Lluis Alexandre Blanco "Val de Omar Translations" Notes and Citations

  1. Letter from Stan Brakhage to Walter Newcomb,” July 20, 1958. I would like to thank P. Adam Sitney for pointing me this reference. Stan Brakhage Archives, The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.
  2. The only exception is Val del Omar’s inclusion in Amos Vogel’s Film as Subversive Art (1975), where Val del Omar’s Aguaespejo Granadino (1955) is identified as “one of the great unknown works of world cinema; surfacing at the 1958 First International Experimental Film Festival in Brussels, it just as quickly disappeared and is now unavailable.” Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art (New York: Random House, 1974): 64. Historically considered by scholars as an isolated figure, a renewed interest in the artist arose from a major retrospective of his work at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in 2011, triggering an effort to situate Val del Omar’s work within wider historical narratives. For efforts in placing Val del Omar within histories of experimental cinema, see Esperanza Collado, Paracinema: La Desmaterialización del Cine en las Prácticas Artísticas (Madrid: Trama; Fundación Arte y Derecho, 2012), and Thomas Beard’s “José Val del Omar a lo largo de tres vanguardias,” in Desbordamiento de Val del Omar, ed. Eugeni Bonet, (Granada; Centro José Guerrero; Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2010): 56-65.
  3. Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas: septiembre de 1931- diciembre de 1933 (Madrid, 1934): 14.
  4. Víctor Erice, “El llanto de las máquinas,” in Ínsula Val del Omar: visiones en su tiempo, descubrimientos actuales, ed. Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga, (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones, 1995): 106-117. See also Val del Omar y las Misiones Pedagógicas, ed. Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga, (Murcia: Dirección de Proyectos e Iniciativas Culturales, Murcia Cultural; Madrid: Publicaciones de la Residencia de Estudiantes, 2003). 
  5. [“[El Circuito Perifónico] aprovecha los descuidos del transeúnte y le infiltra insensiblemente nuevas ideas (…).”] José Val del Omar et al, Circuito Perifónico, Ventana Cinegráfica, Falla Ambulante, Radio Mediterráneo: creaciones Movísono (Valencia: La Semana Gráfica, 1940), unpaginated [14]. Archivo José Val del Omar. Serie Documentos guerra. CDB. 183286 Arch. VDO 254 Nº Reg. 180096. Fondo Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga – María José Val del Omar. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
  6. This paradox has been reason for controversy in other fields of the Francoist cultural production, such as the emergence of an artistic avant-garde rapidly capitalized by the state as symbol of modernity during the 1950s. The case of Val del Omar remains slightly distinct, as he wished to directly operate from and intervene in the state’s bureaucratic structures themselves. Amongst the many analysis on the Francoist sponsorship of an artistic avant-garde during the 1950s and 1960s, see Jorge Luis Marzo, ¿Puedo hablarle con libertad, excelencia? Arte y poder en España desde 1950 (Murcia: CENDEAC, Centro de Documentación y Estudios Avanzados de Arte Contemporáneo, 2010); Julián Díaz Sánchez, La “oficialización” de la vanguardia artística en la postguerra española: el informalismo en la critica de arte y los grandes relatos (Cuenca: Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 1998).
  7. According to the scarce explicit mentions to his political positioning in his writings, Val del Omar argues that during the Republic and Civil War he was denounced as fascistoid” by some colleagues, while during the dictatorship, he was considered “an intruder swimming against the tide…. identified as a communist [rojo], idealist, and crazy.” José Val del Omar, “Carta a Antonio Obregón, 1940;” José Val del Omar, “Carta a Pío Cabanillas, 23 de diciembre de 1975,” in Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, ed. Javier Ortiz-Echagüë (Barcelona: La Central; Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2010): 178, 209.
  8. Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga quoted in Román Gubern, Val del Omar, cinemista (Granada: Diputación de Granada, 2004): 36. This belief has been directly asserted by Sáenz de Buruaga to the author in several occasions.


