Tag Archives: catalunya

Art Deco in Barcelona

The Design History Foundation launches its teaching programme with a course on Art Deco, which will offer both an international approach to the style and sessions on its local impact.

The 18-hour course will take place between 30.09.09 and 16.12.09, at the Disseny Hub Barcelona, C/ Montcada, 12, 08003 Barcelona. Sessions will be in Catalan.

More information here.


Of cars, footballers, fascists and rockers

It’s Good Friday and it’s raining in Barcelona. I’ve finished re-reading Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, and in a vain attempt to overcome the blues that I always get when I come to the end of a great book, I briefly turned on the TV, only to be bombarded by images of all the Holy Week processions taking place around Spain – which felt as a rather creepy mix of the Spanish Inquisition and Disney World.

So I took refuge in YouTube, and I now offer you a chronological selection of idiosyncratic Barcelona goodies for your entertainment.

These first two are the earliest Barcelona films I’ve been able to find on YT – the first one is truly charming, one gets a wonderful sense of the city as a Mediterranean port, and I love the images of a deserted, brand-new Park Guell patrolled by sabre-wielding policemen.

Barcelona 1900 – La perla del mediterráneo

Barcelona 1908

The Spanish Civil War in thirteen minutes and a half:

Barcelona 19 July 1936 partA

Guerra Civil Española -Bombardeos sobre Barcelona

Entrada de los fascistas en Barcelona 1/2

The Seat 600 was the poster boy of the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s. It was launched in 1957, manufactured in Barcelona, and easy enough for a woman to drive!


Lanzamiento del Seat 600

Seat 600

The 60s were the decade of massive migration into Barcelona from the South of Spain, and with the influx of immigrants came the shantytowns. And the music: la Rumba Catalana was born. Peret sang Catalan rumba in the 60s, and Manu Chao a different kind of fusion rumba many decades later.

Campo de la bota

peret – el mig amic (galas del sábado)

Manu Chao – La rumba de Barcelona

In November 1975, Franco dies. The city -the country- lived on the razor’s edge.

Barcelona. Manifestacions anifranquistes 1976

The newly democratic Barcelona of the early 80’s still carried the dusty weight of almost four decades of dictatorship on its shoulders. Loquillo, one of the best Spanish rockers of the decade, sang of his city with perfect pitch, with just enough rage and anomie to capture the spirit of a youth culture about to explode in an extasy of pre-olympic urban transformation.

Loquillo y los Trogloditas – Barcelona Ciudad

Loquillo y Los Trogloditas – Avenida de la luz

Here’s the transformation itself, in a scary stop-motion video that was produced by HOLSA, the Barcelona Olympic public-private body that coordinated the urban renovation works. And no, the disappearance of the old farmer and his artichoke fields under a sea of cement isn’t meant as an ironic twist.

Barcelona 1992 La Transformación

In 2004, the City Council tried to pull another urban regeneration coup like the one in ’92 and invented the Universal Forum of Cultures, to take over a whole new chunk of city, build it up, prettify it, redesign it and hand it over to people other than those that were there to begin with. This time round, the Barcelonese were not too happy with the process and the Council lost the popularity contest. But got away with it anyway.

FORUM Barcelona 2004

Coop City 1 – Barcelona Post Forum 2004

And then came the tourists, among them Woody, Vicky and Cristina. Watch the movie trailer first, then the Barcelona City Council’s tourism promotion video, and try to spot the differences. (Answer: it’s the dolphins).

Landing at Barcelona’s El Prat

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Trailer

Barcelona Turisme Promo Video

Some tourists actually stay on for a while and compete for jobs with the immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe

Under the Table in Barcelona – Lonely Planet Travel Video

El Raval de Barcelona: un barrio que ya no es lo que era

And last but not least, Barça.

Barcelona: The Inside Story (Storyville BBC) part 1

The subtle politics of internet domains – .cat or .bcn?

The Barcelona City Council has recently announced that it will request the establishment of the .bcn domain for the city. Earlier this year,  the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)  voted to approve lifting restrictions on the classification of domain names, allowing for new customized Web addresses.

