virtuts CCCB (c) Miquel Taverna, 2012

Tzvetan Todorov en el Debat de Barcelona Virtuts CCCB (c) Miquel Taverna, 2012

In his first lecture in 2004, he spoke of Europe’s frontiers, a subject of all-important relevance today which we tackle in this year’s Barcelona Debate. Even then, Todorov was calling on the European Union not to restrict itself to being an economic and administrative entity, and asking it to take on its “complement of soul” so that it could also become a cultural Europe. Aware that the continent does not have a single cultural essence and that diversity is its identity, Todorov upheld a European project based on shared political principles and a critical spirit as a mechanism of continuous self-questioning.

At the Kosmopolis Festival in 2008, he spoke about terrorism, decrying the progressive legalisation of torture as a political instrument. At the height of the debate raging around the effects of America’s invasion of Iraq, Todorov recalled that torture has existed since antiquity but now, for the first time, it is no longer presented as a lamentable but excusable infraction. It is becoming the norm. His judgement left no room for doubt: “A state that legalises torture is no longer a democracy”.

In 2009, he joined the writers Juan Goytisolo and Monika Zgustova in a discussion on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a text published in the BREUS Collection, Murs caiguts, murs erigits (Walls Brought Down, Walls Built), Todorov had the following to say: “The fall of the Berlin Wall seemed to proclaim the end of other walls built in other places. Twenty years on, we must acknowledge that this hope has not borne the fruit of success. Far from vanishing from the face of the earth, the walls have multiplied. How can this be explained?” A thinker of otherness, Todorov denounced the use of “fear of the barbarians” to justify the proliferation of borders and recalled, “[…] the stranger is not only like us but, at the mercy of the uncertainties of fate, yesterday we ourselves were, or tomorrow we will be the strangers: we are all potential strangers.”

Tzvetan Todorov’s last lecture at the CCCB, given at a time when the economic crisis was having devastating effects among the population, dwelled on the virtue of moderation. A fervent defender of pluralism, Todorov warned of the fragile foundations of democratic societies and the risks of abuse of power. On this occasion, he roundly praised moderation as a political and social principle, while criticising the oversimplifications of monolithic thinking. He said, “Individual freedom is a basic demand of democracy, but absolute freedom is not a desirable aim”, and also pointed out that, “Guaranteeing the material wellbeing of the population is a desirable result but if others are excluded when this goal is pursued, we will end up living in a world worshipping at the altar of a money cult. The prosperity of a country is a means, not an end.” In an interview he gave to the CCCB he warned, “We need to remind ourselves about the importance of fundamental values like moderation because, if we forget them, we will become victims of mechanisms that only favour the most powerful.”

The last document Todorov left us is, without a doubt, one of the most moving of all and that which best shows his warm affability. In March 2011, when we opened the Teatre CCCB, we asked several people associated with the CCCB for their views about it. Todorov agreed to speak about the CCCB in an interview which was recorded in his home in Paris in the winter of 2011. We shall never forget the experience or his words.

Zygmunt Bauman’s Bequest to the CCCB

January 18th, 2017 No Comments

Recalling anecdotes and moments shared with the sociologist-philosopher

Zygmunt Bauman en el ciclo Fronteres, CCCB, 2004

Zygmunt Bauman in the cycle Fronteres, CCCB, 2004

If there is one name that will remain forever linked with the history of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, it is that of the sociologist-philosopher Zygmunt Bauman who died in Leeds on 9 January 2017 at the age of ninety-one. A few weeks before his death, the Centre for Documentation and Debates had contacted him to ask him to open the next Barcelona Debate, “Old Europe, New Utopias” . In his affable response, he did not decline the invitation but regretted that his state of health was delicate so, given the risk, said he would leave the final decision to the CCCB team.

The period from this recent contact and going back to 2004, which was the first time Bauman (who was then relatively unknown, at least in Barcelona) set foot in the CCCB, covers thirteen years and fourteen lectures, more than a decade of working together and relationship. We mourn our loss because Bauman was pleasant, friendly and loveable, but we also look back with pride because we have worked with one of the most lucid thinkers of our times and we have conserved a good part of his ideas in our archive.

