Esther Planas

Copyright 2023

Who once had been forced to forget

Under cruel laws of expelling, converting, and prosecution, most of a history of our own past had been erased, burnt.

These works made between 1985 and 1995, were part of a more or less uninformed or intuitive attempt to explore and contrast subjectivity, feelings, and knowledge on the ultimate tabú.

My practice and life encountered -not only its first huge discursive and moral crisis- but also a deep feeling of alienation and strangeness in relation to my social and political life -so-called Spanish- inside what was known to be from a Southern European context.

Coming from a fascistic culture, the country where I had grown up with Francisco Franco and experienced the Catholic darkness all over my small micro-social and familial world. Seeing how in 1985 was obvious that the 70's dreams had never come to be, this deeply personal and identity crisis drove me to want to deconstruct my own established or inherited and supposed identity. This instinctive deconstruction today will be called decolonising, but it was all done as reactions to doubts and contradictions that became more and more apparent around who I was supposed to be. So, I followed these intuitive notions and guessing about my true origins that were, in any case, mixed and from quite complex and what for the times (even if now this is not anymore the case) mysterious unknown family backgrounds.

In a way, it was more about how difficult had become to be that, which one was not.

Filled with an intense desire of leaving the West, it felt oppressive and cold. But the feeling, had to do with growing up under Fascism, in a country subjected and persecuted by the main official nation estate as Spain was, being Catalan a total crisis and a source of many complexities, that as young people it was difficult to understand. And also too, for the ways the context in which I grew-up made me feel, alienated and unwelcome. But I can't go here forever as the theme is very complex.

I wanted to leave what I considered the West, but leaving it from a cultural, philosophical, and moral-spiritual point.

It was no search of the authentic like the Orientalist from the romantic times coming from France or England or Germany. It was about finding the "real", and the familiar against what was the forced erased clues and hidden gestures, physical and biological obviousness. Traces of something very dark and sinister which will be the total oppression and overwriting of a whole cultural being.

After this process was done on and about my own hometown (Barcelona) the history of Catalunya as a subjugated peoples, forced to speak Castellano and to serve the Spanish/ French Borbon Monarchy and the implications of this with the uprise of the Fascist España against the Catalan peoples, the call to the investigation did not stop, and there it appeared all our Jewish Sephardi and Arab Andalusian roots many of us felt or knew existed. It was then when I left the geographical site (Barcelona) and move to live in the south of Spain (Al- Andalus) Seville and in North Africa, Tangier, as it was so urgent that it actually happened.

I want to map out and back, notebooks, drawings, photos, and events all around those times.

As a point of visual departure I like to include the last publication (the last odd one) of my project V.O. in 1985, it was called Cerca del Mar (close to the sea) and was addressing all the issues in an intuitive way about being the Mediterranean.

The magazine can be studied at MACBA archive these days. The magazine was my last one, and its publishers had let the graphic designers do as they wished. Even at this level of my biography, there is a violent patriarchal order that kept boycotting my works.

I would also start uploading a few pictures I taken last summer, on a book a got in Paris in 1994, by then I had read Fernand Braudel, who was someone really inspiring about the ideas of Mediterranean context and history.

The maps show how Islam was natural in Spain and southern European lands for a very long time, in a sense, as Tariq Ali's The Islam Quintet tells us in his novels, The Book of Saladin, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree or A Sultan in Palermo, or The Stone Woman geography like the Mediterranean, has a very rich life and mixed culture and the terrible fights between Jewish, Christian Crusaders, and Muslims are part of our history as it was the persecution by early Christianity of Classic Greece civilisation and Roman culture. This is our ancestry it is very complex but there is too, a notion which will never leave Mediterranean folk which is that the Vandals, Vikings, Normans, or just the Barbarians from the North are always about to destroy us and colonise us once more.

I was also traveling to Morocco with my friend, photographer and filmmaker Jordi Esteva on 1986 and have here a few photos he takes from me and also some drawings and watercolors that journey, that where later published at an Art and Literature magazine (L'Home invisible) edited in Barcelona by Carles Prats and María Rey in 1988.

As always happens, our works and investigations, our ideas and preoccupations, belong to a specific time and context, and in many cases, they become artifacts that looked back at-to, are deeply infused with those times signs.

Is only like this that now I can understand the works of that decade, also the works of later decades till the works that are produced now.

I had produced drawings, travel sketches field notes, and field poems.

Art and life were of no difference. I had discovered all these amazing poets also the great works by Hyperion Editorial on translating many of the poets of Al-Andalus including the great works of Teresa Garulo's translation and edition on Female Poetesses.

I am absolutely conscious of the risk that this kind of works entails, especially that of seeming Orientalist (as in Edward Said) or opportunistic.

But our identity issues in the lands of what is known now as Spain run deep and are very complex.

It's all in relation to those problematics and with the few clues of my personal ascendency that I am able to claim Arabic/Berever and Sephardi late called Merchero or Marrana, information and habits run deep in me and in unconscious gestures in my whole family, which also comes from Palermo and Catania in Sicily.

I am very interested in continuing this thread and bet for fusion, for the notions of those intermarriages and legacy of convivial harmony we once were able to enjoy.

as an epilogue to this introduction I would like to quote Eduardo Subirats on and about Spain:

"The perspective critical of Orientalism offers no better account of the process of successful obliteration of the Islamic and Hebrew cultures in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Islamic library of Granada, one of the most important of its time, was not misread; it was burned.
So too, where the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Jews, their houses of worship, and their records.

The purpose of the Spanish Christian Military Orders and Christians Kings over the centuries was the construction of an ethnically and theologically homogeneous nation. Such a national-Christian construction was not a speech act, but violent destruction and Christian genocide.

For the crusaders, there was no Other at all, but only One and the Same: One Truth, or death."

Eduardo Subirats