The Gothic Cathedral was only a 10 minute stroll from our hotel so that was our first stop. I’m not religiously inclined in any way shape or form but I can appreciate architectural attempts to embody the spiritual. And it is a very impressive building, your eyes are drawn upwards and I guess that should invoke a feeling of awe for God or whatever floats your ontological boat.

Here’s some photos that I hope capture the splendour of the cathedral.

The floor of the cathedral also had epitaphs and carvings of skulls, which I liked. The alcoves dedicated to various saints were very gaudy in a Jeff Koons stylee, lots of gold, bling and ornamentation. Subtle and simple it was not. Any religious reverence was offset by coin slots which would light up a little electronic faux candle if you wished to pay (literally) your respects to your patron saint. I wonder if it was a kind of karmic slotmachine, insert money and you just might win eternal life, but everyone knows the game is rigged so you lose in the long term but the house always wins.

Next up was the museum of contemporary art which was more my thing. It’s an impressive modernist building slap bang in the middle of slightly down at heel neighbourhood. Whereas the cathedral was a sensory overload of gold, ornamentation and extravagance the MACBA was all minimal spare white walls. However the atmosphere inside was similarly solemn and reverential – the cathedral had tableaus of saints to pay respect to, the MACBA had film loops of artists in the nip to solemnly contemplate.

Inside the Museum of Contemporary Art

There were some pieces I really enjoyed, including a reproduction and documentation of Marina Abramanovic’s Rhythm O. She lay on a gallery floor and members of the public were allowed to select objects from a table to use on Marina, including whips, hammers and a loaded gun. A slide show showed pictures from the Aktion, and it was compelling and disturbing to watch the images and to also contemplate the objects laid out on a table like surgical instruments.

They also had Gerhard Richter’s Kerze which was used for the cover of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. I didn’t realise until I saw it that it was a painting and not a photo.

There was also a whole gallery devoted to Laibach and their Neue Slowenische Kunst, which was interesting for an ageing rivet head like myself.

One of my favourite pieces was Angels Ribe’s In the Labyrinth. It was sheets of transparent orange suspended on thin wires to form a rudimentary maze. Air currents in the gallery would cause the sheets to shift and move, creating an effect where the walls would appear to close in on you or ripple away from you. The MACBA is well worth a visit, some great pieces, some average pieces and some pieces with more than a whiff of the emperor’s new clothes about them (e.g film loops of an artist shadow boxing in the nip, film loops of an artist jumping up and down in the nip and film loops of artists playing with their balls, in the nip. In a gallery, it’s a challenging piece questioning the bourgeoise dialectic of artistic creation, outside of a gallery it’s just a bloke showing of his tiny cock and balls.)

Me in the Labyrinth