The water of freedom [Considerations on the painting by Antoni Miró]
Let us remember an American leader speaking in front of the Guernica tapestry that is in the United Nations building in New York in the middle of the “war against terrorism”; Picasso’s shocking images were covered by a blue curtain to prevent the political speech from being literally overshadowed by the memory of the bombing. This is one of the snapshots of the contemporary conflict of images.1 All trappers conceal their traps; you have to learn to disguise them, camouflaging the traps with all possible art.2 It was Diderot who described the “art of the trapper” as a science. We are in an age of spectacles when, on occasion, reality surpasses fiction.3 We have to remember that it is not only death that is in Paradise (“Et in Arcadia Ego”) but that the god Pan also reigns in those lands. Perhaps this thread of panic and sublimity is typical of our social condition, of the barbarity that is found in the city. We are, I am not saying anything new here, terribly alienated, bogged down in almost total “mistrust”.4 Today, to execute someone there is no need to assemble a firing squad as depicted in Goya’s The Third of May or in the Execution of Emperor Maximillian by Manet,5 all that is needed is for society to trap them between debt and bureaucracy. Without knowing it, perhaps, we are practising a kind of global lobotomy. The (contemporary) ideology of the crisis does not even stop to camouflage its indecency with words like “confidence”. We know the inherent fragility of human institutions, that precariousness of all political order.6
Our Big Brother is not just a pathetic reality TV programme (visual offal in which, using its own internal logic people are given “what they want”), it is, in fact, a cruel system of exclusion.7 Philip K. Dick has already described the decisive feature of our society: nothing means what it is any more, and life itself becomes a single calculation of risks and possibilities. The (ridiculous) utopia of living in an indexed world promises us that at last we will know “where our keys are”.8 We live with informational churn that prohibits any distancing, any kind of deliberation. The big data tsunami simply serves to imperially establish the dominion of the lie,9 the monumental and deceiving or hypnotising banality of this post-historical era.10 As Hannah Arendt said, we only have to open our eyes “to see that we are in a true field of rubble”. The intellectual and the artist have, fundamentally, to try to conquer a piece of humanity.
A work of art should be able, provided that it tells a “relatable story”, to produce the anticipation of talking with others. Antoni Miró is, without any doubt, an artist who confronts contemporary disinformation by establishing a discourse in which he gives critical testimony to the questions of the present without losing sight of the historical dynamic, focusing his discourse at all times on the Valencian identity.
José María Iglesias has underlined the “Valencian” specificity of Antoni Miró’s critical figuration,11 which, in every sense, he understood to be necessary to introduce ideological approaches into painting. Antoni Miró’s specific “chronicle of reality” has points of contact with “social realism” without becoming “socialist realism”. This artist takes seriously this urgency of artistic intervention in the social context, trying to make the works triggers for awareness, that is, for a politicisation of the imaginary that avoids the drift towards totalitarian approaches, even if this appears “soft”.
“If painting – says Manuel Vicent – is the artistic recreation of the world through shapes and colours, the world that Antoni Miró has recreated during his artistic career is broad and protean. It goes from sex to politics, from the pop interpretation of the history of art to denouncing violence, to the sarcastic mocking of leaders, of sacred monuments and facts, to the brio to convert everyday objects, machines or utensils into poetic objects. Antoni Miró’s perspective is so open that it is difficult to find the point that sums up his sensitivity to things”.12 It may be that “propaganda art” is nothing more than an oxymoron13 and Antoni Miró, as I have indicated, does not convert the artistic into an “orthodox programme” nor is he an artist who remains trapped in what is given, instead he has the capacity to fictionalise and turn the imaginary into reality.14 His obvious symbolic disposition15 is, in any case, oriented towards understanding our world. “Antoni Miró – warns Wences Rambla – scrutinises the reality of events and by altering – here is one of the keys to his artistic way of referencing things – the relationship between himself, as a perceptive subject, the object (motives) of his works and the ‘how to perform’ in them the artistic reversal of those occurrences facing the viewer, is what allows him – without disconnecting from this stubborn and verifiable reality of the events we see, we understand, we know to a greater or lesser extent but we do not invent in other ways: television, press, radio, etc. – to present to us in another way: according to the order he suggests to us as a painter”.16 Antoni Miró extends the collage principle17 with a trans-mediatic hunt but also with his watchful eye, combining formal subtlety with ideological forcefulness.
