Caitlin’s response 5/5

The transformational role of theater in “Cultivating the Square”

Matthew Feinberg and Susan Larson’s article “Cultivating the Square: Trash, Recycling and the Cultural Ecology of Post-Crisis Madrid” takes two specific examples of such “cultivation” into account: “Ésta es una plaza” and “El campo de cebada”. In citing the activities taking place in both of these re-claimed and re-defined urban spaces, theater is highlighted by the authors as an example of the culture these spaces are developing (and which is simultaneously developing them). Both of these spaces have welcomed microteatro and other theatrical productions that transform the space temporarily into a theater. Because of the unique spatial, material, and social interactions that define it, theater is an essential aspect of the cultural practices found in these transformed spaces.

If we consider the theater as a space, a space which Foucault ventured to call a heterotope because of its unique properties, it is multiple in its own definition. Although essentially all spaces, as envisioned by human geographers, are necessarily multiple due to the multiplicity of human experiences within them, a theater is designated as a transformation of space into anything the imagination can create. The practice of theater in the two cited spaces in Madrid seems an appropriate activity in a space that is calling to be redefined. Although not necessarily intended as a stage, the space that is occupied by a theatrical performance becomes transformed in a similar fashion by the collective imaginary of the actors and their audience. The space is seen and treated differently and thus is opened up to multiple possibilities for the spatial interactions that take place. If an abandoned concrete area can be re-envisioned as the set of Don Juan Tenorio, it can be transformed into innumerable other spaces as well when its human spatial practitioners designate it as such.

If theater is capable of transforming space, it can also transform objects. In any given play, a broom turns into a tree, a chair into a horse, a blanket into a king’s robe. In the case of the “trash” referred to by Pardo in the article, theater can adopt most any discarded object that has been considered unusable or nonfunctional and temporarily assign it new meaning. As with the space in question, theatrical uses of the objects in question open the door to new possibilities for further creativity. While the old broom may not have a function after the play is over, the public has seen it as other than what it appeared to be before the performance, and therefor may realize the creative potential that the object has when re-appropriated by certain cultural practices. Theater is capable of seeing “trash” as infinite possibility and facilitates a reconceptualization of the discarded material.

The reconceptualization and re-appropriation of these spaces and objects that theater facilitates evidently necessitates the participation of a public who is willing to enter into the proposed imaginary world and suspend their disbelief, thereby agreeing to see the concrete slab as the house of Don Juan. Theater thus connects the “non-place” and “trash” with the residents of the area who are ultimately responsible for the proposed change. The rehearsal is not only theatrical in its most literal sense; it is an active practicing of social/spatial interactions that will ultimately determine the identity and newfound function of these two spaces in Madrid and foster a society with a new and innovative collective spatial imaginary.


Charles response to Johnson and O’brien

Here’s my response to the Johnson and O’brien articles. Looking forward to chatting about them.

-Charles Carlin

Ecopsychology is an intellectual project concerned with connecting human psychological health and well-being to more-than-human relationships. Andy Fisher, author of Radical Ecopsychology, describes it as an effort to “turn the psyche inside out” (Fisher 2013, 9). Fisher frames ecopsychology as beginning from loss. He writes, “our experience is of absence, of lack, of relationships that aren’t” (p.41), and that our challenge is to recover “from the trauma of feeling separated from the rest of life” (p. 52). Efforts to reestablish relationship with nonhuman others, places, or landscapes are then existential as much as they are technical. Viewed through the lens of ecopsychology, both Johnson and Obrien’s articles can be read as relationship narratives, efforts to find meaning through the cultivation of more-than-human relationships. This relationship narrative is central to O’brien’s essay and I suggest that it could be further incorporated into Johnson’s critique in order to better influence biomimicry rather than largely dismissing it.

