– Summer 2010

Preparatory Notes for Poetics and Politics Among Flamenco and Modern Artists: A Paradoxical Place

Pedro G. Romero

Tags: Giorgio Agamben, Guy Debord

Flamenco dancer Pastora Imperio, pictured in Mundo Gráfico, 16 May 1928

Flamenco dancer Pastora Imperio, pictured in Mundo Gráfico, 16 May 1928


On 5 October 1982, Guy Debord sent Soprofilms - Gérard Lebovici's production company - the outline of his latest film project, titled De l'Espagne (On Spain):

Study and research on a film intended to retell and provide an exhaustive and definitive examination of the spirit of modern Spain, from the fifteenth century to the present. Avoiding both exoticism and patriotism, this film will not just express what foreigners (Europeans, Americans, Japanese, etc.) may imagine about this subject, nor even what Spaniards themselves may believe, but rather what Spain really is. The film should last approximately two to four hours, and will ultimately be aimed at cinemas and television channels (cable, satellite, etc.). Means should be dedicated to creating the atmosphere and wardrobe that will reflect contemporary Spain. We should also be able to call on Spanish extras and actors and, in the event of a co-production, some international stars. We shall meanwhile concentrate on the theme and plot combining all necessary aspects, locations and sets where the action takes place, and the precise choice of actors whom we wish to appear, with a view to providing an initial structure that involves a cinematographic approach to the subject. For several obvious historical and cultural reasons, the film should at this time be centred on Andalusia.1

Debord's Danish friend Asger Jorn was a communist activist and a member of the Situationist International from the moment it was founded in 1957. Twenty years earlier he was working at the Spanish Embassy in Paris, retouching photographs and preparing material for exhibition outside the embassy.2 From the very start, the Spanish Embassy and Josep Renau, General

  1. Guy Debord, 'Des Contrats', Le Temps qu'il fait, Paris: Cognac, 1995. For the English version, see G. Debord, Complete Cinematic Works (ed. and trans. Ken Knabb), Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2003, pp.53-54.

  2. He also published an article titled 'The Spanish Republic and the Arts' in the Danish communist newspaper Arbejderbladet on 30 April 1938. The article 'Sectarianism' of 1 November 1938 similarly dealt with the Civil War in Spain.

  3. See Troels Andersen, Peter Shield, Pedro G. Romero et al., Asger Jorn (exh. cat.), Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2002.

  4. See Maurice Fréuchet, Francesco Careri et al., Constant: une rétrospective (exh. cat.), Paris: Musée Picasso Antibes, 2001.

  5. Constant, in New Babylon (exh. cat.), The Hague: Haags Gementemuseum, 1974.

  6. See Libero Andreotti and Xavier Costa (ed.), Situationistas, arte, política, urbanismo/Situationists, Art, Politics, Urbanism (exh. cat.), Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 1996.

  7. See Christopher Maurer, Federico García Lorca y su arquitectura del cante jondo, Granada: Comares/Huerta de San Vicente, 2000; and Christopher Maurer, Agustín Sánchez Vidal et al., Ola Pepín!: Dalí, Lorca y Buñuel, Madrid: Residencia de Estudiantes, 2007.

  8. See Antonio Machado and Juan de Mairena, 'Coplas mecánicas: Cancionero apócrifo' (1936), in Antonio Machado, Poesías completas (ed. Manuel Alvar), Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1987; and Manuel Balsameda y González, Primer cancionero de coplas flamencas populares según el estilo de Andalucía (1881), Seville: Signatura Ediciones, 2001.

  9. Alice Becker-Ho, Les Princes du Jargon, Paris: Gallimard, 1993; L'Essence du Jargon, Paris: Gallimard, 1994; Du Jargon: Héritier en bastardie, Paris: Gallimard, 2002; Paroles de gitans (ed. Albin Michel), Paris: Gallimard, 2000. The first book in the trilogy was published in English as The Princes of Jargon (trans. John McHale), New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.

  10. Mario Perniola, Los situacionistas: Historia crítica de la última vanguardia del siglo XX, Madrid: Acuarela/Antonio Machado Libros, 2008, pp.170-71.

  11. Juan Goytisolo, Coto vedado, Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1985, p.284ff. Translated into English by Peter Bush, Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife, London and New York: Verso, 2003.

  12. Félix Likiniano et al., Comandos autónomos: Un capitalismo iconoclasta, Bilbao: Elkartea, 1996, p.10ff.

  13. The Comandos Autónomos Anticapitalistas was a Basque armed group of Marxist inclinations that originated as a split from ETA, and was active in the 1970s and 80s.

  14. See Shigenobu Gonzalvez, Guy Debord ou la beauté du negatif, Paris: Nautilus, 2002.

  15. Orson Welles, Nella terra di Don Chischiotte, 1961, television documentary series for RAI.

  16. See, for instance, Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1989; and Servando Rocha, Historia de un incendio: Arte y revolución de la Comuna de París al advenimiento del punk, Madrid: La Falguera, 2006.

