Bauhaus Surrealist Prisons Of The Spanish Civil War

prisonNot that I condone mental torture, but there is something appealing about anarchists using modern art as a weapon against the fascist war machine. From the Guardian archives:

A Spanish art historian has uncovered what was alleged to be the first use of modern art as a deliberate form of torture — mind-bending prison cells were built by anarchist artists 65 years ago during the country’s bloody civil war.

Bauhaus artists, as well as the surrealist Luis Bunuel and his friend Salvador Dali, were said to be the inspiration behind a series of secret cells built in Barcelona and elsewhere.

Most were the work of an enthusiastic French anarchist, Alphonse Laurencic, who invented a form of “psychotechnic” torture, according to the research of the historian Jose Milicua.

Mr Milicua’s information came from a written account of Laurencic’s trial before a Francoist military tribunal. Laurencic, a painter, created his so-called “coloured cells” as a contribution to the fight against General Franco’s rightwing rebel forces.

The cells, built in 1938, were as inspired by ideas of geometric abstraction and surrealism as they were by avant garde art theories on the psychological properties of colours.

Walls were curved and covered with mind-altering patterns of cubes, squares, straight lines and spirals which utilised tricks of colour, perspective and scale to cause mental confusion and distress. Lighting effects gave the impression that the dizzying patterns on the wall were moving.

36 Comments on "Bauhaus Surrealist Prisons Of The Spanish Civil War"

  1. As if modern art wasn’t torture enough by itself! Har har!

    This is it’s own profession now, design psychology/evidence-based design.

    Good intentions there, but others still use it for evil. Just ask a casino designer.

  2. ManwithnoCountry | Sep 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

    Seems like the sort of thing Dali would have liked.

  3. Hocketeer | Sep 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    Sacred art and it’s many sacrifices.

  4. Anarchy Pony | Sep 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    Too good for fascist murderers.

    • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:24 am |


      • Anarchy Pony | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |

        Recently discovered the perfect symbol to represent right libertardians. Scroll down below the comic and click the big red “button” on the right.

        • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          lol! i love it! i always try to use interchangeably libertarian and anarchist, but the former has taken on so many dimensions of stupid. i still like it though.

          • Anarchy Pony | Sep 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

            I see more and more of the little turds calling themselves anarcho capitalists lately, I think that they think it makes them seem more sophisticated and “radical”. Sheesh.

          • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

            to quote those little sh*ts, “cognitive dissonance.”

            how can you believe the ultimate freedom is SELLING YOUR LABOUR?!

            it’s about as anarchist as pharonic rule.

          • Anarchy Pony | Sep 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

            Capitalism=hierarchy. Anarchism=anti-authority.

  5. Jonas Planck | Sep 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

    The floor is particularly diabolical. And do you notice how the bed slopes?

  6. BuzzCoastin | Sep 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    the same room now rents for $20,000 a night
    at the Hotel California
    you can check-out anytime you’d like
    butt you can never leave

  7. bobbiethejean | Sep 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

    I. HATE. Bauhaus. I HATE IT. HATE HATE HATE HATE!!! There are few things I hate MORE THAN BAUHAUS! It makes me angry just thinking about it! GUH! I need to go stab something. >8{

    • The Well Dressed Man | Sep 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

      What about Love and Rockets?

    • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:02 am |

      i am surprised at that. bauhaus is quintessentially progressive (read socialist) in nature. it is combined futurism and marxism. le corbusier too often is blamed for modern failures in urban planning; however bauhaus was never meant to exist as sole modernist landmarks in the seas of the architectural landscape, it was never meant to ghettoize the poor, it was meant to be integrated and mixed- both community and work. it was meant to be THE style- the revolution of cities. brasilia, the admin capital of brasil, has many elements of this ideology- even though it was built during the second phase of modernism- it is definitely moreso bauhaus. i personally find it very appealing. and furniture wise you can’t find anything more aesthically pleasing than what was produced during this time- a combination of utilitarian function, industrial design and organic modernism. now we celebrate the revolting excess of the neo-ecclectic, cheap italian, and modernist knockoffs. however i do like steampunk so…

      • Steampunk is just goths aping industrial. 😉

        • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:21 am |

          i am very interested in the industrial in a residential context. maybe that is an extension of my interest in science fiction and dystopian narratives. maybe it is less steampunk and more post-apocalyptic. or maybe a fascination with history? i can appreciate historical movements much more readily (aesthetically) than i can contemporary excess.

