The Icebreaker. Theory and Practice of a Winter Night

Julián Rodríguez has a plan…

And it consists, basically, in breaking blocks. Those that separate art and literature, rural cultivation and cultivating oneself, Latin America and Spain, editing books and curating artists.

He fulfills this plan to the letter.

As a writer, he is a pioneer when it comes to combining in contemporary Spanish narrative two apparently distant subjects, which years later become successful: the countryside and art.

However, he did it by lowering the hullabaloo of both subjects, which he endowed with naturalness without naturalism, with topicality without fetishism. Cutting off, completely, the picturesque tendency of the former and the frivolous drive of the latter.

His books are evidence of this surgery: Unas vacaciones baratas en la miseria de los demás, Ninguna necesidad, Santos que yo te pinte, Cultivos

As an editor, he follows in the wake of his own editors, Constantino Bértolo or Claudio López Lamadrid. He also reminds us of Roberto Calasso, with those texts for back covers that reach a level unattainable for other colleagues in the publishing world. A world to which he arrives from a humble extraction that he maintains as roots, but that does not lead him to a servile betraying of his class or to revanchism.

His ambition is Olympic: he always presents himself faster, higher, stronger.

He is an icebreaker.

As a gallery owner, he is not in the least interested in inoculating the contemporary in Spanish art, but on the contrary. That is, to recover the Spanish in contemporary art, following those hybrid languages that come after one has demolished walls.

That’s why he opens the adventure of his gallery, Casa sin Fin, with an exhibition-book by Joan Fontcuberta. And that’s why he looks for artists —Pedro G. Romero, Javier Codesal, Iván Candeo— who have a literary plus within a work that is always beyond art.

What Daniel G. Andújar says about his mark as a gallery owner applies to everything Julián does: wherever he goes, he changes the model.

In each and every one of its chapters, this unique work is, moreover, an exercise in pedagogy for autodidacts.

***

Julián Rodríguez has a theory…

That theory consists of thinking of Spain as a province of Ibero-America.

And as such, he imposes a catalog that shatters the border between the two continents, which he considers an indistinct territory separated by a puddle. Never mended by the same language —the metaphors of the territory of La Mancha and other spots in use—, but by the many languages and accents that constitute this space, which he approaches from an ethical equality contrary to the editorial hierarchy that Spain continues to maintain over its former colonies.

The name of the publishing house he founded with Paca Flores —Periférica— is, from the beginning, a different manifesto of literary geopolitics.

If you don’t understand Rita Indiana, Yuri Herrera, Juan Cardénas, Diamela Eltit or Valentín Roma, don’t worry, you’ll understand them tomorrow. There is no need for a glossary to translate them for you from the start, but to keep editing them, making a different language common within the same public language.

The problem here is that, unlike this precisely executed plan, this theory is not written.

***

So I have a theory about the plan and Julián Rodríguez’s theory…

“What you have is a tongue twister,” he tells me.

And so we go into the night…

To unravel organized plans, an unwritten theory and a tongue twister that, as the hours go by, will only remain in a Jíbaro dialect. Perfect so that nothing is understood.

It is time to invent the umpteenth version of a (non-existent) correspondence and prepare a (possible) exhibition of Félix González Torres with Martin Kippenberger.

I observe him, then, carrying in his backpack his complete works with barely fifty years old. And I deduce that any separate facet of that work would be enough to satisfy any life. Except his, of course. With that overwhelming trajectory; written, edited and exhibited in the different initiatives he led. A tangible and at the same time infinite legacy.

I also understand that his authority as an editor, gallery owner and cultural manager comes from his intellectual greatness, the only heritage with which he stands in a world that is still classist and untouched by social mobility.

That is why, when he recovers classics —Maupaussant or Balzac— it is never to give them a contemporary agenda, but the other way around: he does it in the hope that they will offer some resource to shake up the present.

In that vein, there is no book more “peripheral” and current than Joseph Joubert’s Sobre arte y literatura. A piece comparable to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.

In one of its pages, we read this epigram: “Before using a beautiful word, make a place for it.”

The place Julián Rodríguez occupies is of tremendous beauty, of disconcerting integrity. I know of no one who has passed through it and not grown.

Unlike black holes, you always come out better of it.

And so I tell him, staggering, as dawn breaks.

Discussing his completed plans, his theories still to be written, my tongue twister that claims to explain them.

But the day has run its course.

And that instant arrives in which Julian knows how to cut the chitchat like no one else.

The exact minute to walk away with his half smile, his clumsy way of rocking his body and—always, always—a hidden ace up his sleeve.


* This text belongs to the compilation Ejercicio sentimental. El universo literario de Julián Rodríguez, coordinated by Antonio Sáez Delgado, and published in 2022 by Editora Regional De Extremadura.

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IVÁN DE LA NUEZ
IVÁN DE LA NUEZ
Iván de la Nuez. Essayist and curator. Among his books are La Balsa Perpetua [The Perpetual Raft], El Mapa de Sal [The Map of Salt], Fantasía Roja [Red Fantasy], El Comunista Manifiesto [The Comunist Manifesto], Teoría de la Retaguardia [Theory of the Rear Guard] and Cubantropía [Cubantrophy]. Among his exhibitions, La Isla Posible, Parque Humano, Postcapital, Atopía, Iconocracia, Nunca Real/Siempre verdadero y La Utopía Paralela [The Possible Island, Human Park, Postcapital, Atopia, Iconocracy, Never Real / Always True and The Parallel Utopia].

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