Esther Planas: In 1991, one summer night in Majorca a well-known journalist told me about something he had considered for years and this opened-up to me the whole notion of what is it that is going on with us in Spain and Catalonia. His wise vision was that we were still locked inside our Civil War, just that this time it was in the hidden, unspoken terms of the ‘Symbolic’. I was amazed by what he was suggesting, he explained: It was all about memory, settings of a pattern of unresolved issues left incrusted in each of us, in each family, on an untold unconscious sense. He added that in micro-political ways, every envy, every hatred and betrayal was played along and got us to such a successful Civil War in terms of the total triumph of a Fascist regime, that lasted for so long in front of all the Western eyes. The West was indeed complicit and at the same time played and pretended as it never happened, helping to create that sense of gaslight, of double realities and occult political and moral meanings we have been experiencing for decades.
Planas’ band/ situationist/ performance project Dirty Snow at one of its latest performances as such, 2010 Barcelona during Planas’ show ‘The BCN Pyschotropic Workshops’. Image by Astroboi. Copyright Esther Planas VEGAP10.
In 2008/09 a feeling of anxiety ran quite deep in Spain. In these years, I was in a close conversation with a writer friend, Isabel Nuñez (RIP) who had joined a Freudian group dedicated to the recovery of the historic memory in Barcelona. This process, they argued, meant recovery of the pain and silenced horrors, of the ghost of our Civil War. Isabel had published a great investigative work of interviews about the Bosnia/Serbia conflict, ‘Si un Arbol Cae/ If a Tree Falls’, and she was very lucid about the whole situation. As I walked the streets of Barcelona, and as I had been doing previously since my conversation with the Majorcan journalist, I was observing details, threads, bullet holes in the stones and pavements, marks and traces of the war. Noting the small details, the messages in secret gestural codes, the sadness that covered all walls, our streets, our places…Isabel Nuñez, via her research with the Freudian group, said that all our parents and grandparents had suffered the Civil War and that us, a third generation after that, still bore the pain and its traumatic signs as illness, anxieties, depressions, therefore remembering, talking about it, as in Freud’s therapeutic method was definitely important.
‘This picture was taken by me during the walks around El Raval and Las Ramblas of Barcelona left side as The Gothic and Jewish quarters of El Call. Those are bomb holes at Plaza Sant Felipe Neri: In 1938 during the Spanish Civil war, Francisco Franco laid siege to the city of Barcelona. On the 30 September 1938, one of Franco’s bombs fell on the church killing 30 people most of whom were children from the School of Sant Philip Neri and some were refugee children from Madrid where the church had been turned into a make-shift orphanage. As people pulled survivors from the rubble, a second bomb hit the square, killing 12 more bringing the death toll to 42. It was the second worst bombing hit in Barcelona during the war. Evidence of the bombings can be seen in the pockmarked walls of the church. A myth spread by the Francoist authorities stated that the pockmarks in the stone were from the bullets of an anarchist execution of church priests. This was spread in an attempt to cover up evidence of the 1938 bombings’. Esther Planas Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/10
Then in 2009, there was a call for projects by the BCNProducció in La Capella for people who lived in Barcelona or were from Barcelona. A uniquely generous artist friend, encouraged me to present a project and I got selected. My proposal was about looking back at Barcelona’s specific Raval area, El Xino, in a sort of situationist, psycho-geographic sense and to document it. I had highlighted Jean Genet’s ‘Journal of a Thief’s book’ section, where he lives in a hostel at el Carrer del Carme in El Raval (just few years before the start of the civil war) and my own experiences as a kind of starting point. And, as the project was based on my own views and senses, this whole “mediumistic” enterprise became imbued with the ghosts and traces of the Civil War took place naturally.
When I started to collect the images and references, I was feeling increasingly preoccupied towards the state of affairs in Barcelona/Spain particularly and in the general Western politics too as I was increasingly aware of the developing of a darker and darker neoliberal maturity. I remember my friend giving me a small present that was The Invisible Committee’s, The Coming Insurrection, which means that the atmosphere was quite at boiling point. I was totally synchronised with the tide of discontent.
