Art Actions Portbou - Walter Benjamin
Sarkis, closing of the exhibition Le voyage, le soleil, l’obscurité, at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Céret in the summer of 2002. The closing act took place in front of Benjamin’s grave in Portbou cemetery. Sarkis, who has been engaging with Benjamin’s for many years, invited visitors to the exhibition to attend the closing act in Portbou cemetery.
Walter Benjamin - Marcel Duchamp, September 27, 2003. A sound installation by Franck Ancel in Portbou and at the Hotel Belvédère du Rayon Vert in Cerbère. A symbolic meeting between these two artists who opened the door to twentieth-century thought and creation. The Walter Benjamin Memorial by Dani Karavan was filmed live with a video camera and the images relayed to the old theatre of the Hotel Belvédère du Rayon Vert in Cerbère, where a set inspired by Frederick Kiesler recreated the Marcel Duchamp photograph Le Rayon Vert. In the theatre, a beam of green light triggered a computerized sequence with a visual projection and a sound composition by John Cage.
Dani Karavan, Passagen 1994-2004. Homage to Walter Benjamin, 11 September to 4 October 2004, an exhibition of drawings and sketches by Dani Karavan for his memorial in the Horizon gallery in Colera (Alt Empordà).
Hans Fleischner, Photograph of the Red Bag, ‘Zellentrakt’, Herford, Germany, an exhibition and photographic action by Hans Fleischner in the Sala Walter Benjamin in Portbou, 19 to 27 September, 2009. In 1998 Hans Fleischner (Vienna, 1948) created the Red Bag, an object he has photographed in a series of places associated with the historical memory of the twentieth century and presented in several exhibitions in different parts of Europe, including Portbou in 2009 and 2010. One of the places where the Red Bag has been photographed is the Zellentrakt in the German town of Herford, Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi era and today the site of exhibitions relating to the historical memory. Hans Fleischner photographed the bag next to old photographs of Gestapo prisoners.
The Red Bag commemorates the 70th anniversary of Walter Benjamin’s last walk. 1940-2010, an exhibition by Hans Fleischner in the Sala Walter Benjamin in Portbou, 17 to 26 September 2010.
Under the Stairway, an installation by Jordi Mitjà in the Sala Walter Benjamin in Portbou, 17 to 26 September 2010. An installation made with the iron left over from the construction of Dani Karavan’s Memorial. Jordi Mitjà (Figueres, 1970) recovered some of the material not used in the realization of the Memorial to create a reverse replica of Karavan’s stairway: instead of going down towards the sea, Mitjà’s new stairway ascends to the sky.
Manuel Cussó-Ferrer, The Last Frontier (1991). A pioneering feature film presenting information and documentation about the death of Walter Benjamin. Shot for the most part in Portbou, directed by Manuel Cussó-Ferrer, with a script by Pilar Parcerisas and the director, and produced by Kronos Plays & Films, S.A., the film was included in the Forum section of the 1992 Berlin Festival on the centenary of the philosopher’s birth and was shown in over thirty festivals and cities around the world. The film unravels some of the mysteries about the route by which Benjamin crossed the border and delineates the circumstances of his death. With music by Manel Camp and with Quim Lecina as Benjamin, the film presents a fragmented discourse, in the Benjaminian manner. It also includes documentary sequences such as an interview with Jean Selz, the French art critic who knew Benjamin in Ibiza in the 1930s, and the off-camera voice of the photographer Gisèle Freund. The Last Frontier can be seen in the archive of the Filmoteca de Catalunya. The props used in the making of the film formed part of the exhibition Walter Benjamin’s Last Frontier, held in Portbou in September 1998.
David Mauas, Who Killed Walter Benjamin? (2005). A documentary film which explores some of the hypotheses about Benjamin’s death. Containing a large number of interviews and filmed largely in Portbou, in formal terms it is very true to Benjamin’s aesthetics. The film has been selected by more than ten film festivals in different countries and screened around the world, in Tel Aviv, Nairobi, Berlin, Lisbon, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna, Verona, Rome and San Juan (Puerto Rico), among other places. Soon to be released on DVD.
‘Did the doctor cover up the true cause of death?’ ‘Were the Spanish authorities aware of the importance of this “foreign traveller”?’ ‘Did Benjamin know that Portbou was a border town recently taken by Franco and virtually occupied by the Germans?’ Who Killed Walter Benjamin? sets out to clarify the dubious circumstances of his death, while at the same time portraying a border town between two fronts, witness to escapes, pursuits and false hopes. Who Killed Walter Benjamin? is not only a reconstruction of a death but also a portrait of the crime scene.
Produced by MIQUEL ALVAREZ and DAVID MAUAS
Director of photography RACHEL RUSINEK
Music XAVIER MARISTANY
Screenplay by DAVID MAUAS and JOAN RIPOLLÈS
Directed by DAVID MAUAS