A Change of Aesthetics: Citizen Ruptures in the Spanish Transition

A course conducted by Germán Labrador

24, 25, 28, 30 and 31 January 2019 - 5pm
Raimundo Patiño. untitled. Painting, 1972. © Raimundo Patiño, VEGAP, Madrid, 2019
Raimundo Patiño. untitled. Painting, 1972. © Raimundo Patiño, VEGAP, Madrid, 2019

free, with prior registration (complete capacity)


an official attendance certificate will be issued for all interested parties. 

Requirements: at least seventy per cent of the course must be attended.

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía

This course, with its design rooted in the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition, explores the imaginary of 1970s Spain from a central hypothesis: the articulation, in the confrontation with Francoism and post-Francoism, of citizens’ breakaway resulting from an upsurge in certain aesthetic practices. Through these practices, new political subjects were shaped in opposition to the regime’s institutions and forms of discipline. This other society included women, young people, neighbourhood groups and “dangers to society”, the last of which refer to the Francoist Law that stigmatised those considered a menace to the regime, from beggars to homosexuals. In parallel, the emergence of this multifarious civil society and its struggles for emancipation questions the limits of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy, its practices producing and organising alternative forms of culture and social and urban models, in addition to ways of life referred to here inside this framework as ‘transitional’. The documents of such actions and proposals constitute a democratic archive, susceptible to questioning, in exhibition terms, and intervened in from the present. Thus, to think about the transitional legacy means to reflect upon the origins, devices and limits of democracy, and imagine its possible transformations. 

Across five sessions and in conversation with other voices, Germán Labrador Méndez, a professor and researcher of Cultural Studies at Princeton University, sets forth a critical survey of the accounts of democracy founded through the tension between archive and myth, challenging predominant expectations surrounding the period through diverse analytical strategies. Oral memory and documents from other transitions which occurred at the time (neighbourhood, youth, autonomous, psychiatric, gender…) speak of unrepresented historical experiences in the official foundational discourse of post-Francoism and the utopian potential they possess with respect to an alternative citizen genealogy.

Consequently, drawing on the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition as a critical and methodological tool, this course explores aesthetic mechanisms from 1970s Spain to focus on their transformative potential. Approaching the crossroads between culture and politics in the framework of a democracy still to come, discussions will revolve around notions of public space, the urban experience, aesthetic ruptures, the subversion of daily life, bio-literature, civil imagination, generational destruction and ephemeral memory. Moreover, the issue of transient cultural forms – minor and often anonymous – will thread together the different sessions, each analysing the way in which a time of civil conversation, the occupation of public space, the affirmation of subaltern political subjects or aesthetic disputes involve the questioning of democracy.

The sessions will take place both in the Museo, in a lecture room and in different exhibition rooms, and in Madrid’s Malasaña neighbourhood, in wanderings around and explorations of the city. Upon the conclusion of the course, on Friday 1 February, the Museo will go on to hold the conference Abductions of the Imagination. A Conference on Post-Francoism Counterculture, a public activity centred on examining Spanish counterculture during the Transition.

Course director

Germán Labrador Méndez is head professor in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at Princeton University. His research in the field of cultural history specialises in the relationship between aesthetics and politics, citizenship and memory in a contemporary Iberian context. He is the author of Letras arrebatadas. Poesía y química en la transición española (Devenir, 2009) and Culpables por la literatura. Imaginación política y contracultura en la transición española (1968-1986) (Akal, 2017), and is currently writing a paper on the political and cultural responses to the 2008 crisis and working on an anthology of underground poetry. He is also one of the curators of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.


Carla Giachello is an intern in the Museo Reina Sofía Collections Department and assistant curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.

Lola Hinojosa is a curator of Performing Arts and Intermedia at the Museo Reina Sofía and co-curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.

Rosario Peiró is head of the Museo Reina Sofía Collections Department and co-curator of the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition.