According to Román de la Calle, the paintings of Antoni Miró, an artist who, without any doubt, has his own perspective,18 are characterised by important communication strategies, moving from the specific to the general.19 Miró’s works are precisely modes that critically arrest the events that are occurring at an accelerating rate, fragments of raw reality that we have to contemplate in a collective learning exercise in order to begin writing what our history would be. Although we might think that we live in the land of the lotus-eaters, we must also be warned against the twisted and, ultimately, banal use of that “History” that may be, as Nietzsche pointed out in his second Untimely Meditation, the source of a disease where one of its symptoms is cynicism. Beyond the “commemorative delirium”,20 we could begin to remember in a different way as Antoni Miró does when, as Román de la Calle points out, he constructs images from other images, “while simultaneously appealing to an entire mental archive of gestures, formal and symbolic memories that are transformed and maintained as a personal repository of knowledge. There is nothing that is purely mechanical here, because – as Nelson Goodman reminds us – any effective representations or descriptions of reality require, first and foremost, invention. They form, distinguish and relate multiple elements to each other, which in turn inform each other”.21
Making a work of history, then, refers to an art that is conscious of its radical distance from what it imitates. The “painting of modern life” is thought to be revolutionary, from the barricades to the image of the stonemasons; Courbet’s political exhibition of realism supposes the taking into account of the “thought from outside” inherent, as Foucault reminds us, in every work of art. Every story reconstructs its scene. As Benjamin noted in 1940, a historian’s work is political insofar as it consists of “seizing a memory as it arises at the moment of danger”.22 The same anachronism – this meeting of the present and memory – is the only one capable of producing a “spark of hope”, to, in some way, shed light on and against the “dark times” that, more than ever, threaten people.
Antoni Miró appropriates what happens, but not to “neutralise” our awareness when facing a contradiction, to produce a critical agitation. “Antoni Miró is a painter committed to his cultural identity – which comes from the Baroque archetype so present in Valencian culture and ends in pop-art and social realism. The work of Antoni Miró – which often has a grotesque, absurd, satirical tone – is one hundred per cent Valencian. And it can only be explained in terms of demystification and denunciation, purposes that are always served by an extraordinary quality of drawing and a great brilliance of images”.23 His whole aesthetic and ideological approach is run through with the struggle in defence of the Valencian homeland.24 His series on the Water Tribunal has to be understood as one further element in his preoccupation with Valencian issues.
We should remember that the Water Tribunal was declared an Intangible Cultural Asset in 2009. It is a common law tribunal that deals with the complaints of the community of Valencian farmers who use the water to irrigate their land. The tribunal’s meetings are held by the Apostles’ Door to the Cathedral of Valencia every Thursday, the proceedings are oral and carried out entirely in Valencian. Its origins are uncertain, they may go back to Roman times or it may have been instituted at the time of the Caliphs around the year 960.25 What interests Antoni Miró is the popular institution of Justice, but also its cooperative and even “republican” nature that pulses through this tribunal as was beautifully described by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez in La barraca (The Cabin). It all begins with the Sheriff’s cry (“denunciats de la sèquia de …” [denouncements for the channel of …]) and the guilt or innocence of the defendant is then quickly established. The Sheriff is the central character in one of Miro’s paintings, in a profile that also attaches much importance to its distinctive element, the Harpoon on which the words “Tribunal de les Aigües” (Water Tribunal) are written.
Reviewing images from Antoni Miró’s pictorial series on the Water Tribunal I note that, as in all his work, gestures are decisive;26 I am thinking of the exchange of glances in La visita (The Visit) and in the hand gesture of the central character that seems to be a subtle nuance. From the Casa Vestuari (Robing House) with its doors open wide and the white light reflected by its exterior, Antoni Miró unfolds the fundamental elements of this Tribunal by representing an important moment in the emergence of Els síndics (The Trustees) who, dressed in black, are descending the red carpet-covered stairs; they are, without doubt, elderly men with grey hair, who are looking around confidently.
One of the most impressive works of this cycle is the painting entitled El cercat (The Fence) with the Tribunal in session and an expectant crowd. Miró painted the audience attending this “ritual” with a white, ghostly, blurred tone; he wants to focus on the event to give it a feeling of heritage. As I have indicated the tribunal is characterised by its oral nature, concentration, speed and economy and the painter focusses on elements such as the young man charged with El Trasllat (The Relocation) and architectural details such as the ornament with the Valencian flag and, of course, views of the Apostles of the Cathedral (he devotes three magnificent graphic works and a painting to them) and of the beautiful door where the deliberations are held.
Leonardo, by explaining the double nature of a picture based on its own form, also developed the theoretical basis for this. A painting, according to him, “is not alive in itself, moreover, as it has no life, it gives expression to living objects”. Antoni Miró shows the vitality of the Water Tribunal, emphasising the importance of gestures, making it clear that there is no politics without a certain aesthetic regime, that is, a set of perceptions, sensations and emotions. But his series does not only show the tribunal at the Apostles’ Door, he has also painted channels such as the Quart-Benàger, Mestalla and Mislata with stunning red flowers and the shade from the trees on the other bank and he also fixes in a fascinating way the quiet waters in Molí d’Aroqui (Aroqui Mill). In these pieces we can see both nature and the work of humans in Arc romà (Roman Arch) or in Moros i Francs (Moors and Franks), while in Repartiment (Distribution) the water almost spills over the bottom edge of the picture, as if to feed the viewer’s gaze.
In the picture explicitly entitled El Tribunal (The Tribunal) we see the trustees posing, with crossed hands, transmitting serenity, while in Expectació (Expectation) the crowds of tourists that are surrounding the deliberations take a leading role; many of the people surrounding the tribunal are holding cameras or, mostly, mobile phones. The reality that impregnates Antoni Miró’s work is usually filtered through electronic means of communication or cameras. Informative immediacy and spontaneity are subjected to a pictorial procedure of “slowing down” that has, in a certain sense, the nature of a conspiracy against oblivion.
