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Seminar Gramsci: evoking resistance against the loss of culture


26 November 2012

Seminar Gramsci: evoking resistance against the loss of culture

During the decade of the 80s, while Chile lived through a military dictatorship, the Chilean philosopher Pablo Oyarzún carried out, in his home country, a clandestine seminar exploring the thought of the philosopher and Italian Marxist politician, Antonio Gramsci. This seminar, significant for its illegality within the context in which it arose, that supposed a gesture vindicating culture in a time of political and social instability, is recuperated at La Capella, with the project “Seminar Gramsci”, a proposal by Luís Guerra, visual artist, writer and Chilean theorist.

Luís Guerra converts the exhibition space into a testimony of the events that take place inside, evoking the clandestine sessions organised by Oyarzún. At the end of the space there are a few chairs laid out for those attending, a table and microphone for the speaker, a computer and projector, elements that seem to be all that is required for these talks. Six loudspeakers hanging from the roof reproduce oral readings in Italian of texts by Gramsci: fragments that pertain to the “Prison Notebooks“, brief texts compiled by the Italian thinker during his days of imprisonment. In one of the side naves of La Capella there is a series of 20 sheets of paper hanging from the walls, the majority of them blank, except for 5 which contain drawings in pencil, charcoal and ink, in an apparently naïve style and charged with references, written as much as illustrated by Gramsci. In the second side nave, one only finds the collection of the “Prison Notebooks”, made up four volumes, each of around a thousand pages, placed directly on the floor. On the wall there hangs the odd magazine in which one sees the photograph of a snowy mountain.

Even though the endeavour has been to fill the exhibition space with a few pieces, such as the drawings or loudspeakers, the central axis of “Seminar Gramsci” is the programme of activities that started on the 9 November, with the presentation of the project by the author, and which carries on until the 29th of the same month, with “Sudamerican” a performance by Pamela Desjardins and Verónica Lahitte. A visit to the space without attending any event within the seminar is tiring and hard to understand due to the fact that it is a procedural piece and acquires meaning at the moment when one of the presentations, debates or performances takes place. The display of just the works, without the existence of the seminars, wouldn´t make any sense.

Luís Guerra was the curator of a centre in Santiago de Chile and at a specific moment invited a group of graffiti artists. They, instead of doing what they were familiar with, the foreseeable, created a school within the centre, that lasted for the duration of the exhibition, thereby placing their way of doing things in crisis, given that they had to confront the unexpected and far more difficulties than if they had done what was expected. To a certain extent Guerra has appropriated this fact, as the proposal of the seminar is not so different from that of the graffiti artists.

Així doncs, la potència de la proposta de Guerra es troba en el paral·lelisme que s’atreveix a fer entre el context històric del seminari d’Oyarzún, i l’actual, aquí a Barcelona. Encara que la situació política d’ambdós casos sigui molt diferent, en tots dos s’hi troba inestabilitat i crisis política i social, que insinuen la tornada cap a un fort nacionalisme conservador, no només ideològic, sinó també, com es va fent evident al llarg dels dies, cultural. I és que si en la dictadura militar de Xile el seminari de Gramsci era il·legal, en la nostra contemporaneïtat la censura es pot interpretar en el tancament de centres com l’Espai Zero1 o Can Xalant. Amb tot això, la recuperació de la figura de Gramsci no es fa per elecció capritxosa, sinó que, com Guerra explicava en la ponència “Cultura popular, el arte de no ser gobernados (Popular culture, the art of not being governed)”,the interest in this character lies in the fundamental thesis that arises from the question, “why are we always defeated by fascism?”. The writings of Gramsci about popular culture in relation to fascist politics, reread now through the thoughts of Luís Guerra, link his exhaustive linguistic analyses with this very contemporary context.

Anna Dot was born on a Sunday in April. She is from Torelló and works between two worlds, worlds that she cannot perceive as being in any way separate: one of artistic production and one of reflection, writing about contexts of art.

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