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<nettime> A critical reading of www.e-barcelona.org and of the context o
technologies to the people on Sat, 17 Sep 2005 14:17:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> A critical reading of www.e-barcelona.org and of the context of Catalonia

A critical reading of www.e-barcelona.org and of the context of Catalonia
Valentin Roma

To understand not only the context, but also the development of the website
e-barcelona.org - and the project that has been built up around it - it is
essential to refer to the situation of the cultural and artistic policy in
Catalonia over the last five years, as during this period most of the particular
dynamics for which the page has been criticised have been consolidated. On the one
hand, we find that the then government, Convergencia i Unio (CIU), a conservative,
moderately national party that was in power from 1980 to 2003, was facing growing
pressure from municipalities under other ideological signs and from diverse
initiatives that were based in Barcelona - such as the Asociacion de Artistas
Audiovisuales de Cataluna [The Associations of Audiovisual Artists of
Catalonia](AAV)- against the non-existence of a cultural policy for Catalonia.
Certainly, and despite its twenty-three years of government, the infrastructures
generated during this time were non-existent, the funding was minimal and there
was a complete lack of real desire to organise the territory and its cultural
needs. To add greater complexity to this panorama, many municipal town councils
throughout Catalonia, also governed for a long time by the Partido Socialista de
Cataluna (PSC), the Catalan subsidiary of the Partido Socialista Obrero
Espanol (PSOE), the current government of Spain, also joined an erratic spiral
in their management in the area of culture, developing an increasingly unsolvable
resistance to change, a non-productive mimicry with regard to the programmes
carried out in Barcelona, a disproportionate dependence on any kind of media
attention and finally, a complete lack of comprehension with regard to autonomous

In the case of Barcelona, [1], governed with an overwhelming absolute majority of
the PSC, over the last few years, it has enjoyed what one could call a progressive
institutional readjustment, that has significantly affected most of the city's
infrastructures, particularly in the artistic sector. So, for example, since 1998
the following exhibitions areas have changed their address: the Museu d'Art
Contemporani of Barcelona (MACBA), the Fundacio Antoni T=E0pies, the Virreina
Exposiciones (Palau de la Virreina and La Capella), the Centro de Produccion
Hangar and the Centre d'Art Santa M=F2nica, without forgetting two changes in the
management team of the Delegation of Plastic Arts of the Catalan Government [2].

In some way, we can see that there is a certain reshuffle, guided not just by
generational matters or by an organised political desire, but by the combination
of what could be an exhaustion of the previous models of management and the
inclusion of a series of professionals whose profile suits the new institutional,
political and media needs. I believe it is important to refer to these matters
because in a context such as that of Barcelona, a certain personal mystification
of the figure of the museum director has been gradually generated, until reaching
unjustifiable limits, to the detriment of an overall demand with regard to the
institutions they rule, their programmes, their work methodologies, their ability
to articulate the various existing initiatives, etc. In this sense, it is
significant how the mass media, and above all the written press, has been used as
- or has been voluntarily converted into - a sounding box for these exciting,
nominalist discourses that have gradually been burying a more objective follow-up
of the dynamics of the artistic institutions of the city and creating an overall
state of acritical opinion, that seemed to develop itself under a series of
instructions behind which determined spaces were prioritised and others were
suspiciously ignored.

I believe that it is at these ideological, cultural and media crossroads - and I
insist, that of a territory that is culturally broken up and a capital heavily
organised around particularised managements in excess - that the project of
e-barcelona.org is inserted and takes on a specific meaning [3].. Therefore,
trying to draw now, with some perspective behind us, a possible chronology of the
life of this website and an analysis of its function, we observe how, of the
initial suspicions - logical in this kind of platform of decoded opinion with
anonymity as its main argument, its dangers and lack of legitimacy - the various
analyses have become deeper and made more complex until reaching, beyond the
one-off aspects on the position of the specific spaces, the structural questioning
of this image of agreement that Catalonia, and in particular Barcelona, were
issuing, like an identifying sign. This idyllic, media pre-formed stereotype of a
city in a constant process of cultural expansion, in which even all the dissidents
have found their territory for viewing and have become the only dissidents
possible, legitimate and authentic, is the common place the page has been coming
up against in recent times. In this sense, and for various reasons, I believe that
there are four main themes which, in some way, have organised around them a whole
series of trends in opinions that come together in what I mentioned earlier and
that have clearly conditioned the dynamics of e-barcelona.org: the linguistic
policy of the Catalan government, the Universal Forum of Cultures held in
Barcelona in 2004, the creation of the General Arts Council and the project
Desacuerdos, organised by the MACBA, the International University of Andalusia and
ARTELEKU in San Sebasti=E1n.

