When a book is written to lament the loss of a nation’s support for art and science we know that something is wrong. The paperback of Todo Lo que Era Solido (Everything That was Solid) by the novelist AM Molina was published last month, and explains how the City of Arts and Sciences that opened in Valencia only ten years ago is in need of a €4.6 billion bail-out.
The buildings are impressive, a marine aquarium, a 4,000 seat opera house, a giant greenhouse and museums. But performances of Die Walkure by Placido Domingo have given way to more recent exhibitions of the first electron microscopes from 1950s Spain. Not that science and art were ever meant to be joined together in this City. The separate buildings allowed the usual polarisations between the two approaches to life.
There are no demonstrations of exciting and creative times in the present-day Spain, no shows of yesterday’s break-through, new music or something unusual in-between. Instead there are vast open spaces, deserts of flat shiny floor-space, and a few relics of scientific discoveries made somewhere else fifty years ago. There’s a model of DNA and this old electron microscope which doesn’t work any more.
Molina blames his own generation for the emptiness of the buildings and the Spanish lethargy. Although a lot of the corruption, cronyism and greed come from Franco’s time, accountability and politically disinterested public debate are still conspicuously absent in parts of southern Europe.