          • The Well Dressed Man | Sep 17, 2013 at 12:40 am |

            i like to get snotty about steampunk as a visual style, glue gunning brass gears onto a laptop chassis is just agonizing to contemplate.
            However, the actual tech of the Edwardian era is fascinating, and I’m really excited to be taking a metalshop/drafting class and working on ancient lathes.

          • Jin The Ninja | Sep 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

            when i say “steampunk” i certainly do not mean that (which i also find cheesy, tacky, horrible etc)- i think i do myself a disservice by saying steampunk- i love tech also (vintage tech of course), i was more thinking of an uncoverted victorian warehouse (or something in that vein)- filled with scientific gadgets of the past and curiosities- sort of like a post-apocalyptic edwardian parlour.

        • The Well Dressed Man | Sep 17, 2013 at 12:30 am |

          For a while we could say “steampunk is the new renfair,” but it’s just so much bigger than that. Enough with the goggles and top hat pairing, that’s all I ask.

      • bobbiethejean | Sep 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm |

        I’m coming at this from a purely aesthetic viewpoint. Honestly, I did not know about all the philosophical implications of Bauhaus. However much I may support some of the ideas, stuff like this Just infuriates me. Maybe it’s because I am a representational artist but It just makes my blood boil! LOOK AT IT! !@#$%^&*ING SQUARES! AAAAAHHHHH.

        • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm |

          i share your sentiments in that i do not personally find it aesthetically pleasing. i understand the use of primary colour ideologically, semiotically. although again it is not pleasing for me. however, i do recognise the intention, which was a modernist interpretation of urban grid maps. i see the art that existed during the bauhaus period as an extension of the architecture, the themes, the modernist worldview but not nearly as compelling as as the architecture itself. simply my opinion though.

        • The Well Dressed Man | Sep 17, 2013 at 12:30 am |

          Somehow it’s very comforting to me that this aesthetic bothers you 🙂

  8. Chugs Rodiguez | Sep 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |

    I can see it now. A fascist is gently pushed into the cell. His murdered and tortured hundreds of leftists.

    His prison guard asks him if he has enough blankets, food and wine. He is reminded that at 8pm Wednesday its cinema night where they’ll discuss the latest Robert Reinert film.

    Saturdays they discuss Dali and Andre Breton works in the post modern counter revolutionary conflict between mankind and animals.

    It is at this point the facist either grabs the guards weapon, swallows the barrel and blows his brains out or he simply decides then and there to lose his mind.

  9. ** … _Fact.html

    Don LaCoss

    Anti-Anarchist Propaganda Reported as Historical Fact

    art historian announced recently that he had uncovered proof that
    anarchist artists had constructed secret psychological torture chambers
    in Barcelona for prisoners of war and political enemies during Spain’s
    civil war.

    According to him, a team of anarchists led by Alphonse
    Laurencic had designed a warren of jail cells that utilized advanced
    principles of color, abstraction, and perception developed by Bauhaus
    artists and the surrealists. These rooms were meant to mentally
    destabilize and emotionally grind down inmates who fought on the side of
    the clerico-fascists or who were the left-wing rivals of the CNT
    anarchist labor federation.

