Monday

27th Mar 2017

Focus

Art to protest politics in Spanish town

At some point in early 2012, Pablo Lag stood in front of an abandoned, half-constructed house in the centre of Alicante, Spain, and kicked in the door.

"The space had been under construction for years," he said. "I mean not with people working there. Nobody was looking at it."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Lag, a young art curator who used to work in neighbouring Murcia, was frustrated with what he calls the "very strange [culture] policies" in the region.

The year before, the government of Valencia, the south-eastern region of which Alicante is a part, had re-opened the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art - the MACA - after footing the bill for a €12 million renovation.

“Now they don’t have enough money to do any interesting exhibitions,” Lag told EUobserver from New York, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in curatorial studies.

Plus, he said, the museum is only interested in what he calls “blockbuster artists,” while today’s generation of young Spanish artists is “one of the most interesting generations.”

Once inside the abandoned building, Lag changed the locks on the door and began work on an art exhibition, he said, “to let the neighbours know what is happening, to make people in the world know what is happening in Spain.”

When Spain’s building boom went bust, in 2008, the frantic construction across the country came to a standstill. Today many concrete skeletons litter the country’s coastline.

“You cannot imagine,” said Lag. “In the south-east it’s just insane. There are like thousands and thousands of [unfinished] buildings.”

At the same time, the Spanish government began slashing culture subsidies as it tried to rein in spending under pressure from financial markets and EU leaders.

Next year’s budget for culture is almost half of that of 2009. The value added tax on culture, once a preferential eight percent, on 1 September this year jumped to the regular tariff of 21 percent.

As a result, said Lag, there are all these empty buildings but very few galleries or other exhibition spaces.

“The artists draw attention to the absurdity of the national urban landscape,” it reads on the exhibition’s website, and to “the disastrous cultural policies of the last couple of years."

“The exhibition [shows] that we can do interesting projects when we adapt to the current situation,” it adds.

The exhibition, dubbed Jaula de Oro, or Golden Cage, in reference to the MACA’s new expensive but supposedly uninteresting premises, was inaugurated in August this year and consists of works of seven different visual artists.

Among them is a tall plant painted pink, by Marlon de Azambuja, an out-of-place electric hand dryer, by Fermín Jiménez Landa, and a collection of front doors from people who were evicted, by Nuria Guell.

They have been on display ever since. The door to the building has been left unlocked.

“Most of the pieces are still there,” said Lag, who checked with locals on the state of the exhibition. Just the plant is dead.

“You can definitely see that time has passed,” he added. “But not much else.”

Culture in figures: Nordics most engaged

In general in Europe, those in the north are more culturally savvy than those in the south, if statistics are anything to go by. But there are some outliers.

Culture: 'A new wind is blowing in Europe'

Faced with falling ticket sales, cultural institutions in Europe should be looking both for ways to reach new audiences and keep existing audiences on board, according to the European Commission.

'Mr Putin steps into French elections'

Putin treated France's anti-EU firebrand, Le Pen, as if she had already won the elections. "I have my own viewpoint ... identical to Russia's", she said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change