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Memòria, paisatge i art versus identitat


El paisatge, l’art i la memòria com a construccions socials són signes d’identitat per als pobles, col·lectius i persones que els adopten. En aquest sentit, des de fa relativament pocs anys el paisatge entès com a patrimoni ha esdevingut símbol d’identitat per als seus impulsors ─el poder─ però també per a la ciutadania receptora. També són recents les intervencions que tenen en compte els paisatges culturals per conceptualitzar programes de memòria i de reivindicació social, amb les corresponents polítiques d’art públic associat.

Avui dia, els monuments, escultures i instal·lacions memorialistes realitzats per recordar, commemorar o evocar episodis com l’holocaust, la repressió franquista, el genocidi armeni, les atrocitats comeses pels Khemers rojos, la violència masclista... s’escampen per arreu. Els projectes es realitzen en paisatges urbans com el Monument a l’Holocaust d’Eisenman a Berlín, emplaçat al sud de la porta de Brandenburg, que forma part d’un àmbit relacionat amb la república de Weimar, o l’escultura Encaix de Margarida Andreu i Solsona dedicada a les víctimes dels bombardeigs de 1938 a Barcelona. També s’emmarquen en paisatges rurals com el monument que Marco Cianfanelli dedica a l’expresident sud-africà Nelson Mandela, víctima de la repressió de l’apartheid, per assenyalar el lloc on el van arrestar per condemnar-lo a vint-i-set anys de presó. Els antics escenaris de tortura, repressió i mort: Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Jasenovac, Mauthausen, Ribes Altes... s’erigeixen en espais de memòria on s’instal·len escultures, monuments, instal·lacions, centres d’interpretació, museus, entitats memorialistes... que recorden als deportats, morts i víctimes del règim nazi. Totes aquestes iniciatives tenen en comú l’anhel de justícia i la tolerància en la recerca d’una identitat comuna basada en el respecte als drets humans.

L’entitat i la individualitat dels projectes de memòria arrelen en l’entorn paisatgístic, simbòlic i arquitectònic, però també en els programes de pensament, arxiu i art. La dimensió patrimonial i d’identitat de cada paisatge ─materialitat, representacions, simbolisme─ junt amb el suport documental, històric i, si s’escau, científic ens trasllada als fets històrics que volem recordar o commemorar. Per això els paisatges urbans, rurals, industrials, militars i naturals serveixen de llenç, material o escenari per a l’art públic de la memòria històrica.

El land art, art terrestre, ambiental o de la natura esdevé un recurs important pels projectes memorialistes i/o culturals de caràcter reivindicatiu. Qui millor que els artistes que treballen amb i en el paisatge per portar a terme obres en entorns de memòria. L’artista com a historiador segons la teoria de Walter Benjamin o l’historiador com artista són ferms candidats a participar-hi. Ja hem vist com els projectes artístics poden ser per ells mateixos una font de concòrdia i tolerància, però també són imprescindibles per a la creació de noves identitats democràtiques. No es tracta d’oblidar si no de cercar confluències per a començar un diàleg responsable que agermani els descendents de les víctimes i botxins. Els projectes d’art de la memòria, la majoria de titularitat pública, evoquen, utilitzen, integren o reprodueixen paisatges on han succeït violències que cal recordar per no repetir-les. Les obres d’art interpel·len a través de la memòria per a situar-nos davant de noves identitats socials creades a partir d’injustícies històriques o contemporànies.

Tres exemples, relacionats amb el poble o persones jueves ens il·lustren del poder de l’art per aïllar el mal mitjançant el coneixement, el raonament i la no-violència. El primer és d’Andy Goldswhorty, famós artista britànic de land art. És un monument de divuit roques foradades per la part interior on l’artista hi planta roures nans (Quercus prinoides) en homenatge a les víctimes de l’holocaust. La instal·lació està ubicada al terrat del Museu de l’Herència Jueva de Nova York. Segons Donald A. Rakow, professor associat de la Cornell University l’obra és un símbol de simbiosi de l’art i la natura que recorda la nostra humanitat i la història comuna sovint difícil.


