Madrid’s Gran Vía, 1934 (drawing)

[reblogged and translated from Enrique 23‘s original Spanish post available here]

Antonio Bellón Uriarte was an artist from Jaén. He was born in 1904 and lived in Madrid for almost his entire life, until 1991 when he died. Witness to the life of the [Spanish] capital, he drew – exhaustively and down to the most minute details – scenes that depicted the life of the urb, always with an exaggerated and playful touch, caricaturing the everyday.

In this sequence from ‘Madrid’s Gran Vía’, as if it were a photo taken in the early morning, Bellón illustrates a wild and chaotic summer weekend that might just as well have taken place in 2012. One sees all of the typical characters of that era, which was so modern and so close to our own. The image draws together the early-risers, the daytime folk, the nightowls, and the melancholic seeking an elusive happiness in the early hours among the shadows of the sordid and prohibited. Packed together tightly on the pavement and the sidewalks all manner of imaginable and unimaginable characters walk along in a fantastic snapshot.

The perspective of the vignette published here shows us the Carrión building in the background and following along the slope of the avenue with the doubled lamps of the lightposts in the middle of the road, almost in the foreground, the La Adriática building (1928), the Avenida cinema (1928), the Palacio de la Música (1928) and, finally, at left, the [mixed-use] housing and office building in which one would find the Regente Hotel (1926). Closer to us, still, we see a multitude of people mixing with one another. Sailors and blouses carousing from dusk until dawn; morning cyclists moving at top speed along the Gran Vía; excursionists in search of the Cañada Real that will carry them to the Castellana, toward Chamartín or Colmenar; lost skiers with their winter gear heading for the slopes; stunned country bumpkins, ristras of seasoned pork; families with small children passing through in search of a park’s fresh air; sellers of recently made churros; hot-churro thieves; tourists who are spent, recovering, aboard buses and ready for it all; pairs of guards, with loaded rifles, their minds wandering; motorists leveling and deafening others with their powerful machines; armed hunters pursuing cats or pigeons; milkmen bored from such bad work; sentries with keys and stick on their backs; musicians playing or else taking a break, but no less animated; the accidental injury, a car propped up against a lamppost, itself in good spirits; city streetwashers using the hose to spray soldiers who happily shower naked in the middle of the street; resigned prostitutes; happy young drunk ladies; women who are also drunk and also happy; men who are quite content; ruffians taking advantage of the happiness of others; children selling newspapers; men with smiles who are hanging from the lampposts; fishermen with their rods, baskets and bait, heading for the high river basin of the Manzanares or toward the Henares or the Jarama or the Alberche or the Perales, which sometimes boasts its own fish. Many people and much happiness in this summer of 1934, 78 years ago. It might have been like the summer of 2012, or perhaps better said [if only the summer of 2012 had been like that summer 78 years ago].

Review – World Film Locations (books and [ipad] app)

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I finally had time to check out the World Film Locations publishing project I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, actually I started by downloading the ‘World Film Locations’ app for the ipad, which is free, and which allowed me free access to view the ‘World Film Locations: Madrid’ – the other titles are available for purchase. (disclosure: published by Intellect, who is the publisher for the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies: more on that soon).

It was a bit different than I anticipated – which I think is a good thing – that is, I thought these would be standard academic articles, but it is much more of a visual catalog of film scenes featuring specific parts of the city (there are WFLocations volumes for a number of other cities: Berlin, Vienna, Las Vegas, Reykjavik, Melbourne, Istanbul, New York, London, of course Paris…).

There are brief readable descriptions/introductions with specific titles that sound like traditional academic articles on film (‘Iván Zulueta: Films of Madrid’s Underground’ by Steven Marsh, ‘Embracing Normalcy: Madrid Gay Cinema at the Turn of the New Millennium’ by Helio San Miguel, ‘Beyond the Cliché: Madrid in Twenty-first Century American Thrillers’ by John D. Sanderson, ‘Bright Young Things: Neo-existentialism in Madrid Cinema of the 1990s’ by Rafael Gómez Alonso), which cite interviews with film directors (Carlos Saura) and get further into film traditions, actors, directors, culture (La Movida) – but, importantly, with English translations (by Marsh for one, who is a name Hispanists will recognize; the editor of the volume is Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano (of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid), who has in addition assembled a team of former-student photographers to help complement the volume visually).

