Esther Planas

Copyright 2023

In the first pic here (taken by Javier Vallhonrat in 1978 in Madrid) I am dressed as a "Flamenca". It was Javier's stylist and assistant who dressed me like this. I was hoping to get a few pictures in order to be represented as the actress I wanted to be. It was then too when it became obvious that my face or nose was not on the lucky side of the Spanish beauty cannon. An abyss of time has gone. I wonder once more about stereotypes and identity. For Javier, and others, I was looking as a Carmen, as a Flamenca, how far this was or is not an identity beyond being or not a Roma or a Gypsy? We can consider these appearances or lookalikes in contrast with the conversos, Marranos, and moriscos that were left to hide in our weirdly colonised ancient lands. But, what it really meant to be or feel like a Flamenca?

This constant revision of and self-awareness about knowing that we were considered as a folkloric subject and how the tourist gaze placed many of us came as a cultural shock and an identity crisis. Especially in London during my short stays to learn dance in 1979-1982, where I was depreciated, looked down as a nobody, and made me feel like a ghost who came from exotic Spain. One illustrating anecdote happen when I was trying to get El Ballet Contemporani de Barcelona (with whom I was very close) for the Umbrella Festival second editions, I was asked to understand that The Contemporary was made and produced in UK or USA and advised to promote only Flamenco style dancers or works from Federico García Lorca, by the director of the International Dept of The Arts Council UK.

Here a bit more of the Ballet Contemporani de Barcelona:

More experiences like that one in nature drew me to revise and to look back at my own "supposed difference" and thus at that supposed retarded social, national, or folkloric context that those English cultural agents had pointed out so clearly at me. After falling ill in 1983 and having to stop dance as my main practice, I produced the magazine V.O. 1984/5, which included all the connections across Spain and featured artists and cultural thinkers, in what today could be defined as an intuitive attempt to edit and contribute a sort of Visual Culture/ Critical Theory publication. In the last attempt of publishing with someone who had approached me as producers (sponsors), I wanted to get rid of all that had to do with what I felt was a colonialist sort of supremacist anglo western domination of my own Southern European culture and an impossibility to have a horizontal conversation with any of them.

By the time in 1983, I was already deeply dissatisfied with the events in the social context of arts and culture in the superficial Spanish post-Francoist transition times. For years I had been experiencing and questioning the issue of that that was silenced in history for us. The reality of being Arab and Jewish that belongs to the Iberian peninsula. It was in 1984 that I explored the theme of my editorial project V.O. on to Mediterranean cultural studies as its objective, but sadly I was only able to produce one issue called Cerca del Mar. I had learned how the tourist gaze (which is equivalent to colonialist looks of our context) that was imposed on us, by the anglo-spheric imaginaries and then I was working between themes that linked me with biographic memories. What all this English, USA's tourist gaze had to do with our reality? Did we perform for them "the Spaniard stereotype as in the Welcome Mister Marshall film by Jose María Berlanga?

Today, and for a long while, the shape of a world is engulfed by the anglo-sphere and it's euro-centric norths that have totally divided the coastal sites from where some of us come from and produces us.
Those cultural sediments that perversely were made obsolete, are still part of many basic unconscious but familiar ways in which we relate to our geographies and how memory suppressed has to do with background and history. The Mediterranean, its geography, shape, and blue waters will become our sole guidelines, a feeling of belonging on motion and exchange around all cultures that are travelers or escaping political unrest, as once were the Jews who left under the Roman Empire's destruction and colonisation of Jerusalem and its lands. Simple quotidian actions, gestures, cleaning, building, dancing, cooking, selling fish, etc. the duress of the Mediterranean winters. Its poverty, its nature as an object of desire for the peoples of the Global or the old-barbaric and ancestral North, as Jose Luis Racionero had pointed out during the '70s when he came back from Berkley. But there are certainly misleading and imported theories which claims, that applies to the USA or Latin America under the tag Global South, that is dangerously flattening-up the complexity of a world (The Mediterranean connections) which on itself contains the worlds and civilisations with its migrations, diasporas, wars and the ongoing crisis of millenary dynamics clashes with our Mediterranean realities which have been subsumed to the point of this flattening fallacy by which many are described today.