According to Barthes, in the past, photography gave testimony to something that had been there and no longer was, therefore, to a nostalgia-laden definitive absence. Today, photography is more likely to be loaded with a nostalgia for the presence, in the sense that it would be the last testimony of the living presence of the subject in relation to the object, the final challenge to the digital display in synthesised images waiting for us. The relationship between the image and its referent raises numerous problems of representation. But when the referent has completely disappeared, when, therefore, it is no longer possible to talk of proper representation, when the actual object vanishes in the technical programming of the image, when the image is pure artefact, when it does not reflect anything or anybody and does not even pass through the phase of the negative, can we still speak of an image? Our images will soon cease to be images and consumption itself will become virtual.27
Reality is not supported by one fantasy but by an inconsistent multitude of fantasies, it is this multiplicity that creates the effect of impenetrable density that we feel we are what happens and remains. Antoni Miró refuses to accept that what happens in an unjust world is merely the “accuracy of Simulacra” or something phantasmagorical. On the contrary, these marginalisation strategies produce poverty and exhaust the system and the critical-artistic task has to confront the truth of these conflicts with honesty, even if it is through disturbing presences. That does not mean, far from it, falling into a static discourse as if art were a twilight litany, but rather a new form of art should be generated that is committed to a universe of apparent pluralism but subjected to an imposing homogenisation. David Rico has pointed out that the captured image, the almost photographic snapshot represents a specific moment in our history, immortalised and transformed by the eyes and hands of Antoni Miró.
“Realism – notes Antoni Miró – is a cluster of abstractions. Abstraction is unidentifiable fragments of reality (almost always unconscious)”.28 While the desire for Einfühlung [empathy] as an assumption of aesthetic experience finds its expression in organic beauty, “the desire for abstraction – warns Worringer – finds beauty in the inorganic and the denial of life, in the crystalline or expressing it in a general way, in total subjection to the law and abstract necessity”.29 We know the creative power (generator of worlds of life), which is at the same time arbitrary, of imitation. Generalised imitation has the power to create worlds that are completely unconnected with reality: they are ordered and stable but completely illusory. “It is this ‘mythic-poetic’ capability that makes it fascinating. If there are hidden truths to be discovered, it is not necessary to rely on mimetic dynamics to bring them into the light”.30 Imitative action is self-realising, it initiates positive feedback although it has an underlying singular ambivalence and it can lead not just to incontestable evidence but also to uncertainty. Antoni Miró poses an aesthetic that we could qualify as critical realism in which he gives epochal testimony in a continuous process of outlining his interests, focusing, as he does in the series on the Water Tribunal, on occurrences that are relevant to the community.
The community, said Maurice Blanchot, is what sets out to expose itself, “it includes the exteriority to being that excludes it. An externality that thought does not dominate”.31 Community is not established by adding together the individuals, but by sharing between each other. Jean Luc-Nancy warned that loss is constitutive of the community itself, that is, that we exist in a dynamic and when we look for something “finished” what we find is an un-built reality. Antoni Miró does not represent reality by sweetening it, his gaze is not sublimating, on the contrary, when he addresses the city he not only considers the tourist’s view but he also reveals the place occupied by the underprivileged.32
If, on the one hand, Antoni Miró makes those excluded from society visible, showing, not only with irony but also with indignation, that the world goes wrong,33 he also pays tribute to the people who have left their mark due to their political integrity and cultural grandeur. The sinister and forced anonymity of women with burkas not only refers to the funereal, but it is also the visual antonym of the series in which the following referential figures appear: Miquel Martí i Pol, Josep Pla, Salvat Papasseit, Joan Fuster, Joan Coromines, Rafael Alberti, Salvador Espriu, Jordi Valor, Joan Valls, Isabel-Clara Simó, Vicent Andrés Estellés, Manuel Sanchis Guarner, Raimon, Ovidi Montllor, Leo Ferré, Maria de el Mar Bonet, Enric Valor, Antoni Tàpies, Puig Antich, Salvador Allende, Karl Marx, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Ché Guevara, Lluís Companys, Antonio Gades, Antoni Gaudí, Sigmund Freud, Miguel Hernández and Pau Casals. Ultimately, these portraits are a political and cultural history34 in which Antoni Miró includes both those who helped create a Catalan national consciousness and international references ranging from a critique of the political economy and ideological mutation that founded communism, to an expedition to the unconscious of psychoanalysis or the heroic strategy of the Cuban revolution. As Isabel-Clara Simó has pointed out, the art of Antoni Miró is a link: “a link where he places not only his dignity but also our precarious and anguished dignity”.35 This artist knows, without any doubt, how to unsettle the collective consciousness36 by maintaining a utopian dimension, that is, a confidence that the strategy of resistance could give rise to a better society.