In 2006, ICANN approved the .cat domain, which was subsequently launched by the Catalan Regional Government (Generalitat de Catalunya) as a new domain for websites in the Catalan language. This domain therefore was not intended to represent a specific politically defined region or nation, but a cultural and linguistic group, and had therefore from the outset a strong ideological and national-linguistic component. As explained in the .cat domain charter:

The .cat TLD is intended to serve the needs of the Catalan Linguistic and Cultural Community on the Internet (the “Community”).

The Community consists of those who use the Catalan language for their online communications, and/or promote the different aspects of Catalan culture online, and/or want to specifically address their online communications to that Community.

The success of the .cat domain has encouraged numerous applications for other top level domains centered on creating an independent internet identity for linguistic and cultural communities.

Given the weight of local identity politics contained in the .cat domain, it is no surprise that the Generalitat has reacted angrily and is firmly opposed to Barcelona’s application to have its own domain. The Regional Government’s position is that .bcn will weaken the .cat domain, and will strengthen Barcelona’s approach to presenting itself as a ‘city-state’ with the rest of Catalunya as ‘part of the Barcelona metropolitan area’, rather than as being the capital of the Catalan nation.

In the words of Jordi Bosch, the Generalitat’s Secretary of Telecommunications and Information Society:

Barcelona perdrà l’oportunitat d’exercir com a capital del país i optarà de nou pel paper de ciutat estat que no beneficia el conjunt de Catalunya […] i es donarà un concepte erroni de la resta de Catalunya com a àrea metropolitana de Barcelona.

The Generalitat has further accused the City Council of trying to carry out a branding and marketing operation at the expense of Catalan national identity.

And so it goes.

Pixels catalans

Pixelscatalans.cat takes up Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage idea and turns it into a concerted exercise in nationalist propaganda. ‘A promotion of Catalunya’, states their manifesto. They aim to provide international projection for Catalan production and graphics, to push up the search engine ranking of Catalan websites, to ‘make the country’: ‘Fer pais’. Only my second post on BCND, and already the frustration of coming face to face with localist pettiness is raising its head. Will it become too much to bear (again!)?

The original Million Dollar Homepage was set up by Alex Tew, a cash-strapped student about to start his first year at university in Nottingham.

The index page of the site consists of a 1000×1000 pixel grid (one million pixels), on which image-based links were sold for US $1 per pixel, in minimum ten by ten blocks. The purchasers of these pixel blocks provided tiny images to be displayed on them, a URL to which they were linked, and a slogan displayed when hovering the cursor over the link. The aim of the site was to sell all of the pixels in the image, thus generating one million dollars of income for the creator. (Wikipedia)

The result: a young millionnaire who had to drop out of uni to keep on top of the site’s success. Most importantly, though, Tew’s open-ended agenda created something really special, a graphic, interactive snapshot of internet history – now on sale as a limited edition print.

Tew’s million pixel grid is vibrant, brash and loud, immensely varied in tone and content. In it one can find skater gear and online gambling, language lessons, business reviews, personal messages, high street retailers and domain hosting, dodgy job offers, e-publications and baby gifts, quick miracle diets and Jesus. It’s a perfect representation of cyberspace. While mostly Anglo-based, clickthroughs will land you in France, Italy or Hungary.

And what about pixelscatalans? All I can hope is that it’s not a perfect representation of Catalunya. What it shows is a fairly desolate landscape, still pretty empty three years after it went online. The pixels are mostly of corporate and institutional brands, some local, some global. At the very least, the pixel-sellers at Catalanpixels could have stood by their catalanist principles and denied access to international corporations.

What it is a perfect representation of, unfortunately, is the dead weight of identity politics on all fields of endeavour in Catalunya, the idea that we have more than enough with what we have ‘at home’ to create a vibrant cultural landscape, that the aim is not to open up to external influences but to preserve and project what we are (and what is that??) to the world.

Personally, I couldn’t care less what the world thinks as long as what is going on near me is entertaining and stimulating enough. If it is, the world will take notice. And being lazy by nature, I’d rather have the world come here so we can party.