Poland followed me to Barcelona.

(I decided not to blog over the summer and to experience instead. But now it’s autumn it feels like time to be back and there is the never-ending task of catching up.)

I visited Barcelona’s MACBA gallery without knowing what exhibitions would be on but confident that there is always something amazing there. I wasn’t disappointed but was surprised to

IMG_5214find an exhibition showing Polish architect and educator Oskar Hansen’s work called Open Form. This also included a film ‘Them’ by Artur Żmijewski which records a social experiment performed by the artist. Żmijewski organised a workshop to which he invited four groups representing divergent ideological points of view. The groups included members of the nationalist Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth), the Scouts, the Catholic Church, Young Socialists, young Polish Jews and leftist activists such as members of the Repressed Workers organisation. The participants were given the task of negotiating the shape of their common space without words, creating images that represented their view of Poland and responding to one another’s work. Each group produced a map of Poland on large posters and the ‘debate’ began. Sadly – predtictably? – it didn’t go well. The church door painted on the map by one group was painted to look open by another and this seemed to satisfy everyone for a while but beyond that there was no common ground. Letters spelling ‘Poland’ in Hebrew along with rainbow flags were painted over, whited out of existence by the opposing group. Tension and antagonism escalated till in the end the artists were forced to flee a literally smouldering, smoke filled space. Perhaps the rifts run too deep and destruction was the only outcome possible at this point in time.

All summer the media have reported news of killings in the Middle East and also in the Ukraine which have grown more and more grim and shocking.

I came back from Spain just in time for Brighton Pride. Apart from the wonderful Literature Tent run by the libraries in its second year this summer, tea, cakes and fantastic performances that included individual authors and Queer in Brighton and Queer Writing South…I really loved going to the Mods & Rockers night at Duckies that evening. Not only did everyone get to chose an identity – outfit, hairdo etc – for the night and you could have your picture taken on motorbike or scooter, with hair-styling & fashion advice, not only did they have stunning performers such as David McAlmont, Lorraine Bowen and the Two Wrongies – for once powerful and hilarious naked women, who were clearly having fun rather than being exploited – not only was there the best music and dancing but also a choreographed mods v rockers fight took place with no one getting hurt and everyone showing off and having a good laugh. Perhaps it’s only from the distance of time that such rifts can be handled with humour and gentleness.

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