My Blogs are like small archives of research editions that I like to share, in the spirit of creative commons. The No Spain No Blog, that has the number of the lost files by the MI5 in our Civil War intelligence’s records (which says it all) developed a life on its own and was featured in a show *sekw- in, 2014, when the Catalan crisis started, curated by Colombian curator Alex Brahim who had been living in Barcelona for more than a decade. I really liked that a Blog could be featured as work, in the total periphery of what is this elusive and ever present Art works of today. Looking at this kind of introduction of an online device like mine, in the line of Bruguera’s Useful Art, then we can say that a Blog like this one is indeed useful.
With the film ‘Time Theft Agent E2162’ (2009), the process of working was totally indebted to the Situationist International (SI), and it had elements of drift and chance in the methodology of the research that included walks and derives. The Civil War, its bullet holes started to appear, as the figures of female spies or female Russian agents and other links to memory: Africa de las Heras as the spy and Caridad Mercader, the Catalan grand aunty of someone I knew in the 70’s, the mother of the Catalan killer of Trotsky, an honoured, decorated Stalinist agent. Researching for the project, I started to watch so much documentaries on Youtube and in the net too that the research in itself of course became a way of drifting, wandering, and finding the un-expected. At the time, I just had read Derrida’s notion of Hauntology and I was already very deep into Walter Benjamin’s texts, the Arcades Projects, the Philosophy of History, the Angelus Novus. Also the link between Benjamin and Surrealism and the influences of Debord’s ideas for the SI and his ‘La Societé du Spectacle’ where all latent and had a real influence when I started to proceed with the project.
The notion of ruins and ghosts, merged with it, the notion of the image as a disintegrating document, as ghost of itself. The feeling of a great mass of detritus being pulled by stormy winds, really inspired me on looking at all this horror and its traces embed in the myriad of images that cultural propaganda, publicity and the social media had produced in parallel terms. I liked the idea of making a document of free associative visual and cultural inputs that were apparently unconnected, but all produced at the same time on a global scale.
The amount of research and clues and images is quite massive, I made the film very slowly, it took me more than 8 months to edit each and all of the stills. At the same time, as in my early video film works, the image was sort of “poor” because I wanted it to be a “vulnerable image” in the same way that memory is. I regarded this blurriness, ghostliness, and ethereality as part of the project’s sense of compressed time and buried fragmented memories that melted between the past and the present coming from totally anachronistic sources, as our daily lives are too while affected by storms of Publicity, Cinema, Cartoons and all the Pop cultural detritus. The film wanted to point out the possibilities that we had while living under a very sophisticated “propaganda machine” thus reproducing in the film similar tactics. Funnily enough, I had similar ideas to those more recently proposed by Hito Steyerl on her fantastic text about the Poor Image, but sadly there was not a good context around for me to explain the piece in those terms at the time when the film was shown.
What is amazing today, looking at the work in retrospective, is that it was so premonitory. Because as it has become apparent (ten years after) how far this symbolic but real war, is still so alive and how far and deeply disturbed our society, Spaniard and Catalan is. It has to be resolved, it has all to be remembered, to be cured and restored. Mostly, it can’t keep being so blatantly Fascist. Unless we are just waking up trapped in a fascistic western world, that has been able to hide its fangs, its pawns and to look plausible. I fear this could totally be the case. Then, the Catalan and Spanish case will be more understandable. Seen for what it is. A de-colonial theme inside the various latent themes, all of which hide this fascistic rightwing authoritarian Anglo-Western Empire. No wonder the theorist Ramón Grosfogel is becoming closely involved with our main left political party this days in Barcelona.
Structurally speaking, as my practice’s point of departure is dance and performance, all of my works since 1998 see me involved in performing, acting, dancing, singing. From 1998 to 2007 I had been working with sound and music, composing my own songs in small moving image narratives inspired by the video-clip format where I would perform too. In the case of, my presence in the film ‘Time Theft Agent E2162’ is that of an actor, who impersonates the double agent in a reference to Chris Marker surreal sci-fi, film stills based work. The music on the soundtrack is also mine and my band’s and we performed live at the opening day in front of the film. Performing in a band, giving the format of a band a comeback in the midst of the electronic music era, became a project that I started when I moved to London. The project Dirty Snow, was very intense and melted with real life. Our project, influenced and dialogued with a series of other artist and young musicians. We played together in our DIY organized Pub based music nights, or in our DIY artist-led space Five Years and many other venues. Our performance events were so intense, that we got a notice and could not play sound for the rest of the time we had the space at Five Years.
