Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Madrid Day 3 - Politics and Reina Sofia

Officially dour, unofficially fun
Spain, I learnt on a week long official visit to Seville, has some very formal aspects to business and public life. Introductions are formal, lengthy and detailed, presentations long and usually without the spirit and humour you get outside of officialdom. This is in direct contrast to life outside the workplace. Madrid and Seville’s bars were humming.

Post-Franco politics
Since the death of Franco in 1975 Spanish politics has experienced some strange turns and incidents, none more surreal than Teiero’s attempted coup, dressed as it seemed to the outside world as a comic matador, a real Don Quixote. They shouted ‘In the King’s Name’ as they peppered the ceiling with gunfire, but one brave politician stood up to them and stared him out, and that was the end of the coup. He was jailed, and in typically Spanish fashion freed within a few years. This had the interesting effect of shooting the socialist Felipe Gonzalez into power within a year in 1982. His corrupt regime was to epitomise enchufe ‘being plugged in’ which is widespread nepotism and, at its worst, corruption and bribery. Aznar’s conservatives lost to the socialists in 2004 after another shocking incident, the Madrid bombings.

Reina Sofia
The Reina Sofia is a contemporary gallery, famously housing Guernica. As one would expect in a Spanish gallery, there’s a flood of surrealist images. I’m never so comfortable with images that purport to express the artist’s unconscious. The unconscious is literally not-conscious, and endless attempts at its representation seem, at times, all to self-conscious. A rectangular canvas, the flatness of paint and the stillness of the image, along with the clearly personal and codified elements, whether from Dali or Miro, seem to be clumsily dragging the unknown into life. I should also mention our disappointing Argentinian meal – pretty awful service and average food. When in Madrid, stick to Spanish food. As our Mexican travelling companion Miguel says, “in South America everybody hates the Argentinians – they have a saying – ‘even their mothers hate them’.”

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