    A major Spanish newspaper originally
    carried the story of this discovery; before long, it was trans-lated and
    reported in a variety of European dailies, and was featured in the U.S.
    during an evening news broadcast of National Public Radio.

    odd that an academic footnote would garner so much international
    attention when there are one or two other issues on the world stage that
    might warrant a little more coverage. Doubly strange is the fact that
    the evidence used by the art historian in his research came from a
    notoriously unreliable source that would be immediately apparent to the
    majority of pressroom fact-checkers, yet still the story has been
    dutifully re-told by professional journalists without a trace of

    From what I have seen so far, the art historian’s
    research relies solely upon the transcript of Laurencic’s confession
    before a Francoist military court — to be more, accurate, the source is a
    pamphlet published in 1939 by the fascist Solidaridad Nacional press
    that draws from these trial records. Written by one R.L. Chácon, the
    pamphlet Porqué hice las `Chekas’ de Barcelona
    (“chekas” being term for vigilante Stalinist political police units) is
    regarded by researchers today as an excellent example of the show
    trials that had been staged by the Franco regime after the Civil War.

    political theater had been inspired by a similar tactic used a few
    years earlier by another murderous autocrat: Stalin had rigged similar
    kangaroo courts in 1936 and in 1938 as a means for purging real and
    imagined opponents among the old-school Bolshevik elite.

    In the
    Soviet example, the accused were tortured until they “confessed” to
    espionage, sabotage, or to some other ridiculous crime against Stalin
    and the people of the U.S.S.R.; in Franco’s Spain, captured anarchists,
    communists, and Republicans admitted before military tribunals that they
    had raped nuns, encouraged homo-sexuality, and published hardcore
    pornography — and, in the case of Alphonse Laurencic, psychological-ly
    tortured political prisoners with repeated screenings of Buñuel’s Un Chien andalou — as part of a fictitious, sprawling, Judeo-Masonic conspiracy based in Moscow.

    repression in Spain after the Civil War was brutal. Heinrich Himmler
    once visited Franco and advised him to cut back on sheer number of
    firing-squad executions, which eventually topped 300,000 deaths; our
    comrade and friend Federico Arcos, himself a veteran of the Civil War
    and of later clan-destine struggles against Franco’s police state,
    pointed out to me that Italy’s Minister of External Affaire fondly
    recalls that between 200 and 250 people in Madrid alone were being
    executed every day starting in mid-July, 1939. Countless thou-sands of
    communist, anarchist, and social democrats were forced into slave labor
    gangs to construct memorials to fallen Francoist soldiers, and a half a
    million more were driven into exile. At a concentration camp built at a
    monastery near Burgos, a preeminent Spanish military psychiatrist and
    Catholic eugenicist forcefully interrogated captured International
    Brigades volunteers for a Gestapo-advised study on “the biopsyche of
    Marxist fanaticism” and found data to support his claim that those who
    struggled against fascism were “psychopaths,” “schizophrenics,” “mental
    retards,” and “social imbeciles.” In such a nightmarish context as this,
    bizarre atrocity propaganda about anarchist torturers’ use of
    “degenerate art” is not at all surprising.

    But what about the
    enthusiastic way in which this story has been so uncritically circulated
    by large corporate news organizations in 2003? Even given the fact that
    mass media organs have a long, inglorious history of pimping
    anti-anarchist and anti-surrealist slander, it’s surprising how an
    unsubstantiated claim- of modern art torture centers allegedly built by
    libertarian socialists sixty-five years ago could push other reports out
    of the spotlight, such as, let’s say, the torture of prisoners at Camp
    X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay.

    Yet, a highly dubious piece of fascist
    propaganda about psychological torture that supposedly happened half a
    century ago has been given a place of prominence in many major news

    — Februrary 2003, La Crosse, WI

  10. The Well Dressed Man | Sep 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |

    This color scheme vexes fascists! I love it. This concept is so ripe for hipster cultural appropriation. I should apply for an nea grant to build replicas in Williamsburg, the Mission, and South Austin, and charge trust fund art school kids $200 a night to be locked in.

    • Jin The Ninja | Sep 16, 2013 at 11:26 am |

      i could actually see this being very lucrative. a sort of capsule hotel for those to quote the chomsky reader while texting on their iphone and drinking the evil green mermaid.

  11. Jim Typhoon | Sep 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

    bela lugosi’s dead

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