We have published six books of lectures he has given at the CCCB in the series BREUS CCCB (published in Catalan and English): Noves fronteres i valors universals (New Frontiers and Universal Values), Arxipèlag d’excepcions (Archipelago of Exceptions), La felicitat es fa, no es compra (Joys of Life Made, Not Bought), and El destí de la desigualtat social en la fase líquida de la modernitat (The Fate of Social Inequality in Liquid-Modern Times) and, in the DIXIT series (in Spanish), Archipiélago de excepciones (Archipelago of Exceptions) and Múltiples culturas, una sola humanidad (Many Cultures, One Humanity) as well as two articles in the publications Fronteres and Europe City.

On our website it is also possible to consult videos of his lectures, an interview and a chronicle of the last debate in which he appeared. This, in 2013, was followed by more than 700 people in the CCCB hall, which made him not just one of the oldest speakers at the CCCB but also one of the most popular with the public. He was our very own rock star (and we were his fans!), so we would like to remember him from a more personal standpoint. We have asked several members of the CCCB team who had more direct dealings with him—the former director of the CCCB Josep Ramoneda; the head of the Centre for Documentation and Debates, Judit Carrera; the head of press, Mònica Muñoz; and the debates coordinator Susana Arias—to share their memories of Zygmunt Bauman with us.

“Bauman’s words were totally in tune with the spirit of the CCCB” Josep Ramoneda, former director of the CCCB

On 22 March 2004, Zygmunt Bauman gave his first lecture at the CCCB. Small, full of energy, accompanying his words with gesticulating arms and hands which made him fill the stage more and more, he gave a true lesson in a genre which is antiquated, or so it is fashionable to believe. Yet I have found few forms of presentation and discussion of ideas that can improve upon a good lecture. Bauman’s was precisely that. PowerPoint and panel discussions have wrecked a genre that is highly exigent. In order to give a good lecture, it is not enough to think about it and write it up. You have to deliver it. And delivering it is very difficult. PowerPoint is a great enemy of the good lecture. A lecture is an act of creation which, as such, is submitted for the interpretation and consideration of the audience.

Zygmunt Bauman i Josep Ramoneda al cicle Fronteres, CCCB, 2004

Zygmunt Bauman and Josep Ramoneda in the cycle Fronteres, CCCB, 2004

That day, Bauman explained to us how, in the city, general and abstract statements about conflicts between civilisations and cultures are translated into the experience of relationships with specific individuals, for example the people next door or from the neighbourhood. To paraphrase, he said that you don’t know these people as walking embodiments of an imminent clash of civilisations but as shopkeepers, waiters, workers, people who work in the same factory as you do, neighbours, parents of your children’s classmates and, little by little but unfailingly, they keep shifting from the abstract category of “alien civilisation” to that of individual human beings. Hence, slowly, and not without moments of conflict, fear of the great unknown begins to dissipate and the terrifying foreigners are no more than ordinary human beings with the same desires and wishes as you.

Bauman’s skilfulness with metaphors, the secret of his publishing success—and how much sociological soup has been cooked up from his liquid society!—has meant that he is also sometimes pigeonholed. But, that day, his words were totally in tune with the spirit of the CCCB.

Another memory I have is the day we opened a seminar with a discussion between him and Giorgio Agamben. I was impressed by the compelling power of the maestro’s presence. Everyone expected a certain theoretical confrontation and yet Agamben behaved like a young man intimidated by authority. He simply let Bauman lead the way.

Bauman has many potent expressions, but one will always be with me. To paraphrase again, he pointed out that one of the great catchwords of the twentieth century was liquidate: liquidate the Jew, liquidate the class enemy. We must make sure that the main programme of the twenty-first century does not turn out to be that of liquidating mankind. These words sum up an intellectual life that was very typical of the last century: a Polish Jew who escapes the Holocaust, who grows up and is trained under the post-war communist regime in which he comes to occupy a position of responsibility in the military, and who goes into exile in 1968 at a time of a certain anti-Semitic crusade, first to Israel and then to Leeds where he forges his intellectual career. His vigour emanated life and his cordiality was warming.

A Most Surprising Interview. Mònica Muñoz-Castanyer, head of press at the CCCB

I remember most especially Lluís Amiguet’s interview with Bauman in November 2005. In order to ensure a good interview, it is necessary to give both interviewee and interviewer sufficient time and a comfortable setting. Neither of these was provided on the occasion of this interview for La Contra (the back page) of the daily La Vanguardia. Having prepared a lot of interviews for Bauman, which he resignedly and gracefully accepted, we led him to different parts of the CCCB, always in the company of his wife. First, there were photos in the courtyard, the Pati de les Dones, then a meeting with journalists in the Mirador space and, next, a recorded interview for the CCCB Archive. Bauman was showing signs of impatience and his wife was nodding her approval. But the main interview was yet to come: one hour with Amiguet!

