As much for aesthetic ambition, as for the ensemble of themes that cluster together, drawing them close and forming itself with them, like fragments to their magnet, the work of Francesc Abad presents itself to us as a singularity within the Spanish artistic world that polarises itself in a point which is where we find ourselves with the “Camp de la Bota” project – from which the questions that arise are new.
Throughout this text I would like to suggest that the works of Francesc Abad represent an individual and innovative type of reading within a Catalan and Spanish artistic context of the art, that we could define as post-Auschwitz or post-extermination.
His aesthetic investigation begins with the conviction that the path of painting as a means of creating the world has arrived at its end. The necessity to explore with new means in order to work with the contemporary dimensions of modern day Material – digital, electronic, virtual, is embedded in the theme that is made of this Material, which for Abad is the creation of an art of the memory of those subordinated: of the victims of Franco’s repression, of the victims of Auschwitz, decreed as an emblem, both as a herald and as a reminder. The fragility of this Material is presented as one of its evident characteristics. For example, the dissolution that represents, for the identity of the singular victim, the commemorative dynamic of the present. Or the exorcism (which turns one pale) of the event that its turning into a monument involves . It is these elements, of such difficult manipulation and with such precariousness, that Abad works with. The precariousness of a sign and of a work, like the words that Abad writes in the sand on the beach or on a piece of paper (“Auschwitz”, “memory”) and which the sea and its water where the piece of paper is placed, erases, means that the sign-artefact of the work no longer remains, but its digital record, recorded with camera to DVD, does. Evanescent traces, like the conversations under the shade of the lignum vitae fruit tree, a translation so far from the truth of this tree, which was the persimman in the family home where Abad, as a child, learnt the vocabulary of subordination. It is thus with these materials so apparently far away, how the artist will go on constructing a domain that didn’t use to exist.
This aesthetic domain constructed from fragments, from the conception that the artistic experience, and is basically experience in construction, work in progress, and that has to open itself up to the public square, and flee in whatever way possible from its commercialisation, obliges us to take on a process of a following up, of reconstruction and reflection. There isn’t any teleology within Frencesc Abad’s work and consequently none of his works is a prototype that allows us to reach the ensemble. The fractal like quality, that is there, only expresses the ensemble of the central preoccupations, from which it is possible, a posteriori, to find again the outline of the soul of the work in its totality within the fragment. But this totality is only perceptible whilst accompanying the author in his creative process.
The biographical information places Francesc Abad (Terrassa, 1944) within the generation that had to collate itself to the confirmation that the consequences of the great disaster of 1914-1945 had not been explored, as was due, neither by art, nor by political or philosophic discourse. Within the scope of this disaster, in the case of Abad, was his own belonging to a social class defeated in the civil war and subordinated in the social context of a town, Terrassa, which among the Catalan towns was, along with two or three more, an example of the brutal capitalism before 1936 and after 1939. Abad never included the period between these two years, marked by the civil war, in his work, even though in contrast, the period in which he was born and was a child (not till the age of 14 did he start working) is, within the theme of Franco’s repression, the axis of his current work. Consequently, Abad works on a series of themes that have also interested - among others in a disparate list – artists like Ansel Kiefer, Christian Boltanski, or Francesc Torres. It isn’t the generation aspect that I would like to underline, but the anthropological shattering which these artists – unclassifiable within a group on the other side – have to face.
The understanding becomes the problem of these young people of roots that see that the rehearsed paths serve no purpose to their teachers. Abstract expression and material painting, which are the first tendencies that demand to break with the past, do it very relatively. The language had to be new because that which it had to represent, strictly speaking, couldn’t be represented with the inherited artistic language.