How to express what I can see and feel? A Poem
In general, the tendency to look at the past and try to find causes and effects from its dormant data may have been acquired from the psychoanalytical modes, however this has worked for me. I had to learn to explain to myself the reasons why my own country or city was so indifferent to me and my works, to my deliverances and productions, if others considered so good or at least worth of interest, and why was it that I had found always so much hostility? In fact, such hostility was felt in the streets, crossing our path with others, in social occasions, it never ceased. In this poem featured on my Blog, the theme is about how subterranean feelings of estrangement and hostility are felt in our day by day lives in Barcelona.
Alessandra Cianetti: As a Spanish speaker in your native Catalonia under Franco’s dictatorship, you spoke at the time the language of the oppressor that soon after the liberation became the unwelcome language. Moving to London you have been speaking the increasingly unwelcome accented language of the migrant. In your latest installation, shown alongside pieces of Jeremy Deller and Elizabeth Price on the Bowater House at the Golden Lane Estate as part of ‘Spectres of Modernism. Artists Against Overdevelopment’ you used Catalan as the language of the artist/activist contesting UK policies on urban development. How do you negotiate complex politics of language in your own practice?
Esther Planas dance performance during the opening night at her solo show ‘Raining Insomnia’, Barcelona, 1997. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/97
In 2017 Clare Carolin invited me to be part of her London-based project ‘Specters of Modernism’ during the days of the Catalan high tensions after the massive offensive by the Spanish state police against disarmed people that wanted to exercise their right to vote leaving behind a thousand peoples hurt along with a just declared self-suspended Catalan República and the almost immediate imprisoning of half of the democratically elected Catalan government. For me, the language of the banner I created for the project “had to be in Catalan” as a matter of empathy and solidarity with the oppressed cause of the Catalan peoples.
As a person born in 1960 in Franco’s Spain and in Barcelona, I grew up without even starting to imagine what was to come in for me and many peoples like me, after the death of the dictator. There had been hints of our bilingual scenario, as my whole Catalan family from my father’s side including himself, spoke Catalan between themselves, with some at work and with their friends.
My mother’s family was foreign, as they were Argentinian and from Navarre. My mum, was the first of her ancestry to have been born in Catalan territories and it was due to the health of her grandmother (who was recommend by a doctor, to go living by the seaside due to her condition) that Barcelona was chosen as the place to live as newly arrived Argentinian migrants. Just very recently, I have found out in conversations with my aunty and my mother, that my grandmother, my mother and myself have experienced the same strangeness in the Catalan context as peoples who spoke Catalan very poorly and thus were laughed at, by their Catalan student companions, or as in my case by my theatre acting companions.
The reaction of both, my mother and grandmother, towards being laughed at and to the hearing of Catalan people complaining about ‘those foreigners’, as they call them “these Castellanas who come here to take our bread etc.”, was to socially withdraw and to barricade in the Spanish language, paradoxically generating a colonizer’s attitude into the Catalan context they inhabited. The Spanish Castellano is a language that belongs (in its politically emancipated way) to all of the Latin American nations except Brazil. This nevertheless is a language and a power that is shared with Spain (like it or not) on a very complex net of back and forwards dynamics of transatlantic dimensions across multiple generations that have crossed up borders and oceans as in my family’s case. My Argentina born grandmother was against the use of the Catalan language and of people in the family speaking Catalan, just based on the hostility she felt as a young piano student in el Liceo de Barcelona, before Catalan was repressed by Franco’s fascist regime, which somehow goes to tell about what Spain already was by the early 20 Century, a composition of emigrated and their descendants from the Spanish and the Latin American nations playing by default a role of supremacy. My grandmother, as many peoples to this day, was not educated in de-colonial methodologies so that she could understand the rancour and the animosity her presence/existence raised, she was just processing her experience from her uninformed subjectivity.
But the totalizing, colonizing “war machine” (as in Deleuze & Guattari) use of the Castellano as a language coming from Spain to Las Americas, developed and established for centuries in Argentina and back to Catalonia, somehow and paradoxically, pressured and contributed to a prolongation of the violence towards which, Catalan, as language and a very potent cultural vessel, has been subjected until sadly these days, repeating once more the Colonial fascistic pattern of the emigrated peoples who do not want to understand the particularly sad history of Catalonia.
