Àlex Hinojo

Overview of the first residency period of the year

Faber’s most recent residents in the first residency period of 2017 left on Saturday 11 February. Since our arrival on 15 January, both the residents and Faber’s internal team have had four really intense weeks. Nonetheless, the end result is exceedingly positive, giving us all the more reason to continue working hard on this initiative

This residency period began with five residents: Valerie Miles (American writer, translator and editor), Alissa Ganíeva (Russian writer), Etienne Rouziès (writer, historian and librarian from Northern Catalonia), Neus Penalba (professor and researcher) and Àlex Hinojo (cultural programme manager). After one week, following Àlex Hinojo’s departure, Marina Espasa (writer, translator and literary critic) and Àngels Bassas (actress and writer) arrived, both of whom stayed for one week. Then came Allan Cameron (Scottish writer, translator and editor) and, after a few days, Inari Listenmaa (PhD student in language technology and teacher), Lila Azam (Paris-born writer resident in New York), Jakuta Alikavazovic (French writer and translator) and Bernat Ruíz Domènech (designer, communication adviser and professor).

All of them, besides working on their professional projects, have taken part in various activities during their stay with Faber. Valerie Miles delivered a lecture about Roberto Bolaño in the Aula d’Escriptura in Gerona. Alissa Ganíeva and Matthew Tree debated the issues of national identity, religion, the history of nations and the role of writers in global social processes at the Darder Museum in Banyoles. In another talk, held at the University of Barcelona, Ganíeva discussed tradition and transgression in her novel, La muntanya de la festa (Holiday Mountain). Furthermore, at a meeting that took place in CIEMEN (International Escarré Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations) in Barcelona, Ganíeva spoke of the role of women and Islam, gender roles in the North Caucasus and today’s religious challenges in the region. Etienne Rouziès held a discussion with Batxibac [French/Spanish equivalent of the baccalaureate] students at the Abat Oliba school in Ripoll on art and literature, as well as social and cultural differences between the two sides of the Pyrenees. Àlex Hinojo gave one talk at Escola Pia and two talks on Wikipedia at Petit Plançó, both schools in Olot. He delivered another talk at FES (the Foundation for Higher Education) on shared knowledge through networks and cooperation, and open debate as basic and democratic mechanisms in conveying information and content to the public. Allan Cameron visited the Petit Plançó school in Olot to explain his work as an editor. Marina Espasa described her professional career as a cultural journalist, writer and literary critic at the IES Montsacopa secondary school in Olot. Àngels Bassas gave a talk on his professional experience and career at the Escola Pia school in Olot. And, finally, Lila Azam and Jakuta Alikavazovic, moderated by the writer Joan Lluís-Lluís, held a discussion about literature and creation at the Fages de Climent library in Figueres.

A month of residents in figures

Faber’s first residency period of the year saw the participation of 12 residents, and the execution of 13 activities, which reached a total audience of 350 people using four languages (Catalan, Spanish, English and French).

Who made this stay possible?

We cannot draw a line under this stay without acknowledging each and every one of the people that made it possible. On the one hand, the people behind each organisation, each school, each association, each facility… who have shown interest, either by requesting the participation of one of the residents or allowing us to hold an event on their premises. We would therefore like to thank Pilar Guix (Institut Abat Oliba school), Rosa Roca (IES Bosc de la Coma secondary school), Ita Asparó (Escola Pia), Teresa Aulí (Petit Plançó), Cristina Jutge and Nati Vilanova (Fages de Climent Library in Figueres), Joan-Lluís Lluís, Altell bookshop, Eva Martí (Banyoles library), Matthew Tree, Jaume Santaló and Glòria Granell (Municipal School of Humanities), Xavier Pla (University of Gerona), Salut Martí and Mia Tarradas (Official Language School of Olot), Miquel Cabal and Ricardo San Vicente (University of Barcelona), the staff in Dinàmig, FES and IMCO (Municipal Institute of Culture of Olot).

Moreover, the residents proved forever receptive and adapted as much as possible to the activities we proposed, which is no easy feat considering that they came to throw themselves into their work. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the 350 people that took part in the activities we organised; without them, the activities would be meaningless.

Last but not least, we would like to thank Olot City Council and the Government of Catalonia’s Ministry of Culture for lending their support to this project.

What’s in store now?

Now that this first residency period of the year has come to an end, we just have to continue working to host a group of nine mathematicians from all over the world in two weeks’ time.

Visit by the Minister for Culture, Santi Vila, to the Faber Residency

The Minister for Culture, Santi Vila, visited Faber this morning. Following a tour of the facilities, a lunch-meeting was held in which the director of Faber, Francesc Serés, presented the project. In addition to the minister, in attendance were Laura Borràs, director of the Institute of Catalan Letters; the Mayor of Olot, Josep M. Corominas; Olot’s councillor for culture, Pep Berga; and Ricard Sargatal, managing director of the Institute of Culture of the City of Olot. They then had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the residents hosted by the residency. Santi Vila conveyed his support and confidence in the project to us.