And because the Material that had violently pushed the Event, that in that time gave the first signs of solidification, couldn’t be breached with the old techniques. The language of the image on film – so subordinate in some of its characteristics – appeared like a horizon. It is in this point that the work of Godard and the experimental trajectory of the former Abad momentarily meet and accompany one another. All the reflection upon the aesthetic undertaken by Adorno, with extermination as a starting point, underlined how difficult it was to free art of the weight it had acquired in the celebration of barbarism. Understand then, this Material and he who revealed it. For Abad, this process of comprehension was done within the margins of the artistic field. A textile worker from the age of 14 to 26, one can consider that his intellectual day’s run has been done in a self-taught way. This fact is important in understanding his work because at the same time it illustrates the subordinate character of his production and the context of disinformation and repression in which the post-war Catalan youth grew up. Thus, that which in other countries – France, Germany – formed part of the social reflection upon the past (not that it was in a superficial way), was in Spain from the beginning the propaganda of the winners, the social triumph of their values, and in a hidden and stigmatised way ingrained in the defeated. Furthermore, those defeated suffered repression so implacable that those voices and those words that could put names to certain things, were eliminated by murder or exile. And in the case of artists that arose from subordinate backgrounds, this state reinforced the silence; the non-expression; the hiding due to shame; the fear; and sometimes the absence of concepts that could make its experience understandable, even more. In this sense, the literary work of Julia de Jòdar illustrates the extent of this incapacity of language. Only the sons, who have in some way been able to open themselves to the language that their parents didn’t have or had forgotten, can finally face the hidden footprints of the shattering to which we made reference.
Thus we can place the, shall we say structural, parameters and from them construct the reading of Francesc Abad’s work. The subordination, the anthropological shattering, the depletion of the avant-garde seconds, and in concrete, of painting, and the fight against Franco’s repression, firstly, via the will to work with a language of one’s own which can express the three previously mentioned elements. There are also some contextual relations and to these I’ll soon refer. Firstly it seems necessary to specify that it is important to understand here what is subordination.
I use the term borrowing it from the work of the Indian historian Rahanit Guha. Guha has defined the concept giving it a powerful explanatory charge. His approximation may seem very general to us: the subordinated would be everything that doesn’t form a part of a society’s elite. But for Guha, subordination is characterised by a social experience, by a reflection upon the state of those that suffer, which although insufficient, or perhaps not instrumental enough, uses a few categories of comprehension and analysis that are alternatives to those of the elite that lead. The concept of subordination is more “liquid” than that of class, and more descriptive than that of “village”. It incorporates a very extensive and contradictory social strata that obliges the historian to tune his listening. However, that part of the concept that interests us, is that what Guha talks of when analysing the consequences of the decision taken by the Indian peasantry to revolt against the time of the Indian colonial state: “sub-getting up”, said Guha, “meant destroying a lot of familiar symbols that he had learnt to read and manipulate so that he could extract some meaning from the harsh world that surrounded him and live there. The risk of “disturbing the order” in these conditions was so big that he couldn’t allow himself to embark unconsciously on a similar project.” Consequently, subordination implies being conscious that one uses certain intellectual and cultural categories that are familiar but that are not one’s own. It implies the notion that having one’s own language to explain the world is necessary, and that there is a consciousness of danger which means the exposure of this learned and “subordinate” language to violence, together with the reasoned conviction that at times it is necessary to do it. To create new mental categories of one’s own in this way, while destroying the old ones. Subordination: liberty in progress. Benjamin called this process cognitive and revolutionary “The language of the oppressed”. I think that this category illustrates some of the aspects of Abad’s work, which at the same time explains the fact that he has been seen by the cultural and critical elites who possess “the true language” needed to penetrate the “real” reality, in a condescending way.
First the structure, and now the context. Francesc Abad’s work develops along the two sides of a rupture: which involves the borrowing of the hopes of the population of this country for a radical transformation of Spanish society upon the death of General Franco. The deepest transformation, - even those that were insufficient - experienced by Spanish society in the sixties and the early seventies, prepared the way for a moderate transition, whose most important cultural characteristic was the newness of history in applying an official and collective amnesia with regard what the civil war was, for the defeated and the posterior repression. If it is certain that in Germany the process of denazification was very slight, despite the moderate sentences given, the Nüremberg trials clearly consigned a camp of victims and another of hangmen. The insufficiencies of the way Germans face their past, and the evident and intentional dullness of the debate over collective nazification, can’t hide, in contrast, the fact that the clarification of the crimes of Nazism trace a red line that delimits the past and the present. In Italy the process was at the same time more or less cathartic. Without trials similar to those of Nüremberg, the fact that Mussolini was executed by partisans, and the existence precisely of this armed resistance to fascism, conferred a legitimacy to this present born in 1945 that also allowed the delimitation of a “before” and an “after” to fascism. In this way, and this is essential in order to understand Abad’s work after 1984, Germany and Italy had done everything and an insufficient settling of accounts with their past was left. They had to clearly establish the criminal characteristic of their respective fascism. The Spanish transition blocked a similar process.