O’brien specifically casts her argument in an existential tone. For the O-odham walkers, diabetes is more than a medical issue, it is one of culture and place. The native foods they choose to eat are better for them in a technical sense—slow glucose-release, high fiber—but equally important is the idea that the foods are “good for the land and good for our souls” (O’Brien 2007, 91 quoting Gary Nabhan). By framing their efforts in terms of land and soul, she argues that the foods can not be reduced to their individual nutritional properties. She also makes the argument that establishing a soulful relationship with their food web upsets both corporate and linear versions of time. It mingles the spiritual and profane, evokes ancestors and imagines futures. Whereas corporate time is present focused, this alien time should be better understood as cyclical or perhaps hermeneutic. The ancestors and their traditions are evoked in present choices with an eye towards cultivating the future of the community.

This sense of soulful relationship and reciprocity is missing from the advocates of biomimicry. Johnson argues that instead of offering a way to reimagine the relationship between humans and our many others, biomimicry too often reinforces the idea of nature ‘as a warehouse’ (Johnson 2010, 187). By mining the capacities of others, such as lobsters’ ability to track chemical signals, biomimicry enables producers to extract their capacities as technologies without attending to the relationship between producer, lobster, and the economic system through which their relationship is mediated. Rather than seeing nature as a storehouse of wisdom and technology, Johnson instead argues that nature should be seen as deeply ambivalent, not thought of as “right or optimal”(p. 191), and that we instead focus on a social interrogation of what appears to be a new mode of production. I agree that this sort of social and political inquiry is needed, but I hesitate to abandon biomimicry’s project of working through the alienation from nature that many do experience.

While Johnson is clearly skeptical about Benyus’ goal of repairing “our connection to the earth” (p. 183), I believe it can be read more generously. Many scholars working in the posthuman and postcolonial tradition are deeply suspicious of “declensionist” narratives that sees a more or less progressive decline in ecological conditions since the agricultural revoultion. Bruce Braun, who Johnson sometimes publishes with, has argued that mourning for a lost edenic nature is a defining psychic quality of modernity (2002). While much violence has been done in the name of ‘nature,’ it is hard to argue against the basic truth of the declensionist narrative (Taylor 2013). Instead of reading Benyus’ story as some sort of colonial nostalgia, it could instead be read through the lens of ecopsycholgy as a yearning for relationship and connection. Benyus clearly failed to think through the political-economic repercussions of her business partnerships, but focusing too directly on the political-economic critique too easily leads to an outright dismissal of biomimicry.

Instead, what if we took Benyus at her word that biomimicry is intended to repair this felt rupture with the earth? In that case, we might still look to the lobster for innovation, but we would also be compelled to further consider the quality of relationship being fostered by the inquiry. Just as GMO foods provide an answer to only one part of the food crisis, we would then see that mining the lobster for its technical prowess produces a similarly limited result. However, whereas Johnson seems to see biomimicry as an extension of the capitalist mode of production into new realms, we might be better equipped to hold onto the productive potential of biomimicry while critiquing those parts of it that undermine its capacity to cultivate the experience of connection. Robotic lobsters and GMO wheat do little to cultivate a sense of living in and through the world. Native foods and kidney bean leaves, however, may speak more directly to what I see as a genuine desire for relationship with our more-than-human kin.

Here, one could tweak Benyus’ argument and Johnson’s critique. It is impossible to go back to an edenic nature that never existed. However, nature—human and otherwise—does not need to be thought of as deeply ambivalent. Instead, biomimicry, seen through ecopsychology, may be one way to answer the question, “what sorts of natures do we want to create?” Attending to the soulful quality of the relationship, as O’brien’s travelers do, would allow an inquiry to attend to the critique of capitalist modes of production but also cast the story in a more experimental tone, challenging Benyus and Johnson’s readers to imagine a story for biomimicry that nurtures the very real desire that many have to feel a more direct connection with the world that sustains them.’