My personal situation after the transition of 1978 became very hard. In a way, I found myself being rejected not by my companions of the Barcelona 60’s and 70’s cultural revolution (the one Roberto Bolaño talks about in such a positive way and to which I subscribe too, as I was so lucky to be involved with) but by the following rightwing, conservative, puritan Catalanist positions that co-opted and cooled off all our “irregular” Castellano spoken or written cultural agencies, making of peoples like me, invisibilized and ostracized potentialities. As I was losing my roots, and feeling increasingly alienated in my own city I was able to understand the causes of why this was happening and I was open to hearing the damaged and resentful voices of my Catalan companions. Theirs and their families where memories of pain, war crimes, disappeared, exiled or imprisoned peoples, assassinated presidents.
One Catalan friend from the first times I travelled to London to study dance (when Spain was not in Europe yet) was an amazing source of information telling me all that had been silenced, repressed and persecuted about the narratives of Catalan history. Of course, due to my ethics and personality I sided immediately with the oppressed. In this sense, I very much wanted to become totally Catalan, and it is from those times that an intense rejection towards the signifier of being Spaniard grew deeply inside me and has not left yet.
But in Catalonia, my hometown, I was not embraced as I hoped, sadly. As I am dyslexic, which at the time I was not aware of, it makes sense, I felt increasingly alienated by the way the Catalan language was drastically imposed and I was thus made to disappear from the socio-cultural Catalan map. In 1984/5 I had produced the publication V.O. that three years ago got archived and bought by the MACBA Archive, Barcelona. V.O. was published in Spanish because it wanted to dialogue with the recently liberated generation of peoples like myself and its cultural actors. What to me seemed a logical sense of inclusion as dynamic, was taken by the Catalan culturekrats as a betrayal and not fit for support or recognition. We clearly were not perfect representatives of the new Catalan canon.
All this and other developments as what I considered then, the horror and cold liberal vibe of the 80’s in full swing, produced a natural shift of my focus on history and antiquity, connecting sources from Mediterranean, Greek, Phoenician, Jewish, Arab the Al-Andalus and African.
I was already connected with the Flamenco music and dance scenes in Barcelona and I decided to travel to Morocco with the intention of exiling myself there. After two months in Morocco, I moved to Seville, invited by Paco Lira, founder of La Carbonería and Teatro de La Cuadra de Sevilla, to stay at La Carbonería and present my work at the 1989 Biennal de Sevilla. When I was almost ready to move to Rabat, the Gulf War shattered all those plans. Just as an anecdote about what happens when someone is never the totality of the area is living in, during the almost three years I spent in Seville, I was always a Polaca (Catalan) so there you are, it was in Seville that I existed as such and as a representative of that that was “not them” but the other, a Catalan woman in Seville, which is somehow hilarious.
I will say that finding myself in the UK 20 years ago, has to do with love and the encounter of someone meaningful. I was not intending to move to the UK when this happened. But once again, life as an echo of what had taken my ancestors too to unexpected scenarios and places would be placing me as a “foreigner” once more. It is true, that this being foreigner started with the notions and experiences of “rarity” and exoticness I was made to feel in Barcelona. It’s amazingly complex the series of signs by which a community identifies its equals and its legitimate members. In Barcelona, even before the more “purgative” times that were to come, I had to experience this sense of being different or ‘exotic’ just because of the fact that half of my family was not only not from Barcelona, but were not proper Spanish as they were from Argentina and Cuba. It was not an obvious racial issue but it had a racist component in its cultural and behavioural difference that made me, and some members of my family, be seen as “weird”. And that was more than enough to be alienated, rejected, displaced. There are a series of words in the Catalonia-based Spanish speakers that define our kinds, like Charnego, meaning not totally Catalan, which tells a lot.
So, prepared with all this hypersensitive capacity to perceive the signs of rejection and being ignored for not been one of the kind, plus my previous experience of invisibility in London during the couple of years I visited to study dance from 1978 to 1982, I moved to London to live with my English partner in 1998.