Parallel to this, Abad arrived at an artistic practice exactly in the cultural moment marked by a great revolution that allowed, on the one hand, a social transformation of western countries marked by the extension of the “values” of the middle classes so as to play an important part in society. This was a consequence of the growth of the Spanish economy during this time. On the other hand, it allowed the triumph of the cultural values of a middle class youth that assumes what is popular and is exported from the anglo-saxon world. Furthermore, the decisive incorporation of women in the – relative – lead taken in these changes, meant that the Spain of the sixties and seventies experienced a social disorder similar to that of Europe and America, even in a dictatorial context. However, this dictatorship was able to obstruct this process, but not stop it. Thus, the physical world in which Abad had grown up – the factory, the neighbourhood, the strict delimitation between nature and the city, the accessibility to this nature (the mountain of Sant Lorenç), still peasant country or virgin, the worker city with its urban landscape marked by the strict delimitation of the houses of workers who worked there – was about to experience a traumatic change. The subjectivity of the artist in formation that was then the young Abad found itself at the threshold of a world that was born and whose birth he assisted and at the same time he assisted in the disappearance of that from which it originated, the roots that he couldn’t express because they still didn’t form a part of his aesthetic conscience. The subordination of his world didn’t allow him to give value to, express, or make visible, this world in which the literature of Jòdar has been metaphorically delimited in the memory of the courtyard of those who make “orxata” (white milky looking drink made from the tiger nut) where the old Eulogy that the narrator of his course relieves himself and explains and defines the world. A double crisis pushes sensitivity towards expression.
When at the start of the seventies, thanks to a patronage, Abad spent six months in New York, he went the necessary distance to look through a different prism of the world which he tried and to which, on returning there, he didn’t want to re-enter anymore. The revolt against the subordinate life – that he lived between the factory and home – coincided with the start of the crisis in the textile industry. There were few places like Terrassa to calibrate the extent of the din that this crisis meant for the part of Catalan society that depended on the sector. And as for his worker class and his culture. This is a history yet to be made. And in Abad’s early work it has an important chapter for analysis.
We can take from here those verses of a poet much admired by Abad which synthesise the changes that we have talked about, and which explain the understanding that Abad has of his worlds as “abolished worlds”. Char states:
Quartier suivant quartier la liquidation du monde se poursuit
And Abad can see this world in Terrassa, which is destroyed neighbourhood by neighbourhood, from the perspective of the seventies.
The double crisis reviewed earlier provokes a caesura within the work of our author, that without being a breaking, functions as the two hemistiches of a verse; this caesura, that gives meaning to his work since 1974, we place around the mid-eighties and is characterised by the abandonment of the practices that are closer to the “work group” and to the action – body art, the first conceptualisation – to embrace a new path of conceptualisation, more intellectual, more one of reflection, that continues the exploration that Abad undertook in the work, “the Frankfurt school”, and then that of Walter Benjamin, that provokes a truly “red thread” of this second “hemistich”, which incorporates the installation, the work diary, the work in progress as a “support” into an art that is – for as much as it is contradictory – dematerialised. This element is linked to the transformation that the word has experienced in the West and which is taking place in Spain, albeit late.
