Torture by Modern Art Was Actually Used in Spanish Civil War

Torture by Modern Art Was Actually Used in Spanish Civil War

Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

Almost all of us are aware of people who consider modern arts as a form of torture. But who would have thought there history has witnessed such a place where modern arts was used as a form of torture? Terrors and atrocities of wars in the 20th century even gave us a containment facility that actually used modern arts as a way to terrorize and torment its inmates. These cells, which were built like a modern 3-D art painting, sprung up between 1936 and 1939 around Barcelona and the rest of Spain in a period which is more commonly referred to as the Spanish civil war.

Along with prominent Spanish surrealist artists like Salvador Dali and his close acquaintance Luis Bunuel, Bauhaus maestros like Klee, Kandinsky and Itten have played a pivotal role in such torture centers and secret cells that were built around Barcelona and the rest of Spain. According to Jose Milicua, a distinguished Spanish art historian, various art works of these artists were the inspiration behind these cells which were built in 1938. It was not until 2003 that Jose Milicua found evidence about the use of art as a form of torture. Built to house the republican forces which had taken up arms against the fascist army of General Franco, these cells were perhaps among the most terrifying ever built in the 20th century. Ironically, the Nazi regime in Germany which were allies and supporters of General Franco criticized this project and called it degenerative.

Spanish Civil war torture cell

According to the research of Jose Milicua, Alphonse Laurencic’s work was featured in length in these cells. A painter, conductor and enthusiastic French anarchist, Laurencic invented a form of “psychotechnic” torture which was also put on display in the creation of these cells. The main features of these cells included colored cells, a 20 degree inclined bed on which sleeping was impossible, a floor that had extruding bricks that were so oddly placed that it was impossible to walk.

The lone option left for inmates was to stare at walls, which had subtle curves and were covered with hundreds of mind-altering patterns like squares, straight lines, cubes and spirals which utilized contrivance tricks of perspective, color and scale to result in immense mental distress and confusion. The use of illuminated paintings was also frequent to achieve the same purpose.

The 6 feet by 3 feet cells also featured seats made of stone that were excruciatingly uncomfortable and walls laced with so much tar that it became unbearably hot during the summers. And toping it all off is the fact that prisoners were forced to sit through Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s surrealist short movie Un Chien Andalou, in which one morbid scene explicitly depicts a human eyeball being slashed open.

These cells were controversially reportedly to be hidden from foreign correspondents and journalists who were instead shown makeshift jails made on Saragossa and Vallmajor streets. These cells were just as influenced by surrealism abstraction and geometric design and as their original, much more terrifying counter parts.

images: Wikimedia Commons