A Journey through the Architecture of Desire

January 26th, 2017 No Comments

1,000 m2 of Desire: Architecture and Sexuality explores how architecture has defined our spaces for sex. With its backdrop of two revolutions, the French revolution of 1789 and that of May 1968, the exhibition traces a historical route through literature, art, architecture, design and mobile apps. In order to make sure that you don’t get lost among the 250 pieces in the 1,000 m2referred to in the title, we have made a selection of essential works which, in themselves, deserve to be seen for their historical importance, and because they are unique, curious or especially constructed for the exhibition. We offer an assortment of books, models, plans and drawings, engravings and reproductions of spaces in real scale so that you can immerse yourself in a different world and, at the same time, make a journey through time in the architecture of desire.

Playboy, a Magazine for Lovers of Architecture?

“The playboy and his magazine are all about architecture,” writes the architect Beatriz Colomina in a text of the exhibition catalogue. The fact is that, although this publication was (and still is) a reference of eroticism, one of the aims of its editor Hugh Hefner was that it should also be a reference of style, architecture and design. The Playboy man had to live in an apartment designed for seduction, in a loft without doors or rooms so as to keep the woman constantly on view. Accordingly, some of the best architects and designers of the day, from Charles Eames to Eero Saarinen, occupied page after page of the magazine, together with naked girls, articles by Truman Capote and interviews with Michael Caine. In #expodesig you will find a space devoted exclusively to Playboy magazine and curated by Beatriz Colomina and her team. Here you can explore models of the Playboy mansion and Hefner’s private plane, stretch out on his round bed, read articles on the architects in vogue, and look at plans of the most amazing houses of the day, some of which were used as film locations, as for example in the James Bond series.

Llit de Hugh Hefner, editor revista PlayBoy © CCCB, 2016

Hugh Hefner’s bed, editor PlayBoy © CCCB, 2016

Pornography According to Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne

Did you know that the word “pornography” made its first appearance in 1769? To be more specific, it made its debut in a treatise by Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, a writer who, in his work Le Pornographe (a neologism he coined to designate someone who writes about prostitution), describes in lavish detail what an establishment devoted to prostitution should be like, or estimates the worth of each girl according to her age and beauty. For Restif de la Bretonne, pornography was an affair of state and his proposal was innovative and audacious when you consider that he was writing in pre-revolutionary France. These establishments, called Parthénions (houses for young virgins) had considerable influence in the theories of Charles Nicolas Ledoux, whose work is represented by numerous items in the exhibition, including the famous Oikema. The original of Le Pornographe is exhibited here.

The Polaroids of Carlo Mollino

Carlo Mollino was a prestigious Italian architect who was also active in other disciplines including literature, automobilism, aeronautics and furniture design. But, most of all, he was interested in photography. After his death in 1973, his heirs discovered a hitherto unknown collection of photographs: elegantly naked women in a collection of portraits Mollino had been working on throughout his life. The Polaroids were taken in his own apartment, where he had a set which he readied for each occasion. The women were chosen in the street or the brothels of Turin, the city where he lived. There is not a single repeated portrait and every staging is different in a total of more than 1,000 fetishist poses recorded in 8 x 10 cm. which you can discover in a semi-darkened chamber.

Polaroids de Carlo Mollino © CCCB, 2016

Polaroids of Carlo Mollino © CCCB, 2016

The Original Plans of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon

Universal suffrage, the separation of church and state, abolition of slavery, animal rights, sexual freedom, women’s lib, and decriminalisation of homosexuality: Jeremy Bentham was a trailblazer championing ideas which are nowadays on everyone’s lips. Among his great contributions is the idea of the Panopticon, the architectural figure of power in modern society, an “inspection house” applicable to any institution—for example, prisons, hospitals or schools—which enabled constant monitoring of inmates. The structure of the Model Prison in Barcelona is based on the Panopticon as defined by Bentham in 1791. However, Jeremy Bentham was not an architect but a philosopher, so the original plans of the Panopticon shown in the exhibition are by Willey Reveley. By the way, if you care to know what Bentham (literally) looked like, you can go and visit his fully-dressed mummified corpse at University College, London.