As Joan Fuster pointed out in the mid-1970s, the work of Antoni Miró is “tumultuosament vivaç” (tumultuously lively), protean and sustained from a deep social concern.37 When I think of the countless paintings, graphic works and sculptures that this artist has created during his life, it seems that he embodies the characteristic of self-activity that Hegel spoke of.38 In no way does Antoni Miró justify the unfolding of the world as “real-rational”, on the contrary, he is a radical critic of the notion of historical “progress”,39 making the fantasy turn with bicycle wheels in an archaeological and hopeful dimension.40 Antoni Miró’s entire artistic career has shown a different sense of beauty,41 that is conventional, crossed by the presence of the undesirable, the unjust, of anything that undermines “historical” splendour. He is convinced that beauty is more than just a static reality: “For Antoni Miró beauty is, above all, a spirit of transformation”.42 Both his pictures portraying his trip to Greece as well as the erotic series based on scenes from Greek ceramics allude to a tension between ruin and pleasure. His modern revision of classical iconography43 always keeps in mind the “contaminated” domain in which we must try to survive with dignity.
The work of Antoni Miró reminds us that we must confront history44 based on civic references, always trying to understand the things that concerns us. We must act beyond melancholy, recovering, in depressing times, the vigour of critical thinking and if we have to have some kind of nostalgia it should be for the future. José Corredor-Matheos pointed out that Antoni Miró has a “Cartesian will” that leads him to exploit all of a subject’s possibilities. Injustice is, unfortunately, inexhaustible. Antoni Miró’s keen gaze takes in the surrounding partisan reality, knowing that the required task is not merely to imitate what is happening, but to try to offer emancipatory critical instances45 in a time of outright de-democratisation, or to embody what Christian Salmon calls “unsovereignty”.
The representative device transforms the force into power46 and perhaps one of Antoni Miró’s intentions in painting the Water Tribunal is to represent a community instance in which opinion unfolds with democratic frankness. The political struggle usually arises from the pain of injustice, we mobilise, sometimes, on feeling the wound in the heart of democracy. To a great extent, Antoni Miró’s critical painting reveals the need to find some hope.47 “The time of history – Jacques Rancière points out – is not only that of the great collective destinies. It is the one in which anyone and anything makes history and testifies to history. The pink cheeks of the Milkmaid of Bordeaux are a response to the wax mask of the shots of Goya’s The Third of May. The time of the promise of emancipation is also the time when every skin is able to reflect the brightness of the sun, everybody is authorised to enjoy it while it can and to make that enjoyment a testimony of history”.48 Maybe that brightness of the sun, that pinch of hope, is what flows through the channels, the emblem of the fair distribution of goods. The Water Tribunal series is another of his continued concern for just images.49 I contemplate the empty Corralet (Enclosure) with the chairs where the conflicts between the irrigators were settled, where the “righteous men” sat, the trustees, surrounded by a crowd that perhaps does not fully understand that they have before them a manifestation of the perfect community. Antoni Miró paints an old valve in Rovella and I think that it will not only let irrigation water flow, it also reminds us that culture is a path to freedom.50
1. “On 5 February 2003, an event took place in the United Nations building in New York that is undoubtedly secondary, but instructive in the absurdity of its nature. The US delegation ordered the tapestry representing Picasso’s Guernica, hung on the building’s second floor, to be covered with a blue cloth so that the appearance of US Secretary of State Colin Powell would not be confronted with an anti-war image” (Horst Bredekamp: Teoría del acto icónico, Akal, Madrid, 2017, p. 175; translated).
2. “The camouflage for a trap has to deceive all the senses. In his Encyclopaedia Diderot recommends concealing the smell of iron, because experienced animals associate it with their destruction” (Frank Schirrmacher: Ego. Las trampas del juego capitalista, Ariel, Barcelona, 2014, p. 12; translated).
3. “The formula according to which ‘reality overcomes fiction’ acquires this meaning. Only fiction, because of the need for its linkages, has the ability to emphasise this suspension of the reasons imposed by reality” (Jacques Rancière: Figuras de la historia, Eterna Cadencia, Buenos Aires, 2013, p. 32; translated).
4. “But that suppression of alienation – Marx warns in the 1844 text ‘Crédit et banque’–, this return of man to himself and therefore to the other, is nothing more than an illusion. It is a self-alienation, a dehumanisation all the more infamous and extreme because its element is no longer the merchandise, metal, paper, instead it is moral existence, social existence, the very intimacy of the human heart; which, under the guise of man’s trust in man, is the ultimate distrust and complete alienation”.
5. Bataille pointed out, with regard to Manet’s painting, that the “execution of the subject” is manifested in an absolute detachment from any form or will to say: “A priori, death, methodically administered, finally, by soldiers, is unfavourable to indifference: it is a subject charged with meaning, from which a violent feeling emerges, but Manet seems to have painted it as insensitive; the spectator follows him in this deep apathy. This picture is reminiscent of the desensitisation of a tooth: it gives the impression of progressive and invasive numbness” (Georges Bataille: Manet, Skira, Paris, 1955, p. 52; translated).