Braun, Bruce. 2002. The Intemperate Rainforest: Nature, Culture, and Power on Canada’s West Coast. U of Minnesota Press.
Fisher, Andy. 2013. Radical Ecopsychology, Second Edition: Psychology in the Service of Life. Kindle. SUNY Press.
Johnson, E. 2010. “Reinventing Biological Life, Reinventing ‘the Human.’” Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization 10 (2): 177–93.
O’Brien, Susie. 2007. “SURVIVAL STRATEGIES FOR GLOBAL TIMES.” Interventions 9 (1): 83–98.
Taylor, Bron. 2013. “‘It’s Not All about Us’: Reflections on the State of American Environmental History.” Journal of American History 100 (1): 140–44.

Abstract Final Paper (Carlos) 05/05/2015

En un intento de lidiar con los conflictos sociales, políticos y económicos que se nos presentan en medio de la Gran Aceleración, nuevas corrientes filosóficas se han ido forjando, las cuales replantean y cuestionan algo fundamental, nuestra idea de realidad y existencia. Hoy en día innovadores proyectos de urbanización, debates en cuanto producción, consumo, distribución, sostenibilidad, etc. se basan en una nueva línea conductora que reconceptualiza nuestra forma de pensar. La mayor parte de estas nuevas ideologías se centran en el emergente ‘realismo especulativo’, corriente filosófica que nace con la vuelta del siglo XXI, el cual se aleja bruscamente del antropocentrismo que predominó por muchas décadas.

Muchos son los teóricos que comienzan a centrarse en lo que hoy se conoce como ‘antrodecentrismo.’ Dentro de estos se encuentra Timothy Morton. En un intento de comprender estos nuevos alcances filosóficos, Morton señala que existieron ‘precuelas’ a principios del siglo XX que de alguna u otra manera anunciaron el nacimiento de lo que hoy estamos experimentando con el realismo especulativo.

Mirando detenidamente las expresiones vanguardistas hispánicas de principios del siglo XX como una de estas precuelas, este ensayo busca entablar un diálogo entre estas expresiones artísticas y el realismo especulativo del presente. Tomaré específicamente ejemplos de la lírica creacionista y surrealista latinoamericana (Huidobro, Vallejo, Neruda) así como algunos de la pintura española y trataré de entablar paralelos entre estas y las bases del realismo especulativo. Lo que se busca con este exhaustivo análisis es hacer del realismo especulativo algo no solo inteligible, sino que accesible, para que entonces de esta forma siga sirviendo de vena para los nuevos intentos resolutivos. Al ser una corriente filosófica relativamente nueva, es necesario encontrar similitudes entre ésta y algo tan estudiado como las vanguardias. Lo que busca este estudio es hacer del realismo especulativo algo abordable, asequible, logrando abrirlo a que se convierta en algo lucrativo en cuanto a nuevos alcances de resoluciones para problemas del presente.

Schedule some time on the Calendar for mañana! (Amy’s response 5.15)

Susie O’Brien destaca el concepto de tiempo como “corporate time” y “public time,” y confieso lo irónico para mí de vivir entre estos dos mundos, bajo los dos ritmos es que en este momento estoy utilizando corporate time para tener mejor acceso a public time.   Ella define corporate time como el modo temporal del mundo manejado por la esquema neoliberal y la  globalización.  En cambio se encuentra public time en los espacios como las universidades donde promueven un análisis del pasado y presente y una reflexión sobre las implicaciones para el futuro.  Corporate time es veloz y egoísta, y no tiene en cuenta la vida como la gente o el medio ambiente.  Por el otro lado, public time es despacio, atento y las acciones son meditadas cuidando el bienestar de todo y todos, hoy y mañana.

O’Brien escribe sobre corporate time y como conecta con el programa de Oracle que se llama Calendar que sirve para controlar el tiempo y las agendas de los empleados.  Comenta que el programa facilita las reuniones, la producción y el crecimiento de la economía pero no tiene en cuenta las futuras generaciones o el futuro del planeta.  Corporate time, como el software Calendar, organiza y atrae a la gente para participar en un sistema sin considerar las consecuencias.   Los dos funcionan como una máquina sin reconocer las necesidades básicas o la importancia de comunidad, de crear y cuidar las relaciones entre la gente y la naturaleza.