The word of the seventies was a “consigned” word, a political word, a word linked to the transformation and the recuperation of political and social freedom. The transition caused the crisis in this word, that at the same time experienced the destruction that it had suffered throughout Europe and the United States at the hands of structuralism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism. The relativity, the deconstruction, the weak thinking, had split the concept of monolithic, self-referential, authoritarian and orthodox language – be it artistic, political and social - with a supposed vector that was truly robust. For an art that is conceptual, where the text plays a strategic role, this collapse of the word “consigned” brings about a central element in the reflection upon the development of language. Throughout the seventies, the ruin of this language allowed the emergence of other new ones. In concrete, and with regard to what I am exposing, I’ll highlight four here. I would like to clarify that this discussion is relevant, even though it is about plastic art, for the importance the text in Francesc Abad’s work has. Effectively, be it as a text to be read and reflected upon, or a text converted into images, or as an emblem-text, the word is a fundamental element of the aesthetic resources within his work. However, even in those works where Abad incorporates a text with the same semantic level as an image or object, the chosen text is relevant on its own, at least since the second half of the eighties. The end of the word – orders open the way to these four types of word that have come to occupy – or have maintained in a hegemonic
way – the discursive space of Spanish and Catalan society. We’ll go over them briefly.
The first of these types was the slang word: a type of linguistic insubordination that was socially imposed in the first half of the eighties by a determined cinema associated with the Madrilenian “movemement”, post-punk music and an evident loss of prestige on the part of high brow language. This word which was expressed in a nihilistic background, was a product of a very tense social situation, and of an accelerated discredit of the messages of transformation. The particular “enrichez-vous” formulated by socialist governments - barely nuanced by the establishment of a “small” state of well-being – allowed the proliferation of this word that was completely devoid of any exemplifying model and any positive discourse. In second place there is that what I call “the word to digest”, an ungoverned word, free of the weight of instruction, of the weight of the vector of the future. This word had to allow a flowering of reflection, of thought free of the need to demonstrate the final sense of history. It should have been non-existent in 1989 with the fall the Berlin Wall. My impression is that in Spain this word doesn’t free itself, but repeats with other tones that Professor Claudio Guillén has very precisely called “Iberian essayism”: a profusion of impressions, of strong phrases, of superficial relations in which the contrastive rigor, the serious analysis, and the ability to develop intuitions is very weak. In Catalan the situation is very grave as the essay barely exists. Thus, this word that could have been very suggestive, has succumbed like “le bateau ivre”, to the intoxication of its own liberty.
The rhetoric word. Coming from the profusion of channels of information and propaganda that started in the eighties – autonomous televisions and radios, new television channels, new communication systems, the diffusion of information, etc.; of the late diffusion in our homes of postmodernism; of the politicisation of politics; and in Catalonia, the weight of a more and more sensitive nationalist discourse that perhaps isn’t in what it says, but is in its reduction of public space to what it says. From all these processes, then, the rhetoric, sophist word which uses brilliant tricks to present itself to give itself a place within the agora of the market is more and more present and stronger. The blow of the effect, the supplantation, the true means where the lie doesn’t directly bring about socially accepted resources and in some cases, clearly hegemonic ones.
Abad was immediately aware of these negative derivatives of the word, of discourse and of the saying. In El sueno imperativo (1987) a classic frame frames the great photography of a Hellenic head of the Gorgona Medusa. At the foot of the photography a small monitor reproduces the photography. At his side a marble gravestone with the inscription “Nada”. “There isn’t anything any more”, words from a post-revolutionary song by Léo Ferré from the seventies. Here, Abad clinches it, “the petrification that TV generates is the reflection of the indifference, of the conforming, and of the passivity that characterises our society”. In other words, “The analogy of the TV-medusa articulates the ability to resist seduction. The TV, as an announcer of market products, favours entertainment before significance”.
It is precisely this will to resist these phenomena pointed out by Abad, that allows the introduction of the last example of the word that emerges from being submerged in the middle of the eighties. It’s a resistant word, it’s a word that has to run a long way through the desert, which it is still doing. A word that rises to the old emblem that is still humanist, that recognises the fragility of human beings, their limitations, and the capacity for this being to destroy its fellow man, dehumanising him. However, before the other three developments previously examined, the resistant word postulates a certain condition that truly satisfies the language, a certain likely connection between language and the world. Real art is understood.