6. “We would like to know more about the mechanisms that allow ‘this barbarity contained in the heart of the city’ to reappear. But the myth by itself does not tell us anything about that this subject. Or rather, it introduces us to Pan whose actions or manifestations are imperceptible, for example, a music whose origin is unknown, as is that of Echo, the nymph that Pan harasses with his attentions and who, in turn produces a sound that comes from no one knows where; Echo, who rejects Pan because she loves Narcissus, who is in love with his own image. In short, Pan is as invisible as the social bond that can be undone. The Greeks made Pan’s presence-absence the cause of all causeless events; the reason for everything that has no reason, in particular, for those paradoxical reckonings in which a collection of peaceful Arcadians suddenly mutates into a wild horde” (Jean-Pierre Dupuy: El pánico, Gedisa, Barcelona, 1999, pp. 29-30; translated).
7. The new big brother did exactly what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman had predicted: it devoted itself to exclusion. “People have to be found – he writes in Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts – who ‘do not fit’ in their place, they have to be expelled from this place and moved to ‘where they belong’, or better yet, they should not be allowed to arrive anywhere. The new Big Brother provides the immigration authorities with lists of people who should not be allowed to enter and it provides bankers with lists of people who should not integrate in the community of creditworthy people”.
8. The RFID radio frequency identification chip provides a framework in which a house could automatically inventory each object within it, as well as record which objects are in each room. “With a powerful enough signal, RFID could be a permanent solution to the problem of losing keys, which confront us with what Forbes magazine writer Reihan Salam calls ‘the powerful promise of a real world that can be indexed and organised as cleanly and consistently as Google has indexed and organised the internet’” (Eli Pariser: El filtro burbuja. Cómo la red decide lo que leemos y lo que pensamos, Taurus, Madrid, 2017, p. 197; translated).
9. “The ‘lie' in this world is an extra moral matter and the consequent lack of truth is the least of the problems. This category also includes self-deception, illusions, the strategies people use when they ‘imagine things that are not’, all form part, in the age of big data – the networking of all data on people and things –” (Frank Schirrmacher: Ego. Las trampas del juego capitalista, Ariel, Barcelona, 2014, p. 160; translated).
10. “The state and merchant proliferation of images/signs provides him with an infinite repertoire of exempla whose duplicity must be revealed by a specific arrangement – a staging: an image that is a sign or the sign that is the image, the political majesty that is a commercial lie or the commercial advertisement that is a political lie, the extraordinary that is ordinary and banality that is fabulous. Its repertoire includes the official images of the greats of this world or the auratic portraits of its idols, snapshots of everyday life like posters and ghosts of the goods, the emblems of power or the images of history that have become indifferent signs or objects of recovery” (Jacques Rancière: Figuras de la historia, Eterna Cadencia, Buenos Aires, 2013, p. 75; translated).
11. “The work of Antoni Miró is included, in a distinguished position and with its own characteristics, in a certain tradition in contemporary art, that of the ‘Chronicle of Reality’, as defined by Vicente Aguilera Cerni and which is deeply-rooted in his Valencian homeland. I attribute these roots to the Fallera tradition – domestic Pop-Art before the ‘official’ American version –” (José María Iglesias: “Antoni Miró: la realidad transcendida en imágenes” in Antoni Miró. Antología, Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo, Alacant, 1999, p. 17; translated).
13. “The word ‘propaganda’ has a sinister aura suggesting manipulative strategies of persuasion, intimidation and deception. On the contrary, the idea of art for many people means a sphere of activity devoted to the search for truth, beauty and freedom. For some, ‘art of propaganda’ is a contradiction in terms. However, the emotional and negative connotations of the word ‘propaganda’ are relatively new and are intimately linked to the ideological struggles of the 20th century. The original use of the term to describe the systematic spread of beliefs, values and practices dates back to the 17th century, when, in 1622, Pope Gregorio XV promulgated the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide” (Toby Clark: Arte y propaganda en el siglo XX, Akal, Madrid, 2000, p. 7; translated).
14. “Miro’s positive side consists of transforming fiction into reality, the fiction of some pictures into the reality of his painting, quintessentially distilled in the pipeline of his own style capable of displaying the organic in terse almost geometrical shapes” (Raúl Guerra Garrido: Esto no es un ensayo sobre Miró, Girarte, Villena, 1994, pp. 37-49; translated).
15. “The work of Antoni Miró reveals a continuing disposition towards symbols and images, images full of paradoxes and metaphors, impregnated with literary figures” (Manuel Rodríguez Díaz: “Antoni Miró. El arte de crear un mundo propio: imaginativo y reflexivo” in Antoni Miró. Pinteu Pintura. Vivace, Galería Macarrón, Madrid, 1992, p. 22; translated).
18. Isabel-Clara Simó says that Antoni Miró “has his own look and his paintings do not resemble anybody else’s. If we ever find a painting that looks like his, we can be certain that it is the other one that has borrowed from Toni”, quoted in Jordi Tormo: Antoni Miró. La mirada rebel, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, p. 84; translated.
