Deep Space @ Catalan Newspaper ARA

Catalan journalist Sílvia Marimon describes in her article “The Gaze of European Experts” in the Catalan newspaper ARA on 31st October 2018 the workshop “Deep Space: Re-signifying Valle de los Caídos” participants’ visit to the site and the necessity of a change of the monument’s narrative.

Article The Gaze of European Experts, Sílvia Marimon @ ARA Catalonia, Spain, 31 October 2018


The Gaze of European Experts: Nothing is Innocent

“It is more sophisticated, more complex than we thought,” reflects the architect Elizabeth Sikiaridi, responsible together with Frans Vogelaar of Hybrid Space Lab, a Berlin-based studio that is dedicated to transforming spaces and monuments. “The walls are bare, there is no information, and that’s even more dangerous,” she says. Sikiaridi, with other artists, researchers and architects from all over the world, participates in the independent Deep Space project, which wants to rethink the Valle de los Caídos. All, with the anthropologist Francisco Ferrándiz, one of the experts that in 2011 was part of the commission created by Spain’s prime minister Zapatero to analyze the future of the Francoist monument, and to make a “counter-vision” for the mausoleum.

Pixels on Stone

If the monks emphasize that in the mosaic decorating the dome there are “Spaniards and Christians”, Ferrándiz describes the content as “offensive”: “Compare the martyrs of the Civil War, who are of the Francoist side (there are flags and details that indicate for what they fell), to the saints who rise to God. “At the top there is a cannon with a curious visual effect, as it seems to follow the movements of the visitor. “When we made the report we asked that the focus of the dome be removed, and the monks better illuminate the tomb of Franco,” explains Ferrándiz. The experts could not enter the crypts where there are the remains of 33,847 people, victims of both sides. Between 1959 and 1983, 491 transfers of bodies exhumed from all over Spain took place. “More than 12,000 are anonymous,” said Ferrándiz. When we came, the monks retired to pray against us. ”

The dead are distributed on five floors, on both sides of the basilica, some individually and others in boxes of fifteen. “There is no maintenance or list,” adds the anthropologist. The monks explain that the Valley of the Fallen was partly built by soldiers of the Civil War, but they did not specify that they were all on the side of the losers. It was not easy to make Franco’s grandiose dream come true. To excavate the underground crypt – 260 meters long – in the granite rock, more than 3,000 workers were needed. The crypt was expanded in 1949 because Franco was disappointed with the first project: it was not as grand as expected. The construction began in 1941 and was completed in 1959, and the guide says that they were able to invest 5,500 million pesetas in 1975: “A part that was difficult to evaluate derived from donations that were received from the war,” details. There are six chapels dedicated to Virgins, protectors of the army and different allegories of the armed forces guard the last stretch of the ship. No trace of “the positive beauty” highlighted by the guide.

Experts from all over the world have difficulty in understanding that everything is paid for with public money: “The shamelessness of the narrative here is scandalous; It’s a rancid narrative, with very old ideas” reflects Paul Ingendaay, a journalist for Frankfurter Allgemeine. “The family of Franco has had power for many years, they have privileges that they should not have; this would be unthinkable in Germany.” “Now, it is not easy to re-think the Valley of the Fallen.” “It’s very complex and must be contextualised” reflexes Marie-Louise Ryback-Jansen, from the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation. In Germany, they needed 50 years to change the narrative discourse of Hitler’s residence, and there is currently much controversy about the Stone Mountain monument in the United States (which pays homage to the leaders of the Confederacy representing slave states). ”

The experts propose to apply “pixels on the stone”: to project exhibitions, with the help of new technologies, or to make temporary monuments that help the visitor. “We want to accompany the monument in its decay,” Ferrándiz says. The sculptures are already self-destructing. ” The dictator was convinced that the stones would challenge time but this is not the case: you can not walk along the path that goes up to the base of the cross because there are holes. The State has spent more than 20.3 million euros from 2008 to the present, almost double what it earned. (Out of mass hours, entrance costs 9 euros.) Experts urge a change in the narrative. The risk is, for example, the conclusion reached by a British retiree after visiting the monument: “After all, Franco was not so terrible.”

Anthropologists and architects urge to change the narative and incorporate new technologies.

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