|The show is the product of theses developed by the anthropologist Roger Bartra in his books The Artificial Savage: Modern Myths of the Wild Man (1997) and Wild Men in the Looking Glass: Mythic Origins of European Otherness (1992) and the writer Pilar Pedraza in La bella, enigma y pesadilla (Tusquets) and Máquinas de amar (Valdemar). |
Although for some time now we have associated the term savage with non-Western primitive people, the concept is a European creation of Greek origin that applied the term to individuals who did not fit into civilised society: brutal, primitive, threatening and dangerous beings who lived very near, but outside the polis and its regulations.
The concept of European savage has changed over time. The Greek savage was an ambiguous creature, half human, half animal, related to the gods (the centaur, satyr, Cyclops) who lived in nature and was without conquering pretensions, unlike the Barbarians. In the Middle Ages, the savages became wild men and hermits, covered with hair. With the conquest of the Americas, entire peoples fell victim to this commonplace, which erased their human characteristics and made them hard to identify. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the advances of science and a greater knowledge of the body and mind, the savage slipped through the internal chinks of Western consciousness. Then it became the 'savage within': the part of ourselves that we do not recognise, the unknown monster that lives inside us.
Today, the savage embodies the individual who lives among us but responds to an otherness that we cannot quite assimilate, the Other who threatens our way of life (down-and-outs, the underprivileged class, emigrants, urban tribes, etc.).
The exhibition presented by the CCCB looks at the iconographical representation of the figure of the European savage in art: Ribera, Goya and Buñuel; Dürer, Mantegna and Bocklin; Salvatore Rosa, Gustave Moreau and Cindy Sherman; Swift, the Marvel 'factory' and George F. Watts... And in all of its forms: satyrs and centaurs, hermits and wild men, witches and yahoos, elephant men and bearded ladies and popular heroes like Tarzan and the Panther Woman.
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona Web Site