Las soluciones para los problemas complejos con que contamos en esta época antropocéntrica no son sencillas.  Al leer las ideas sobre economías alternativas de por ejemplo Conil, Castells et al. o Guerra y de los espacios reciclados “Ésta es una plaza” y “El Campo de Cebada” descritos por Feinberg y Larson, o el intento del Desert Walk se ve una posible existencia fuera de corporate time.  Estas ideas o alternativas representan para mí algo de inspiración y esperanza para el futuro.  Poco a poco, y creo que inevitablemente, los movimientos de la gente consciente deben de seguir infiltrando en el corporate time y seguir fomentando cambios positivos para no sólo la humanidad sino para todos los seres sentientes y la Tierra también.

Biomimicry in Lágrimas en la lluiva (Emma’s response, 5/5)

Rosa Montero’s Lágrimas en la lluvia, like many a good science fiction novel, treats the theme of the “other” from a unique perspective. In this case, we are called to identify with the protagonist, Bruna, who is both familiar and distinctly “other” to the reader. She has human sentiments and memories but the humanness of these traits is constantly called into question, both by Bruna and those around her, because of her status as a replicant. She has been bioengineered. Elizabeth Johnson’s “Reinventing Biological Life, Reinventing the Human” looks at the phenomenon of biomimicry and, along with Donna Haraway’s theory of the “cyborg,” helps to shed some light on Bruna’s conundrum. Johnson considers the ideal use of biomimicry and the less-than-ideal uses to which it is being put currently (at least from an environmental and holistic perspective). She outlines the ideas of biomimicry theorists and practitioners, describing, “the ultimate promise of biomimicry – that it will undermine the conceptions of human and nonhuman life upon which the traditions of technological production and progress were built… the true hope of biomimicry [is] that they will engender a more respectful, responsible, and humble engagement with nonhuman as well as human life” (183). In Bruna’s case, the matter becomes more complicated, as her existence and her superhuman abilities, create “conditions for life’s expansion” (183) that infringe upon the human a little too much. That is, having an uncannily human form, she calls into question the boundary between human and non-human in a way that is very different from the “robot lobsters” that Johnson describes and, in turn, she challenges the potential for success of these utopian biomimicry ideals.

Bruna is, both literally and figuratively, what Donna Haraway would call, a “cyborg” who lives in “permanently partial identities” (295) and experiences an “intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction” (316). Not only is she a hybrid of the organic and the technological, being born of technology, she also lives on the border of too-human emotion and cold killer instinct and possesses memories that are at once true and forged. This cyborg nature is more threatening to those around her than even the aliens that populate the world in which she lives because she is not “other” enough to be safely separated from the human, yet not human enough to be fully part of it. Haraway points out that, “The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential” (293). This idea, especially, brings into light the difference between Bruna and other forms of biomimicry. Johnson acknowledges the militarist and capitalist turn that all biomimicry has taken, suggesting that rather than being used to find harmony between the human and the non-human, it is simply becoming a new way to prioritize and protect the human from external threats while, at the same time, creating new methods of production for capitalism to exploit. Bruna is a product of this tendency, as she was created to aid in military exploits and produced within a capitalist framework. However, unlike Johnson’s robot lobsters, Bruna’s ability (and tendency) to rebel is a trait of her human-cyborg status. In the idealistic eyes of many biomimicry proponents, Bruna’s humanness should shorten the gap between human and non-human, and allow for a more respectful engagement with non-human life; however, the reality for her is almost entirely the opposite. Though the novel takes on a more hopeful tone for human-rep relations in the end, the truth in the novel’s projected setting is that we have a long way to go until biomimicry, (even on a non-humanoid scale) is far from fulfilling its goal of fostering harmonious relations between the human and non-human.