Few years in to the life in my new city, I started to realize (sadly indeed after all those years had passed from my times here) how intrinsic is to the English socio-cultural being its popular imaginary and cultural success of colonizing other nations, languages and cultural spaces, and this has produced a sort of very narcissist, self-reifying, provincial and parochial folk, who sadly most times is completely unaware as it believes this order of things, this superiority is so natural, so obvious that it’s not its problem if we are self willingly ready to submit our style, traditions or whatever else to their values and aesthetic primacies. How embedded and subsumed this superiority is to the depths of cultural matters in relation to forming the contemporary cannon for art, culture, music, … This of course affected my daily life as an independent practicing artist and relevant to my works, my interactions and what is more, it totally affected how ‘I was not seen’, how I was de-selected or even not preferred if you want, as we can say that artists who are recognized have to go under a regime of being preferred by others. All this indifference by the canon-makers, has had a very depressing effect on me. And it’s a proof of how complex it is to be different. I had developed a whole field of knowledge by all this sort of experience, that situates this between theorists from Adorno’s space of trauma or Spivak the subaltern speaking or Homi Baba’s.
The ephemeral group at the First Escuela de Calor, eme3 Architecture Festival, Barcelona, 2011. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/11
Being always displaced for not fitting the pitch of the Brit artist production at the top of the socio-cultural order in the West, in the intimacy of possible friendships and daily interactions and in the most institutional or powerful sites and context, I always have been made feel a foreigner, a not belonging being. The intense alienation I felt, moved my practice towards creating “relational” activities even if I was not aware at the time of such theories or hype in the art world. The signs by which I felt this being an outsider were many and multiple. My first performance workshops related to notions of the psychotropic or the close encounters, using the feeling of being an Alien and meeting the Aliens with all its “socio-political” meaning at play.
Then, from 2011 I started to collaborate with eme3 architecture festival of Barcelona and decided to call the “encounter” Escuela de Calor (EDC). Escuela de Calor was the title of a song played by a band that in the mid 80’s was interviewed in my publication V.O. It felt quite right to call like that a possible school that was an anti-school inspired by the peripatetic Greeks, and by default as Catalonia had been Greek too, nevertheless, here we had this current of claiming the Mediterranean once more versus the coldness of the anglo-sphere.
The first EDC was all about a mobile Bar, a readymade Bar-Terrace, as an urban intervention for a drifting group that will be sharing information and questions about what they thought they were looking at in the streets. Then, we did the 2012 one, which was in a beach club for swimmers and it all was about how far the leisure culture of the capitalist world was taking on us, Mediterraneans, a way of life that was not a luxury, but just part of the quotidian and therefore, we could be at a bar or at the pool or beach and at the same time being conspiring, being subservient and subversive. The work got selected for the 8th Festival of Performance in Cali, Colombia, a renown project curated by Helena Producciones, a Cali based artist collective that the same year was awarded the VISIBLE prize and the Prince Claus as signs of appreciation of their work within the city and of the way they activated relations with a great number of international artists.
Alessandra Cianetti: Throughout your life, governments, border regulations, dominant languages, and social divisions have been placing and displacing you and your practice as a performer and multimedia artist. Can you tell us a bit more about your journey as a political practitioner? How does your 2009 ‘Time Theft Agent E2162’ resonate today in both your practice and personal life?
Esther Planas: I like to quote Sarah Ahmed in her book ‘On Being Included’, 2012.
“Allowing myself to remember was a political reorientation: it led me to think and write about the politics of stranger making; how some and not others become strangers; how emotions of fear and hatred stick to certain bodies; how some bodies become understood as the rightful occupants of certain spaces.”
I am very aware of the auto-ethnographic tone and method I keep using. It all seems to be about me. It is in a way, but it is in the feminist ethos sense of the personal is politic. In this sense, I find the writings of Sarah Ahmed quite inspiring and encouraging. I am not an activist as the notion of activism is assumed these days. I am more of a committed militant to all of the principles I had embraced in the 70’s (which are almost gone thanks to the re-writing of reality by the contemporary Orwellian newspeak) of the means and principles of most of the causes I became involved with. I am an active and politicized agent. A subject, or however one likes to describe my bios, that does not betray her ethic and political beliefs.