The Sketch of Charles Fourier’s Phalanstery

The utopian philosopher Charles Fourier was a contemporary of Jeremy Bentham’s and, like him, was a revolutionary, though he was also a utopian who believed in human goodness and that it was possible to create a sexual paradise in which every passion could be recognised and satisfied. This blissful place was called Harmony and the phalanstery was the setting for the gratification of all passions. Occupying five square kilometres of cultivable land near a forest and a big city, it was designed with three floors and three wings, each one for fulfilling sexual desires. The idea was adopted by hippy movements of the 1960s, but there are further examples in architecture such as the Walden 7 building by Ricardo Bofill (the form of which, by the way, is reminiscent of a vagina), geodesic domes (like the one at the creation centre of the theatre group Els Comediants in Canet de Mar), and also the utopian cities designed by the Archigram architectural group. In “1,000 m2 of Desire: Architecture and Sexualityyou will find the original drawings of the phalanstery and also the original model of Bofill’s building.

Maqueta de l’edifici Walden 7 de Ricardo Bofill © CCCB, 2016

Original model of Walden 7 of Ricardo Bofill © CCCB, 2016

Engraving of the Sacrifice of an Ass in Honour of Priapus from The Dream of Poliphilus

This is every bibliophile’s dream. An enigmatic book, of uncertain authorship, bringing together all kinds of medieval knowledge from mythology to chess, astronomy, liturgy, epigraphy, archaeology and the art of pruning brambles, The Dream of Poliphilus (https Hypnerotomachia Poliphili), published in 1499, tells the story of Poliphilus, who dreams of recovering his beloved Polia as he crosses imaginary landscapes of fabulous architecture. This is one of the first examples of a work combining architecture with eroticism. It contains 171 of the author’s woodcuts, among them “Sacrifice of an Ass in Honour of Priapus”, which is shown in the exhibition. The book, dedicated to the Duke of Urbino, was financed by the aristocrat Leonardo Grassi, Apostolic Protonotary, an architecture enthusiast and the man responsible for the fortifications of Padua, and printed in Venice by Aldo Manuzio, one of the most renowned printers of the day. It is almost as if Planeta had published a book dedicated to Count of Godó and financed by the Güell family!

 Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure

 Imagine a space devoted solely to pleasure, pampering all five senses. A space where light, smells, and colours are intended to stimulate your senses and prepare them for sexual intercourse. This is the Centre for Sexual Leisure which the plastic artist and sculptor Nicolas Schöffer designed for his cybernetic city (1955 – 1969), a utopian city project inspired by Fourier. Like other utopian ideas, it never materialised but in the exhibition you can see a real-scale reproduction of this space: a closed room in which light, textures, geometric metal sculptures and music appear as the lead players so that the visitor can experiment with all the senses. This is an experience which requires an open mind.

 Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure reproduction

Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure reproduction

A Second (Virtual) Life

 Imagine a space where you can live life as you wish. Where you can give free rein to all your most perverse desires. Where you can imagine your penis taking on impossible shapes, or that you yourself have an impossible form allowing enjoyment of unknown pleasures… Second Life started out as a virtual world in which, by means of an avatar, users can interact with other avatars and construct their own world but this has become a territory without norms and without taboos where users can organise sexual encounters in settings that reproduce the architecture of their sexual fantasies right down to the finest detail. Well, this all happens in a virtual space. In the exhibition you can see a video showing one of these digital spaces designed for sex.

Captura del vídeo de Second Life

Second Life video sceenshot

Rem Koolhaas’s Baths

 Centre of London. Spreading out from the wall that delimits it, a level space is divided into eleven zones, among them a ceremonial square, the Park of the Four Elements, with temples for sensuous experiences, the Square of the Muses (where only the British Museum survives), and the baths. Inspired by Ledoux’s Oikema, these baths have zones of observation, exhibition, seduction and meeting (the pools) as well as cells for consummation in which photograms from a pornographic film The White Slave are projected. This utopian dream of the architect Rem Koolhaas, Pritzker Prize winner and designer of the iconic China Central Television tower, dates back to the early period of radical architecture in the 1970s. The exhibition shows the original drawings and plans of Koolhaas’s idea.

