Todo Espectador es un Cobarde o un Traidor
Juan Carlos Robles

04th march 2022 – 06th may 2022

“The collective struggle supposes, at its base, a collective responsibility and, at the summit, a collegiate responsibility. Yes, it is necessary to implicate everyone in the
struggle for the sake of our common salvation. There can be no pure hands, no innocents, no spectators. We all dirty our hands in the swamps of our land and the tremendous emptiness of our minds. Every spectator is a coward or a traitor.” (Frantz Fanon; 155.)

Tangier  was one of the most important cities in Northern Africa, above all on account of its geographic situation, only 14kms across the Straits from Gibraltar, the port of entry to Europe. It was a frontier city, sitting between two worlds, two continents, and two cultures. Known until 1956 (the date of its independence) as the “Tangier International Zone”, its administration and legislation were assumed by Spain, France, and the United Kingdom under the Tangier Protocol, which was signed here on 18th December 1923. Five years later Italy joined the Protocol, and then later Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal. The Tangier Protocol was signed in a pre-war, military context. The Spanish occupation of Tangier occurred during the Second World War, between 1940 and 1945, when the Franco government dissolved the Protocol and targeted with persecution and repression all civil servants who had remained loyal to The Second Republic. Once the war was over the city regained its international status.

The city of poets, writ- ers, filmmakers, painters…celebrated by all and sundry as the mysterious, exotic city…Stereo – types that derived from the very process of colonisation; ideological stereotypes which im- posed a Eurocentric and biased view of the exotic and mysterious “other”, and which were dis- mantled by Edward Said in his work “Orientalism”. Herein, Said shone a light on how these prejudices derive from an erudite field of study in which the Oriental, the Arab, is considered as a malicious and perverse subject, the “absolute other”. This stereotype, he continued, is without doubt the most important strategic discourse of colonialism, in which the “other” is constructed from differences into a fixed image, and which sees the other as immutably inferi- or, irrational, savage and primitive and who it was necessary to civilise – with the aim of ensur- ing domination. Every process of colonialisation involves the occupation of territory and the appropriation of goods and resources, and also imposes its own “culture” (language, religion, laws, customs and ways of life…). Important urban and architectural projects were carried out in Tangier un- der the Spanish protectorate. In 1909 the post of municipal engineer of the city was given to technicians appointed by the Spanish consulate. The Spanish architects and engineers working at that time did not apply any specific model, until in the 1940’s they introduced an eclectic mix of Rationalism, Art Decó, Art Nouveau, and Modernism, all of a metropolitan style, and on occasions with shades of the neo-Arab, and neo-Andalusí. From the 1940’s the Francoist state would impose a model in the Herreran style of Baroque, designed to implant an idea of Span – ishness. The Grand Theatre of Tangier, inaugurated in 1913, is a good example of the turn of the cen- tury art nouveau architecture. This theatre, launched by private capital, was designed by the prolific Spanish architect, born in Tangier and educated in Paris, Diego Jiménez Armstrong, who imported the French style and used it throughout the city. In 1928 the theatre was acquired by the Primo de Rivera government and from 1974 it was rented by the Tangier City Hall for the nominal sum of 1 Dirham per year. Up to 2019 the theatre was under the owner- ship of the Spanish state until in February of that year it was donated irrevocably to the Moroc- can state on condition that it should be restored, that it would preserve its name, and that it would be dedicated to “public use, of a social interest, and for the promotion of both Moroccan and Spanish culture”, thereby assuring the continuity of a cultural domination in which “Every- thing which is the implantation of our culture is correct” (Peio H. Riaño). The theatre was designed for and frequented by the significant colony of Spaniards in Tangier and was an emblem of Spanish culture in Morocco. It should be remembered that a third of the population of Tangier in those years was of European origins, of whom more than 25,000 were Spaniards. The theatre was, until the 1980’s, the most important theatre in Northern Africa, with a capacity for 1,400 people. “In 1918, Caruso, the great tenor of those times, arrived one fine spring morning in Tangier, and others to perform there included Estrellita Castro, Carmen Sevilla, Imperio Argentina, María Caballé, and the great Catalina Berreno who, with castanets in her hands, and accompanying all sensitive spirits, symbolised flamenco song and classical dance. Antonio Machín, the great Cuban singer, also performed there, as did Manolo Caracol, a singer popular in Spain, and Lola Flores, the fantastic performer of “Flamenco song” who starred in the dance of “The Girl of Fire” (“La niña de fuego”). Later, in 1944, Pepe Marchena and Juanito Valderrama, with small “Chinese” eyes and a fine and sustained voice, combined with the chords of various guitarists of Bulerías and fandanguillos” (Mouna Aarab and Sarah Amarouchi). The theatre also hosted private parties, meetings, and celebrations of all sorts for the Spanish community, thus becoming a symbol of national identity. The theatre has lain abandoned for many years, in a complete state of ruin, in stark contrast to