El segon projecte està relacionat amb la tràgica mort de Walter Benjamin, eminent filòsof alemany d’origen jueu mort l’any 1940 a Port-Bou, població situada a la frontera francoespanyola, quan fugia dels nazis per cercar refugi als Estats Units. La instal·lació de Dani Karavan, artista israelià, finançada pels governs de la Generalitat de Catalunya i de la República Federal d’Alemanya es va inaugurar l’any 1994. Karavan es val del paisatge mediterrani de la Costa Brava per relacionar-lo amb la història i el camí d’exili de Walter Benjamin. La senzilla arquitectura que proposa l’artista s’integra amb el paisatge marítim i costaner. Una escala cap a les roques, un vidre amb vistes al mar amb un escrit de Benjamin, una olivera i un cub de pedra proper al cementiri de Port Bou recorden l’extraordinari personatge.


El tercer exemple és Encerclament de Víctor Mata Ventura, pensada en origen per a l’Agència del Mediterrani de la Unió Europea amb seu a Barcelona i realitzada en un parc públic de l’Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona. Es construeix amb la tècnica de pedra en sec utilitzada ancestralment a les ribes del Mediterrani per bastir tota classe de construccions agropecuàries i preindustrials. Les pedres procedeixen del massís del Garraf i fan referència a les tres classes de roca que caracteritzen la seva geologia. Els tres cercles, les portes i els espais interiors reivindiquen la finalitat d’encontre, entesa i diàleg entre les persones, creences i pobles de les tradicions culturals ─judaica, cristiana i musulmana─ majoritàries a la conca mediterrània i ens remeten a la revolució neolítica com a origen cultural comú. Es caracteritza per la funció social que promou la seva conceptualització de caràcter memorialista, d’arrel històrica i signe contemporani.


Víctor Mata i Ventura

Barcelona, 9 de juliol de 2020


1.RICART, Núria; PAZ, Noelia (2017): Prácticas artísticas y espacios de memoria, Universitat de Barcelona. Recurs electrònic: http://diposit.ub.edu/dspace/handle/2445/123186.

2.https://monuments.iec.cat/

3.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYC7K0nNMcY

4.MATA VENTURA, Víctor (2011): Nit i boira i Escuma de mar. Acciones land art contra el Olvido, a HISPANO VILASECA, Marià i ALBERCH FUGUERAS, Ramon [coords.]: Nacht und nebel fotografía y testimonio, Fundació Nous Horitzons, Badalona, p. 120-131.

5.HERNÁNDEZ-NAVARRO, Miguel Á. (2012): Materializar el pasado. El artista como historiador (benjaminiano), Micromegas, Múrcia.

6.JAHANBEGLOO, Ramin (2007): Elogio de la diversidad, Arcadia, Barcelona.

7.https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2005/06

8.https://www.danikaravan.com

9.https://walterbenjaminportbou.org/ca/passatges-karavan/

10.https://www.victormataventura.com/




“We Shall not Surrender”: Open Letter to UK PM Boris Johnson


Dearest Mr. Prime-Minister, Boris Johnson:

I do sincerely hope you are doing more than fine during these turbulent, very complex and challenging days. The British people and the world need a strong and resolute leader: the task we all are facing are unlike any other we have faced before in our living times. The generation to which each of us belong, with a gap of just a few years between us, Mr. Prime-Minister, has always lived in a pretty much stable democratic society and in the climate of a relatively peaceful coexistence among nations in the global arena. Never Fracis Fukuyama’s theory about the “end of history” seemed so dead wrong. History is alive as long as there is any human being alive.