(Català) Viquipedistes, apassionats del coneixement

October 4th, 2016 No Comments

Llull the contemporary

June 30th, 2016 No Comments

If Ramon Llull were alive today he would be at the top of the best sellers’ list. He would be one of the stars at Barcelona’s Comic Fair where he would have been invited as a pioneer in the genre. He would be taking part in discussions about multiculturalism alongside Arabic and Jewish thinkers. He would be giving poetry readings and a travel agency would have been named after him. If Ramon Llull were still alive he would remark, with pride, that 700 years after his death, his work is not only valid but has taken on truly global proportions thanks precisely to the web, a technology he can be considered the forerunner of.

Breviculum’s animation, Ramon Llull life’s illustrated work. Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, Cod. St. Peter perg. 92

Ramon Llull is a fascinating character but he is still surrounded by an aura of incomprehensibility and unfathomability. We have a somewhat biased image of Llull, of a man trapped in the dark and terrible Middle Ages, when, in fact, the reality was quite different: Llull lived in an age that saw the building of the first cathedrals which sought out light and colour, and he travelled around some of the foremost cultural hubs in Europe and the Mediterranean.

One thing is true however: the fact that we are devoting an exhibition to Llull today, seven centuries after his death, at a centre for contemporary culture, is because his thinking remains relevant today. Because, beyond his obsession with God, what he endeavoured to explain throughout his life (a new way of thinking) is still valid across many disciplines. That’s why, in order to gain a greater insight into Ramon Llull and his thinking, we have chosen a number of ideas to undo this image.

Ramon Llull lived a courtly and elitist life until the age of 30

Ramon Llull was from a well-to-do family and, as such, he lived a comfortable life and had connections with the court of King Jaume II of Mallorca. He married Blanca Picany when he was about 25 and they had two children, Domènec and Magdalena. It would appear that Blanca wasn´t the only woman in his life as, at the time, Ramon Llull was writing troubadour poetry and some people say that he lived quite a rakish life. All this changed when Ramon was 30 years old and, while he was writing one of these poems, Christ appeared to him on the cross. The vision, which reoccurred up to four times, changed his life.

Ramon Llull wrote the same book throughout his life

From this moment on, Ramon Llull lived the life of an enlightened person. He left his wife and children and withdrew to live as a hermit for four months at Puig de Randa (Mallorca), where he received the divine appointment to write “the most beautiful book in the world”. And he devoted himself to this task for the rest of his life. In fact he wrote more than 250 books that are just variations on the same book. The word of God is the book.

Ramon Llull wrote true bestsellers

The Book of Contemplation is a thousand words long and four times longer than Tirant lo Blanc. Llull is the medieval author of the largest surviving number of medieval manuscripts, many of them written during his lifetime; there are more copies of his works than by Thomas Aquinas, and Giordano Bruno wrote up to six treatises inspired by Lullian thought. The Ars Brevis, a summary of his philosophy, was copied more times than Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Ramon Llull is the main character in the first comic of all time

The Breviculum is an extraordinary work: a true medieval comic that tells the story of Ramon Llull’s life in 12 miniatures. It was made around 1321 by Tomàs Le Myésier, a follower of Llull’s who was associated with the French court, and includes the characteristic balloons with the words of the people depicted inside. It is kept at the Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe, and you can see an animated version at the exhibition.

Ramon Llull was a tireless traveller

Our central figure was also a travel pioneer and undertook journeys that would have had a worldwide impact today. In the 13th century the world was very small, and Ramon Llull travelled its length and breadth: from the time of his first trip to Montpellier to his last voyage to Tunis, the word of God guided Llull from Santiago de Compostela to the Vienna of the Dauphinate, from Rome to Paris, from Pisa to Lyon, Genoa, Barcelona, Bougie and Jerusalem… To Ramon Llull there were no borders to hinder the dissemination of his message.

Ramon Llull has a special connection with the number three

Ramon Llull lived in a world where three religions converged: the Christian, Jewish and Muslim. He wrote in three languages: Catalan, Latin and Arabic (although no manuscripts survive in the latter). He used three symbols: the tree, the ladder and geometric figures. He asked for his works to be kept in three places: Paris, Genoa and Mallorca. He wrote a book that had three sages as its central figures, The Book of the Gentile and the Three Sages. It defines the three virtues of the soul: memory, understanding and will. In medieval culture, three is a perfect number that symbolises continuous movement and is also the symbol of the Trinity. To Llull, God was pure movement and the reason why things combined. Three is God.

