This is a story about an exhibition in CASAdelDRAGON in 2020 and 2021, about a 49 year long friendship, about attention trafficing of yellowpress imperialism, about our tipping points in science, meaning and life. It is a story about the liberation from the paradise of ignorance and a story about the gift of love of letting go and the dignity of giving love without expectation.
Disclaimer: You need about 5 minutes to read this article, but a lifetime to experience it. Please ask your doctor or pharmacist about risks and side effects.
Las ultimas horas is the title of the running exhibition in CASAdelDRAGON, our community guest house, artist residence, think tank and experimental playground for social art projects. It is an exhibition with works from several international artists, all exhibited in the last 14 years in the art gallery in the basement. The exhibition is open for the public on saturdays and sundays from 10am to 2pm.
In the phase of the reconstruction of the CASAdelDRAGON we needed transport routes for heavy loads. For this purpose, openings were provided in the ceilings in order to transport the materials to higher levels. At the beginning of the expansion of the gallery, these transport routes could be closed.
But the history of this exhibition is also a reference to the birth of this place for art. More than 17 years ago we started to dissolve the material warehouse for the reconstruction of the CASAdelDRAGON and in 2007 we prepared the first exhibition opening in 5 months of hard labor. The photos in this article are from this time and remind us of the last hours before the entrance to the first vernissage. They tell the story of the “ultimas horas”, but also the story of all the people who made it possible for this social space to arise.
More than 200 people from many countries around the world had already helped to rebuild the CASAdelDRAGON. Some of these wonderful people had also agreed to help with the expansion, installation and preparation of the first exhibition in 2007. A very important person in the life of the builders of this social space was also there. And this article should also be about this woman who has been with us for so long.
In the expansion phase, we used relatively modern building materials. This was also due to the fact that ecological building materials and wood treatment methods were not available. In any case, we did not want to use toxic materials to protect wooden structures and at that time we decided on reinforced concrete as the load-bearing element. The closing of the last transport hole also marked a farewell to an era in which this 700-year-old house was being rebuilt.
When guests visit the gallery today, they cannot see what preparations were necessary to make this visit possible. Architecture makes history, but the focus is often on the surface of things, the building becomes a selfie for the builder, and sometimes also for the architect who plans it. The CASAdelDRAGON is a place to remember the construction workers and their own history. It is a place that was created through the social interaction of those involved, through the cooperation between the actors. And it is a place that connects the history of these helpers with the many generations before who built the place Cervera del Maestre from the ruins of a military fortress, and the CASAdelDragon as one of the houses of this place.
Nowadays philosophers wonder whether the real world still has a chance over the virtual world. The helpless attempt of the so-called mainstream media by media extension of the regulars’ tables in the television studio and the claim of opinion journalism for supervised non-thinking must be stunned to see how the young wild Youtubers pass by with their click rates. As viewing habits change, so do attention spans. When data becomes a commodity, the oil of this time, then distributing likes turns into a better pregnancy test. Imperialists have always exchanged glass pearls for gold, but never proved that either one is enough for establishing personal happiness. But whoever holds the glass pearls in their hands and reproaches or complains about the exchange, has probably not quite understood it.
The CASAdelDRAGON is also linked to Spanish history through the use of some building materials. The large wooden beam in the right photo was recovered from the beach of Vinaros after a violent storm. After that, it had waited twenty years for his appointment in the materials warehouse, the first floor, today’s gallery. It has found its place in a small store for the works of art that are not currently on view in exhibitions. There it spans an opening through which moisture can be released from the rocks behind the house. The beam is reminiscent of the Spanish Armada, its wood is naturally impregnated by salt water. The high camp is also a reference to local architecture. In the Middle Ages, the Florentine merchants kept their wool warehouses in high storages that were difficult to access; this architecture can still be found today in the nearby town of Morella.
