PQ TALKS Section

Catalonia. Art and Democracy

“Yet we should oftener look over the tafferel of our craft, like curious passengers,
and not make the voyage like stupid sailors picking oakum.”
“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered.”.

Henry David Thoreau


In 2017 the artistic direction of the Prague Scenography Quadrennial held a symposium called Porous Borders. With this title they invited the participants to reflect on a concept as artificial as the border. In fact, neither the landscape nor knowledge have drawn lines that separate territories, everything is vibration points, flows of knowledge, traditions and customs that are in constant motion and evolution. Borders are mere organisational conventions that we believe are inalterable and too often impoverish the very rich panorama that surrounds us. It is necessary to play down the concept of border without playing down, underestimating or undermining the endless idiosyncrasies particular to each territory or field of knowledge.

Catalonia participated in this symposium on 12 October 2017, twelve days after the self- determination referendum. We delivered a presentation that was inevitably imbued with the 1 October events. Art, as opinion, is political. Reflection on art is, consequently, political reflection. For this reason we wanted to share with the audience the situation experienced in Catalonia a few days earlier as an act of defence of freedom of expression and democracy.

The proposal to participate in Scenography and Politics block of PQ talks in PQ 2019 was born in the context of this October symposium. In order to provide an updated vision of the situation in Catalonia, we made a talk with several speakers that we have entitled Catalonia. Art and Democracy.

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PQ TALKS Section

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Establishing a chronology of everything that has happened since 1-O at an artistic level would have been totally unachievable. This is why we have looked at a series of actions from the world of art that have emerged as a result of that event and the reactions of the Spanish state in this respect. We are aware that it is incomplete but we think that it amply explains the current Catalan context marked by lack of liberties and rights.

To enrich this exercise in observation and reflection we have invited different voices from the field of art, culture, social activism and thought. Dolors Miquel is a poetess and participated in the Proclamations of Freedom promoted by the digital newspaper Vilaweb.

Jordi Borràs is a photojournalist specialised in national emancipation movements and far-right movements.

David Fernàndez is a journalist, social activist and member of the art group Ovidi4.

Pep Duran is a scenographer and participated in the exhibition 55 Ballot Boxes for Freedom.

Laia Alsina Ferrer is a dramaturge and theatre director; her company El Martell advocates a political, engaged and free theatre.

And Xavier Antich, a philosopher and professor at the University of Girona. We’ve invited him to discuss concepts such as democracy, censorship, self-censorship and freedom of expression.

We would like to thank all of them for their generosity and involvement.

CATALONIA. Art and Democracy

1 October 2017 was a turning point in Catalonia. Over two and a half million people decided to vote in the self-determination referendum in an act of civil disobedience against the Spanish state. That day became a great celebration in defence of freedom of expression and democratic rights. A moving and striking event that unfortunately will be remembered for the harshness with which it was repressed by the state forces.

The philosopher Marina Garcés, in her essay Nova Il·lustració radical, talks about the perfect utopia in which we live: a smart world full of stupid inhabitants where everything is perfectly established and nothing can be questioned. But what happens when the system is challenged? In Catalonia some of the social activists, politicians and artists that have advocated this attitude and acted on it have been charged, imprisoned or have gone into exile.

In this exceptional situation, we have invited several figures from the artistic and intellectual world in our country to reflect on it by discussing concepts such as democracy, freedom of expression, censorship, violence, revolution and memory.


Catalonia. Art and Democracy is a lecture that emerged out of the need to share what has been happening in Catalonia since late 2017 and how this is affecting the world of art. Given the situation we are experiencing, we want to question democracy and look at the role of art in this context.

The Institut del Teatre witnessed the 1 October events directly and emotionally. The building was the polling station of the referendum and both our community and the neighbours got deeply involved by calling for and enabling the exercise of the fundamental rights of citizens to express themselves and vote freely.

It is in this intimate, collective, diverse and complex context that the desire emerged to hold a lecture with four speakers. The idea has been developed by four names related to the world of culture, very particularly the performing arts. Moreover, we have requested the collaboration of diverse professionals who, with their opinions and reflections, have contributed a plural and rich vision of the complex events that have taken place in our country over the last year and a half.

Based on 1 October and our experience, the journey begins. Magda Puyo, theatre director and current Director General of the Institut del Teatre, encourages us to create from the most absolute freedom regardless of censorships, threats or repressions.

Bibiana Puigdefàbregas, scenographer, and Marta Rafa, costume designer, curators of Catalonia at the PQ19, introduce the reflections on the role of art in relation to the events that were unleashed after the referendum.

And Joan Maria Minguet, contemporary art and cinema critic and historian, looking at the current artistic activity in Catalonia and the response of the Spanish state which uses legislative power as brute force and a framework of contention, calls for the need of a critical, combative and committed art. Because if art, the performing arts and scenography are not understood as conflict they become privilege.