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Lecture Series

Unique Women

23, 25, 30 April, and 7, 9, 14 May 2013
Image of the Lecture

The participants summarise their talks

  • Lou Andreas-Salomé
    Antonio Pau
    The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said about her: "she is a burning bush". She lighted others with her fire, and they burned, but she was never consumed. The philosophers Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche burned, the politician Georg Ledebour, the medic Friedrich Pineles, the writer Richard Beer-Hofmann, and many others. But among all this destruction that she caused along her life, the figure of Rilke, whom she modeled and contributed to make him become a great poet, rises. The verses of Lou Andreas-Salomé excited Nietzsche and her psychoanalyst theories amazed Freud. But Lou Andreas-Salomé has become a part of history as a symbol: the symbol of a free woman.
  • Rosa Luxemburg
    Anna Caballé

    Rosa Luxemburg (or Luksenburg) was born in 1871 in the Polish city of  Zamość (while ruled by Tsarist Russia), but shortly after her family, which was Jewish, moved to Warsaw where little Rosa witnessed the first pogroms suffered by the Polish capital's ghettoes, including the street where she lived: Zlota street. This experience would deeply mark her and show her the fragility of the social and political structures. When 13 years old, she faced the visit of  Wilhelm II, German Emperor and King of Prussia, to whom she directed a mordant letter in Polish (when Russian was the language imposed by the Tsarist Russia) showing her admiration for his capacity to get on first-name terms with the Head of neighboring state: "Tell that sly villain of Bismarck, do it for Europe, Western Emperor, order him not to soil the trousers of peace". We could say that from this point, the political conscience of Luksenburg expands like a supernova: she is Jewish and Polish, and thus a victim of the boiling antisemitism of the time, and of the Tsarist domain, clearly anti-Polish. She discover social democracy, and just when she is about to be arrested she manages to escape with the help of her friend Karcin Kasprzak. She hides in Zurich, which had the only university in Europe where there were no barriers for women wanting to study. In the "Slavic pensions" of Zurich, Russians and Polish debated extensively about the possibilities of a social and political revolution in each of their countries. We should change the world! Most probably, Rosa Luksenburg became the first female doctorate Cum Laude in Political Sciences. She obtained her PhD in 1898, a time when in Spain the first female university students obtained their degree, like its the case of Dolors Aleu who practiced medicine.

    "...How interesting and significative! It had to be a woman the first one to write the first profuse work on the industrial development of both Russian Poland and Russia, showing  how connected are both countries economically, and thus, how much one depends of the other politically. ¡We congratulate the feminine universe for this moral victory! This work is a new argument for the equality of rights between women and men, just in case new arguments are needed. We congratulate our comrade for this substantial, clear and captivating work".  These were words of the socialist editor Robert Seidel, in the newspaper Zürcher Volksrecht upon the publication of Luksenburg's thesis. She decides to get installed in Berlin and join the SPD. Very soon she collaborates as a social shaker: traveling to places where no other wanted to go, speaking with the workers, writing and participating in meetings and demonstrations. She proves to be unsatisfied with the procedures of the leaders of her political party as she feels that they are more worried about their own selfs that any other thing: "I am not satisfied with the way that articles are normally written in our party. Everything is so conventional, so dry, so stereotyped... I am aware it is a different world with a need for different words". Luksenburg would become an intelectual authority and celebrity within the workers realm due to the authenticity of her thinking. Reformation or revolution?, the big question within the core of the socialist parties that she resolved with clarity: Both things! The political activism of the great Polish thinker, defender of general strikes as a combat weapon and convinced pacifist, granted her with several detentions and long stays in prison that she confronted with study, writing her most important work, keeping correspondence with intelectual all over Europe, cultivating her herbariums, and creating small gardens in her cells. Her energy was unlimited. She was assassinated in 1919.

  • Gertrude Stein
    Esteban Pujals

    The knowledge on the work of an author, is normally accompanied by a certain knowledge of their biography. Sometimes we read the work of an author after having learned something from the person which has interested us, while in other occasions it may be the works themselves what triggers the interest for the biography of the author. In any case, and regardless of the relative autonomy that memorable writings tend to enjoy in relation to the person composing them, it would seem that the ignorance of the reader in relation to one or other realm fragments or hides what can be defined as the most informed and lucid perspective of something we see as a unit: the work and the vital process that produces it. It is true that in rare occasions very differentiated personalities can produce interchangeable pieces, like the paintings of Picasso and Braque in the years of analytical cubism. Nevertheless, the art of the so called Western societies have been strongly betting since the 14th century on the signature and authorship, and usually, right when it is said that there is a impersonality aspiration, the more imaginatively and subtly that a work manifests the uniqueness of the person who conceived it.