Comprar, tirar, comprar –Emma

Hi all,
Here’s my PPT on the documentary, Comprar, Tirar, Comprar, complete with links to videos and that fabulous website of the 114-year-old lightbulb! And following is the short essay version of some of the points I touched on during my presentation:

Comprar, Tirar, Comprar: The Consequences and Future of Planned Obsolescence

Cosima Dannoritzer’s 2011 documentary Comprar, tirar, comprar: La historia secreta de la obsolescencia programada provides insight into an economic ploy that affects not just consumers, but the entire planet. Though the roughly 50 minute film considers a wide range of cases and products, Dannoritzer’s documentary does not sacrifice depth for breadth. She follows a fairly straightforward narrative arc, first looking at what many consider to be the beginnings of planned obsolescence (during the 1930s as a response to the economic depression). She then focuses on a select number of examples of the process and real-world effects of planned obsolescence by looking into the limited lifespan of products such as such as lightbulbs, nylon, and Apple and other electronics. Finally, the documentary takes on a more optimistic tone and considers proponents of alternative economic practices, as well as showing ways in which savvy individual consumers can fight back.

One of the most poignant moments of the documentary is when Dannoritzer gives us insight into what happens to the “obsolete” products that have been tossed aside by first-world consumers. The film shows us a literal waste-land in Ghana where used electronics are dumped under the pretext of bridging the gap between Europe/America and third-world societies such as those found in Africa. Though there are laws in place that prohibit waste dumping, the computers and other electronics are shipped to Ghana as “second-hand” items, which fails to connote the fact that, unlike a worn-yet-usable pair of shoes, for example, these “used” electronics simply don’t work. We see footage of young children burning the casing off of electronic wires to get to the metal inside, which can be sold and repurposed. Due to this “e-waste,” as Dannoritzer labels it in a later documentary (The E-waste Tragedy, 2014), rivers are polluted and poor children submit themselves to toxic fumes in order to earn money to, paradoxically, survive. As these tragic visuals play out, Ghanian activist Mike Anane reminds us that these people are suffering from pollution that they had no hand creating.

Planned obsolescence leads to waste and relies on never-ending resources to keep up with never-ending economic growth.  Though this futuristic optimism may have made some level of sense in the 30s, today’s society is extremely aware that resources are finite, and we are burning through them at an alarming rate. As the situation in Ghana demonstrates, the ecological footprint of first world countries in Europe and America is exceeding the planet’s capacity, as the physical consequences of these capitalist practices are far outreaching the geographical location of consumers, and even producers. While this “slow violence” (as Rob Nixon so aptly names it) is still hidden from the view of many capitalist consumers, the rate at which these products become obsolete and “useless” suggests that the first world will soon be feeling the effects of planned obsolescence on a much greater scale as our resources fail to keep up with production and the world runs out of space for the resulting trash. Even before these effects are felt, however, the images of trash fields in Ghana as a result of first-world dumping raises the more immediate question of how we can ever pay back our “ecological debt.”

In the end, the film takes a more hopeful turn and presents the ideas of several philosophers and everyday individuals that are fighting back against the system of planned obsolescence. People like French philosopher Serge Latouche have proposed the importance of completely re-thinking the system. In a world where “growth for growth’s sake” has become almost a given, Latouche puts forth the new model of “decrecimiento.” For him, the answer doesn’t even lie in the idea of sustainable development, as this still implies growth. Instead, it relies on working toward not having an ecological footprint that exceeds the planet’s surface. Others are working on a more individual scale to combat the effects of planned obsolescence. As the documentary shows, individuals who feel cheated out of quality products are taking companies like Apple to court, requiring them to legally change the longevity of their products. Other consumers are simply finding ways to get around the system of forced obsolescence and work together to provide free downloadable hacks to repair old technology.

