Berlin, Germany | Walter Benjamin and Lluís Companys: ideas which live on and dignity which remains
DIPLOCAT organised a conference on the lives and work of philosopher Walter Benjamin and Catalonia’s President Lluís Companys at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin
Walter Benjamin and Lluís Companys: lives and exile Akademie der Künste// Berlin, Germany
Is it possible to draw comparisons between the lives of a philosopher and a politician? With this question in mind, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) organised a conference at the Akademie der Künste, one of the most outstanding cultural institutions of Berlin. Its outcome is that, apart from the obvious parallel of their long and futile flights from fascism and exile in France, the works and memory of the two figures are transcending until now.
Both Walter Benjamin, renowned German philosopher (Berlin, 15 July 1892 – Portbou, 26 September 1940), and Lluís Companys, President of Catalonia (el Tarrós, 21 June 1882 – Barcelona, 15 October 1940) were marginalised and ruined by the fascist regime of the nazis. However, their commitment to democracy, peace and social justice and their progressist thoughts and modern visions of society live on. And it is important not only to compare their lives, but also the ways in which both shaped the historic memory of the next generations in their respective countries.
Welcome Ursula Marx, Albert Royo-Mariné and words of introduction Vicenç Villatoro
Ursula Marx from the Walter Benjamin Archive/ Akademie der Künste Berlin, greeted the audience and opened the conference with words on the live of the philosopher. Albert Royo-Mariné, Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, drew a parallel to the tragic reality of today’s refugees fleeing to Europe in their search for peace. He also mentioned the need to recover Europe’s collective memory in order to avoid mistakes of the past. As an example of the consequences of lacking a proper remembrance policy, Royo-Mariné mentioned Spain, where the current President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, has been indicted for the organisation of a democratic vote on Catalonia’s independence last November. In a controversial decision, the Spanish judiciary has called President Mas to declare before the prosecutor on the very same day that, 75 years earlier, President Companys was executed by the Francoist regime. Vicenç Villatoro, Director of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), stressed in his words of introduction that President Companys’ murder was remembered in many Catalan houses every October 15 during the 40 years of Francoist dictatorship.
Speech by Dr. Ralph Buchenhorst
The trajectory of Walter Benjamin was presented by Dr. Ralph Buchenhorst, Senior Research Fellow at the Martin Luther University Halle – Wittenberg, who showed Benjamin’s tremendous heritage for today’s modern thought, media and culture theory, spacial and urban planning. His tormented life and tragic death can be seen for us today as a suppressed suffering, which can shed light on our present, in line with Benjamin’s theory that the non-resolved past of the victims represents an opportunity for the enlightenment of the present.
Speech by Dr. Maximiliano Fuentes
Dr. Maximiliano Fuentes, Professor of Contemporary History and Director of the Walter Benjamin Memory and Exile Chair at the University of Girona, gave an account of the lasting impact of Lluís Companys on Catalonia. He traced back the political career of the President of Catalonia between 1933 and 1940 from its start as a Republican and very leftist politician to the assumption of the highest Government responsibilities in Catalonia and Spain. Although Companys was convicted without any legal guarantees and executed as acting President of Catalonia, Dr Fuentes denounced that the Spanish Government still refuses to recognise nowadays the illegality of his assassination.
Speech by Dr. Josep-Maria Terricabras and debate
Dr. Josep-Maria Terricabras, Member of the European Parliament and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Girona, compared personalities with view to the suffering of cruelty they shared and their confrontations with the sense of life and death, dignity and heritage. All the comparisons showed that Companys and Benjamin stood and stand for freedom and dignity against barbarism.
The event was organised in cooperation with the Walter Benjamin Chair of the University of Girona, the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to Germany and the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.
In partnership with:
The Walter Benjamin, Memory and Exile Chair, created in autumn 2012 by the University of Girona, Portbou Town Council and the Exile Memorial Museum (MUME) Consortium, is a permanent centre for study, reflection, research and promotion around the figure of Walter Benjamin. Its main goal is to provide a space for academic and cultural research on the intellectual and the historical conditions of the dictatorships, the exiles and the wars under which he lived and worked. The Walter Benjamin Chair at Girona University wants to visualize the presence of this world-wide recognized figure in the Gironian territory: by an academic projection towards the exterior, and by transferring the knowledge of his work to our society.
The Centre of Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB) is a space for the creation, investigation, divulgation and debate of contemporary culture where the visual arts, literature, philosophy, film, music, the performing arts and transmedia activity are interconnected in an interdisciplinary programme. The CCCB centres its activity around creative research and the production of knowledge through a series of central projects produced in-house, such as thematic exhibitions, and other live events and digital formats: international debates, the CCCB Lab, the literature platform Kosmopolis, the Beta line of activities: projects that approach the culture of the 21st century in an integrated way along with the major transformations of the digital era; the Xcèntric experimental film festival, the European Prize for Urban Public Space, the Cultural Innovation International Prize, the CCCB Archive platform and other associated proposals and festivals.
The Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to Germany is placed in Berlin and is aimed to represent and promote Catalonia interests in Germany. This work is focused on coordinating, generating and strengthening the relations between Catalan and German institutions and companies ―both private and state-owned. The delegation task goes in line with the activity carried out by the Agency for the Company Competitiveness (ACC1Ó ), the Cultural Companies Catalan Institute (ICEC ) and the Ramon Llull Institute for cultural promotion. All four institutions are situated in the same building in the centre of Berlin.
Last updated: 20 October 2015