We had already crossed the passageway on the first floor, heading for a meeting room in the CCCB office space where we had planned to hold the interview, when Zygmunt Bauman raised his arms, opened his left hand (in the right hand he was holding his inseparable pipe) and, in the middle of the chill-out area (a break space for workers on the office floor on the CCCB with coffee and snacks machines), said, “We’ll do the interview right here.” Before I could convince him to change his mind, he and his wife were sitting in the chairs of the chill-out space. I broke out in a sweat. The journalist sat down beside him, turned on his recorder and started the interview. It was a total disaster. Added to the infernal racket of the old escalators, were the rumbling of the dispensing machines, footsteps, voices of the Centre’s workers moving from here to there, and sounds of visitors wandering around the CCCB at the time. It was one hour of utter torment which, nonetheless, turned into this Contra in La Vanguardia. We have never again held an interview in the chill-out space and, thanks to Zygmunt Bauman, I will always be well-equipped to tell people where one should never hold an interview.

Visiting Bauman in Leeds. Judit Carrera, head of the Centre for Documentation and Debates

I visited Zygmunt Bauman at his home in Leeds in the winter of 2008. The father of the theory of liquid modernity had been living in that house for thirty-seven years, sharing it with his wife Janina in a marriage that lasted 62 years until she died in 2009. They both welcomed me with their usual friendliness and, displaying an excellent sense of humour, assured me that their long marriage was the exception that confirmed the rule of a liquid world. Their mutual deep understanding was evident. They spoke Polish together and, at times, rather stiff English. They worked in different parts of the house and met twice a day to smoke together. They said that smoking was a routine, a way of thinking. And they smoked non-stop

Their house was a typical two-storey English home in a narrow street near a big avenue which cut them off from the centre of Leeds. Cosy and with a Central European feel, it was austere but full of books. Their messy library had not diminished even though they had ceded 2,500 volumes to Prague University to express their gratitude to a city which had taken them in after they were expelled from Poland when the communist regime embarked on an anti-Semitic campaign in 1968. Three years later, in 1971, they arrived in Leeds, invited by the university there. After that Zygmunt Bauman never moved from Leeds or its university. It was surprising that a man with such solid pillars in his life should have been so able to interpret the uncertainty and fluidity of today’s world.

Judit Carrera entrevista Zygmunt Bauman l’última vegada que el sociòleg va visitar el CCCB, Jordi Gomez, 2013

Judit Carrera entrevista Zygmunt Bauman l’última vegada que el sociòleg va visitar el CCCB, Jordi Gomez, 2013

Despite their advanced age, they were lucid, very well informed and up-to-date. They asked me about the CCCB, about the newly inaugurated high-speed train between Barcelona and Madrid, and the Law of Historical Memory. Owing to Janina’s delicate health, they were no longer travelling but were still writing because writing, they said, was their way of life. Their manners were exquisite and their happiness contagious. Yet there was also a hint of a certain tension between their vivacious curiosity and the slowness imposed by age.

After some hours, Bauman walked with me to the taxi and authorised me to publish one of his texts in the “BREUS” collection. Saying goodbye, he added that, as long as he lived, we could always count on him.

Bauman’s Last Email. Susana Arias, debates coordinator

Our last correspondence with Bauman was just a few weeks ago when we invited him to open this year’s Barcelona Debate. With his usual loyalty to the CCCB, he thought about the invitation to return to “my beloved Barcelona” but warned us that his fragile health all but ruled out travel. He ended his email saying, “Think about whether it’s worth running the risk,” and closing with “Love – Z”.

In his memory and to farewell him in the company of the audience that so greatly admired him, we shall dedicate the Barcelona Debate 2017, “Old Europe, New Utopias”, to Zygmunt Bauman. The Debate opens on 6 February.

We have opened a space in the CCCB Archive where members of the public can consult a collection of Zygmunt Bauman’s work.