Picture of a ‘great glass painted advice’ at Bar Europa in Guatemala City. The Bar became the HQ of Planas’ situationist workshops, 2011. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/11
Ahmed recalls “how some and not others become strangers,” it is very relevant to the whole shifting of my city context once the ’78 transition was accomplished and a rightwing party and its president took over the spirit of Catalonia. And it was democratically elected! He meddled in the Catalan TV, in the whole politics of culture. For the natural Catalan speakers this was fine, perhaps, but not for me. Eighteen was a hard age to change completely your own language. Looking back at those times, I feel quite depressed to be honest, it was a very hard and slow process of alienation.
There became that moment when I had to choose between Catalan or English, a bit after the times I used to come to London in small chunks of time and very precarious ways, to learn contemporary dance and hung out here with the few artists I had met. It seemed obvious that speaking English will open my communications with all sorts of peoples. It was in a way, a self-colonized tactic of subservience to a language that clearly was domineering and that involved a culture that dismissed my own. At the same time, as with all cases, one can subvert its own implications, so I used English for means of connecting in ways that were not necessarily subservient. Sadly, Catalan as a language that had never been talked to me when I was growing up, became secondary and thus, with time, as its new cultural agents rejected me, it was forgotten as a possibility. This does not mean I do not like or respect the language or its poets and writers, on the contrary.
The change of language overnight, meant for me and others alike, alienation and isolation in our own place of birth. As there was for sure a counterrevolution going on, once the transition had consolidated. I ended up feeling like a total foreigner in Barcelona, but also in Madrid. This was the moment, when as an editor of a visual cultures publication V.O. in 1985, I decided that a way of transcending all this, could be to get even further in the past. It was there that notions of being Mediterranean, theorist like Fernand Braudel and the whole opening-up to the knowledge of having been very possibly Jewish or Berber, with all the connections to poetry, the Sufi tradition etc. became a big stream into which to plunge. I travelled to Morocco and stayed there for two months meeting amazing people. It was my dream place! It felt like coming back home. Then I tried to go and live there, as mentioned above, but things got complicated and I ended up in Seville, an experience that taught me so much about ourselves, us this crossover and occult real cultural streams of identity.
My work of that time was quite counter current, and today I could claim it had a de-colonial aim. Not that I knew anything about decolonisation in the mid 80’s but it is clear, seen the magazine’s latest edition. That my politics of giving my back to the Anglo-sphere and new make-up of false modernity that Spain had become, was indeed very clear and there for all to see. I bet on the Arab, African and Mediterranean inter-connections. I opened-up to all sources in common between us. Flamenco music, dance and legacy being the binding point of the memory of who we were. Not in a folk sense of regression, but in a very contemporary way of bringing out authors and artists who belonged to those cities, places, geographies. The natural set of how Mediterranean folk has related, from harbor to harbor crossing each other’s seas.
Cover of the latest edition of V.O. magazine Cerca del Mar/1985. Available at MACBA Library and Archive, Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Bettina Evers, 2016.
I would say, that for some of us, it is about our micro-politics, our capacities depending of the situation of our health, economic reach etc. My capacities in mid 80’s where stronger, I was super young, with tons of energy and had economic support. For a very short time though. But it is amazing what one can do with some support. Publishing and editing as the proto-dancer I was at the times, was a way of saying that there is so much we all can do, we are special. I am talking about the publication being about folks from Spain, not doing the classic thing that publications did at the time which was to assume the US’s and UK’s artists, actors, filmmakers, etc… were better than us. I was inspired by the artists’ and writers’ self-publishing editorial project and I consider this editorial gesture as an example of agency, of being political within a cultural context with so much potentiality and I felt it needed support to be defended on its specific relevancy. As I explained above, sadly once more, it was published in Castellano. V.O. and I got deselected, or better, just sidelined as irrelevant for the next 30 years until it was recently re-discovered and archived.