They concise vignettes are framed with a general map/plano of the city itself as an organizing principle showing where in the city each scene takes place, and still shots of the films under discussion. I have to say I was impressed with the range of films chosen and the depth of the discussion given the spatial limitations (the volume, in this case an e-book is a visually stunning 128 pages).

While reading through this one, it occurred to me that the book would serve as quite an advantageous model for teaching in particular, I might have (film-/Spanish-) students compose their own similar volume. Here is some praise from the series site:

Praise for World Film Locations: New York: ‘An elegant tribute to the films and locations that have given New York its private real estate in our minds. The contributors are so immediately readable and movie-savvy.’ – Roger Ebert

Praise for World Film Locations: Paris: ‘A superbly edited collection explores the most important movie city in the world’ – David Sterritt

Praise for World Film Locations: London: ‘A superb book, indispensable for any cinephile interested in London’s psychogeography. I could pore over it for hours.’ – Peter Bradshaw

Doreen Massey in Madrid

[This is my own English translation of the post at the multipliciudades blog found here in Spanish (forgive my errors)–note the event has passed, but still a great post].

The event of the month, without any doubt: Doreen Massey visits Madrid for the presentation of the book that geographers Abel Albet and Núria Benach have written on her, Doreen Massey. Un sentido global del lugar [Doreen Massey: A Global Sense of Place] recently published by Icaria Editorial. The event will be this Thursday the 7th at 19:00 in the Traficantes de Sueños bookstore (35 Embajadores street, #6), which with [its support of] this type of encounter once more affirms its vanguard positioning beyond the borders of conventional academia.

Those who follow the Mulitpliciudades.org blog are familiar with the devotion that I [Álvaro Sevilla Buitrago] profess for Massey, who seems to me to be a key thinker for understanding not only Feminist geography but also the critical geography developed over the past thirty years more generally. That being said, you can’t risk missing her talk. Below is the text advertising the event:

DOREEN MASSEY: Espacio, lugar y política en el momento actual [The current state of space, place and politics]

How do we employ space in making politics? How do we employ politics in making space? With a long career as both intellectual and professor and characterized by a strong voice that is always present in political debates, Doreen Massey (Professor Emerita of the Open University, UK) is a central figure of the critical work on space. She has made key contributions to the concepts of space and place, to the relationships between space and power, to the connections between the local and the global, and regarding the responsibility of certain centers of power in relation to other spaces. These are matters of theoretical importance that await the remarkable talent for contemplation exercised by Massey, who uses everyday examples and clear words to imbue them with greater relevance and utility.  

Geography and Literature: Galdós “La novela en el tranvía” [in Spanish]

So I’ve been trying to have students do more technologically advanced projects for the classes I teach in Spanish, sometimes related to urban themes… This last semester I taught 18th & 19th-century Spanish literature, and included a number of literary essays/stories relevant to urban studies and I had them use iwork [a layout/magazine program for MAC] to create their own digital magazines on topics related to the class readings. In the future I’d like to assign a project where they make videos too, so I figured I’d better learn exactly how easy that would be for undergraduates. This video [in Spanish] on a short story by Benito Pérez Galdós titled “La novela en el tranvía” is the result (just a first effort, probably not ‘A’ material just yet…).

Madrid’s Retiro Park–linocut print image

Here’s an image which was published in the creative geography journal you are here at the University of Arizona some years ago… great venue for artistic creations dealing with space/place. The park figures prominently in the Spanish film Taxi by famed director Carlos Saura (although also, given its prominent location and lengthy history in a great number of films, novels, etc.). See also this article.