Sentiment of Kinesthetic Pedagogy
  1. This text is a lecture that Val del Omar delivered to a group of prospective teachers studying at Institución Libre de Enseñanza, ILE (Free Institution of Education) in Madrid on June 1932. The ILE, Spain’s most important educational graduate institution, was founded by Krausist philosopher Francisco Giner de los Ríos in 1876. It consisted in a private college that promoted a liberal and progressive education, while also opposing the orthodoxy and conservatism of the preexisting Spanish neo-scholastic, neo-Thomist education. The sociopolitical foundations of the Second Spanish Republic partially rely on the liberal bourgeois reformism incubated in this institution. After the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931, the ILE was a key factor in the process of socialization that looked for political stability and the consolidation of democratic values in the country. The political and intellectual class supporting the Republic primarily entrusted the production of social consensus to education. The ILE introduced the new pedagogical movement Nueva Escuela, based upon new theories by figures such as Maria Montessori, Adolfe Ferrière and John Dewey. As the ILE was seen as embodying the ideals of the Second Republic in Spain, this institution was completely dismantled when it was overthrown by the fascist army at the end of the war. For a history of this institution and its environment during the period when Val del Omar was associated with it, see Antonio M. Pintado, La Institución Libre de Enseñanza: un proyecto de reforma pedagógica (Madrid: Anaya, 1985); Antonio Jiménez-Landi, La Institución Libre de Enseñanza y su ambiente. Vol. IV: Periodo de expansión influyente (Madrid: Ministerio de la Educación y Cultura; Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1996).
  2. In the 1970s, Val del Omar added the following handwritten note to the beginning of the text: “All of the philosophy of audio-visual media being unveiled today by the American universities’ most celebrated professor, Herbert Marshall McLuhan, coincides with my old ideas on Tactil Perception.” José Val del Omar, “Sentimiento de la pedagogía kinestésica” (1932), in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 38.
  3. Manuel Bartolomé Cossío (1857-1935) was an art historian, pedagogue, and disciple of the founder of the ILE, Francisco Giner de los Ríos. Cossío served as President of the Board of the Pedagogical Missions, where Val del Omar worked as an audiovisual and museum technician from 1932 to 1934. Val del Omar writes that he “got along [with Cossío] from the first moment.” For Val del Omar’s account of his relationship with the late Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, see Val del Omar, “Manuel Bartolomé Cossío y la Misiones Pedagógicas (circa 1970),” reprinted in Escritos de Técnica, Poética y Mística, 30-34; del Omar, “Carta a Manuel B. Cossío (1932), reprinted in Escritos de Técnica, Poética y Mística, 174-5; and José Val del Omar, “Recuerdo a tres Manueles. Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, Manuel Villegas López y Manuel Fraga Iribarne,” Archivo José Val del Omar. Fondo Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga-María José Val del Omar. Serie Tríptico: Acariño. CDB 181357 Arch. VDO 213 Nº Reg. 180096, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. 
  4. The original manuscript contains a handwritten footnote stating that the apperceptive organ is “tactil.” According to María José Val del Omar and Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga, “tactil” (pronounced “’tak til”) is a neologism coined by del Omar after the removal of the accent of the Spanish word “táctil” (tak ’til). Val del Omar intended to define an alternative model of synesthetic apperception encompassing optical and tactile qualities. By displacing the phonic stress of the term to the tongue snap of the vowel “i,” Val del Omar believed that the pronunciation of the word would produce a haptic, shocking reaction. This particular orthography transformed the term into a synesthetic device in and of itself. See Gubern, Val del Omar, cinemista, 67.  
  5. Genesis, 3:19 (English Standard Bible Version).
  6. In the original, Val del Omar uses the Spanish popular saying “no escarmentarás en cabeza ajena,” which argues that an individual is only able to learn from one’s own experience. 
  7. Val del Omar’s metaphor, consciousness and unconsciousness conceived as liquids, is most likely a reworking of Freud’s topographic model of the mind in “Das Ich und das Es” (1923), where he discusses the latter as surfaces. Val del Omar’s quote comes from Sigmund Freud, “El Ego y el Yo,” in Obras Completas del Profesor S. Freud, vol. IX, trans. Luis López Ballesteros, (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1924): 256. Originally published as Gesammelte Werke, vol. XIII, 237-289.