These days, the challenges of having been loyal to my Marxist principles, to my feminist principles, (all exclusively in synch with the 60’s and 70’s) become harder and harder. As Felix Guattari explains very well, the counterrevolution worked too well. And we are freezing in the long neoliberal winter. I am faced with the fact of being a minority, older and with a few health conditions, that all of those, are indeed borders on their own right. We have a lot of work to do, it is about new methodologies for exposing our concerns and statistics that would support them, as in the ways Sara Ahmed works for example. Bringing the personal, the evidence into a text manages to help to understand cases, facts that are not “obvious”, seem not to happen, not to exist, or even be considerable as they have not yet their own theories or language – indifference that is lethal, unfair and destructive for our social context our ways of inhabiting a country, a culture …the world. In this sense, I am with Boaventura de Souza Santos, who argues that the point of view should be what he calls an “abyssal thinking” and that the cases that affect us are all axioms, they are never one dialectical thing. Our subjugators are a complex net of patterns, Patriarchy, Capitalism and Racism. If we look at one, without regarding the others, we are failing.
Time Theft Agent E2162 (a fragment of a Novel)
“Perhaps my life is nothing but an image of this kind; perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten.”
Here starts my journal, that text that is printed as a memory of a journey, a journey to a territory which I discovered and that travels with me forever.
El Barrio Chino in Barcelona is a place where my heart lives, my whole body is el Xino.
The place where I went so low and where I found my redemption.
The place where I betray and was betrayed, where I found the ghosts
who talked to me and throughout me….
What time is now?
Me as Agent E 2162 in El Raval. Picture taken by Wolf Deraze during the filming for BCNProducció/10. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/10
I don’t know, it feels like there is no more time out there, now or yesterday are melting with each other.
Long ago predates today and never wake up to a new morning but just
a looping old new day again.
The souls that possess me, are taking me with them to precise stages and situations they guide me and show me so that my eyes became yours.
El barrio Xino is a whole world and even if the whole time passes by it, never a place had more of the same, repeating its geographic speciality. A labyrinth, a container of lives and experiences bordering the lowest, the outcast, the free for all bohemians, the villains, the whores, the addicts…
One day of spring 2162, I gravitated towards El Xino, and I will just drift getting lost and found on its dark humid streets. Old, very old buildings, intense smells of acid urine residuals putrefied rubbish, fried oil and some scent of flowers that I could not really place or see but were floating like next to the sea salt humid air beaten up by the flying doves.
Me as Agent E 2162 in El Raval being tortured by a Fascist agent. Picture taken by Wolf Deraze during the filming for BCNProducció/10. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP10
Graffiti on street at El Raval, picture taken by Esther Planas during the filming for BCNProducció/10. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/10
Me as Agent E 2162 in El Raval. Picture taken by Wolf Deraze during the filming for BCNProducció/10. Copyright: Esther Planas VEGAP/10
Esther Planas (Barcelona 1960) is an independent artist and researcher with a recent MRes on Art Theory and Philosophy at CSM, London. She produces her online and Situationist des-educational project Escuela de Calor/School of Calidity, that was selected for the 8th Festival of Performance in Cali, Colombia, curated by Helena Producciones. Founding member of the London artists-led co-operative project Five Years since 1998. Her research focuses on notions of self-instituting practices across time and space and the power of utopias. She published, edited and contributed the magazine V.O. in 1984/5 in Barcelona now archived at MACBA Arxius. Planas studied contemporary dance at The London Contemporary Dance School (The Place) and at El Institut del Teatre, Area, Spai de Dansa, Barcelona. She started as a dancer as part of the renowned pioneering modern dance academy Anna Maleras in the 70’s. Her work as lecturer, performer, and sound artist has been presented in various art institutions such as Matadero (Madrid), South London Gallery (London), Beaconsfield (London), BCN PRODUCCIO\’10 La Capella (Barcelona), Tate Britain (London), MACRO Museo (Rome), Autocenter (Berlin). Planas’ work has been also shown at independent curators and artist-run spaces such as Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala), Polish Versaeger (Berlin), Beta-local (San Juan PR), The Barber Shop (Lisbon) and INCA (Detroit USA). As a writer, she has interviewed and reviewed artists’ works and published in cultural international magazines and fanzines such as Metal Barcelona, The Critical Friend and /Seconds, London with a published Novella at FROZEN TEARS. Her fanzine Dark Star/1998/2002 is archived at both MACBA Arxiu and PABD archive. Planas was nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Prize in 2014.
Featured image credits: Spectres of Modernism, London. Banner in Catalan by E Planas, 2017. Image by Esther Planas.