In sum, Comprar, Tirar, Comprar raises issues that grow more and more relevant the longer we wait to react. This “secret history” of planned obsolescence has become far less secret, yet the issues still remain. In the year 2015, four years after the production of Dannoritzer’s documentary, are we any further along the road to changing the damaged relationship between the economy and the environment? On a small scale, as the film suggests, this answer is something like “slowly but surely, but we can still do more.” The pockets of resistance to forced obsolescence are growing as individual consumers are starting to find their own ways to repair and reuse rather than simply reject and re-purchase. In the end, as the framework of alterative economies grows, it’s hard not to be cautiously hopeful for the future.

Amy’s Response #2 – Monsanto the GMO Giant

Para seguir con el tema de mi comentario anterior sobre las ideas de Bernard Letaier en su libro “The Future of Money” se puede argumentar que el dinero, o mejor dicho los fines de lucro, en el caso de la empresa Monsanto es de una manera la causa principal de varios problemas ambientales y económicos actuales que se encuentran por todo el mundo.  Como está presentado en la película “The World According to Monsanto”  es bien evidente que Monsanto oculta la verdad sobre lo tóxico que son sus productos transgénicos porque no quieren perder ni sólo un dólar en ventas.  Con el propósito de discutir brevemente cómo la biotecnología de las plantas creadas y patentadas por Monsanto toca el mundo hispano veamos los casos del maíz en México y la soja en Paraguay.

Primero más que nada vale la pena contemplar la ética que rodea el concepto de la biotecnología y en particular la conversión de los recursos naturales como las plantas o comida en objetos de producción y propiedad del mercado o en este caso de Monsanto.  Es verdad que la ciencia detrás de esta biotecnología en si misma es bastante impresionante pero utilizarla para el beneficio de la empresa y satisfacer a los accionistas sin considerar las repercusiones es irresponsable, egoísta y atroz.  El capitalismo no para de buscar alternativas para competir y crecer sin tener en cuenta la destrucción de la vida humana y la contaminación del medio ambiente.  En fin no tiene sentido que una empresa puede ser dueño de un elemento natural y una necesidad básica de la vida como las semillas que son la base principal del sustento humano.

En el caso de México, el maíz transgénico de Monsanto está contaminado al cultivo y amenazando a la gran biodiversidad de las variedades de maíz en el país.  Además, en cuanto esté contaminado el cultivo la gente ya no tiene otro remedio y tiene que comprar no sólo las semillas transgénicas de Monsanto sino las herbicidas también.  Los agricultores no cuentan con el dinero suficiente para poder comprar estos productos y como resultado piden préstamos.  Pero la situación se empeora porque bajo NAFTA el mercado mexicano está inundado con el maíz subsidiado barato de EU y así ni siquiera pueden competir, esforzándolos dejar de cultivar y emigrar a las ciudades y a EU buscando trabajo.   Según Otero y Pechlaner en su artículo “Is Biotechnology the Answer? The Evidence From NAFTA,” la biotecnología no es la solución para alimentar a la gente porque hay una pérdida de biodiversidad, comunidad y trabajos cuando hay un reemplazo de la agricultura sustentable de pequeña escala por la agricultura industrial y transgénica.

Fue propuesto en la película “La Guerra de la Soja” que la agricultura industrial creado por Monsanto es como la segunda conquista o colonialismo, una cuestión del imperialismo y la explotación de la tierra en Latinoamérica.   En Paraguay por ejemplo el cultivo industrial de la soja se va creciendo, explotando y contaminando la tierra, y dañando la salud de la gente.  La soja transgénica se ha convertido la cultivación en una producción monoproducto que crea una economía frágil que es dependiente de los precios globales.  Además la soja que se cultiva va para Europa para alimentar a los animales, la fuente de la carne.  Así se ve la comparación de la situación de la soja transgénica con el colonialismo porque otra vez son los de afuera que por su beneficio están explotando las tierras y a las personas de Latinoamérica.