  8. There is no section III.
  9. The technician’s description of the learning processes combined Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion with sympathy theory. Val del Omar’s use of sympathy can either point to a renewed twentieth-century interest in sympathy theories ingrained in the history of bodily reflexes, or, it could refer to the spread of empathy theory [Einfühlung] during the 1920s and 1930s in Spain. In 1911, José Ortega y Gasset translated Wilhelm Worringer’s notion of Einfühlung as “simpatía.” For a study on Worringer’s influence in Spain at the time, see Javier Sánchez Clemente, “El concepto de una autonomía del arte en la primera época de la Revista de occidente (1923-36),” NORBA, Revista de arte, vol. XXXI (2011): 89-110.
  10. Val del Omar slightly modifies Goethe’s original phrase, which is translated in English as “we learn to know nothing but what we love.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Wisdom of Goethe, trans. John S. Blackie (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1884): 170.
  11. Although referred to as “spirit of destruction,” Val del Omar’s formulation here refers to what Freudian identifies as the “death drive,” as described in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920). See Freud, “Más allá del principio del placer,” in Obras Completas del Profesor S. Freud, vol. II, trans. Luis López Ballesteros, (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1923): 299-378. Originally published as “Jenseits des LustPrinzips” (1920), Gesammelte Werke, Vol. XIII, 3-69.
  12. Val del Omar’s theory of education in “Sentimiento de la Pedagogía Kinestésica” aligns with Freud’s theory of culture as outlined in Das Unbehagen in der Kultur [Civilization and its Discontents] (1930), published in German just two years before Val del Omar’s “Sentimiento.” Although Freud’s essay was not published in Spanish until 1944, it was reviewed and discussed in Spanish intellectual circles. For example, Freud’s argument in the book was parsed out shortly after its publication in German by film critic Fernando Vela in the most influent Spanish newspaper at the time, El Sol, directed by José Ortega y Gasset. Fernando Vela, “El último libro de Freud: La felicidad y la cultura,” El Sol (April 20, 1930): 2.
  13. During the late 1930s, the notion of motor images as the medium unique to kinaesthesia starts to appear most explicitly in the work of the pedagogues associated with the ILE. Although several authors had already suggested the mnemonic retention of muscular sensations, the notion of “motor image” as it would then be used in the early twentieth century psychology was coined by French psychologist Alfred Binet in The Psychology of Reasoning (1886). Binet’s work was of particular importance in Spain, where it was immediately translated and discussed. Binet built upon the theories of the French psychologist Théodule Ribot, who, a few years before, had already pointed that “our perceptions, in particular the important ones, those of sight and touch, imply as integral elements the movement of the eye or the members; and that if movement is an essential element when we see an object really, it must play the same role when we see it ideally.” The idea of an object must then comprise, according to Binet, the images both produced by the [physiognomic?] sensations of sight, touch, and those of the muscles. According to Binet, “the complex impression of a ball, which is there in our hand,” for example, “is the resultant of optical impressions of the eye, impressions of touch, of muscular adjustments of the eye, of movements of the finders, and of the muscular sensations that result therefrom.” The motor image–– “not earlier recognized … due to our knowledge of the muscular sense being comparatively recent,” inaugurates a whole new model of recognition. It reconceptualized the processes taking place in the eye by referring to this organ as a muscle and not as a visual receptor. See Alfred Binet, The Psychology of Reasoning: Based on Experimental Researches in Hypnotism, trans. Adam G. Whyte, (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1899): 24; originally published as La psychologie du raisonnement: recherches expérimentales par l’hypnotisme (Paris: F. Alcan, 1886): 24.


Reacting to the Giants of 1956
  1. Script of a lecture to film students held at the Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematográficas (Institute of Cinematographic Research and Experiences), Madrid, in 1956. The title refers to the famous scene in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quijote de la Mancha (1615), in which Don Quixote attempts to fight windmills when confusing them with giants. The use of this passage was popular in narratives of nationalist exaltation or exceptionalism. In this case, Val del Omar refers to this scene in order to advocate for an attitude of resistance against the postwar hegemony of the American film industry.