 

What the CCCB has in store: a foretaste of the 2017 programme

December 20th, 2016 No Comments

A new year is just around the corner and it’s time to give you a taster of what we’re cooking up at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània, what the various programming teams are working on, and the themes and the protagonists of our debates, films, audiovisual screenings, exhibitions and festivals for 2017.

We can look forward to a new season of activities organized around a central idea running through the entire programme: reflection on change. Get out your diaries and take note!

Debates about change in the present

Judit Butler lecture © CCCB. Miquel Taverna, 2015

We start the year with a major debate about Europe, a continent undergoing one of the most critical moments in its political history, with a humanitarian crisis surrounding refugees and the rise of authoritarianisms and xenophobia. 

Debates and humanistic and philosophical reflection about the present will continue throughout the year with cycles of talks about the idea of revolution and its strength today, about the role of Russia in the world in the centenary of the October Revolution, about suicide (leading cause of non-natural death among young people in Catalonia) and about privacy at a time when technology permeates all spheres of our lives.

Climate change from the viewpoint of culture

The third culture, a line of programming that brings together art, science and design, will be very present in debates like “Technology, sovereignty and globalization”, a series of talks directed by Evgeny Morozov. Composer Brian Eno is one of the first speakers to be confirmed.

Critical reflection on climate change and the destruction of the planet is one of the big themes of the year, which we’ll be addressing in After the End of the World. Curated by José Luis de Vicente, this exhibition will present multidisciplinary projects and viewpoints, allowing us to form a fairly realistic view of what our lives and the world will be like in the not too distant future (the year 2050). This year’s edition of the International Cultural Innovation Award is open to cultural ideas that offer imaginative, effective solutions to climate change. The winning project will form part of the exhibition After the End of the World.

2017, a literary year at the CCCB

The Pati de les Dones during Kosmopolis festival © CCCB. Miquel Taverna, 2013

Amplified literature: Kosmopolis is back for year nine of the amplified literature festival. Under the heading “When Everything Changes”, this literary festival presents a five-day programme bringing together established authors and new talents to address some of the principal challenges facing culture and literature in the broadest sense. John Banville, Kim Stanley Robinson, Jean Echenoz, Sophie Divry, Orna Donath, Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbø, Marta Sanz and Alicia Kopf are some of the names of Kosmopolis 2017.

A few days before Kosmopolis kicks off, we’ll be opening the exhibition Photobook Phenomenon, about the relation between photography and paper publications with a deluxe group of curators: Gerry Badger, Horacio Fernández, Ryuichi Kaneko, Erik Kessels, Irene de Mendoza, Moritz Neumüller, Martin Parr, Markus Schaden and Frederic Lezmi.

The month of May sees the arrival of the sixth edition of Primera Persona, another of the CCCB’s in-house festivals in which literature, music and autobiographical narrative take the stage.

Women have a lot to say

Thewriter Taiye Selasi in Kosmopolis 2015. © CCCB. Carlos Cazurro, 2015

“Good girls go to heaven—bad girls go everywhere.” This phrase, attributed to the actress Mae West, provides the inspiration for Gandules, the al fresco film programme that takes place in August. With the title “Wild and Indomitable Women of the Cinema”, we’ll be showing films that remind us of female characters who have inundated the cinema screen throughout history. María Castejón Leorza, a film critic on the team of Pikara Magazin, will be the curator of the cycle.

The Kosmopolis festival will also be looking at literature written by women as one of the central themes of this year’s edition.

15 years of experimental cinema

In 2018, Xcèntric, the CCCB’s cinema, turns 15. Xcèntric opens an anniversary season with a programme of Val del Omar premieres and a concert by El Niño de Elche. It’ll also have a new website and a book about essential filmmakers in experimental cinema.

The CCCB continues its collaboration with established festivals like L’Alternativa, DOCSBarcelona, Miniput and the International Women’s Film Festival, as well as younger proposals like D’A and the Serielizados Fest.

Soy Cámara’s YouTube channel will continue to experiment with the genre of the video essay centring on current affairs and themes included in the CCCB’s programme. A new feature this year is a programme of live presentations, kicking off with the screening of Hypernormalisation, the latest documentary by Adam Curtis.