19. “The artistic activity of Antoni Miró – with these strategies of communicative actions rescued and turned into the referential content of common life, which his painting offers us as a testimony – could not remain insensitive against these intense iconographic scenarios, capable of correlating the particularity of specific events of the everyday environment along with the typical characteristics of his studied aesthetic expressions. Perhaps this is exactly the formula that his works reserve, embody and define: the transition – we insist – from the particular to the typical, despite the fact that the titles, in their specificity, always try not only to unequivocally characterise each specific artistic proposal but also – in these cases – to aid in their historical and contextual interpretation. However, to put it simply but definitively: beyond each singular event, transformed into content and witnessed on the canvas, can be found one of the, well established, determining factors of the artistic domain, the expressive lever of the aesthetic characteristics that, axiologically, always consolidates their results” (Romà de la Calle: “Mani-festa. La festa col·lectiva per la reivindicació dels drets, feta imatge” in Antoni Miró. Mani-festa, Personatges, s/t, Llotja del Peix, Alacant, 2015, p. 146; translated).
20. “It seems that a museum is inaugurated daily in Europe and that previously utilitarian activities have been converted into an object of contemplation: there is a crêpe museum in Brittany, a gold museum in Berry … Not a month goes by without the commemoration of some remarkable event, to the extent that one wonders if there are enough days for new events to occur … that will be commemorated in the 21st century” (Tzvetan Todorov: Los abusos de la memoria, Paidós, Barcelona, 2008, p. 87; translated).
24. “The fight to defend the Valencian Country is a constant in his life and work, as Miró constantly participates in movements and initiatives with this motivation. I remember ‘one of the first campaigns in which I participated in defence of our country was that of ‘Valencians, unim-nos’” (Valencians unite). In 1977, in the framework of the Congress of Catalan Culture, I signed, along with other personalities from culture and politics and organisations of all kinds, the manifesto ‘Volem l’estatut’ (We want the statute). It demanded an autonomous statue for ‘the Valencian Country and also for each of the other Catalan Countries, as a first step towards self-determination’, they demanded ‘the restitution of the Catalan language’ as the official language and claimed ‘the future Federation of the Valencian Country, the Islands and the Principality. The manifesto was signed by, among others, Joan Fuster, Raimon, Vicent Andrés Estellés, Josep Renau, Antonio Gades, Andreu Alfaro, Ovidi Montllor and Manuel Sanchis Guarner. At the end of the seventies I also made a series of posters to demand the national construction and unity of the Catalan Countries” (Jordi Tormo: Antoni Miró. La mirada rebel, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, pp. 105-106; translated).
25. “The most widespread theory, but without any historical basis, we owe to Francisco Javier Borrull, defended in 1813 before the Cortes de Cádiz in an attempt to save it from disappearance. His hypothesis is that there was a precedent in Roman times, but that its foundation as it currently works occurred during the reigns of the Caliphs Abd al-Rahman III and al-Hakam II, specifically in the year 960 of our era, without clarifying where that date comes from. The reason is that this is the only time when Borrull sees complete peace on the peninsula, and he, therefore, infers that the order was issued at some point in the reigns of these two Caliphs. In fact, the millennial anniversary of the founding of the Water Tribunal took place in 1960, led by Vicente Giner Boira, legal adviser to the Tribunal at the time, and leading proponent of this theory in the 20th century. Once the origin of the Court was ‘established’ by Borrull, its continuity in the feudal era is supported by the 35th Charter of King James I the Conqueror in 1239, in the order governing ‘segons que antigament és e fo establit e acostumat en temps de sarrahins’ (according to what was once established and accustomed in the times of the Saracens). In addition, the Moorish origin has been supported by three details: the fact it is held every Thursday (the day before Friday, which is a public holiday for Muslims); outside the Cathedral (old mosque and agora of the city in pre-Roman times); and that the right to speak is given in court proceedings by the Chairman, pointing with his foot (as occurs in many nomadic tribes of North Africa, each wise man gives the floor to the other indigenous people of his own tribe)” [Translation of the Wikipedia entry in Spanish on the “Tribunal de las Aguas de Valencia”].
26. Cfr. David Rico: “Introducció a la interpretació simbòlica a través del gest en l’obra d’Antoni Miró” in Pobresa, marginalitat i exclusió social en l’obra artistica d’Antoni Miró, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, p. 59 ss.; translated).
31. “Maurice Blanchot defines the community of men in historical and political space as: ‘what he exposes himself to when he is exposed’. In effect, the community is exposed in every sense of the word. Now, beyond the ‘lack of language that [the] words communism and community seem to include’ nowadays; beyond the ‘abuses in resorting to that complacent word’ which is the word people used triumphantly or instrumentally, Blanchot proposed to understand the community, the people, ‘not as the set of social forces, that lend themselves to specific political decisions, but in their instinctive refusal to assume any power, in their absolute distrust of being confused with a power to which they are delegated, and therefore in their declaration of impotence’. But it is not so much a question, it seems to me, of being satisfied with the powerlessness of the peoples as with verifying the following: their power does not cease when their access to power fails” (Georges Didi-Huberman: Pueblos expuestos, pueblos figurantes, Manantial, Buenos Aires, 2014, p. 101; translated).