Ramon Llull worked in every literary genre

Spending one’s entire life writing the “best book in the world”, as he defined it, may have been a little boring. That’s why Llull chose to put across his message in every possible way. He wrote a book on mysticism (Book of Contemplation), a novel (Felix or the Book of Wonders) and a chivalresque novel (Book of the Order of Chivalry), poetry (Song of Ramon), a book of grammar (New Rhetoric), a book of aphorisms, the Book of the Lover and the Beloved, a treatise on astronomy and, first and foremost, works on philosophy, such as the Ars Magna. And not forgetting his troubadour poems, none of which survive.

Unbeknown to him, Ramon Llull invented the calculator (and, in passing, the web)

Throughout his life, Ramon Llull was obsessed with one subject: disseminating the word of God and converting sinners (that is, the Jews and Muslims) into Christians. That’s why he invented an Ars combinatoria, a thinking machine, which enabled people to attain divine thinking. Three centuries later (the number three crops up again), Leibniz created a calculating machine based on Llull’s philosophy. This machine can also be seen at the exhibition. Lull’s combinatorial system is also the basis for the system of networks, meaning that, for Llull, “being means being connected”.

Ramon Llull is an influencer

Ramon Llull’s dream has reached us today through literature and art. For instance, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story entitled Ramon Llull’s Thinking Machine. Umberto Eco devoted many pages to Llull in The Search for the Perfect Language. Juan Eduardo Cirlot explored the permutations of language, and the poetry collective Oulipo published One Hundred Billion Poems, based on the combinatorial system. Salvador Dalí staged a performance “following Ramon Llull’s archangelic doctrine”…

Ramon Llull, is, therefore, a multifaceted, complex and fascinating person. The creator of a new way of thinking who was ahead of his time and has become our contemporary. We can’t think of any better reason to come and see The thinking machine. Ramon Llull and the Ars combinatoria, open from July 14 to September 11.


				

The CCCB, a center commited to Literature

April 21st, 2016 1 Comment

Since 11 December 2015, Barcelona has formed part of the UNESCO’s Creative Cities network in the field of literature. Together with Baghdad (Iraq), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lviv (Ukraine), Montevideo (Uruguay), Nottingham (England), Óbidos (Portugal), Tartu (Estonia) and Ulyanovsk (Russia), Barcelona now has official recognition of a reality that has been palpable in the city for a long time.

K15 // Martín Caparrós & Jon Lee Anderson © CCCB, Carlos Cazurro, 2015

Literature is one of the primary focuses of the CCCB and forms part of its founding principles: “The CCCB is a space for the creation, research, dissemination and debating of contemporary culture in which the visual arts, literature, philosophy, film, music, the performing arts and transmedia activity are interconnected in an interdisciplinary programme”. Literature is, therefore, one of the subjects that have most featured in exhibitions and activities over the centre’s twenty years of history.

In 1995, just a year after its inauguration, the CCCB presented the exhibition James Joyce’s Dublin, the first of a series devoted to cities and the writers linked to them. After Dublin, the series continued with The Lisbons of Pessoa (1997), The City of K. Kafka and Prague (1999) and Cosmopolis. Borges and Buenos Aires (2002). All of these exhibitions went beyond the writing to relate the works of authors with their literary and personal landscapes, to discover how the cities that they inhabited were the direct or indirect protagonists of their works. In The Trieste of Magris (2011), the Italian city served as a physical tour around the work of the Italian writer; with Pasolini Rome (2013), the filmmaker met the writer to defend his most critical role and Bolaño Archive (2013) recalled the passing of the Chilean writer through Blanes, Girona and Barcelona via a detective-style journey that visitors had to resolve, a kind of “meta-exhibition” that allowed relations and clues to be discovered in the very work of the author of The Savage Detectives.

Bolaño Archive. 1977-2003 © Lidia González Alija, 2013

Other writers as subjects of exhibitions and debates have been Calders (The Mirrors of Fiction, 2000), Espriu (I Looked Upon This Land, 2013), W.G. Sebald (Sebald Variations, 2015, an exhibition that related the walks taken by the German author with contemporary art), Julio Cortázar (Travels, Images and Other Territories, 2004), Federico García Lorca (1998) and J.G. Ballard (Autopsy of the New Millennium, 2008).

