New stories about mirrors of Zaragoza

At the risk of tiring the reader of my Mirror Stories (™), I would tell one more story from Zaragoza. Following the canon, there should be aplenty of such stories, to confuse the reader more and further.

 

All my previous postings about the mirrors found in Zaragoza (№1,№2 and №3) were more or less conventional, I used similar formats before. This one is slightly different, and it’s not even a full-blown story, but rather a kind of vignette, a casual observation, but important enough to write it down.

 

The main purpose of this blog, and this mirror project in general, was not in collecting as many possible examples of ‘mirrors in art’. The main purpose was ‘to transform the mindset’, however bombastic it may sound, by helping to think differently, and deeper about the things that otherwise evade this deepening and remain superficial, and often even unnoticed.

These purposes had been formulated in the unforgettable manifesto – which in reality is often forgotten, under a pile of ‘small things’ – and since recently had been even equipped with a brand-new toolkit. However, as life shows, mindset transformation is a tricky and elusive thing, and it rarely goes via bold, properly planned steps. More often then not it happens through small unremarkable things that may look like incomprehensible nonsenses, such as looking at the familiar things through new, paradoxical lenses (I am practising this ‘new look’ for years in my other wonderful project called aman-geld).

But let’s get back to Zaragoza. Where I have experienced a few interesting mirror encounters in very unusual places.

Soon after when we left our car in a parking and began walking toward the Basilica square, we bumped into a strange construction. Or more precisely, I was pointed to this construction which would otherwise left unnoticed by me:

“Look, a mirror!”, – I was told.

“Where?” – answered I with some bemusement, since there were no museums or cathedrals around yet.

“Here!”

“But where??” – and only then I understood what they’ve been talking about:

What was called a ‘mirror’ was in reality a public sculpture, much smaller but not unsimilar to the Mirror Cloud by Anish Kapoor in Chicago but still large enough to notice on the street – which I didn’t, because it was different from the usual ‘public sculpture.

I could blame the weather, of course, since in a more sunny day this thing would be more noticeable. But I think the reason that I (almost) missed it is different, and goes to the old dilemma of known/unknown, or expected/unexpected in this case. If you don’t expect to see any ‘art’ in a particular place, then you won’t see it there.

And the same goes for mirrors, too. Mirror-in-Art can come your way anytime, anywhere, and not only in the specially dedicated places that you visited with intention to catch it there. In other words, your “mirror net” should be kept to hand at all times.

There is a related challenge, though. It’s not enough to ‘catch’ the next Mirror-in-Art, you have to also retain it there, to figure out what is that you caught.  Let’s take an example of the same monument – how could I understand its meaning right there and right then if the only thing to learn about this was a barely readable plaque? In Spanish (the language I don’t know)? And not having any time or tools to search for more information?

This is again a lesson – capture more things that you can understand, you may have a second chance.

In this case the second chance came when we returned home and I was able to look for more information about this sculpture. It is monument to José Sinués y Urbiola, economista y político aragonés, who lived from 1894 to 1965 (i.e., he died earlier than I myself was born). Apparently, he was a prominent figure locally, I found some information about him only in theGran Enciclopedia Arogonesa, only in Spanish.

As I understand, he began as a historian and art critic, and his earlier works were about the art of Francisco Goya. But then he switched to economics (first via history of the Spanish economy), and wrote a lot about the economy of the Aragon province (and evidently also doing something for this economy, since at some point he was elected a president of the Federación o Unión Económica Aragonesa. And back in 1937 he was a vice-founder (a nice concept!) of Radio Zaragoza.

In 1939 Spain fall under the rule of General Franco who remained in power until his death in 1975. Which means that our José Sinués y Urbiola spent his late professional life entirely under the very power. Life in post-war Francist Spain is a total enigma for me, a Black Hole of some sort. I don’t really know how people lived back then, and how people cope with these memories now.
Aragon, as we know, wasn’t particularly lucky during this power transfer (known as the Spanish Civil War). Notoriously famous Guernica is not in Aragon, it’s in the Basque country, but Aragon has its own dark places. We wanted to visit Belchite, a monument to a village totally destroyed during this war in 1937.

But apparently José Sinués y Urbiola somehow adapted to the new regime, he even became the president of the Confederación Española de Cajas de Ahorros (the Union of the Savings Banks), a very wealthy organization that, as I understand, eventually commissioned this impressive monument in 1976, ten years after his death.

I found only very short information about the monument itself, at the city website – see Monumento a José Sinués y Urbiola (which, as it turned out, is also located on the square named after him). But at least I learned that it was designed by Pablo Serrano, a fairly well-known Spanish sculptor.

Now, if I would know all this information right there and then, we would also had a chance to look at his other famous work, the sculpture of Mary on the Pillar situated somewhere near the Basilica; but didn’t.

It is believed that the ‘mirror’ monument made in a very original way, with a novel hybrid combination of materials (granite, steel) and unusual shape. Serrano is generally described as the “architect of the abstract,” and many of other works are even more conceptual.

The metaphor behind this monument is nice, though not immediately obvious,  its design is intended to portray the two clenched fists – a symbol of unity and strength – and its multi-faceted mirror surface should reflect (sic!) the breadth and diversity of the interests of our hero.

***

The stories from Zaragoza tend to multiple, as we know, and soon we found another interesting sculpture.

I didn’t connected it to the mirrors-in-art, but too a few pictures nevertheless, as there are not so many monument to photographers in the world. We later found who is commemorated by the statue – some Eduardo Jimeno Correas, one of the first Spanish filmmakers. It is believed that he made the very first Spanish film, in fact in Zaragoza, when he took a series of pictures of the Basilica of Mary on the Pillar from his balcony, and then edited them in a short film called Salida de la misa de doce de la Iglesia del Pilar de Zaragoza.

You can ask me Where are the mirrors here?  And I will tell you In the camera!  Mirrors got embedded in our life in a variety of intricate ways, and many people are not even aware of that fact that they use them – for examples, when taking pictures. Even if you use a digital camera, there is a large chance that somewhere inside it there are mirrors at work. 

 

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