Just as merchants kept their fine wool for the fashion world of young Italy back then, we are now storing the artifacts from the many exhibitions in the CASAdelDRAGON in just such high storage.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) was almost finished when the expansion of the gallery began. The just discovered teraquarks turn physics on its head, or on its feet, depending on how you see it.
The scientific accompaniment of the narrative of the pandemic has raised the question in large parts of the population as to what knowledge was drawn there and for what purpose.
Just as dark energy and the vacuum catastrophe are affecting the current world view of physics, the academic world loses its footing when it entered the stage of politics. The simultaneity of contradicting theories as the basis for the acquisition of knowledge is the grail around which science should dance. When you enter the arena there are games and bread, but no space for discourse and contradiction. The only thing that counts is thumbs up or down. Anyone who reduces research results to fundraising becomes a dancing bear. Digital amnesia is longed for in the next few years. But whoever has forgotten cannot forgive either.
Applying plaster to the wall is a magical moment. Before that, the eye is caught by all the cracks, different colors, bumps and artifacts from water and electrical installations. The eye sees this unfinished for years. Then one day a miracle happened. The loosely piled up becomes a unit, the space becomes visible and tangible. The acoustics change. A dark tone becomes sound. A space is a body. Just as bacteria inhabit our intestines, we inhabit these spaces. The interaction between space and residents should not be underestimated.
We were just in our twenties when we made the decision to rebuild an old house in the mountains of eastern Spain. The young life wanted to gain space. This room should be the basis for the new life that the room works out in order to fill it with ideas, projects, dreams and wishes. The gain in space quickly turned into an expansion of knowledge. It was the realization that this space was not borne by the builders, there was no atlas that makes room for the biosphere, there were countless helpers and preparers, there was this 700-year-old history of this building, which was newly developed , from a new generation with new ideas, from a ragged troop of enthusiasts who celebrated what they did every day.
The house was known in the village as “Old Mary’s House”. At the beginning of the 19th century it would be inhabited by a family dedicated to the wine trade. The word Parras in the street name is a reminder of this. The old Maria saw the beginning of the renovation of the house herself and visited us regularly. Even with walking disabilities, it was her concern to see how the house was rebuilt. The old people in the village encouraged us to keep going. Life in the house also means life in the village. They proudly led tourists to the house of the dragon. And so we realized. It wasn’t our house, it was the house of the village and its residents and visitors, and even during the reconstruction phase it was a guest house for all the helpers. The dragon winding around the fireplace has given the house a new dedication. He is looking towards the center of Europe, to the northeast, and he knows why.
Our friend Jo was sitting in the kitchen and thinking about the lighting in the gallery.Sonia plastered a wall for the first time in her life. Juan erects a pillar to support an arch as part of a niche that will house fuse boxes and other electronics.
The preparations for the first exhibition were of a very fundamental nature. When rebuilding the house, we could not pay so much attention to the ground floor. It served as a warehouse for all the building materials. The CASAdelDRAGON consists of three separate buildings. The passage between the two larger parts has been completely rebuilt and also received a new lintel.
The professional production of the broken tiles, the further processing and the finish, in many places the hardworking helpers have left their manual traces.
Colorful mosaics are installed in many places in the house. The visitors begin to smile and if they stay longer, some hesitantly ask whether they could also make such a broken tile mosaic.
The production is basically simple, the material science is clear. For some, the magic of contemplative action opens up. You sink into your flow and the hand finds the next piece without consciously thinking about it beforehand.
Despite the urgency of the approaching date of the opening, there is room in the CASAdelDRAGON, especially for young people to experience this for themselves.
So it was ambitious to finish this arch. But it was also intended as a framework and stage to later present the art in an appropriate way.
Over the past 14 years, more than 40 exhibitions have taken place in the CASAdelDRAGON. The decision on the day of the first opening was made in mid-2003, about three and a half years earlier.
An event does not take place when everyone has finished. It takes place when the guests arrive.Juan Petry
When we spread the news that we were going to open a gallery in a village in the mountains of Castellon, away from the big metropolises or major sights, we were smiled at by some. It would certainly not pay off, we were prophesied. But of course it would be nice to have such a place of international art nearby. And it is a social place of encounter, with the culture, with the guests and artists, with the village, the landscape and with oneself.