Nobel Laureates in Literature who have visited the CCCB

May 17th, 2016 No Comments

The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona’s interest in literature is very much present in its programme, from exhibitions to debates, in performative activities such as Slam Poetry and in consolidated festivals such as Kosmopolis, Primera Persona and Món Llibre. The CCCB is writers’ territory and this spring among the interesting authors visiting us are Juan Marsé, Jordi Puntí, Renata Adler, John Irving, Don DeLillo and Svetlana Alexievich. Taking advantage of the visit by the Nobel Laureate in Literature of 2015, we have done a little archaeological digging in our archive to remember other writers who have visited the CCCB and were also winners of this prestigious accolade.

Svetlana Alexievich Nobel Prize in Literature 2015. She visited the CCCB on May 2016 in a conversation with writer Francesc Serés.

Herta Müller Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 – She visited the CCCB in June 2012. She gave the lecture “Language as Homeland” and talked with translator and literary critic Cecilia Dreymüller. To coincide with her presence at the Centre, a small-format exhibition was dedicated to her “Herta Müller: The Vicious Circle of Words”.

Orham Pamuk. Nobel Prize in Literature 2006. He visited the CCCB in January 2010. The celebrated Turkish writer gave an interesting lecture on the future of museums and of novels.

J.M.Coetzee. Nobel Prize in Literature 2003. He made a “virtual” visit to the CCCB in October 2008. The South African writer read some excerpts from his book “Diary of A Bad Year” exclusively for the Kosmopolis literature festival.

Gao Xingjian. Nobel Prize in Literature 2000. Visited the CCCB in October 2008. The Chinese writer talked about the reason for being of literature and the sacrifices involved in the defence of creative freedom against the abuses of political or media power. The CCCB devoted an exhibition to him along with a television programme “Soy Cámara. El mundo de Gao”

Mario Vargas Llosa. Nobel Prize in Literature 2010. He visited the CCCB in October 2004.

Vargas Llosa gave the lecture “Wars at the 21st Century”.

The CCCB Lab Blog, nominated for the “GLAMi Awards” at the Museums and the Web conference

April 4th, 2016 No Comments

Museums and the Web is one of the annual events par excellence for cultural sector professionals from all over the world interested in research and innovation. It has been held annually since 1997 in various cities in the United States and Asia and brings together cultural managers, developers, students, researchers, technology experts, etc., to present practical cases and digital tendencies.

This edition of the MW conference is held in Los Angeles. Thomas Pintaric. CC BY-SA

Museums and the Web has become an important network of knowledge regarding the most outstanding museum projects of recent years thanks to its online professional forum, the papers presented at the conferences and its “GLAMi Awards”, previously known as “Best of the Web”. The name of the awards has been changed with the idea of reaching beyond the web and being able to award prizes to any project responding to the initials GLAMi (Galleries/Libraries, Archives and Museums Innovations).

At the twentieth edition of the MW conference, which is to be held in the first week of April in Los Angeles, the CCCB Lab Blog has been nominated for the GLAMi Awards, together with 95 other international projects. The nominees represent interesting practical cases of how museums are working with education, the opening-up of archives and collections, participation and relations with audiences or scientific and cultural outreach, among other subjects.

The CCCB Lab Blog, a window on cultural innovation

The CCCB Lab Blog has been running since 2009 as a window from this department of the CCCB specifically devoted to research and innovation in the cultural sphere. Over the years it has become consolidated as a digital magazine with an editorial and art-based approach, with a professional community of followers behind it. Every Tuesday it publishes an article specialising in subjects such as new audiences, open science, the digital transformation in museums, expanded education, etc.

The Blog has two possible routes to winning a GLAMi Award:

  • People’s Choice. Registered members on the website of Museums and the Web can vote until 7 April 2016.
  • Through a judging committee formed by specialists at the Conference who decide on the winning projects. These will be announced publicly on 8 April in Los Angeles.

In the year 2011, the CCCB was awarded a prize for the exhibition project “The City of Horrors” and in 2009, the Picasso Museum and the MACBA won prizes for Social Media Strategy and for the MACBA Web Radio project respectively. You can see a list of MW winners from previous years on Wikipedia. This project is one of the four Spanish projects presented to the awards. The other three are the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Museo del Prado and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

CCCB to participate at Museums and the Web Los Angeles

This year, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona will be represented at the Los Angeles event, thanks to a scholarship awarded by the event’s sponsors to Lucia Calvo, journalist and contents editor of the Centre’s website. Ultimately, if the CCCB is lucky and the CCCB Lab Blog is chosen as a winning project, she will collect the prize.

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