the innumerable urban projects that have been carried out in the lower city under the Plan for Industrial Acceleration 2014-2020, of which more than 25% have been built by Spanish companies. Most prominent among the monumental constructions undertaken in this period is the mega-project Tangier City Center, built by the Spanish company Iveravante, and the Tang- ier Palace of Culture and the Arts, founded with the aim of augmenting the cultural capital of the city and attracting tourism. Both buildings are located metres away from the Malabata beach, in the new “Beverly Hills” of Tangier. The exhibition presented here by J.C. Robles bears the title “Every spectator is a coward or a traitor”, in a clear allusion to the well-known phrase from the 1961 book by Frantz Fanon “The Damned of the Earth” (“Les damnés de la terre”). The phrase is a direct reference to the first verse of The International: “Debout! les damnés de la terre! Debout! les forçats de la faim!” (“Arise, wretched of the Earth! Arise, hun- gry legions!”). The phrase “the wretched of the Earth” addresses the complexity of decoloniali- sation, and the political processes of African emancipation, and is a call to collective action. “The colonialised man who writes for his people, when he uses the past, must do so with the intention of opening the future, of calling to action, of forging hope. But, in or- der to achieve hope, to give it density, he must participate in the action, committing body and soul to the national struggle. He may speak of everything, but when he de- cides to speak of that one thing unique in the life of a man who represents the act of widening horizons, that of bringing light to the Earth itself, of raising up both himself and his people, then he must collaborate vigorously.” (Frantz Fanon; 116.) This book has illuminated numerous anti colonialist liberation movements throughout the world. In 1968, the phrase appeared at the beginning of the cinematographic trilogy “The Hour of the Ovens” (“La hora de los hornos”), an influential film on colonialism, violence and libera- tion by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, members of the Argentinean Cinema Liberation Group. This cinematographic essay is today regarded as an unquestionable symbol of resis – tance and a magnificent reflection on identity and the forms of violence that are inflicted upon a people. Considered by its own maker as a film of action cinema, it is a case of cinema under- stood as political action. In Crossing Lines (2018), J.C. Robles filmed the construction of the Tangier Palace of Culture and the Arts, and in the current exhibition presents two audio-visual projects which relate to it: “Prelude” (“Preludio”), and “Tangier Anti-Public” (“Contra-pu ́blico Tangerino” (2022). “Ev- ery spectator is a coward or a traitor” (“Todo espectador es un cobarde o un traidor”) obliges us to take a stand. Nobody can remain indifferent; nobody can be seen as a passive spectator. The phrase questions you, it confronts you. The first two projects link two spaces in the city, two places, two cultures and two moments in history, and place centre stage the social, economic, and cultural relationships that exist be- tween them. The Grand Theatre Cervantes and the Palace of Culture and the Arts are at odds with each other politically and temporally. The Grand Theatre Cervantes represents the Span- ish occupation and the Palace of Culture and the Arts represents the new economic and demo- graphic expansion of the city of Tangier, a new “Eldorado” for Spanish companies. Wherever one looks there are cranes, lorries, buildings under construction. As the city seeks to establish itself as a major tourist destination, one image of construction confronts another of abandonment. In “Prelude” (“Preludio”), Emir Adbullah sings to a non-existent audience, to an empty theatre in ruins; he sings to his lost love, to Palestine, to this ruin of the Spanish colonial past. All around him are mountains of rubble, broken theatre seats, fallen timbers, heaps of rubbish which speak to us of the past and which push us towards the future, as all the while the en- semble of ruins grows at his feet. In “Tangier Anti-Public” (“Contra-pu blico Tangerino”) various people, of different ages, look at us and ques- tion us – we know nothing about them, only that it is a group of people from Tangier. It is an “anti-public”, confronting we the public who are in the exhibition hall, and which requires us to reflect on our own position, and to question ourselves as to our own relationship with the Other – that ambivalent relationship between desire and rejection that the colonial stereotype shapes in us all. The task in which the project “Every spectator is a coward or a traitor” is engaged is this psychological and political one of seeking to destabilise the colonial stereotype.“To see society from the outside and from within, like a native and like an outsider, requires sagacity and prudence.” (Juan Goytisolo)

Ana Navarrete, curator

References: BOE núm. 68, de 20 de marzo de 2019Aplicación provisional del Protocolo entre el Reino de España y el Reino de Marruecos para la donación irrevocable de la propiedad del “Gran Teatro Cervantes” de Tánger, hecho en Rabat el 13 de febrero de 2019., páginas 27672 a 27673 Mouna AARAB y Sarah AMAROUCHI, BABEL, nº 17, febrero 2004. Páginas: 61 y 62. Frantz FANON, Los condenados de la tierra, Fondo de Cultura Económica, México 1983. Juan GOYTISOLO, << El misterio de Tánger>> El País Opinión, 30 agosto de 2003. Peio H. RIAÑO, <<España regala a Marruecos el Gran Teatro Cervantes de Tánger>> El País Cultura, 9 de febrero 2019. Joaquín MAYORDOMO, <<Tánger: un nuevo Eldorado para la empresa española>> El País Economía, 21 mayo 2017.