The Faber Residency, spearheaded by Olot City Council and the Government of Catalonia, seeks to achieve three goals: to offer an ideal working space for residents to undertake their professional projects, to promote camaraderie between professionals from different fields in order to foster synergies and to make all this talent available to the public through different activities. All these aims have been accomplished. In addition, although the initial forecast was to receive some forty residents every year, it is now estimated that by the end of the year some sixty professionals hailing from different countries will have taken part in Faber.

As regards the balance sheet, in the first five months of its running, Faber has organized three residency periods, playing host to 28 residents in total and 20 activities have been undertaken in various parts of Catalonia.

We are currently at the end of the first residency period of the year, revolving around literature (from 15 January to 11 February), which saw the participation of writers, researchers, knowledge managers, playwrights and actresses. Five residency periods are yet to come, focussed on mathematics (27 February to 10 March); dance (12 March to 10 April), playing host to artists, dancers, choreographers, dance and theatre critics; fake news (from 1 to 15 May), which will host politicians, activists, journalists, businesspeople and theoreticians; religious beliefs (from 12 September to 16 October) and feminism (23 October to 7 November).

This year sees a new addition with the introduction of individual residencies: proposals for groups or individuals interested in working at Faber. They constitute residency periods outside the pre-defined periods.

Photographs: Martí Albesa

Faber, a Cultural Model

The Faber Residency (from the Latin faber, meaning artisan’, ‘worker’ or ‘smith’) is an arts, sciences and humanities residency located in Olot, which officially opened in autumn 2016 and is run by Francesc Serés. For a couple of days in January 2017, I had the good fortune to experience at first hand what is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting cultural initiatives being undertaken today in Catalonia. I shall try to provide arguments to support this statement below:

1) Its budget is allocated to the project, not the infrastructure.

Pepe Serra, director of the National Art Museum of Catalonia, often explains that “to open the blinds” of the museum costs more than 85% of the annual budget, leaving him little room for programming. We can all think of examples of interpretation centres, and local and county museums with excessive building costs, but with no budget allocation to carry out the associated cultural project.

Faber emerges from a cultural proposal with minimum infrastructure. It does not even have its own physical premises. It rents rooms in a hotel in Olot. What might seem like a precarious situation is in actual fact the smart optimisation of resources: the budget is fed directly back into the real local economy, which in fact affords the proposal flexibility and scalability. Faber can therefore dedicate a large proportion of its budget to making its project a reality, optimising an arts, sciences and humanities residency located in Olot but with a national scope. Making “things happen”.

In addition, Faber programmes activities in which the residents interact with the local social, education and business network, thereby facilitating interaction and exchange.

And, once the day comes that the project no longer makes sense, the space will no longer be rented and that’s it. No maintenance costs for an underutilised infrastructure will have to be covered.

2) It promotes the physical and decentralised space in a virtual and centralised world.

Today, with a laptop and an Internet connection, any space can be turned into an office or workplace. Why then “retreat” to a hotel to work for a few weeks? Well, for that reason precisely. In a “liquid” world, the ability to concentrate has become a scarce resource. Faber is a place where various creators, researchers and humanists can concentrate on their project in pleasant surroundings.

It’s not a case of another world “being possible” but that another world “exists”, less than two hours from the capital. Olot – with 10% of its municipal budget allocated to culture – becomes a framework, an example and a model of that Catalonia city, which Francesc Serés publicises so well. In the mood for nature and a much more human scale. As David Fernàndez claims, the most interesting things often happen on the margins. Go there.

3) The pleasure of conversation.

At a time in which we have all retweeted headlines without having read the news item, when nuance gives way to the dichotomy of follow/unfollow, when it’s ugly to get to the bottom of things, having a leisurely after-dinner conversation with people smarter than yourself feels invaluable. The Faber team’s success in selecting various projects and candidates made conversations possible that I have not had for years. Returning to your room having had your brain cells awakened, revisiting the conversation and creating new neural connections, adopting new points of view as your own and digesting the much talked-of alterity.

Returning home with an endless list of things to read, with the feeling that you’ve been somewhere that simultaneously acts as a spa and a gym from the intellectual standpoint.

4) Space for working… and interaction.

Without forgetting the surroundings, the setting, the people, Faber is a magnificent workspace. Who would not concentrate seeing Puigsacalm out the window of their bedroom? During my stay, I devoted my time to improving the content about Olot and La Garrotxa on Wikipedia, about its figures and its monuments. You can see the work I’ve done here. I also delivered various workshops in the city’s schools and wiki training to culture technicians in Olot, prepared a number of medium-term wiki projects in the city and even wrote the occasional article for the local press. It would have proven impossible for me to do all this work in a week without the support and the contacts of the Faber team, who have a highly pragmatic understanding of the meaning of culture and the return to society.

For all these reasons and much more, I see Faber more as a model than as a project. As you can see, Faber is ultimately an idea. Replicate it.