This course, with its design rooted in the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition, explores the imaginary of 1970s Spain from a central hypothesis: the articulation, in the confrontation with Francoism and post-Francoism, of citizens’ breakaway resulting from an upsurge in certain aesthetic practices. Through these practices, new political subjects were shaped in opposition to the regime’s institutions and forms of discipline. This other society included women, young people, neighbourhood groups and “dangers to society”, the last of which refer to the Francoist Law that stigmatised those considered a menace to the regime, from beggars to homosexuals. In parallel, the emergence of this multifarious civil society and its struggles for emancipation questions the limits of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy, its practices producing and organising alternative forms of culture and social and urban models, in addition to ways of life referred to here inside this framework as ‘transitional’. The documents of such actions and proposals constitute a democratic archive, susceptible to questioning, in exhibition terms, and intervened in from the present. Thus, to think about the transitional legacy means to reflect upon the origins, devices and limits of democracy, and imagine its possible transformations.
Across five sessions and in conversation with other voices, Germán Labrador Méndez, a professor and researcher of Cultural Studies at Princeton University, sets forth a critical survey of the accounts of democracy founded through the tension between archive and myth, challenging predominant expectations surrounding the period through diverse analytical strategies. Oral memory and documents from other transitions which occurred at the time (neighbourhood, youth, autonomous, psychiatric, gender…) speak of unrepresented historical experiences in the official foundational discourse of post-Francoism and the utopian potential they possess with respect to an alternative citizen genealogy.
Consequently, drawing on the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition as a critical and methodological tool, this course explores aesthetic mechanisms from 1970s Spain to focus on their transformative potential. Approaching the crossroads between culture and politics in the framework of a democracy still to come, discussions will revolve around notions of public space, the urban experience, aesthetic ruptures, the subversion of daily life, bio-literature, civil imagination, generational destruction and ephemeral memory. Moreover, the issue of transient cultural forms – minor and often anonymous – will thread together the different sessions, each analysing the way in which a time of civil conversation, the occupation of public space, the affirmation of subaltern political subjects or aesthetic disputes involve the questioning of democracy.
The sessions will take place both in the Museo, in a lecture room and in different exhibition rooms, and in Madrid’s Malasaña neighbourhood, in wanderings around and explorations of the city. Upon the conclusion of the course, on Friday 1 February, the Museo will go on to hold the conference Abductions of the Imagination. A Conference on Post-Francoism Counterculture, a public activity centred on examining Spanish counterculture during the Transition.
Germán Labrador Méndez is head professor in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at Princeton University. His research in the field of cultural history specialises in the relationship between aesthetics and politics, citizenship and memory in a contemporary Iberian context. He is the author of Letras arrebatadas. Poesía y química en la transición española (Devenir, 2009) and Culpables por la literatura. Imaginación política y contracultura en la transición española (1968-1986) (Akal, 2017), and is currently writing a paper on the political and cultural responses to the 2008 crisis and working on an anthology of underground poetry. He is also one of the curators of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.
Carla Giachello is an intern in the Museo Reina Sofía Collections Department and assistant curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.
Lola Hinojosa is a curator of Performing Arts and Intermedia at the Museo Reina Sofía and co-curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.
Rosario Peiró is head of the Museo Reina Sofía Collections Department and co-curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.
Anxo Rabuñal is a curator and researcher. He is the curator of O lado da sombra: sedición gráfica e iniciativas ignoradas, raras ou desacreditadas entre 1971 e 1989 (Luis Seoane Foundation, 2005), a show which seeks to trace popular culture in the non-institutional scene in Galicia at the end of Francoism and during the Transition.