  17. 'The sun comes out by day / For me it only comes out at night / Even the sun is against me.' The French translation of this soleá is by Martine Joulia and Jean Yves Bériou, former members of the Situationist International, whose sole association with the art world today is the anthology of flamenco coplas translated into French under the title Je me consume. Martine Joulia and Jean-Yves Bériou, Je me consume 2: Coplas flamencas, Barcelona: Antoine Soriano, 2001.

  18. Giorgio Agamben, Means Without End: Notes on Politics (Theory Out of Bounds) (trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000, pp.64-65. Spanish version: Medios sin fin: Notas sobre política (trans. Antonio Gimeno Cuspinera), Valencia: Pre-textos, 2000.

  19. See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845) (ed. C. J. Arthur), London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1980; and K. Marx, The Class Struggle in France: 1848-1850, New York: International Publishers, 1964.

  20. See Lawrence Krader (ed.), The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1972.

  21. Unknown author, Libro de la gitanería de Triana de los años 1740 a 1750 que escribió el bachiller revoltoso para que no se imprimiera, preface by Antonio Castro Carrasco, Seville: Junta Municipal de Triana, 1995; and Antonio Zoido Naranjo, La prisión general de los gitanos y los orígenes de lo flamenco, Seville: Portada Editorial, 1999.

  22. G. Agamben, Means Without End, op. cit., p.57ff.

  23. See Gerhard Steingress, Sociología del cante flamenco, Jerez: CAF, 1991.

  24. A. Becker-Ho, Les Princes du jargon, op. cit., pp.80-81.

  25. See Alfonso Sastre, Lumpen, marginación y jerigonza, Madrid: Legasa Literaria, 1980.

  26. Prosper Mérimée, Carmen and Other Stories (trans. Nicholas Jotcham), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p.23.

  27. G. Agamben, Means Without End, op. cit., p.70.

  28. K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1937, also available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch05.htm (last accessed on 5 March 2010).

  29. See Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France. 1885 to World War I, New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1968.

  30. Erik Satie, 'Españaña: Croquis et agaceries d'un gros bonhomme en bois', 1913. Published in Spanish as 'Españaña: Croquis y carantoñas de un gran hombre de madera', Cuadernos de un mamífero, Barcelona: Acantilado, 1999, p.19.

  31. See José Blas Vega, Los cafés cantantes de Sevilla, Madrid: Cinterco, 1987; and Los cafés cantantes de Madrid 1846-1936, Madrid: Guillermo Blázquez, 2006.

  32. See Mechthild Albert (ed.), Vanguardia española e intermedialidad: Artes escénicas, cine y radio, Madrid and Frankfurt: Vervuert and Iberoamericana, 2005; Gabriele Morelli (ed.), Ludus: Cine, arte y deporte en la literatura española de vanguardia, Valencia: Pre-textos, 2000; Javier Pérez Segura, Arte moderno, vanguardia y estado: La sociedad de artistas ibéricos y la república (1931-1936), Madrid: CSIC, 2003.

  33. See Vicente Escudero, Mi baile, Barcelona: Montaner y Simón, 1947.

  34. See Aby Warburg, Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne (ed. Martin Warnke and Claudia Brink), Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000.

  35. 'All artists are men who want to become inhuman.' G. Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (trans. Ronald L. Martinez), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992. Author's translation from the Spanish version, Estancias: La palabra y el fantasma en la cultura occidental (trans. Tomás Segovia), Valencia: Pre-textos, 2006, p.69ff.

  36. Clément Rosset, Joyful Cruelty: Toward a Philosophy of the Real (ed. and trans. David F. Bell), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Author's translation from the Spanish version, El principio de crueldad (trans. Rafael del Hierro Oliva), Valencia: Pre-textos, 1994, pp.7-8.

  37. William Washabaugh, Flamenco: Passion, Politics and Popular Culture, Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1996. Author's translation from the Spanish version, Flamenco, pasión, política y cultura popular, Barcelona: Paidós, 2005, p.127ff.

  38. See Felipe Aláiz, 'Arte accesible', Hacia una federación de autonomías ibéricas, Bordeaux: Tierra y libertad, 1947.

  39. See José Mercado, La seguidilla gitana, Madrid: Taurus, 1982; and Marta Palenque, El poeta y el burgués: Poesía y público, 1850-1900, Seville: Alfar, 1990.

  40. See Federico García Lorca, Conferencias, Granada: Comares, 2001.

  41. See, for example, Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (trans. Hélène Iswolsky, 1965), Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

  42. Pedro G. Romero, recordings on El Bizco Amate, 1995, unpublished, Library Máquina P.H., Seville.

  43. See José Bergamín, Don Lindo de Almería, Valencia: Pre-textos, 1988.

  44. G. Agamben, Means Without End, op. cit., pp.31-32.

  45. © This article first appeared in longer form in the catalogue for 'The Spanish Night: Flamenco, Avant-Garde and Popular Culture 1865-1936', which was held at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid from December 22nd 2007 to March 24th 2008.