Olivia Rosane on A Portrait of the Artist as a Mad Man


Rosane reflects on the art of our corporate cathedrals @ The State.

I don’t think it would have occurred to me if I hadn’t been in Spain. I was standing in the Seville airport, waiting to check in for a flight to Barcelona, with nothing to look at but the logo for Vueling airlines. It was a simple logo—gray letters on a bright yellow rectangle—unremarkable except for one detail: the dot that belonged above the stick of the i was floating off to the right of the g, as if flying away. And it occurred to me that someone, or some group of people, must have come up with the idea to displace that dot; they must have sketched its wandering down in a notebook, or programmed it into a computer document. But the only name on the billboard was that of Vueling itself.

Of course, I had seen (consciously and subconsciously) countless ads in my lifetime, but I had never before noticed the absence of an artist’s signature scrawled under the Coca-Cola swirl or the Golden Arches. Then I went to study in Seville, Spain. I spent my days wandering through the voluminous churches and down the narrow alleys of the old town. You could read the history of the city in its architecture, most emblematically in the Giralda—the bell tower of its central, sprawling cathedral. On the tower’s bottom was a stone engraved in Latin from the days of Roman settlement, which had been used by the city’s Muslim rulers to build a minaret, which had been transformed into a bell tower by the (re)conquering Christians with the addition of human statues, a taboo in Islamic art against which the Christians victoriously transgressed. The final result was a unique beauty that masked the violence of its creation, and the whole city was like that. Guides led tourists through the whitewashed, labyrinthine Jewish quarter (empty of Jews since 1483); the gilded sanctuaries of the city’s many baroque churches had been paid for with the spoils conquistadors shipped back from the “New World.” All the blood and ash from war and Inquisition had long been scrubbed from the cobblestones (which were still washed every night), and what was left was a theme park crafted from a battlefield.

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