Postcolonialism and the exercise of unlearning in the exhibition space

Mona Jas, curator Culture, art and education contain subjective norms and rules that, depending on the perspective and power constellation, are determined and, consequently, have to be fought for. In this context, the concept of culture is often used as an unreflexive notion, formed during colonial times in order to create exclusions, “also ethnically demarcated, in the sense of ‘own’ and ‘foreign’ or ‘other culture” (Mörsch/Zürcher Hochschule der Künste 2013: 35). In the art field, the works of non-western artists of the Global South remain judged by social or religious criteria and not according to aesthetic criteria, as it happens with artists from the Global North (Kravanga 2016: 76; Gamedze 2018). These are the points from which postcolonial theories stem from. Questions of postcolonialism start from the historical facts of colonialism. With the transantlantic slave trade, (1) colonialism “as the great imperial project of the modern era” reached heights never seen before (Kravagna 2016: 66). In this context, the work examines the extent to which the notion of the colonial world order- as well as the attitudes that sustain colonialism- keep influencing political, economic and cultural aspects to this day. The post-colonial theories also analyse the power relationships and the responsibilities for change by focusing on the various narratives (2) of those who were or are colonized and those who colonize (cf. Kravagna 2016; Kilomba 2016; Eggers et al. 2009; Ha et al. 2016). The systematic exploitation of the colonized, exclusively profit-oriented, was and is ideologically legitimized by the construction of a thought edifice of apparent cultural distinctions. Western European Enlightenment elites provided the appropriate evidence(s) “by offering ‘convincing’ arguments and memorable images of difference and superiority or inferiority” (Kravagna 2016: 66; Hund 2017: 79-113). Postcolonial perspectives expose the constructed differences that make the degradation and oppression of the “other” seem consequential. Thus, Stuart Hall, co-founder of the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, unmasks the contexts of perfidious degradation in his article The Spectacle of the “Other” by analyzing the representation of black athletes in commercial advertising. Racist stereotypes and polarizing terms creep into a society’s visual communication without comment (Hall 2004: 108-116). (3) Consequently, there is a clear need for the fields of art, culture and education in the global North to move forward in reflecting on and overcoming colonial attitudes. This is to analyse the impact of colonial attitudes from three literary studies perspectives (cf. Castro Varela/Dhawan 2015). One is Edward Said’s study Orientalism (cf. Said 1979), in which it is revealed how the Western exoticisation and the construction of a so-called Eastern world. Furthermore, it is Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of hybridity (cf. Bhabha 1994), who proposes a model of a third space in which “cultural differences cannot be identified and, thus, they cannot be appropriated” (Castro Varela/Dhawan 2015: 236). The third perspective comes from the literati Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, who argues that the privileges and scholarly classifications of a colonial understanding of education must be unlearned (cf. Spivak 2008/1988). (4) In his works Preludio and Contra-público Tangerino (2022) in the exhibition Todo espectador es un cobarde o un traidor (Every spectator is a coward or a traitor), the artist Juan Carlos Robles explores the concept of art by examining critically the relationships between artists, art and public. In his critical view against domination, the works are linked to an understanding of the “unlearning”: It is the spectator who must reflect and analyse categories such as gender, ethnicity and class in the exhibition space when facing the main characters represented in the Contra-público Tangerino work. In this way, the spectators of the video installation become a direct counterpart to the works and they cannot escape them. The materiality of what is shown in Preludio stresses contact and tactility, highlighting the immediacy of the visual language of the artistic work (Bourriaud 2006: 165). In this way, the two works exhibited could generate new relationships that develop between the spectator, the artist and the world. Following the approach of relational aesthetics, the works of art function in this way as a social interstice, “The work of art as a social interstice.” (5) This aspect is supported by the format of the exhibition, as, in contrast to cinema, theatre, opera or reading of a book and listening to a music piece, it allows to shift simultaneously from thought to lived experience with others. From a white cube that in its design whatever influence supposedly disruptive from everyday life is avoided in order to ensure a “pure” perception of the art (cf. O’Doherty 1996/1976,) the exhibition space transforms itself with the works exhibited by Juan Carlos Robles in a setting of communication and sensual enjoyment. Todo espectador es un cobarde o un traidor opens spaces for action in which one acts partisan in the sense of communicative reflexivity. These spaces have as constitutive features a reflexivity towards the concept of culture, as well as a critical distance from the notions of values and norms associated to the “art” (Mörsch/Zürcher Hochschule der Künste 2013: 162). The urgency of contemporary approaches to art such as this is evident here. Embodied knowledge inscribed in the body – such as learned classifications of gender, ethnicity and class can and must be unlearned by questioning and displacing an existing canon. This is a process that cannot be completed: The concern of an unlearning practice is to suspend colonial hierarchies (cf. Sternfeld 2014). It remains to be seen whether this must remain a utopia or whether it will become a reality through the examination of the works Preludio and Contra- Público Tangerino in the context of the exhibition Todo espectador es un cobarde o un traidor as “micro-utopias” (Bourriaud 2006).