And a very dangerous new phase of History might be written out of this pandemic crisis wreckages. Regadless our knowledge that crisis periods in organized political communities are a common thing, being the prosperous moments mere exceptions, one might not underestimate the impact of the moment we are living right now. Moment of anxiety, moment of fear, moment when our people are havind second thoughts about the merits and strenghts of our cherished free and democratic model of society organization.

Portugal and the UK acknowledge the emergency of new international enemies that are conducting systematic efforts to undermine our political system and our very way of life – that is why we need at the present, more than ever in our recent history, competent, diligent and effective diplomatic and intelligence services. Diplomatic and Intelligence services that reveal themselves to be up to the demanding challenges of these times, allowing national governments to give one another the crucial data and context for them to decide correctly and with all fairness. Trust is, as you know better than anyone else holding such a high public office in Europe, an incredibly valuable assent in modern –day international affairs.

Our communities safety and the public tranquility of our States must not be put at risk either by our internal or external enemies. Currently, Mr. Prime-Minister, you know (again!) better than anyone else that Portugal and the UK share a common menace: the rise of a barbarian empire which is the Chinese Communist Party. Communist China has a lot of explanations to provide to the whole world – they will give us those explanations, either volutarily or forcefully for sure.

In order to counter (and defeat) such an evil enemy, we need the strength of unity. The strength of a brotherhood forged by centuries and centuries (…and centuries) of close friendship and stronger alliance. Portugal and the UK must stand side by side, closer than ever before in recent times, so that we achieve our common goals of prosperity and security. I have no doubts that your Excelency is pretty much aware of the Communist China threat to UK national and economic security and how Portugal’s geostrategical position is vital to safeguard UK’s vital interests. The UK knows that can count on Portugal to cooperate in any matter to make sure that imperialist Communist China will never put the brave British people and economy in jeopardy. Mark my word.

As Portugal has repeteadly demonstrated over the years, brother protects another brother: the Portuguese people cheer with the UK’s success and mourn whenever the UK is attacked by international enemies. By fanatic criminals – that is why Portuguese people showed all our solidarity after, for example, the terrorist attacks in Manchester and Portuguese security forces have collaborated intensively and in total good faith with MI5 in order to identify and capture those who preaches the evil of terrorism.

And, now, fighting against this virus must be another chapter of the remarkable cooperation and brotherhood of both our countries. The UK casts no doubt that Portugal will always faithfully execute the oldest Alliance Treaty (remember the historic Treaty signed in 1373 and still in force, that has proclamated ever since an eternal alliance between our two beloved countries?); and Portugal is truly confidant that the UK will never – ever! – betray a brother nation, with whom King Edward III sworn an eternal friendship seven centuries ago. Back then, Portugal and UK were very well aware that we are maritime countries, whose brave people are used to navigate in agitated waters – together, however, we would always, throughout the ages, help each other find the lighthouse to get back to our common destiny safely. That we would never drown each other.

Therefore, Mr. Prime-Minister, I am pretty sure thar the decision of your Government to exclude Portugal from the “air corridor” was just a honest mistake based on some misinformation and lack of communication between Portuguese and British public administrations. The gross information your officials have worked with does not reflect the real situation living here in Portugal and, specially, does not protect British interests in Portuguese territory. Again, I am not here to point fingers; I am here to shed a light on how the decision of your Government poorly serves UK’s vital interests.

Firstly, Mr. Prime-Minister, you are a brilliant intellectual man – you realize how numbers are never wrong, but they do quite often fool us around. It is up to us to avoid being fooled by numbers , by putting them in the right context. The reality is that Portugal is a much lower-risk destination for UK tourists than most of the countries your Government has exempted from mandatory quarantine.

The UK tourists preferred destinations in Portugal are the safest regions, in terms of risk of contagion, you may find around the globe. I agree that some additional sanitary controls should be put up by the Portuguese Government in national airports – that is, however, a total different question, which should be easily solved by a loyal, honest and fruitful dialogue between the authorities of both our countries. An eternal Alliance like the one Portugal and the UK have must not be harmed just because of some disagreement over the extension of airport controls. We can fix that bilaterally, shaping our duties to one another and refusing an one size fits all approach that causes so many losses to your country’s eternal ally.