32. “The city represented by Miró often becomes a container of souls that welcomes the eventual worker and the tourist, but also the disinherited: immigrants and newcomers, people born in the city drowned by necessity, travellers and people arriving from other corners of the country, of the planet, looking for new opportunities, fallen into disgrace at some point” (David Rico: Pobresa, marginalitat i exclusió social en l’obra artística d’Antoni Miró, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, p. 21; translated).
33. “When he look at our history, Miró is with the defeated, but not shuffling in retreat, but angry and ironic, he is placing a mirror before the victor and reflecting his skull with its fetid ugliness” (Isabel-Clara Simó: “Presentació” in Antoni Miró. Històries (de la nostra història), Museu de la Universitat d’Alacant, Alacant, 2010, p. 251; translated).
34. “Miró has painted, engraved or sculpted our history, that of all of us, the furthest and the most current and he has left his mark on those institutions that were fortunate enough to count on his collaboration. And has done so from his deep convictions, from the purest socio-political activism, fighting with the most beautiful weapons that a human being can employ, with methodical and patient work, and without ever renouncing his artistic voice – any other way would always remain in a very secondary level – he reaches every corner of the sensitivity of others, awakening hidden feelings and contributing to ensuring, in easier times, the country will regain its identity and to its gradual awakening” (Armand Alberola Romà: “Antoni Miró: arte y compromiso solidario” in Antoni Miró. Històries (de la nostra història), Museu de la Universitat d’Alacant, Alacant, 2010, p. 254; translated).
36. “But far from the references used by the painter being lost in an artistic metalanguage, Antoni Miró’s iconic universe is direct, powerful, rescued from the daily pulse with reality; it is a repertoire of images with paths that lead there and back again by way of an artistic and ideological contextualising – and in this respect it is worth highlighting the artist’s consistency throughout his career – we are given back this whole iconographic ensemble reinforced in its power, depth and significance; works that force a reaction, which achieve their purpose of discomforting our consciousness.” (Joan Ángel Blasco Carrascosa: “Antoni Miró. Una intensa trayectoria” in Antoni Miró. Una intensa trajectòria, Consorci de Museus de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2003, p. 12; translated).
37. “Although still a young man, Antoni Miró has already produced, and well, a long, complex, tumultuously lively work. […] at the bottom of Antonio Miró’s sustained and protean work there has been from the beginning a critical decision projected on the man on the society that western man has created. At times it is a cry of complaint, at others a revulsive sarcasm, occasionally it is the same incongruity of an art coupled with his own hypothesis. Hence the deep suggestion that drifts and teaches” (Joan Fuster sobre Antoni Miró en 1976, quoted in Jordi Tormo: Antoni Miró. La mirada rebel, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, p. 129; translated).
38. “In the transposition from the brush’s actions to the painted, the observer becomes the object of the self-active work, as Hegel concludes in an inimitable conclusion: ‘it is a completely subjective skill, which in this objective way manifests itself as the skill of the medium in its own vividness and its effect is to create a materiality through itself’. Once again, the expression of the painting is not here, for example, a reflected exteriorisation of the soul in the middle of the material, it is a living self-activity of the work. Subjective skill becomes the ‘vivacity and effect’ of the media” (Horst Bredekamp: Teoría del acto icónico, Akal, Madrid, 2017, p. 203; translated).
39. “The author puts into question the notion of progress. In this series [Vivace], without yielding to fierce criticism, we can appreciate a greater poetic and lyrical charge by means of those mechanical and articulated objects – bicycles – that have become metamorphosed in an illogical world, oscillating between reality and fantasy; and embedded in the scenography of natural spaces – now already explicitly referenced – they have been cut into a surreal organicist figuration through the relational play between what is true and what is false” (Joan Ángel Blasco Carrascosa: “Antoni Miró. Una intensa trayectoria” in Antoni Miró. Una intensa trajectòria, Consorci de Museus de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2003, p. 10; translated).
40. “The wheel is, somehow, an archetype, an image widely used by Antoni Miró.” “The wheel is a limit to polysemy, it occupies all the ‘archaeology of culture’, traces of sacred themes: the wheel of Buddhism, the wheels of celestial chariots, the wheel with the astrological sun signs, Nietzsche’s wheel rolling along alone […], the wheel on Duchamp’s bicycle, having begun the circuit of the ‘prêt-à-porter’ genre, he returns with a wheel totally removed from the frontier of painting to discover the surface of a resuscitation of Lethe’s paintings” (Valentina Pokladova: “Ramas y raíces” en Antoni Miró. Una intensa trajectòria, Consorci de Museus de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2003, p. 86; translated).
41. “We cannot forget, nor do we want to, that he is an artist, and one who works to conquer, through a deepened task, and also one that caresses, the precise crumbs of beauty required to make others participate in his will: to be a complete man, where the commitment to society is clearly reasoned and precise. Surely it is not a beauty to be used, but rather we could refer to witnessing the work of one who looks at existence through eyes that orbit around humanity’s condition” (Josep Sou: “Las ciudades del silencio” in Antoni Miró. Històries (de la nostra història), Museu de la Universitat d’Alacant, Alacant, 2010, p. 280; translated).
