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Update on Josep Pujiula’s art environment, Argelaguer, Spain

Posted in Threatened Environments

In Spain, working on finishing up the edits to the galleys on my book on Spanish art environments, I’ve also been very involved with advocating for Josep Pujiula i Vila’s art environment – what is left of it, that is. For those of you who signed the petition I started on Avaaz last spring, we are most appreciative, and your support is putting pressure on the local politicos to find a solution to save the site. They know that the world is watching!

Last Friday I attended an important meeting with Josep Dorca, the mayor of Argelaguer; Eudald Casadesús, representing the Catalan government in Girona; Antoni Baulida, Director of Cultural Services for the Girona area; and Alex Rocas, representing the Catalan agency in charge of water, the office who had fined Pujiula for his work on the side of the spillway. In addition, Pujiula’s daughter and son-in-law were in attendance.

We all trekked over to the site from the mayor’s office (I don’t think the government officials had realized they would need hiking shoes instead of their regular nice office shoes for that meeting!), so that they could view the installations first-hand. We also presented a wealth of documentation on the site from all over the world, indicating the articles I’d written for Folk Art and Raw Vision, and my most recent book on Spanish arts (Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain, 2005). I think they were astounded at the amount of publicity Pujiula has received, and they seemed to all agree that the work had cultural, artistic, and what they call here “patrimonial” work that merits protection. The issue now is how to spin it so that they can maintain their “rules” while still preserving the site.

I think the biggest issue is the safety and security of visitors: as soon as there is a man-made component in a landscape, there are litigious possibilities if someone is injured (more so in the U.S., I think, but still an issue here). They asked me to provide them with information on how other communities have responded to the art environments within their borders, which I have, and I’ve particularly suggested that the mayor speak with his counterparts in other Spanish villages where they’ve learned to appreciate and promote their environments as helpful for local commerce thanks to tourist visits, etc.

In the meantime, some filmmakers from Barcelona are completing a film on the most recent dismantling of the environment, which will premiere at the site this coming Saturday night. They’ll also show my 2005 film on Pujiula, which accompanied the “Forms of Tradition” project, at that time, and the  mayor’s office is helping out with traffic control, lending of equipment, etc. That’s a good sign.

We’ll see what happens, but I’m guardedly optimistic that these officials will try to find a way to back off the fines and the penalties, and will search to find a way to preserve this site. It has become so identified with the village of Argelaguer that a huge hole—socio-culturally as well as physically—will open if the work is destroyed. Stay tuned…

~Jo Farb Hernández

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