Thursday, October 13, 2005

Language, stereotypes, Guernica and The Enigma of Hitler

The funny thing about learning a new language is that you start by learning very general descriptive words and then you need create lots of excercises to practice.

So after corto/alto, grande/pequnyo, gordo/Delgado and other opposite words for physical description, today we learned how to say the names of groups of people (gente) from different countries. Alemanios from Aleman, Americanos from Ustados Unidos, Espanolas from Espana etc. After practicing the names, we then proceeded to make a list of words to describe people from different areas of the world. Los Alemanios were muy estricto, preciso etc. Actually we were really generating lists of prejudices and stereotypes of nationalities. Arabs on Camels, Americans and fast food, French and arrogance. Though kind of funny, it illustrated another way of how limited communication skill and the consequential over simplification is problematic.

After class today, I went to the Riena Sofia (the modern art museum here). I saw Guernica. It’s really big. The best part is that before you get to the actual piece, the gallery before hosts all the sketches that Picasso did in preparation for creating the masterpiece. You see the toro and the mujer, and las manos, and everything that is in the final piece, but smaller and in more detail. It’s surprising how detailed the sketches are, compared to the grandiosity of the final piece. Also, there is a room with about 20 photographs that show the creation of the piece over time in which you see the sequence in which Picasso painted.

The museum has an impressive Dali collection and it was interesting to compare the way that Picasso and Dali dealt with the War and Hitler. Whereas, Guernica is critical in obvious and hidden ways, Dali was more curious about “the enigma of Hitler” a much less critical or even meaningful piece, with a small picture of Hitler on a dish.

After the museum, I was sitting with some folks at a bar, and the TV was showing a bull fight where the matador was lifted by the bulls horns and flung back to the ground. They showed it 6 or 7 times in replay (it was nasty) and then cut to an interview with the matador in a hospital bed with his leg wrapped in gauze. I guess the bull does win sometimes (or is it that the matador loses?)


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