Anxo Rabuñal is a curator and researcher. He is the curator of O lado da sombra: sedición gráfica e iniciativas ignoradas, raras ou desacreditadas entre 1971 e 1989 (Luis Seoane Foundation, 2005), a show which seeks to trace popular culture in the non-institutional scene in Galicia at the end of Francoism and during the Transition.


Actividad pasada Thursday, 24 January
Session 1
Radical Citizen and Aesthetic Politics

An introduction to the Spanish Transition as a critical device. The myth and its different counternarratives. The conceptual aporias of the 1970s: citizen/State, history/memory, aesthetics/history, politics/culture, counterculture/official culture. Five transitional models: heroic, melancholic, civic-popular, memorial and necropolitical. Networks of counterculture and the civic-popular paradigm: relationships between social movements and cultural actionism in the 1970s. Citizen forms and ephemeral aesthetics. Documentary devices and memory.

Actividad pasada Friday, 25 January
Session 2
Poetics of Democracy

This session is structured around a conversation between the Museo Reina Sofía’s Rosario Peiró, Lola Hinojosa and Carla Giachell.

Architecture from the exhibition The Poetics of Democracy. Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition. The Venice Pavilion of 1976 and mutations from the Anti-Franco cultural field. Curatorial archaeology and exhibition machines. Street documents: artistic forms of social movements. The new transitional left and its historical subjects: feminisms, neighbourhood associations, neighbourhood culture and the libertarian movement. Counterculture and its spaces: festivals, hangouts and magazines. A transitional subject: dangers to society, psychiatric patients and gender dissidents. Vampire imagery from the Transition. Figures and forms of constitutional culture.

Actividad pasada Monday, 28 January
Session 3
The Sides of Shadows. Critical Aesthetics from the 1970s

This session is structed around a conversation with Anxo Rabuñal, curator of O lado da sombra: sedición gráfica e iniciativas raras ou desacreditadas entre 1971 e 1989 (A Coruña, Seoane Foundation, 2005).

A curatorial history of Iberian countercultures (i). The Sides of Shadows: the story of a Galicia-based exhibition project. Alternative genealogies: centre-periphery dynamics in the transitional archive. Seville, Galicia, Barcelona and the Basque Country: centrifugal and centripetal logics of 1970s countercultures. Artistic and exhibition devices from counterculture in Galicia, between the popular and the avant-garde: publishing, poetry, music and performing arts. Félix Guattari and Allen Ginsberg in Santiago: the history of Conxo and the impossible archive of transitional anti-psychology. Iberian-Galician machines for living: the curatorial circulation of Llorenç Soler, Anna Turbau and César Portela.

Actividad pasada Wednesday, 30 January
Session 4
Prohibited Archives. The Impossible Imaginary of the Democracy

Memory and form in post-Francoism: the formal construction of hegemonic accounts of the Transition and capturing civil imaginaries from the 1970s. Co-opting, erasing, displacing and resemantization: formal mechanisms of the foundational discourse of democracy. The privatisation and nationalisation of collective heritage. A curatorial history of Iberian countercultures (ii). Lines of shadow: underground continuities, interposed inheritances and civil re-appropriations of 1970s forms. Ephemeral Transition archives today: online archivists, citizen memories and network culture in the crisis of the 1978 regime. Other transitions: remakes and revivals.

Actividad pasada Thursday, 31 January
Session 5
Oral Memories and the Democracy to Come

This session constitutes a survey of urban space in the Transition, in the form of a critical-memorial wander around Madrid’s Malasaña neighbourhood with a testimony mediation.

The Transition and its (non)places of memory. Institutional memory and underground memories of the (post)transitional city. The visible and invisible marks of counterculture in public space. The Movida Movement and the city-Movida: an urban account of the spatial metamorphoses from the Maravillas neighbourhood to present-day Malasaña. From neighbourhood struggles to fights against gentrification: political mutations of space in the shift towards immaterial capitalism. Plaza Dos de Mayo and its civic and national monumentalities. Archaeologies of the glance and the poetics of testimony: accounts and figures of 2 May 1977. The history and memory of a transitional icon: the photography of Félix Lorrio.