What does remembering the ethical, aesthetic and political experiences of Republican exiles mean eighty years later within the global context of the climate emergency and migrant crisis? In the framework of the last century’s world wars, a new citizen figure was born: the refugee. This figure embodied the experience of hundreds and thousands of Spaniards, and founded a political world we still inhabit. A century on, the full mobilisation of resources, bodies and weapons of global capital cause migrant flows on a scale that is unprecedented in human history, constituting a threat from which increasingly fewer sectors of the population in Western countries are exempt. To return to the experiences and knowledge developed by thousands of people exiled after the Spanish Civil War is to do so from this evidence. The debate no longer revolves around the place wrested from the national history of those banished from the country by death and destruction. It is not about any recognition owed to artists, intellectuals, researchers and people who contributed so much to the artistic and civil life of their new-found homes. For perhaps the objective is not so much to “bring back exiles”, or “recover them” in relation to those areas of experience that were not, or could not be, assimilated. Rather, it is to propose, from this impossibility, other modes of transhistorical dialogue. The proposal here is to summon exile, to ponder its archive of experiences and knowledge as a set of useful notions today in order to think from diaspora so we can relate to the degree of exile or migrant that may be in each. For the diasporic position, ahead of being a form of diminished national identity awaiting restoration, must now be understood as a radical place of vulnerability, one of aesthetic and political creativity. From there it is possible to open other unknown experiences and configurations, thereby establishing alliances with them.
This was considered and stipulated by Iberian exiles in 1936. Or at least a percentage of those people. For them, exodus also represented distance from national mechanisms and techo-capitalist modernity. The experience of anomie and dispossession, of contact with every form of exclusion, and difference meant that many radically questioned things and, in the process, the great Spanish myths were thrown into crisis, as were narratives of the Conquista. The imagery of a pilgrim Spain was born, able to lead to non-Western espistemologies and forms of alternative religiousness or revolutionary spiritualty. Concurrently, poets, draughtsmen and photographers documented, in first person, the concentration-camp archipelago in European nations, the necropolitical continuity between liberal capitalism, colonial government and the totalitarian state still called “progress”.
By way of these premises, this seminar, conducted by lecturer and researcher Germán Labrador Méndez, sets forth a discussion around certain points in time from Spain’s stateless archive through the works — writings, drawings, cultural and political undertakings — of a broad number of its members — children, women, men — as it seeks to establish moments of rupture, in which the destituent powers and the utopian potential of diasporic experience are expounded. Each session in the seminar is organised around these three emblems: labyrinths, savages and spirits, all central figures in exilic imaginary, but rarely the subject of studies. As a whole, they speak of transit and nostalgia, of search and misdirection, of the self and its demons, of the monster that constitutes or threatens us, of death and the afterlife, of the cultivation of memory, and its ruin and possible return.