  • Theories of postcolonialism analyze the consequences of oppression and exploitation by colonialism, which continue to have an impact today. Therefore, the verbs are both present and preterite.
  • The term “narrative”, which is now widely used, is due to the introduction of the “meta- narrative” (French: métarécit) by the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard. In The postmodern knowledge: A report, Lyotard described the end of the great narratives (see Lyotard 2019/1979). Métarécit was translated into English with the term narrative (English: “narratives”). Thereafter, this term spread in language use to designate established narratives of a society or institution.
  • For the German-speaking countries, for example, the heavily criticized advertising campaign of Ferrero Rocher Germany chooses [white]” 2013 (italics by the author). Interdependencies of colonial attitudes and culture and education are analysed for the German-speaking countries in particular in publications such as masks, myths and subjects (Eggers et al., 2009) and re/visionen (Ha et al., 2016)
  • The concepts of opacity and globality by Édouard Glissant also constitute another central theoretical Curatorial positions offer Glissant’s writings numerous points of reference (see Glissant/Obrist 2011; Masilela 2018b).
  • Bourriaud refers to Karl Marx with the concept of the intermediate space, who describes with the intermediate space smaller and self-sufficient trade communities that evade the structures of capitalist economy. The term ‘interspace’ was used by Karl Marx to denote trade communities that have escaped the framework of the capitalist economy: barter, sale with loss or self-sufficient forms of production. A space in between is a space in social relations that, although more or less harmoniously and openly fits into the overall system, suggests other possibilities of exchange than those that prevail within the system. Exhibitions of contemporary art occupy exactly the same position in the field of trade in representations (Bourriaud 2006: 161).


Bhabha, Homi (1994): The Location of Culture. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2006/1998): Relational Aesthetics//1998 In: Bishop (Hg.) (2006), p. Castro Varela, María do Mar/Dhawan, Nikita (2015): Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction. Bielefeld: transcript. Eggers, Maureen Maisha/Kilomba, Grada/Piesche, Peggy/Arndt, Susan (2009): Myths, Masks and Subjects. Critical Research on Whiteness in Germany: Unrast. Gamedze, Thulile (2018): Ana Mendieta: Ngcobo/Mutumba (ed.) (2018), p. Gaugele, Elke/Kastner, Jens (Hg.) (2016): Critical Studies: Cultural and Social Theory in the Field of Art. Ha, Kien Nghi/Lauré al-Samarai, Nicola/Mysorekar, Sheila (Hg.) (2016): re/visions: Postcolonial perspectives of people of Color on racism, cultural politics and resistance in Germany. Hall, Stuart (2004/1997): The Spectacle of the Other’ In: Koivisto, Juha/Merkens, Andreas (ed.) (2004): Stuart Hall. Hamburg: Argument, p.-166. Hund, Wulf D (2017): How the Germans became white: Kleine (Heimat)History of racism: Stuttgart: J. Metzler/Springer. Kilomba, Grada (2016): Plantation Memories: Episodes of Everyday Racism: Unrast. Kravagna, Christian (2016): Postcolonial Studies (Hg.) (2016), p. Mörsch, Carmen/Zurich University of the Arts Institute for Art Education IAE ZHdK (Hg.) (2013): Time for In: // [last access on 31.12.2020]. Ngcobo, Gabi/Mutumba, Yvette (ed.) (2018): We don’t need another hero 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art curated by Gabi Ngcobo with Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza and Yvette Mutumba.Berlin: DISTANCE. O’Doherty, Brian (1996/1976): Inside the White Cube / Inside the White Cube. Said, Edward W (1979): New York: Vintage. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (2008/1988): Can the Subaltern Speak? Postcoloniality and Subaltern Articulation: With a Introduction by Hito Steyerl Vienna: Turia + Kant. Sternfeld, Nora (2014): Learning to unlearn: Sabisch, Andrea/Meyer, Torsten/Sturm, Eva (2014): Art Pedagogical Positions, Vol.

Exhibition Views



Activity carried out with the help of the Ministry of Culture and Sports