The Spanish City: 2012 KFLC Book Round Table

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Just back from Lexington where I took part in the following session featuring 5+ scholars with recent books out on the Spanish City (both Madrid and Barcelona were represented). I have to say that what I enjoyed most was the discussion format–I had never taken part in nor seen a session like this before (sad to say now, looking back), each presenter shared a concise 5-8 minute talk about the contents and approach of their book, and then a lively discussion followed, relating to larger issues in the field (well, better said, relating to the fields of both Hispanic Studies and Cultural/Urban Geography). Not sure if I can (or want to) go back to the traditional paper format. I had always been skeptical of the discussion format as advertised in other conference venues, but done right, it is much more interesting and productive than traditional papers by far. Kudos to Susan Larson and Malcolm Compitello for a great session. Although some of the books below are pending publication (those by Mercer and Santiáñez should be out soon), links are available below as appropriate:

HISPANIC STUDIES SPECIAL SESSION 5: THEORIES AND CULTURAL POLITICS OF REPRESENTING SPANISH CITIES (New Student Center, 211)

Organized by: Susan Larson, U of Kentucky; Chaired by: Malcolm Compitello, U of Arizona

Speakers: Benjamin Fraser, C of Charleston; Nil Santiáñez, St. Louis U; Carlos Ramos, Wellesley C; Leigh Mercer, U of Washington; Nathan Richardson, Bowling Green State U 

This roundtable brings together scholars who have recently published monographs on the cultural politics of Madrid [and Barcelona]. Each book will be briefly presented, whereupon there will be an open discussion of the different theoretical and methodological possibilities as well as the challenges of researching the representation of urban space.

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What I took away from the session was the energy of a geographical paradigm shift in the humanities. Discussions centered around the relevance of the humanities to urban planning, the possibility of resistance to capital, pedagogical approaches, the future of digital humanities research (particularly the hypercities project mentioned previously on this blog) and the potential for collaborative work (by undergrads, grad students and faculty) across disciplines. Of course the obstacles that limit these sorts of changes were also discussed, but energy and time can make all the difference.

Images, essays related to Madrid’s inclined towers

For those who read the earlier post on the Torres KIO in Madrid with interest, here is a book just out featuring one half of the towers on the cover.

The great thing is the photo itself, which was taken by photographer Miguel Sandoval Díaz, an incredible shot–the extended exposure time allows for shadowy, mobile traffic at the bottom right (although that is slightly covered up in the layout). If interested in his photography (I believe he is based in Madrid), he has volunteered his email (msandoval1985@gmail.com) as contact information.

For hispanist scholars, there are three essays in the book (Nathan Richardson, Susan Divine and Thomas Deveny) that deal with the films of director Alex de la Iglesia–the towers, aka the Puerta de Europa appear in his cult classic The Day of the Beast (1995)–and a few more that deal with geography/urban space in literature and film (by Edward Baker, Susan Larson, Agustín Cuadrado, Araceli Masterson, Shalisa Collins…).

Disability Art, Visibility and the City

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During May 2011 (ending May 15th) I visited the exhibition titled ‘Trazos Singulares [Singular Strokes],’ which was on display in Madrid’s Nuevos Ministerios metro station.

The exhibition comprised some sixty works produced by thirty artists with developmental disabilities [see above slideshow-my photos], and significantly, the work of artistic production was itself performed in situ between the 5th and the 8th of April. This simple decision has an understated significance given the history of the public (in)visibility of disability that has been written about so lucidly, for example, by Licia Carlson in her book The Faces of Intellectual Disability.

Also of interest is that the artists produced images of Madrid’s urban environment and transport systems (subway). An easy criticism would be that since the event was sponsored by Metro Madrid, it was a showy form of outreach/advertising, but I think that the event transcends that critique in some respects.

In my view this event raises questions of access to the city (Lefebvre’s question: who has the “right to the city”). This exhibit necessarily highlights how disability, urbanism and the interplay between the creative imagination and the built environment are all connected.

A Brief Building History: Madrid’s Torres KIO / Torres de Europa

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This photo shows the building(s) while still under construction–an essay by Malcolm Compitello notes “the original plan for the building dates from the mid-1980s. The architectural design was entrusted to the architectural firm of Burgee, Johnson and Associates known for their design of large buildings. Perhaps their most famous and controversial work is the firm’s initial entry into the realm of the grand postmodern, the AT&T Tower in New York. The elaboration of the plan for the work, the first inclined high-rise towers ever designed, was entrusted to Leslie E. Robertson and Associates. LERA is the New York-based structural engineering firm that has engineered the majority of the world’s tallest buildings, including the Torres Picasso in Madrid.”

See the original article here, and the building also plays a central role in the film El día de la bestia/The Day of the Beast (1995) by Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. (a great cult classic)