Watching Pelota Vasca on TV the other day lead to a brief conversation about Spanish/Basque TV in general. Its notable that in every house and bar Ive been in, it has always been on and that for old people and people in remote villages TV is virtually the sole source of culture. For such a hardy indomitable culture as that of the Basques who have seen Romans, Visigoths and Spanish attempt to assimilate them without success, TV has proved a strong opponent. Events like “racing the oxen that carries a stone” and poetry recital are still very important in the social calendar, but what are you supposed to do in the evenings? Watch TV and read magazines, of course. Never has TV felt more important.
And so, what is actually on TV in the Basque Country? Well, there are about 10 terrestrial channels, including two devoted to Basqueness, which show football without subscription. The most notable difference (though my survey has been rather brief) is the amount of shows that act as TV versions of Heat and Hello magazine. Journalists sit around discussing who is marrying who, which celebrity died and who has won what award. Oh, and the adverts between each half go on for about 12 minutes. Perhaps this combination of adverts and celebrity obsession is what makes Spanish women so neat and image conscious.
To BBK (a Basque bank) for a Lee Miller exhibition. Ive never seen an exhibition in a bank before, but why not? Why go to the trouble of sponsoring an exhibition when you can have your own gallery?
Millers photos are richly detailed, with striking portraits and interesting angles. She isnt so much an auteur as Man Ray but in those works from the 30s there is a definite intelligence. Her later works, the war photos in Paris and London for instance, reveal an eye for beautiful harmonious disorder.
Later still, pictures of concentration camp crematoria, people discussing the war, a suicide and prisoners she is utterly confident about the sanctity of her art, not worrying a jot about being temporarily rude or invasive. Also, the posed portraits of Magritte, Ronald Pearson and a Milliner are beautifully exact with a fearless eye.