Jasmina Tešanović: Made in Catalunya / Lou and Laurie

Essay By Jasmina Tešanović; Photos by Bruce Sterling.

Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson performed a poetry session in Kosmopolis Barcelona. She was big on the screen from somewhere in US, while he was small and live in front of us, on the black and red stage, with a bunch of loose sheets of paper from which he was reading verses.

It was a weird session from this recently married couple, who have always had a huge audience all over the world. They were not singing but speaking of Catalonia, to the Catalans, using the words of Catalonian poets. Transgressive, brave, underground. angry verses of poor, gay, wronged, talented, wild personas -- translated into English. The verses rang around the packed crowd as an electric wave on the spine.

The sleepy spoiled bourgeoisie of the new mainstream, who came to see a celebrity punk dancing and singing, were shaken to their bones. Some applauded, some left, but the emotive response was visible.

Video: Made in Catalunya with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson (YouTube)

in his press conference Lou Reed said he was fed up with being asked about his darkness, about his bad boy attitudes. The Velvet Underground rockstar was fed up with the press, but the press is not dismissing him or his new book, just published in Spain.

Barcelona is the center of Spanish publishing, it is multicultural and leftist, and yet it is also separatist and nationalist, as proud and touch as right-winged poor illiterate cities . The Catalans claim their own language, their own culture and they want to split away from the rest of the Spain.

Kosmopolis is a Barcelona festival of literature, new media and politics: it invites prominent artists, writers and political activists from all over the world. The city is proud of their culture and of their literary guests. The streets outside the venue are full of tourists, street artists, Catholic beggars, pick pockets , transvestites, émigrés, music bands, cafes, young desperadoes and old jet setters. Lou and Laurie performed their "Made in Catalonia" show as gypsy jet setters -- a crowd who make Catalonia a nationalist region with cosmopolitan principles. The new nationalism smells of cosmopolitan elitism -- splendid separatist islands, eluding a world in decay. If you don't want to be with them, you will have to do without them.

Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

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Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

- Dragan Dabic Defeats Radovan Karadzic
- Who was Dragan David Dabic?
- My neighbor Radovan Karadzic
- The Day After / Kosovo
- State of Emergency
- Kosovo
- Christmas in Serbia
- Neonazism in Serbia
- Korea - South, not North.
- "I heard they are making a movie on her life."
- Serbia and the Flames
- Return to Srebenica
- Sagmeister in Belgrade
- What About the Russians?
- Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
- Mothers of Mass Graves
- Hope for Serbia
- Stelarc in Ritopek
- Sarajevo Mon Amour
- MBOs
- Killing Journalists
- Where Did Our History Go?
- Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
- Carnival of Ruritania
- "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
- Faking Bombings
- Dispatch from Amsterdam
- Where are your Americans now?
- Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
- Slaughter in the Monastery
- Mermaid's Trail
- A Burial in Srebenica
- Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
- To Hague, to Hague
- Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
- Floods and Bombs
- Scorpions Trial, April 13
- The Muslim Women
- Belgrade: New Normality
- Serbia: An Underworld Journey
- Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
- The Long Goodbye
- Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
- Slobodan Milosevic Died
- Milosevic Funeral


  1. At first, I thought this first sentence said that Lou Reed and Louie Anderson had a poetry session. I would have paid to see that.

  2. As always, excellent work from Jasmina!

    Side note- we went to see Laurie Anderson on her tour and took our daughter. When Lou Reed came out, and the crowd went nuts, she leans over and ask “mommy, who’s that?” A few weeks later, she brings home a painting, and I ask who it is, she says “Laurie Anderson’s husband”. Kids rule.

  3. This is really great, thanks for posting this. I’ve always loved Laurie Anderson, and Reed, and it’s wonderful when great artists continue to evolve and not get trapped in their pasts.


    Yes, catholic beggers, as in, kneeling down in the middle of the street without any padding under your knees doing somekind of martyr routine holding up a sign in a obviously very uncomfortable and physically stressing manner describing all the anguish and bad luck life has bestowed on to you.
    Never got used to watching those while living in Spain. Never gave em a eurocent of my money either.

  5. Re that top photo, as a friend once said to me about a similar structure in Newcastle, Australia, how did the council/planning committee overseeing it’s construction NOT think “It’s a huge cock”. Talk about phallo-worship. Maybe there were no women on said committee…

  6. The comment that states “The Catalans claim their own language, their own culture and they want to split away from the rest of the Spain” is somewhat misleading.

    Yes, there is popular support for separatism in Catalonia, but it’s hardly unanimous.

  7. Xeni. Again. Thank you. (And thank you, John. I stupidly forgot to thank you earlier.)

    Xeni, you have really outdone yourself.

    I haven’t seen Laurie in YEARS and I miss her so much my heart hurts.

    Maybe she’ll “run into” me again once I return to NYC.

  8. It is not exact to say that Catalans are separatists. Of course they love their culture and language. And there is an independentist party, but voters prefer two other much bigger parties.

    Even more, Barcelona is the least independentist city of Catalonia, because it is not a provincian city but rather a multicultural, billingual, cosmopolitan, modern city.

  9. Barcelona is a contradictory city and the post tries to convey this impression, I guess.

    On one hand, it is a provincial city that portrays itself as a cosmopolitan one and lives on that fantasy, which sometimes helps the city to push itself ahead. This narrative is shared and managed by the local intelligentsia, the City Hall politicos and the old money families alike… whether they say they are on the left or the right side of the political spectrum. Strangely enough for someone with cosmopolitan aspirations, they use this fantasy to empower romantic nationalistic themes, which are used both as a justification for BCN achievements and as a result of them. One measure of the provincialisms of Barcelona is its insistence on comparing against…. Madrid, which is the closest biggest city in Spain.

    The Lou Reed – Laurie Anderson poetry gig, in my view, is the perfect instrument for the “The sleepy spoiled bourgeoisie of the new mainstream,” that rules this fantasy and imposes it on the rest of the barcelonians. It is welcome as a way to reinforce the connection of the city with cosmopolitan, (post?)modern narratives. What can be better than to connect with Berkeley or New York to get rid of any suspicion of provincialism? (You got the irony, I guess).

    On the other hand, BCN is a lively city full of creative people, marginal characters and multiple cultures that live on apart from that fantasy. Even Catalans that would like to have independence but without romantic justifications and that are fed up with the local powers worldwiew.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the balance changes in favor of these new actors.

    There is already some resistance to the mainstream Barcelonian discourse. As I said, the city is lively and alive!.

    For a taste of proposals and texts of very different quality and purposes, have a look at the “I hate Barcelona” book/pamphlet (in Spanish, is this cosmopolitan? http://www.myspace.com/odiobarcelona). Or better still, the book by anthropologist Manuel Delgado “La ciudad mentirosa. Fraude y miseria del modelo Barcelona” (“Liar City: fraud and misery of the Barcelona Model”), again, only in Spanish.

    My congratulations to the author of the post for capturing this subtle (or not so subtle) state of affairs!

  10. October 24, 2008
    Lou Reed onstage in Kosmopolis Barcelona
    Laurie Anderson in a UC Berkeley studio , Berkeley, California , via the internet
    works of Catalan poets Brossa, Espriu, Carner and Vinyoli
    45 minute live video performance
    produced by Cal Performances, University of California at Berkeley
    as experienced last year at the Made in Catalunya event in New York City
    presented by KOSMOPOLIS International Literature Fest

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