Thursday, 18 June 2020 20:03

Artistic Initiative

The Organizing Committee is pleased to announce the following Artistic Initiative as part of the conference program:

The Charge of the Bull: A Labyrinth in Barcelona

By Matt Valler

Where Rambla de Catalunya meets Gran Via, The Thinking Bull sits with his back hunched to the traffic, lost in his memories. Perhaps he is remembering the scenes at the Plaça de Catalunya behind him and contemplating the future. Thousands of protestors forcibly evicted by a bullish police force in 2011. And yet so much protest has happened since then. The bull’s back is turned; is this his own protest or is it resignation? Does he believe, in his quiet contemplation, that the time of the bull is coming to an end?
In a city full of iconic buildings and well-known streets, this simple translation of an easily-ignored sculpture places it not just at a traffic intersection, but at a cultural intersection too. To translate El toro pensador is not just to re-name it, but to tentatively reveal it within the story of contemporary Barcelona.

Yet such a translation is always many-layered. Climate change poses risks to the city, with rising temperatures, water shortages and coastal flooding an increasingly likely feature of Barcelona’s future. With such an anthropogenic disaster looming, does the anthropomorphism of The Thinking Bull reflect the anthropocentrism that has led us to dominate and manipulate the natural world at great cost? Just behind the sculpture is a statue of Joan Güell i Ferrer, the wealthy slave-trader whose money helped kick-start the development of the Eixample district. That was once a future to contrast with the city’s walled past. Now the future seems equally uncertain, and the pathways to reach it just as ethically fraught. 

For IATIS 2021 conference, I am proposing to design and facilitate an interactive Labyrinth storytelling experience through the streets of Barcelona. Labyrinth is a project that explores the meaning of city spaces by uncovering complex stories told through the physical features of a place. Walking between a series of locations, translations of spaces - such as the above at el toro pensador - are woven into an uncertain, emerging narrative that invites participants into a series of questions, designed to embroil them in the ecology of the city.

At this early concept stage, I propose a Labyrinth called The Charge of the Bull that begins in the Parc de la Ciutadella, then walks west to Plaça del Rei before turning north-west to El toro pendsador and on to Casa Batiló, returning via Arc de Tiomf. A route like this would require approximately 2hrs, and therefore a space in the programme of at least 2.5hrs. I would anticipate hosting a facilitated group walk, but this experience could also be delivered via pre-recorded audio for individual self-guided walks. Given the time of year it would be preferable to schedule walks away from the heat of the day. Every Labyrinth I design is always an iterative work, so specific details can be amended depending on the conference requirements.

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