The power of the place can be felt. The walls seem to have recorded all the stories, conversations and encounters, keep them calm and slowly and steadily pass them on to new visitors. The building, as part of the village architecture, is a completely arched, classical, physical place. You can g**gle CASAdelDRAGON and find this and many other articles and photos, but you can only experience the atmosphere and the feeling if you come and visit this place.
Those who think differently these days can be assigned to two groups. There are those who are wrestling for the attention of the masses in the same virtual places. In the charm of the shaky smartphone videos, you get intoxicated by access, length of stay and screen time. But there are also others who seem to have withdrawn into private life, who stay quiet, not out of worry or fear, but because it corresponds to their nature. They practice patience and persist in their cause, they prepare for new guests and stay in the physical. They continue to orientate themselves towards real encounters, they draw their messages from the visible mouths of their counterparts. They keep their distance to injustice, violence and propaganda.
The gallery has many niches and corners in which material can be stored or objects of art can be displayed. And again the plaster creates the feeling for the room.
Just as medicine is currently soaring towards increasingly daring theories, so is physics, too, and biology will follow suit in the years to come. The established professional opinion assumed that the DNA ultimately determines all processes in the cell and thus the organism and, to a certain extent, its social interaction with similar species. What the mRNA represents for biologists, the quarks are in physics. The desire to be able to describe the phenomena of the world in a unified theory is the longing for the truth, the true, which can and should be considered safe. Defending established opinion stands in the way of knowledge. To paraphrase the philosopher Popper, there is certainty only in the proof of inaccuracy.
The gallery’s high storey is also getting valuable plastering. The floor of this art storage room was tiled by Oliver. He had already set up many exhibition stands in his life. His motto was: There is still something going on!
The plaster on the walls and ceilings of the gallery is based on marble dust, a waste product from the surrounding marble works. This dust is mixed with white cement and mineral paints. A light blue has been chosen for the ceilings. On the one hand, most visitors feel attracted by this color above them; on the other hand, this choice supports the color fastness of the works on display. The beige of the walls is reminiscent of the predominant stone of these old walls. The plaster has remained unchanged over the years, breathable and neutral with regard to the art on display.
In general, it can be observed in the sciences that computer-based simulation replaces field observation. To do this, the complexity of the issue has to be reduced, especially where no measured values can be incorporated. Many medical statements today are based on simulations. The economization of the sciences inevitably leads to a conflict of interests. Assumptions can become certainties in the interests of the sponsors.
As in all belief systems, the high priests are trained who, because of their professionalism, preach the faith and do not tolerate contradiction. The objection outside of the subject is rejected as it is. The ranks of the elite in the certainty of their interpretive authority becomes a bulwark for those who think differently. All power emanates from the people, but it does not seem to return there. The educated elites have rarely shaped the citizens’ movements, their sons and daughters very much.
Old clay tiles found their place in this wall. We had pulled them out of the beach and collected them in many visits to the sea. It was a funny picture as we got out of the cars with construction buckets and beach mats in Vinaros. We found our treasures in the rubble. The old people watched us and knew what we were doing.
One thing is secretly doing good things. You lose energy. The other is to do good things under the eyes of witnesses. You might get energy. Maybe that’s why we invent the angels on their clouds as children. To be able to imagine that someone is looking at us when we are doing the good things is reassuring. For many people, the CASAdelDRAGON and its guests are eyewitnesses. Of course this is not a house of angels. But it likes to send energy to team up with those who do the good things. Many healing professions also do the good things to get rid of the pain of the past. They see their good as confirmation of their ability to overcome the evil. Those who visit the House of the Dragon learn quickly … these people will simply carry on their tragedies.
When people find that they feel balanced when they do the good or when they don’t do the good… then … and only then … their release begins. When they see they have to, they must, they are still locked in their story. Otherwise they give food to what there are working against. If people are sure that they have no reason … then they could let the good things happen around them.