Pavone en su artículo ¨Ciencia, neoliberalismo y bioeconomía” destaca la idea de la bioeconomía como la economía del conocimiento y cómo esta transformación de tal ciencia o biotecnología que se convierte la naturaleza en capital que participa en el mercado está modificando totalmente la manera en que actuamos.   Es interesante ver cómo cambia la cultura y la política acerca de la biotecnología pero en el futuro tiene que haber una mejor percepción y regulación ya que ni la vida humana ni la tierra van a poder aguantar mucho más de lo cierto extremo que ha llegado el capitalismo que intenta convertir casi todo en objetos para vender.

Caitlin’s response 3/17 – Biutiful Barcelona

In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful, the role of the city of Barcelona is of primary importance in the film, second only perhaps to the protagonist Uxbal, played by Javier Bardem. Arguably, the character and plot cannot be extracted from this specific urban space. Barcelona, one of the most visited European cities, suffers from the very same picturesque image it propagates. While many films (and certainly a number of other artistic mediums) portray Catalonia’s capital from the point of view of the tourists who come to see its architectural glory, famous landmarks and swarming beaches, Biutiful, both technically and thematically, insists on the portrayal of the Barcelona of the marginalized.

The filming techniques throughout the film underline this marginalized side of the city as experienced by its immigrant population. Barcelona is rarely portrayed as a panoramic whole, and in the few shots that are positioned from an elevated view allowing this panorama, the city is shown at nighttime or under cloud cover, obscuring views of the Mediterranean and draping the architecture in a drab and depressing ambience. Additionally, the panoramic shots concentrate more often on buildings under construction than on fully finished architectural triumphs. Our vision of the skyline is consistently cluttered with cranes and never allows us liberating views of the expansive space that we would expect from a Mediterranean cityscape. The few picturesque images of the city are captured at the beginning of a shot that pans to a reality which disrupts our initial reaction to the image. The view of the Sagrada Familia and the Torre Agbar (under a clouded sky) are slowly relegated to the view out of the hospital window as Uxbar receives his cancer treatment. When we finally are able to see the horizon of the Mediterranean, a similar pan is used to reveal the corpses of the Chinese workers as they float ashore in the foreground of the infamous Barceloneta and its gleaming architecture. Thus the celebrated cityscape is used as a backdrop to harsh human realities that are more often hidden behind its gleaming façade.

Although it uses a different filmic strategy, the effect of the police chase through the Ramblas can be seen as a similar effort to disrupt the idealized image of the city held by a privileged, largely tourist population. The areal view of the Plaça de Catalunya is quickly shattered into fragmented pieces when the police begin to chase the illegal street vendors around the boundaries of the plaça. The shots are interrupted by frequent cuts between perspectives from inside the moving police cars, shots from the plaça following the chase circulating around it, and moving shots with handheld cameras following the persecuted men. These frequent moving, disrupted and disrupting shots make their way into Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s infamous street which has turned into one of its greatest tourist attractions. Yet again, the initial view of the majestic, tree-lined pedestrian fairway is cut apart into running shots, obscured views, and frequent cuts as the camera follows characters down narrow off-streets in their effort to escape.

In addition to these disrupted panoramas, the majority of the shots are filmed in closed, dark, cramped spaces that better represent Barcelona as known to the film’s protagonists than the propagated postcard images of its open tourist spaces. The basement that houses the Chinese immigrants, the low-ceilinged, seemingly temporary housing of the African street vendors and their families, and even the more spacious but decaying apartment of the protagonist and his family are the most frequent settings of the movie. The frequent use of these external contexts construct boundaries between the “outside” world of the rich tourist city and the inside, or perhaps “underside”, that, while frequently contained in these tight spaces, occasionally spills out. The shots and filming techniques used to construct the visual narrative of Biutiful can thus be seen as an effort to problematize a dominant view of Barcelona and to fully represent the city’s marginalized spaces and inhabitants.