It is in this word that Abad explores ways to raise walls of contention, defensive ones, to the destruction of the world that Char evoked, and also footbridges, paths that allow the reconstruction of the conception of culture as criticism and as civilisation. This urgency connects Abad with the strong poetic tradition of poets (Celan, Ajmàtova, Tsvetaieva, Char, Mandelstam) who elaborate their work precisely as milestones in the fight to maintain the human sense of the world. In 1947, Salvatore Quasimodo published this poem, “Il mio paese è Italia”. In it, the distancing from the days of fascism makes the poet reflect upon the need to bring to the present the barbarity of those terrible days, and also the need to defend life.
Piú i giorni s’allontano dispersi
e piú ritornano nel cuore dei poeti.
Là i campi di Polonia, la piana di Kutno
con le colline di cadaveri che bruciano
in nuvole di nafta, là i reticolati
per la quarantena d’Israele,
il sangue tra i rifiuti, l’esantena torrido,
la catena di poveri già morti da gran tempo
e fulminati sulle fosse aperte dalle loro mani,
là Buchenwald, la mite selva de faggi,
il suoi forni maledetti: là Stalingrado,
e Minsk sugli acquitrini e la neve putrefatta.
I poeti non dimenticano. Oh la folla dei vili
Dei vinti dei perdonati dalla misericordia!
Tutto si travolge, ma i morti non si vendono.
Il mio paese è Italia, nemico piu straniero,
e io canto il suo popolo e anche il pianto
coperto dal rumore del suo mare,
il limpido lutto delle madri, canto la sua vita.
This is one of the first poems that I know that cry out in the fight against forgetting. Its instruction is three-fold: poets don’t forget, the dead are not for sale, the most foreign enemy is within the country. This process is painful, and the posterior construction of an analysis of that which has caused the pain, had already started in Italy in 1947. In Spain it was impossible at that time. In reality, the work on the grief and the memory was begun with the transition, but it wasn’t till after many years, in the nineties, when it achieved a certain role in social discourse. A late role and one that is debatable, as we’ll see later. However, this observation made by Quasimodo allows us to introduce the last theme that Abad’s work would like to comment upon.
This theme is about the journey he makes form melancholy to grief. In 1915 Freud dedicated a study to “Grief and melancholy”, this “natural affliction” that every survivor – the word comes from psychoanalysis just as I cite it here – who has lost his object of love experiences. Freud wanted to establish analytical patterns with which he could give people the psychological advice to get over this irredeemable loss. It is also about showing the problems associated with falling into melancholy, which is a clinical disease. For Freud, the work on suffering has one aim: accept that the lost object no longer exists and untie the libido of its chains to the lost object that come back again and again. The progressive coming to terms with what has been lost will produce a slow abandonment of mental activity tied to the mental representation of the lost object. Freud observed that triumph lies in the process of suffering and is acquired when the subject is able to simultaneously save the love for that lost object and love for life. Melancholy for Freud was a psychosis of defence. He compared this condition to “an “internal haemorrhage” in which sexual excitement is caused by a “hole” in the psyche, making the other functions of this excitement impossible. However, he also stated that the condition had caught the attention of poets and mystics, who, since the Middle Ages, identified certain forms of melancholy with access to and then later, the disappearance of, romance. The bringing of this, which was the manifestation of a psychosis in the subject of patterns of behaviour aesthetically and philosophically coded, opened the door to the incorporation of this duality of grief and melancholy in artistic analysis. It is worth mentioning that amongst the most important texts on which Abad has worked, the Jewish philosopher has a leading role. In the year 1963, the doctor and psychologist Alexander Mitscherlich began the publication of his essays on the revision of these Freudian ideas and to apply them in social psychopathology. What interests us now is the idea that Mitscherlich developed; that the great leap forward economically and socially in Germany in the sixties was in reality a sublimation of the forgetting of its Nazi past, and that this forgetting aggressively came back again and again in the form of social degradation, tension and a neurosis of work, which in reality was the appearance of melancholy in a society that had not had to work on grief. Later, in 1971, he would publish another essay in which he denounced modern urbanism as a source of destruction of true social well-being. As we can see, we are very close to themes that Abad worked on twenty years ago.
