I must confess that i did not know anything about Joan Brossa before visiting this exhibition and, after coming home from Barcelona, I researched him. Described by most as a visual poet, he is as fierce and rooted a representative of the avant-garde as he is a defender of his catalan origins, land and language.
As an artist, he is as much a graphic designer as he is a sculptor, a playwright as he is a scenographer. As a poet, capable at once of conjuring up images from words and words from images, he is at once a lettrist, a surrealist and a radical philosopher, his visuals and verses never to be underestimated as just simple vignettes or graphic experiments but as hiding in plain sight a very strong political vision and commentary.
This might be easily exemplified in his only apparently innocent observations on the alphabet and on the letter a, carving more than a passing remark on the hegemony of the establishment and its hierarchies of power. It is only a few vowels then that carry much more weight than the rest of the letters, and “a”, the literal and metaphorical beginning and driver of all expression, is in fact revealed as the hidden (inverted) head of a bull.
On the centenary of the year of his birth and at a time of renewed and much reignited crisis in the catalan struggle to determine its own future (for my catalan friends, I have here tried to choose my words carefully, but do forgive – and correct if necessary – the language foragings of a double-foreigner), Joyas Sensacionales have decided to pay homage to Brossa with their own interpretations of his most prolific opus.
Individually the pieces are fragments that each allow a glimpse into Brossa‘s work and thinking. But it is in the strength of their collectiveness that they truly come to embody the complex theatre of his manifold imagination: acutely expressive and shrewdly insightful, delightfully gleeful and scrupulously reflective, thoughtfully colourful and proudly political. I arrived at this exhibition with the high expectations that the list of its participants should command. And if I came out full of renewed awareness of my ability to discern and appreciate quality in my own terms, I also left hungry to research more and empowered by a lesson in how a strong collective can at once shine the same intense light on the letter a as well as on the totality of the alphabet.
Pictures from Lieta Marziali