Espriu. I looked upon this land © La Fotogràfica, 2014

It was the exhibition devoted to Borges that gave its name to the amplified literature fest Kosmopolis, which held its first edition in December 2002. Since then, every two years (with some exceptions: in 2005 a special edition was held to coincide with Book and Reading Year and the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Quijote), it has brought together some of the best authors of world literature, including several Nobel, Cervantes and Príncipe de Asturias prize winners, such as Juan Marsé, Gao Xingjian, Claudio Magris, J.M. Coetzee, Tzvetan Tódorov, Amos Oz, Ismail Kadaré, Mario Vargas Llosa and Svetlana Alexievich. Kosmopolis bears the subtitle “Amplified literature fest” because it is more than a literature festival, because the themes for each edition are related to each other, because writing, science, comic art, the written and spoken word, music and theatre all form part of a programme that explores the letters from very diverse perspectives. And because it does not focus on a single form of literary expression, but rather encompasses them all. For all these reasons we would be so bold as to say that Kosmopolisis the only festival held in Barcelona on literature understood in its broadest sense, since other meet-ups, such as BCNegra or Barcelona Poesía, focus on the field of literature specialising in the crime and poetry genres, respectively.

K04 // Mario Vargas Llosa © CCCB, Susana Gelida, 2004

Beyond the exhibitions, the CCCB has also hosted book presentations, courses, tribute events and lectures by authors from al over the world. To cite just a few examples: Paul Auster presented his Winter Journal in 2012; Erri de Luca talked about the Mediterranean; Amin Maalouf debated on identity and memory; Orhan Pamuk reflected on the future of museums and literature; Herta Müller presented a small-format exhibition on her work; Salman Rushdie explained why we live in the time of strangeness, and Jonathan Safran Foerdefended the need to stop eating animals.

K15 // Salman Rushdie & Rodrigo Fresán © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2015

In 2016 we commemorated the seven-hundred year anniversary of the death of Ramon Llull and over the course of the year various activities were held related with the writer, philosopher, theologian, professor and missionary. At the CCCB we joined the commemoration with an exhibition, The Thinking Machine. Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria, which offered a new perspective regarding his work. However, this is not the first nor the last anniversary to be celebrated at the centre: we also remembered J.V. Foix with the recital FestFoix. 25 Years With/Without Foix; we hosted a tribute to Joan Vinyoli on the thirty-year anniversary of his death, Anniversary Promenade. Tribute to Joan Vinyoli, and Raimon read texts by Joan Fuster on the 2012 commemoration of ninety years since his birth and fifty since the publication of his most important work, Nosaltres, els valencians. For the last three years we have also been celebrating Orwell Day; once a month we host a meet-up focusing on the spoken word, PoetrySlam, and regularly the Friends of the CCCB participate in the Reading Club led by journalist and writer Antonio Lozano. Furthermore, since 2013 the CCCB has formed part of the Literature Across Frontiers platform, which promotes literature and translation in minority languages with member literary festivals from places as diverse as Turkey, Poland, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia.

Apart from Llull, the literary programme for 2016 was again brimming with important events. In May and June we were visited by Northamerican writers John Irving and Don DeLillo and in November we hosted Eurocon, Europe’s most important science-fiction literature meeting. We also received the most autobiographical authors of the moment at the Primera Persona festival, which confirmed authors such as Renata Adler, Juan Marsé, Carlos Zanón and Jordi Puntí. Writers such as Elif Shafak, Mia Couto and Patrick Deville came to talk about books and literature and in 2017 we’ve celebrated a new edition of Kosmopolis with guests like John Banville, Pierre Lemaitre, Zeina Abirached, Jean Echenoz and PJ Harvey, who gave her first poetry recital in Spain.

Primera Persona 2015. The writer Caitlin Moran talking the journalist Marta Salicrú © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2015

With this track record, Barcelona’s candidate status as Literary City was a project that the centre defended with enthusiasm and with the conviction that it was a recognition that Barcelona has deserved for some time. Now, with this honorary title, the city has fully entered the worldwide league of creative cities, and the CCCB will continue to be on the front line, defending literature as one of the fine arts. Because, as defined by the principles of Kosmopolis, literature is “the only discourse that does not try to model the world on absolute foundations, disciplinary frontiers or ideological straitjackets”.

(Català) Més enllà del cos

February 25th, 2016 No Comments
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