    In the case of Gertrude Stein it could be said that the unitarian set constituted by work and life correspond and complete the ying-yang symbol: the feeling of awkwardness that we experiment upon a work could be equivalent to the analogue feeling of rareness upon the information, little or lot, about the circumstances of life. What this apparent harmony of strange things has finally consolidated is the normalized conception behind which it is hidden the formidable prejudice that for almost a century has prevented us from understanding Stein's ambition as writer, and her very considerable contribution to the literary and artistic culture of our days.

  • Alma Mahler
    Almudena de Maeztu

    The figure of Alma Mahler is one of the most controversial of the 20th century. For men, she was a religious mantis who exploited her lovers before extracting their creative genius; for the Jew, an anti-Semite who embraced the cause of nazism; for the feminists, a composer to be who remained frustrated due to an oppressing husband; for the Nazis, a libertine who married two Jews. All these appreciations, although partially true, are not enough to explain who was in reality this kaleidoscopic woman who did not paint, but lived surrounded by art?; a woman who practically did not write, but was fundamental in the literary life of Vienna; a woman who hardly composed, but remains in a position of prominence in the history of music. The fact is that her shadow is not only present in the works of her first husband (the composer Gustav Mahler), or over the the paintings of painter Oskar Kokoschka (her lover for three years), but she is also present in the first designs by the Bauhaus, the German school that would be the most influential in decorative arts and industrial design of the past century. This is due to the relationship of Alma with the architect Water Gropius, founder of the school, which lasted almost a decade and began when Alma wast still married to the Bohemian musician. The lovers got married in 1916 (five years after Mahler's death) and divorced in October 1920, just a year after Gropius created the Bauhaus school in the German city of Weimar. Along those nine politically agitated years; due to the First World War, the Russian Revolution, or the Republic of Weimar; the basis that would transform Gropious' school in one of the most strong influences of the history of art were established.

    But Alma Mahler was already present in 1900 in Vienna, in the streets that saw artists of the size of Gustav Klimt, Stephan Zweig, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg, Karl Kraus, or Gustav Mahler. She experienced from the inside the birth of what was called the Vienna Secession, its Decorative Arts workshops, and the birth of atonal music. She managed to attract into her living room the best brains of the moment. But, what was the attractive of this fascinating woman who, still nowadays, remains at the heart of the controversy? What was her role in this brilliant scenario? Where did her irresistible attraction to some of the greatest genius of the past century lay? The review of her life is a trip across the 20th century, with immense artistic achievements of rupture and vanguard, but also with horrors and misery. A world in which she remained, maybe not as protagonist, but at least as a guest star.   

  • Virginia Woolf
    Laura Freixas
    The figure of Virginia Woolf, far from being forgotten or blurred, as grown with the pass of time. This, without doubt is due to two reasons. On one side, her variety, fertility, and richness. Woolf was not only an exquisite modernist, creator of beauty in her novels and tales, but also a thinker, whose reflexions about art -the relation between creation and the material conditions, the limits of representation, the women as an object and subject of literature...- are a still valid. At the same time, and this would be the other reason for her  timeliness, Woolf is a very powerful icon (for her fame and prestige), but also somewhat ambiguous. Elitist writer or popular author? Defender of tradition or vanguardist? An artist trapped in her ivory tower or a committed intellectual? Chaste victorian wife or homosexual?... None of these questions have a clear answer, which has allowed the most varied groups to endorse Woolf. And this is how the exquisite modernist garden where refined works like To the Lighthouse, Orlando or The Waves bloom, also holds a fertile orchard with robust texts like Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown, A Room of One's OwnThree Guineas..., and at the same time, a battlefield in which many different accounts are confronted.  
  • Clara Campoamor
    Margarita Borja
    The debate on women's suffrage in the Courts in 1931 is today a succession of texts, empty of documentary images, from whose lecture a passionate scenic game stems, structuring the times of exposition, development, and end in the way of the classical theatre. Clara Campoamor stands in the eye of the storm, while managing to shine and stir. The hemicycle, until then with an exclusive masculine representation regardless of the advances of Spanish society, transforms thanks to her intervention into a place from where here thesis blooms and is defended from powerful antagonists as her colleague the lawyer Victoria Kent. Like any utopian act, the event unleashes a dramatic chain of treasons and loyalties, opposing thesis and vibrating rhythms and aesthetic forms, until arriving into another cruel paradox of history. The utopia of dignifying the feminine sex through the obtention in her time and generation of the right to vote, would imply for her the emptiness of isolation and exile.
Ver vídeo: Virginia Woolf: Huerto, jardín y campo de batalla
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