The reflection on the language led to an intense and very complex debate about
what would be one of the touchstones of Catalan cultural policy, which directly
related the management of the previous government with the present one and which
also dealt with fundamental elements in what would be the definition of the
identity of Catalonia and its relationship with the rest of Spain. The Universal
Forum of Cultures offered as a matter for deep reflection the so-called "Barcelona
model", that was organised around thematic macro events, with great
economic-propagandist displays, through which it projected an image of a
disfigured, artificial city [4].. The General Arts Council was a project for
creating an association that in some way rescued the artistic management from
purely political dynamics and that enabled the direct participation of the diverse
agents involved in the sector, above all through the Asociacion de Artistas
Audiovisuales. Finally, Desacuerdos is a macro project of historic rereading of
political practices in Spain from the 1970s to the present, organised by three
institutions set in different contexts, and that was the trigger for a huge amount
of positioning, that has seen in this project a significant example of conceptual
distortion, after which a great deal of the difficulties the MACBA - the main
artistic infrastructure in the city - have come to light in tuning in and
understanding the dynamics of artistic production that are not inscribed in their
strict historicist, ideological and media parameters.

As I mentioned above, these four main themes have required, through various
itineraries, the development of e-barcelona.org, focusing the successive debates
and organising a network of information that in some way come together at the same
point, that of the apparent and fictitious standardisation of the Catalan cultural
policy. In this sense, I believe that having kept itself apart from all the
initiatives generated in Barcelona during 2004 as a response to the Universal
Forum of Cultures, it has contributed in a positive way, in other words, as a sign
of the project's independence. These anti-Forum movements, from very diverse
points of view and with different languages, ended up constituting a kind of
common front, with surprising attention from certain means of communication, that
was blatantly used as a throwing weapon by the sectors that were ideologically
opposed to Barcelona City Council, suddenly disappearing from the social spectre
once the annals of this monumental event had finished. Also along these lines, it
is a paradox to observe how a whole series of initiatives is growing in the city
which have civil disobedience and political activism as their conceptual hub and
that are unexpectedly finding a considerable following. Thus, projects such as the
previously mentioned Desacuerdos, Las Agencias, also organised by the MACBA, or
The Influencers, a festival that brought together the activities of alternative
citizen actions groups, held at the CCCB, are also becoming part of the "cultural
framework" of Barcelona, as they use the same institutional channels to develop
themselves and the same foci of media amplification to promote their contents.
Therefore, it is incomprehensible that none of these initiatives have used
e-barcelona.org as a context for action and that there has not been a real
approximation to the audience of the page and the concerns that have arisen from
it either.

And to finish off, I think that the next challenge to be taken on by the
e-barcelona.org project, after having found a place in the complex local artistic
situation, is to develop a way of extending the protagonism that the debate on
Barcelona has today towards the rest of Catalonia, where the situation urgently
requires a tool such as this of surveillance, opinion, questioning and
denunciation. It is essential that Barcelona should redefine its role with regard
to what could be considered its most immediate global context, that it should take
on the responsibility of leader from its privileged economic, media and
infrastructure position in a process of cultural diversification in Catalonia, and
that it should abandon, for once and for all, the branch politics that it has
historically practised with the various local realities, to which it has only got
closer in a one-off way, through temporary interests, without offering any kind of
chance for dialogue or pollution and only to resituate its excesses in the area of
the production of culture.

Article publised in mono magazine, special issue, Valencia-Stuttgart 2005

[e-barcelona produced by Technologies To The People/Daniel G Andujar]

1 - I make a voluntary distinction between Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia,
because, in the same way as the dynamics of the page itself, there is a
significant disparity between the protagonism of any kind of cultural activity
developed in the capital and other types of proposals that occur in the rest of
Catalonia, and which surprisingly do not attract the slightest media attention or
that take place with notorious shortages of infrastructures. This is perhaps, one
of the most significant peculiarities of the cultural situation in Catalonia: its
clear centralism.

2 - Museu d'Art Contemporani of Barcelona (MACBA), director since 1998 Manuel
Borja-Villel; =46undacio Antoni T=E0pies, director since 1999 Nuria Enguita; La
Virreina Exposiciones, director since 2000 Iv=E1n de la Nuez; Hangar, director
since 2001 Manuel Olveira; Centre d'Art Santa M=F2nica, director since 2003,
Ferran Barenblint.

3 - It is interesting, to understand how a single platform of opinion works in
different contexts of a diametrically opposed way, to compare e-barcelona.org with
e-valencia.org, the project with which it could superficially be related. The case
of Valencia - see documented text by =C1lvaro de los =C1ngeles- much more
polarised and with a more antagonistic degree of confrontation, generated that
around the page there should develop what could be called a global social action,
however, in a context such as Catalonia, the same project has been given another
kind of reading, another position and other dynamics which, being different, have
also achieved protagonism. In this way, those who felt that a situation like the
Catalan one would not support in the same way the creation of this platform of
public opinion have been able to see how far the tool that e-barcelona.org is has
generated specific working influences, which are born from the particularities of
the very context in which it is inserted and adjust to its fluctuations and its
one-off needs.

4 - The last five years of Barcelona cultural policy have been witness to the
following macro anniversary events: 2000 - Barcelona Football Club Centenary, 2001
- Gaud=ED Year, 2002 - Design Year, 2003 - Dal=ED Year, 2004 - Universal Forum of
Cultures, 2005 - Year of the Book and of Reading.

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