Six days before the first exhibition opening, the floor of the gallery still looked like this. Many friends and neighbors from the village shook their heads and said we couldn’t possibly manage that: to finish and to open the gallery on time.
Creating a place of positive energy requires the donation of this energy. Sometimes more than 20 people were working in all the places in the house the last few days before the first opening. Back then, we cut the last few weeks, days and hours together in a photomontage. The original video is lost, but a remake with original photos has been published (“las ultimas horas“).
Like every construction site in life, the construction of the gallery was a logistical challenge. The place of the action was warehouse, workshop and construction site in one.
Just as the reconstruction of the CASAdelDRAGON was a joint effort over many years, the creation of the gallery is also thanks to teamwork.
Leaders in particular often do not realize how little they can create on their own. The fragmentation of society, lamented by many, the promise of salvation in the individual approach, the dogmas of Western values have all contributed to anchoring people in their isolation. The natural experience of the physical, the manual work, they have given way to the screen time. The emptiness sets in when they meet for a beer and really they start only the z**m.
The stairs were built and used daily. The organic railing was built from reinforcement iron, rabbit wire, mortar and white tile adhesive.
The story of the building of the gallery was and remains the story of its builders. It was thanks to their dedication, their courage, and their perseverance that this work could be completed. There was tremendous power and strength in working together for the common goal. We experienced and enjoyed this time as a community. At this point in time there was still no talk of FamiliaFeliz. But the will to found our decentralized community seven years later was also borne by the memory of this time.
Six hours before the opening: Antje fills stones from the river bed into the showcases that are embedded in the floor.
These showcases offer a very unusual perspective on the works of art. And many people, standing unintentionally on the bulletproof glass became frightened and backed away immediately. But anyone who has this experience is burned by the appearance of the work of art insode the showcase… forever.
A power strip, a HQI spotlight, a test lamp (defective), the light does not come on – find the fault – one minute before “door open”.
Work continued until the last hour. A problem with the lighting installlation put into question the achievement of the goal in the last few minutes. More than 100 guests were already waiting in front of the door, curious what had become of this project, interested in the art and the view into another world.
The first exhibition had the title Amigos en Arte, this was to be followed by more under the same title. After a few minutes, the first work of art was sold to an English test pilot and art collector.
With the opening, three and a half years of preparation came to an end. Again it was time to say goodbye to an era and venture into the unknown of the new.
A short while ago the sound of hammer and chisel could be heard, the groan of the cement mixer boomed through the empty rooms. Now it was dedicated to the voices of the visitors who turned their eyes to the art. A short while ago it was still the dust of the construction site in the mouth, now the palate enjoyed the champagne.
In 2020/2021 the gallery showed the exhibition las ultimas horas. It spans many of the exhibitions that have taken place in the gallery in the years since it first opened. The works of art are telling the story of the gallery. They are also telling the story of the artists who created them. The photos in this article are telling the story of the last hours before the first opening, and they are also telling the story of the helpers who made all this possible.
After reading this article, some may wonder what the connection is between the architectural history of a gallery, the creation of a social space, the experience of a temporary community in action for a common goal, the paradigm shift in the sciences, the agony of old and the dawn of the new media.
As always, the key lies in the human itself, and the memory of a particular person may help with that.
It is the boundless love for people, the respect and attention, the quiet but powerful work from the second row, what has distinguished people like Heide Brandt. She was able to give her communities a center, a point of reference in navigating their own lives. She was there for the others, and enough for herself. She endured, carried and contributed. She listened carefully, motivated and encouraged. She was a friend of contemporary and modern art, a collector of selected prints and drawings, she was a teacher for all of us. Heide had accompanied the reconstruction of the CASAdelDRAGON over the years, sometimes from a distance, sometimes on site. Of course, she was there in the last few hours before the first opening.
Heide passed away in early April of 2021. This article is dedicated to her.