The world is pretty much topsy-turvy these days, isn’t it? I’ve been literally staring at the computer screen for about an hour, wondering how to start, how to explain. I’ve erased the opening paragraph about four times too (≧▽≦). Thus, I will just spare you the introduction, explanations, justifications, and so. It took me a while to decide in favour of my little trip to Madrid.
Vampires, the Evolution of the Myth, or Vampiros, la Evolución del Mito (#VampirosCaixaForum) was scheduled before the whole COVID-19 debacle. Once things started opening up in Spain, the exhibition was rescheduled to run in Madrid for a couple of months through summer. And for a while I pondered whether it was… I’m not sure how to put it… worth the risk? For months we had been told to avoid public transport, which is my main mean of moving around, so in the end I decided what the fuck, if I was doing this, I was going to drive into the centre of Madrid – for the very first time in my life. For the record I don’t particularly enjoy driving, I much prefer being driven, and my sense of directions when driving is… not the best, so I borrowed a GPS, picked up my sister, and drove off.
After only getting the wrong exit once, we left the car in an underground parking lot and walked ten short minutes and we were in front of the Caixa Forum Madrid. Caixa Forum is a cultural space owned by a savings bank
in search of tax deductions that organises shows and exhibitions. We had a compound ticket for 12:00, which included both exhibitions in the building, and a theme lunch. And so we went.
Vampiros: La Evolución del Mito, “Vampires, the Evolution of the Myth” is an exhibition originally organised by La Cinémathèque française, which is a French French non-profit film organisation that holds one of the collection of cinema-related objects and documents in the world. As they are specialised in films, the vampire exhibition focuses on the figure of the preternatural being throughout cinema.
The first room is focused on the book Dracula, and the Romantic interpretation of the myth – Romantic as the literary period, not the lovey-dovey stuff. Highlights include a facsimile of the first scene of the manuscript of Bram Stoker’s version of Dracula for theatre, aside from early editions of the novel and other vampire books such as John William Polidori’s The Vampyre and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. There were also some surprising items – some of Francisco de Goya’s wood-prints. Goya was one of the most influential painters in Spain, also grounded in the Romantic movement. Good stuff.
The second room was dedicated to Nosferatu, one of the key films in the vampire genre, with some promotional material and film props – this was the ward with best and most important number of items.
The following room was dedicated to the romantic, erotic and sexual vampires. It had two main focuses – one was the Dracula portrayed by Bela Lugosi as the epitome of the elegant, seductive vampire, first in Broadway, then in the 1931 film by Universal Studios. The centrepiece of the room featured two pieces of the wardrobe in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula worn by Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, along with several designs for the wardrobe (which could not be photographed, but you can peek at in some of the pics). Finally, we got to see the suit worn Tom Cruise as Lestat and Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. I missed some more Christopher Lee, as there were barely some photographies of his performance in Dracula (1958) and its sequels.
On one side there was a small area dedicated to the vampire as a political metaphor. The final area was dedicated to the pop vampire, including magazines, comics and graphic novels, some Japanese manga, and so on – even Count Dracula from Sesame Street! Then again, he was on a screen. I would have killed to see the real puppet.
All in all I got the impression that the exhibit lacked ‘the real thing’ and abused the film montages. I was expecting a few more props and less bits of films which… after all I’ve seen most (≧▽≦). The truth is that the myth of the vampire starts much earlier than the “Medieval” vampire featured in the Romantic fantasies, and can be traced to early succubi or the Lamia myths in Ancient Greece if you think about Western Culture alone. The Romantic and Victorian writers just made the myth cool as it was once more popular due to a sort of “vampire hysteria” that crossed the Balkans the previous century – that’s probably the main reason why Bram Stoker chose the figure of a Transylvanian warlord to create his character. But in the end it was a good way to break the activity fast.
Then we moved on to the next exhibition, Cámara y ciudad. La vida urbana en la fotografía y el cine, “Camera and the city: urban life in photography and the cinema” which… was okay, I guess. I guess I’m not a photography / video kind of person (≧▽≦).
After perusing the shop for a while, we moved to the cafeteria, where a “theme menu” had been designed. Let me detail that for you:
- El frenesí vampírico / Vampire frenzy: virgin – I think – Bloody Mary
- Estacas de la muerte / Death stakes: aubergine tempura with sweet and sour sauce
- Reencarnación / Reincarnation: Goat cheese, sweet beet and raspberries salad
- Inmortalidad / Immortality: Macerated sea bass with lime, orange, coriander, salt and pepper, with a side of mango and tortilla chips
- Embalsamamiento / Embalmment: Duck magret with a red wine sauce and mushrooms
- Drácula / Dracula: Crème anglaise, jelly and raspberry mousse.
Let me tell you, this was amazing – and fortunately the portions were small so the final amount was more than adequate.
It was a little later than 15:15 when we left the CaixaForum centre and headed off the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, a museum built from a noble family’s art collection which also hosts temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition is chronologically organised, and here are some of the pieces by famous artists: Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Degas, El Greco, Tiziano… and hm… many very modern painters I… can’t understand.
Finally we decided to call it a day before people started coming out of work and leaving town so that we did not get into a traffic jam, and I am very proud of myself for taking the drive – which was my wee white whale for a while. I’ll see myself out now (≧▽≦)
Distance: Approx. 120 km driving; 6.08 km walking
Also, as an afterthought, I ordered the Vampire exhibition book online. I did not at first because I did not feel like carrying it around as it is thick. But they home-delivered and I actually saved 2.5 bucks?
PS: New logo! What do you think?