El Camp de la Bota, 2004

Installation, Variable dimensions

‘My team and I set a limit of four years, because these stories are very painful. To read the sentences passed by summary courts is unbearable. The same goes for the farewell letters and many other papers that should never have been written.’ (Francesc Abad, El País, 10 August 2007). El Camp de la Bota was conceived in 2004 as an open project to recover the collective memory and as an active interrogation of the violence of political silence. That year, the city of Barcelona built a new macro-facility and rehabilitated an area of beaches and shantytowns until then abandoned by the municipal planners, which was to be presented to the world as the Fòrum Universal de les Cultures (Universal Forum of Cultures). The new facility was built in the vicinity of Camp de la Bota.

Located between the municipalities of Barcelona and Sant Adrià de Besòs, this abandoned space occupied a significant place in the collective imaginary of the city. Since the fifties, it was here that most of the Spanish immigrants found themselves: having come to the city full of hopes, they encountered the reality of the shantytown. But above all, it was in this area that, from 1939–52, the Franco regime executed about 1,700 people. ‘My alarm clock was at seven o’clock in the morning when they shot the prisoners. And by the number of coups de grâce I knew how many had died every day’, was how the priest Pere Ribot from Sant Adrià recalled the dawns of 1941. The last executions took place on 14 March 1952, thirteen years after the end of the Civil War. The last people to be executed were five members of the anarchist group Talión. Nine had been sentenced to death but international pressure, especially by French intellectuals such as André Breton, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, managed to reduce the list.

When work began on the building of the Fòrum Universal de les Cultures in 2004, the plaque that until then had commemorated the shootings was removed with no intention of returning it. The dark history of this part of the city was forgotten, wiped clean by a new mass event wrapped in the etiquette of culture. It was in this context that Francesc Abad decided to recover the history of the shootings and give prominence to the people whose names had been silenced by the grand narrative of history. As explained by the anthropologist Manuel Delgado talking about the work: ‘Why is it necessary to remember that we need to forget? Who cares to remember any of it? And why? Is it not better to proclaim loudly – without saying it – that the wall did not exist, that the hundreds shot there were never shot? Because no one was shot there or anywhere, nobody was persecuted in this quiet city that opens its doors today to the cosmic embrace between cultures. Here nobody was tortured, nobody was shot dead, because there was no war, no post-war, no shantytowns, no miserable people, and above all, no firing-squad walls. Before the Fòrum there was nothing. An empty virginal space anxiously awaiting the arrival of architects and publicists, impatient to be rescued from the nothingness in which it found itself. The absolute triumph of a city under the Benetton aesthetic, without a past, or rather, with an invented past’ [Delgado, Manuel: ‘Llocs d’oblit’, Papers d’Art. Girona: Fundació Espais d’Art Contemporani, 2004 (first semester of 2004, No. 86)].

Francesc Abad initiated the project recovering visual documentation of the scene of the shootings, personal documentation of those killed and the stories of their children and grandchildren. From the beginning, it was constructed as an archive that has developed in different directions: a website, the publication of dossiers, catalogues and posters, the convening of meetings and a travelling exhibition hosted by various Catalan towns, which incorporated new witnesses of the new victims of Franco. While the project began with the testimony of eight people, four years later it had accrued more than 1,000 documents.

Technical details

Original title:
El Camp de la Bota
Registration number:
Abad, Francesc
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
Object type:
Various materials
Variable dimensions
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium. Gift of the artist
© Photograph: Joan Roca de Viñals; © Francesc Abad, VEGAP, Barcelona
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