Thus, we will retain that the exposition made by Mitscherlich of the melancholy-grief dialectic is useful to us in that it helps us to understand how Abad has constructed an aesthetic reflection that has allowed him to go from the first steps where the themes are the corruption of the landscape, the danger of its destruction, the disappearance of the textile world in which he created himself, the blind proliferation of the media, to the reflection that combines the destruction of the place of pain, in a combined and unusual process of urban anthropology and the rubbing out of the repression’s historical framework. In one of the last multimedia works, Wooden House by Francesc Abad, we find the following reflection:
“One important aspect of my work arises from loss and absence. To talk of that time that no longer exists, from the shadow or the footprint of its disappearance. This could be the place of a new way of seeing.” Wooden House 39.
There are two central themes in the cultural context that appear in this reflection. One is of art as a reconstitution of the loss of the past absorbed by the violent acceleration of social times; and the position of subjectivity in a world of plural identities and voices. The new way of seeing that Abad approaches is not one of constructing a future that is seen as a breaking, but precisely the opposite, in the elaboration of an aesthetic language that can represent no so much the forgotten world, but precisely the distance that exists between the loss of this world and its absence: between the melancholy and the grief. However, this representation comes from a form of constructing an identity for oneself within the polyphonic world that opts for the carnival and from which the artist wants to flee. Removing one’s disguise allows one to be recognised as an actor in the world of entertainment and of speculation. Choosing ethics is surprising these days, but we have to say that in Abad’s case, this is a central argument in his aesthetic.
However, the process of constructing an aesthetic language founded in the absence provoked by a loss, point to the fragility of this elaboration, to its flow, its dynamic, that moves between melancholic fixation and the getting over it via the grief.
To make this step, from melancholy to grief, it has been necessary to first take an indirect route with regards to the victim. As Abad himself commented on his work in the exhibition on “Literature in exile”, from the beginning there were branches that represented the branches of the tree in the courtyard of the house where he was a child, where the adults sat and talked of their memories of the civil war and the repression. And his work in this exhibition has allowed this world he lived in to sprout up, first discarded to be recovered in the form of the central motive in his last work. It is precisely in this sense that I talk of the subordination of Abad’s work. The materials and his reflection on these materials make Abad’s work poetry, and one that moves away from the domestication of the market that proliferates in these times. It its precisely because it is not a celebration, nor an epiphany. We’ll read the work cited above another time:
“Set fire to the house?
History can’t be counted
Neither can it be erased
What to do with the memory?
Restore it or flee with it?
Cancel the past or neutralise it?
The step that begins to show a new horizon.”
For a historian trained in the rational school of discipline, these observation set off alarms bells. It’s about a reflection that shares the project for the destruction of the historical discipline via making the sources absolute. The irrationality that appears – a history that can’t be told, a past that can’t be cancelled – rests in an embodiment of the memory – restore it, flee with it – has come from a framework different to the current context. The supplanting of history by memory allows the liquidation of the mechanisms of verification, of the contrasting analysis of the sources, of the establishment of the contextual relations that help the elaboration of a narration that brings the past to the present. Despite these objections, the theme of memory in Francesc Abad’s work illustrates one of the fundamental characteristics of the reflecting that Spain has done upon the recent past. It also illustrates the knock of the things that are missing in this reflection. Between us, memory has functioned as a resistant, subordinate narration. Resistant firstly to the attempt to destroy the tradition of those defeated by Franco. Resistant, secondly, to it being turned into something banal while in transition – the famous mutual pact of silence. The attacks that come from revisionist historiography, or from certain literature – also revisionist – but of great success thanks to the camouflage that comes from a condescending vision of this tradition, could come to an end because there aren’t any firmly established and socially extensive scientific walls of contention that allow the dismantling in nuce of these frauds in the style of Pio Moa. The memory in Abad’s work, works in a different way to that of Semprún or Cercas. And now we turn to the theme of the victim.