43. “Antoni Miró’s Suite eròtica (Erotic Suite) is a tribute to the character of archaic beauty projected with the perception of a modern mind with the conviction that all versions have equal rights, and that new variations replace the classics, bringing splendour and variety to Weltbuilt” (Valentina Pokladova: “Ramas y raíces” in Antoni Miró. Una intensa trajectòria, Consorci de Museus de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2003, pp. 83-84; translated).
44. “In a luminous essay on Toni Miró, published in 1989 by the San Telmo Museum of San Sebastián under the title Diàlegs (Dialogues), Romà de la Calle wrote: ‘Antoni Miró has resorted to many myths of history and in his own way he has intensified his demystification in order to move from irony, as a catharsis, to critical action as a parallel and insurmountable objective of aesthetic experience’. The phrase, to my mind, perfectly describes one of the facets of this artist, situated on the line of social realism and fully committed to the problems and achievements of his time. This commitment gives rise to his strong interest in the past, because he clearly knows that this past has shaped the current situation. That is why history occupies a central place in the work of Toni Miró. He critically resorts to it – sometimes with a strong dose of irony, other times with real bitterness – to fulfil this cathartic function of which the aforementioned critic speaks” (Emilio La Parra: “La guerra” in Antoni Miró. Històries (de la nostra història), Museu de la Universitat d’Alacant, Alacant, 2010, p. 265; translated).
45. “Art is not simply a reflection of reality but rather it takes sides with something or against something. The mirror of art is neither inert or inanimate. It is not endowed with the objectivity of a scientific instrument, as it is not only an observer but also a participant. There is no art without passionate participation in the reality you want to represent. The notion of reflection only imperfectly defines this artistic participation” (Ernst Fisher: “El problema de lo real en el arte moderno” in Polémica sobre realismo, Tiempo Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, 1972 pp. 104-105; translated).
46. “Hence the hypothesis formulated by Louis Marin: the function of the representative device would be to operate the transformation of force into power, on the one hand by representing it (in the space and time of the realm), on the other by legitimising it. ‘If representation in general has a double power: that of recreating the absent and the dead and making it once again imaginatively present, even alive, and that of establishing its own legitimate and authorised subject displaying qualifications, justifications […], in other words, if the representation not only reproduces in fact but also in law the conditions that make its reproduction possible, then we understand the interest of power in appropriating it. Representation and power are equal in nature’” (Christian Salmon: La ceremonia caníbal. Sobre la performance política, Península, Madrid, 2013, p. 109; translated).
47. “It is, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have argued, about producing an image capable of ‘entrusting to the ear of the future the persistent sensations that embody the event: the constantly renewed suffering of men, their recreated protest, their struggle repeated over and over again’. […] It is here, to conclude, where an art touches, not ‘life’, as is often said, but a life: the ‘impersonal and yet singular life’ whose ‘determination of immanence’ Gilles Deleuze sought in the end, precisely, that of his own. Now, the most ‘vital’ element of that life, its beautiful power of protest, of creation, its very virtus, resides for Deleuze in what we have precisely recognised, from Warburg to Pasolini, as the challenge of pain: ‘A wound is embodied or updated in a state of things, an experience; but it is in itself a pure virtuality in the plane of immanence that leads us to a life. My wound existed before I did’” (Georges Didi-Huberman: Pueblos expuestos, pueblos figurantes, Manantial, Buenos Aires, 2014, p. 221; translated).
49. “Antoni Miró opted for the direct message, overwhelming, often crude, converted into a radical argument against historical and current irrationalities. In this way he would shine his steely spotlight on matters of unquestionable motivation for an artist like him: the disasters of wars; the unleashed passions that cause violence; the scourges of individual and collective misery; the aberrations of racism; the problems of alienation; the urgency of social emancipation; the imbalances of dehumanisation; the Machiavellianism of the manipulators; the paranoia or schizophrenia of dictators; the longings of cultural and national independence; the barbarity of the aggressor capitalism; the immorality of imperialistic colonization, etc. That is why his has been described as political art, designed to prick so much cushioned comfort; an art made to disturb, inflated with critical breath, with revulsive meanings. In short, an art of denunciation served by using what has been called ‘awareness painting’” (Joan Ángel Blasco Carrascosa: “Otra mirada sobre la obra artística de Antoni Miró” in Antoni Miró. Antología, Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo, Alacant, 1999, p. 43; translated).
50. “Miró considers culture as ‘the straight path to freedom. The only path’ and art is a revolutionary means of expression and transmission of ideas to achieve this, a means that serves to communicate everything that is transmitted and that can be understood anywhere in the world. In his opinion: ‘this is possible with limited means. With artistic ones alone. And painting is one of its main channels of communication, a language that allows you to transmit a specific message everywhere’. The objective: change the world that receives the artist’s message, to make it cultured and free. This is why he stated that ‘art must necessarily be critical and help society to be this too. This is the only way to change the injustices of this planet’. He considers that art is constant investigation and innovation, an adventure made of evidence, errors and rectifications. In short, progress to achieve what you are looking for” (Jordi Tormo: Antoni Miró. La mirada rebel, Càtedra Antoni Miró d’Art Contemporani, Universitat d’Alacant, 2017, p. 73; translated).