Secondly, Mr. Prime-Minister, your decision is against your country’s own interests. It affects British interests as much as portuguese’s. The reason is plain to see: the British community in places like Algarve and Madeira are deeply engaged with the locals, so much so that any backlash in those communities economy will backfire against British economic own interests. There are a lot of business (small and medium size corporations, mostly people who voted for you) which have flourished in Portugal due to the ingenious British entrepeneurs who persuade, year after year, their countrymen about Portugal’s wonders.

The reckless decision to exclude Portugal from UK’s “air corridors” is a blow at these fellow British’s own interests – even a newspaper was created to circulate among the very welcomed British tourists to Portugal, by brilliant British journalists, for goodness sake! There is absolutely no other country that must be included in the UK “air corridors” more than Portugal does; after all, it is very difficult to think of a country where the British interests are so omnipresent and strong as they are in Portugal.

Thirdly, Mr. Prime-Minister, the decision of your Government might alienate Portuguese public opinion (extremely favourable to the UK) to promoters of hostile interests regarding the country’s alliance and brotherhood with the UK, which will be devasted to UK’s long term vital geostrategical interests.

Finally, Mr. Prime-Minister, do not forget that Portugal – even, in all fairness, during the current socialist and far-left Government’s term – stood with British people decision to exit from the European Union. Portugal understood the ambition, the drive and the spirit that had animated your countrymen and, from an early stage, expressed its desire to support the UK in any diplomatic way. The portuguese people – the driving forces of the country! – have been saying loud and clear that they strongly wish to create a special relationship with this post-Brexit UK.

The Portuguese Representatives at the European Union institutions have been active voices defending the UK and helping UK officials to get some major diplomatic victories. Despite some harsh voices who disagree with your decision to leave the European Union, the truth is that Portugal wants all the best to the UK and to the British people. Portugal wants Brexit to succeed, because Portugal wants the UK to suceed.

Imagine, Mr. Prime-Minister, if – and this is just a scenario which (I am sure!) will never, ever!, happen - the UK losses Portugal as a structural, reliable, ally in international diplomacy arena...that would be terrible for UK vital interests. And would be terrible for Portugal as well – our “Atlantic Nations” (Portugal, UK and USA) are condemned by geography and History to stand side by side, whether we want or not…

Mr. Prime-Minister, I am very grateful for your time and patience. I know that this letter is already too long, but serious matters need serious argumentations – and you are a specialist in voluminous writings, as it is proved by your forthcoming book about William Shakespeare and your majestic book on Sir Winston Churchill. I just ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, to be a leader capable of replicating Churcill’s greatness. Capable of following Winston Churchill’s example during this war we are living in.

Sir Winston Churchill realized that true politicians need to take harsh decisions, to have the intuition and the guts that the numbers, the technicalities, the theorethical explanations can not explain or teach you. We have been talking too much lately about the “R” – this is the right time, the right place and you are the right leader to start talking about the “P” and the “G”. The “P” stands for “Politics” and the “G” stands for “Good” – this is the time for “Good Politics” and “Good Politicians”. This is your time, Prime-Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson.

Please, be a leader. Be a true Statesman. If you do so, you will immediately recognize that the decision to exclude Portugal from UK “air corridor” is a disaster for UK geopolitical and diplomatic strategies.

The UK’s vital interests are being weakened, not protected, with such decision. A true leader , like yourself Mr. Prime-Minister Johnson, does not fear to change his mind and do what is absolutely right – that is why I am quite sure Portugal will be in UK air corridors very, very soon.

We shall not surrender to bloody hell (!) terrible administrative decisions that damages both of our countries and our people. The first quality that is needed now is audacity.

Looking very forward to hearing from you and, specially, to your resolute action…for good!.

With all my warmest regards,

João Lemos Esteves


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