As far as I know, the theme of the victim in Abad’s work appeared in 1988. It does so as an artistic work on the figure of Benjamin that allows him to establish a project that culminated in the work on “El Camp de la Bota” and more currently, the project Benjamin, on exhibition in the museum in Granollers. In the installation “Spuren”, “petjades” (footprints) we find the photograph of Benjamin’s supposed tomb in Port-Bou, and in front of it, his two suitcases. These suitcases are the same suitcases that Abad carried with him when he travelled for a textile company in Terrassa. Inside them was a collection of samples. The suitcases were very heavy and to move them was a problem. The suitcases evidently made reference to the famous suitcase that Benjamin had with him when he arrived at Port-Bou. Inside he had different manuscripts, amongst which was the text on which he was working at that time: the “Thesis of philosophy of history.” He lost this suitcase and its contents have given rise to a small cultural myth. Now that we know that the suitcases are the same ones that Abad carried on his journeys as a travelling salesman for a textile company, the force of evocation surges strongly: the textile world, the commemoration of the pain of the victims of nazism, the reflecting upon historic times and the tradition of the oppressed that he analysed in these Benjamin texts. It is worth mentioning that although the reception of Benjamin in Spain was at the start of the seventies, it wasn’t until the end of the eighties that it brought about a much cited authorship. As a result, the work on Benjamin, which is the first of two that Abad will do, is very pioneering for us.
Thus, Benjamin allows Abad to have contact with the experience of the victim, to give him form in the relation that he can establish with it, as much to get near to the experience, as to have the need to express it. The next step is the conversion of the victim into testimony. This has a central role in the last part of Abad’s work. Abad adopts the moral imperative present in the thesis of the philosophy of history that states, “Articulating the past historically doesn’t mean recognising it ‘as it was’.” This implies protecting oneself from a memory that bursts forth, as it does in a moment of danger. Thus begins thesis VI. Since the eighties, Abad has perceived that we live in a “moment of danger”, and this danger which in our times articulates itself as the commercial generalisation that accompanies the process of globalisation, has to be fought not only with the force of the living, but with that of the dead too. In his own way, Abad produces a testimony. Consequently he gets close to Celan and Mandelstam, Levi, - like he had done earlier with Adorno and Bloch – and he moves away from Heidegger; that’s why he invites others and convokes Char, the combatant, to the work, “Hotel Europa”. Consequently, he also learns that the factory that he filmed for over more than twenty years and which is the space where the “social voice” establishes itself in WartWar, is also the space of his poetic subordination.
One of the tasks of testimonies is to supply elements to future generations so that that which is put into testimony – to use the exact expression that Carles Torner uses – isn’t lost. Nobody to testify the testimony; but when there isn’t anyone, someone will have “protected themselves” from the memory of the testimony, from the task of continuing with Benjamin, in such a way that, as Rastier states, “integrated into the culture and converted into his living works, the testimony… contributes to the protection of European culture from its own barbarity.” Saving this patrimony isn’t the work of official memory, nor is it of the museum; saving this is the product of a subordinate narration, that talks in a fragmented way with these testimonies, if it wants to.
As a result, Abad’s work can’t be understood as a product of singularities, nor as a repetition of central themes, but as an open process, whose final objective has yet to be determined, because it creates a world while it reveals it in its artistic production. It isn’t that he gives a voice to those who don’t have one, but the fact that we can understand his work as a process – subordinate – to be made with talk, that rests in a conviction – the important fragility of the human being – the primary contemplation with which he bears melancholy, to later overcome it via practical and theoretical action – “benjaminiana” and “adorniana” – of the pain finally converting itself into the appropriation of the tradition of the oppressed, only accessible from Abad’s present. It is in this sense that I understand his work in the current context: one of a subjectivity that fights so as not to be lost in a sea of confused voices and the inaudible ones of the past, all creating a polyphony of a tradition that is simultaneously recreated, found again and invented.