Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog

Campo Conference

Campo Adentro Conference, Reina Sofia, Madrid

Apart from the usual Easyjet horror - this is really the last time, even as in this instance when it is for friends. The flight featured the typically warm humour of the Liverpudilian crew, with the incessant high pitched drivel about nails and stockings (possibly a portent of what was to come). Some Spanish crusty mums (like yummy ones but with a heavy edging crust) seemed convinced the isle was a play opportunity and seem to have come prepared with a selection of toys suitable for the playing conditions, mostly car type contraptions, the children thoughtfully punctuated the cars and running with high pitched repetitive rhythmic shrieking, possibly some sort of crusty ritual their parents had developed with them. But possibly best and most uniquely I was to enjoy a 2 hour high volume lecture of the rise and fall of the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday, a football club of little merit if I understood the man correctly - he repeatedly interjected the stuttering phrase, 'the, the, that's right'. Said monologue was delivered by a cat litter tester, really that is a job, he must surely be unique in this regard, he was visiting the Spanish parent company to train up further cat litter testers to whom I feel sure he will equally imbue some of the intricate detail of Wednesday, 'the, the that's right, we don't want to be a feeder team for the big boys, bought him up through the juniors, very disappointing, the, the, that's right'.

Madrid was beautiful, cool and sunny it was fun to hang with all the rural brigade, myvillages, kultivator, Angus (NVA), Fernando - albeit a little distracted. What wasn't quite so fun was the punishing regime set out over the 4 days, 12 hours of interminable talks by crapademics who appeared to be in a long term process of surmise, forming random and banal explanations of the state of things. I believe many were important politicians and figures from the establishment, Spanish universities it seems are even more corrupt than the UK ones being in the pay of various multi nationals but worse just bloody useless, un-rigorous, boring and unbelievably repetitive, the lecture programmes stretched over 12 hours with a healthy lunch break and none of the endless coffee breaks of the UK equivalent - thank god. The practical lectures were left till the 8 - 9pm period by which time any words had becomes a meaningless mush better suited to feed to babies or use as a face pack. None of the practitioners were really able to raise the tone myself included. The end result was disappointing, little energy apparent, little direction indicated and really most of the Armageddon arguments offering little substance bar a kind of swim in a luke warm brown depression.

Highlights were the meals and discussion over them and the last day set within a street market and a cheese fair organised by Fernando and highlighting the artisan cheeses of Spain, a wonderful selection. The conference finally got out to a wider audience with a kind of commentator tent featuring interviews and discussion, presentations and performances. Though this may not of had the gravitas of the Reine Sofia I am sure it was far more effective and raised the spirits and the enthusiasm.

One or two thoughts were raised that seemed interesting, the notion that the power structures were shifting away from the government towards a web connected matrix of specialist groups focused on specific subjects, and holding the knowledge and influence that affects the multinationals, that there would be an increasingly moral majority acceptance of civil disobedience.

In discussion there was an acceptance of the idea that art was a useful tool that could lead issue based culture, art was described as 'art culture' a term that meant to include the basic mind set behind any creative activity rather than any attempt to qualify or validate any actual product. The notion of art as a means to raise the value of a culture that it focuses on, a traditional notion akin to art and religion.

Really and partly in response to the endless foggy claptrap the imperative to get on with it, pushing ideas forward though action, demonstration and creative endeavour.

Moments of hilarity were few but there were moments, the translators bursting into laughter as they failed to keep up with the insanely fast speaking politicians. Being described as a planet in search of a galaxy by a bilingual man who in English seemed rather straightforward and practical but in Spanish was amongst the most flowery of linguists. Wapke refusing to read out the manifesto she had signed up to declaring 'I do not fink dat', it gave me the giggles mainly as I wrote most of the outrages and the rest of the group were clearly reading them for the first time despite the fact the site had been cleared and been up for months

But perhaps the key thing is that we can continue despite our differences, perhaps Spain was a good place to discover that, the country that lost the civil war against fascism by infighting over the definition of communism.

Reine Sofia is an institution that looks like it overdid the steroids, all soft bulging muscles and vast voids, housed in the heart of the building is Guernica in front of which a daily battle rages between the perpetual crowd of 200 and 4 security guards standing in front of the painting screaming at people to stop using flash.

If that isn't a beautiful metaphor for our condition then I am a crapademics Eastern European research assistant.

A man in front of me on Easyjet has just dropped one of the smelliest farts it has been my misfortune to encounter in an enclosed - he seems happy, oh and there's another one, my row are all covering their faces with scarves, no one seems to mind the terrorist threat, possibly at this stage it would be a blessed relief.

The, the, the that's right.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 14/11/10 at 08:51