Rebel, Rebel

On Monday the 22nd of March, Barcelona's Plaça dels Àngels was half filled by some 500 people involved in what are nebulously dubbed 'the arts'. They were protesting against the imminent shrinking of public subsidies to their sector, under the slogan Don't Cut Back On Culture. Several well-known dancers, actors, photographers and directors gave the Catalan powers-that-be a carefully staged piece of their creative minds. Now, had these artists still been living in the days when people of their ilk were housed and fed like prodigiously gifted pets by aristocratic patrons, a demo of this type would have been understandable: back then, a staunching of stipends from up high would have placed both the geniuses and jobbing artists of the time, down on their uppers for good. However, since the beginning of the last century, artists in any category you care to name have wilfully refused to be patronised; on the contrary, from Tzara's dada through to the rancorous isms of pre-war Europe and on to the multimedia installations, performance art and anti-art of the post-war world, what the street calls creative types have prided themselves on their ability to upset the applecarts of popular convention and to cock a snook at the venerated creators of yesteryear. This permanent cultural rebellion has on occasion produced stuff so original it makes the past look like a curious museum, but, on the minus side, it has also resulted in a proliferation of fatuous leg-pulls, which all look or sound or read as if they already belong in a museum – or a mausoleum. At all events, whether truly subversive or merely trying to look the part, most artists now claim to be firmly opposed to the status quo. The sight of half a hundred of them fretting about losing their hand-outs from what passes in Catalonia for an Establishment was not, in my arrogant opinion, an edifying spectacle. As the overforgotten writer Pere Calders said back in the 'Eighties: 'If you're going to tilt at windmills, you can hardly expect the millers to come out afterwards and give you a tip'.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, abril de 2011

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