Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finally the sun - went to the Mercat (market) by the Ramblas and MACBA-Contemporary art Museum

The day turned sunny around 2pm. I took the Metro to the Liceo station to check out the Mercat (market) by the Ramblas and to find my way to MACBA, the contemporary art museum in Barcelona. First pics are from the market, that delicious food, and then the museum where they don't let you take pics of the artwork.

The museum building itself is imposing, and to my mind sterile. There's a large plaza in front where skate boarders hold sway. Inside, the building is very white with long ramps going up to the second and third floors with also a circular stair that reminded me of La Familia Sacrada where in 1998 I climbed those many stairs admiring the vistas as I went. Here too there were vistas of the ground below, the skaters, and side streets from the Ramblas. People taking in the exhibits looked good against the huge spaces and white walls.

I found the art in the museum so uninspiring that when I found myself asking a young couple if they spoke English (they were American musicians), I told them "I'd never, never, never have become an artist if this had been the art of my youth."

There was also a large exhibit of photographs, of Barcelona from 1978-1983 They were both fascinating and tragic (women undressing in a bordello, scenes from a mental hospital, somber ones from the Ramblas of that time, etc.).  I  saw some as well from the 1940's. Remembering that General Franco, the long time dictator of Spain died in 1975, by the 1980's Spain was thought to be on the rise. As illustrated by the featured photographs, there was still much poverty and improvements were slow going.

Earlier in the day, I'd ridden the Metro and had my feelings confirmed about Catalans putting forth a grim facade. They neither smile or acknowledge other people unless they are within their inner circle. Even in the super market, I'd noted how the checkout person says, "Alo," and then ignores the customers. People seem to expect this gruff treatment and do not complain. I find it stultifying, but from the photos on display, there's a long tradition of keeping to oneself.

In the museum, I saw series of projected black and white slides. The most haunting was a series of film size projections of men and women from a mental hospital. These did nothing to bring cheer, but my compassion did rise up.

Spain is now on the list of becoming/being a defaulting country. I've been here just a week, yet I've already been able to sense a tone of sadness. The young of course are still full of vigor. Traveling in packs (oftentimes smoking cigarettes and drinking), they fill the streets and Metro trains with their clamor.  Yet Gemma, my Catalan poet friend who teaches at a university here, tells me that students feel they have no employment prospects. That used to be the situation for university graduates in India and now it's come to Europe.

The photos had me thinking of the many years Spain suffered under General Franco's dictatorship. Barcelona was commanded to give us its Catalan language. That was very hard for such a proud people. Now, I'm wondering if the sliding economy is leading people here to fall into their historically remembered dispair, or if not dispair, a sullen dullness. I read in a local literary magazine that the long time prosperous shipping industry has no orders going forward. Isn't that ominous?

My day however was brightened when I stopped for a snack of anchovies, bread with tomato and a café con leche. I began chatting with a lovely young woman who'd given me the advice that if I wanted to place an order, best not to just sit outside the cafe, but to walk inside and ask for a menu. Liev is from Hamburg. She'd been an au-pair in Barcelona for eight months between graduation and further study. She's in Barcelona now on Spring break. She has a lively presence, and while she agrees with the new mood as the economy has slumped, she still loves the city. It represents the freedom and delight she feels as a young adult first coming into her own.

And so my pics will end with a written declaration of that mood also shared by others:

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