  2. Still struggling due the autarchic economic policies of the 1940s, the film technology industry in Spain began slowly recovering during the 1950s. For an overview of the industrial and economic policies around film production and exhibition in Spain during this period, see Josefina Martínez, “El cine de los cincuenta: una década de contradicciones,” in La España de los cincuenta, ed. Abdón Mateos López, (Madrid: Editorial Eneida, 2008): 337-368.
  3. Val del Omar refers here to the first verse of Saint John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John, 1:1 (English Standard Bible Version). Note that in Spanish, the original Latin word “logos” was translated as “verb,” not as “word.”
  4.  On the word “tactil,” see in this issue footnote 4 in “Sentiment of the Kinesthetic Pedagogy” (1932), 67.  
  5. As Javier Ortiz-Echagüe has noted, this formulation refers to the tension between Saint John’s first verse in the Gospel and its reinterpretation by Goethe in Faust: “In the beginning was the Act.” Goethe, Faust, trans. Walter Kaufmann, (New York: Random House, 1963): 153. The dichotomy between these two translations was interrogated by philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, of whom Val del Omar was a usual reader.
  6. The word paraula is an archaism that comes from the ancient Castilian Spanish word “parabla,” derived from the Latin “parabola,” meaning simile, comparison. It was first used by Val del Omar in the description of his project for a sound publishing house, the Corporación del Fonema Hispánico (Hispanic Phoneme Corporation) in 1942. In describing this initiative, del Omar spoke of Castilian Spanish as the “conduit for a mystical key” that contemporary Spaniards should reclaim through an orality understood as springing from the spread of Christianism through Latin language. See Val del Omar, “Corporación del Fonema Hispánico” (1942), in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 57-66.
  7. Val del Omar’s first film, shot in 1925 and subsequently destroyed by the filmmaker himself, En un rincón de Andalucía (Somewhere in Andalusia), depicted the experience of a blind gypsy woman living in the Albaicín’s caves in Granada. Dissatisfied with the result, which he considered an artistic failure,  del Omar destroyed the film after its final edit. See Gubern, Val del Omar, cinemista, 12-14.
  8. According to José Antonio Cabezas, during his retreat, del Omar wrote a book on film techniques. If true, no trace of this book remained. See José Antonio Cabezas, “José Val del Omar, inventor y poeta,” in España en Tánger (October 1952): unpaginated.  
  9. These quotations actually come from several articles penned in Madrid before the Spanish Civil War. For example, see “Sentimiento de la pedagogía kinestésica (Sentiment of Kinesthetic Pedagogy)” also included in this issue, and the “Manifiesto de la Asociación Creyentes del Cinema (Manifesto of the Believers in Cinema Association).” A Spanish version of the latter can be found in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 50-51.
  10. In retrospect, Val del Omar explained that this invention actually bore similarities to what came to be known as the zoom. He even claimed that he was the inventor of this procedure, which had been around since the turn of the century. For his detailed description of this technique, see Antonio Gascón, “Un muchacho español logra dos inventos que revolucionarán el arte del cinema,” in La Pantalla, no. 40 (September 30, 1928): 620; reproduced in Val del Omar Sin Fin, eds. Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga, María José Val del Omar  (Granada: Diputación Provincial de Granada, Filmoteca de Andalucía, 1992): 49-51.
  11. Pesetas was the basic unitary currency in Spain from 1868 to 2002.
  12. After several failed projects, in 1955 Val del Omar rebooted his career with the release of his first film after the Spanish Civil War, Aguaespejo Granadino (La Gran Siguirya). On September 1955, as the chief audiovisual technician at the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica [Institute of Hispanic Culture], José Val del Omar represented Spain in the UNESCO’s First Meeting of Experts to Promote International Cooperation between Film and Television. He presented the following papers: “Teoría de la visión tactil (Tactil’ Vision Theory),” and “La diafonía y las razones de su existencia en televisión (Diaphony and the Reasons for its Existence in Television).”
  13. The denomination “Celtiberian,” taken from the group of tribes that inhabited the central-eastern Iberian Peninsula during from the thirteenth to the second century B.C., is used to refer to individuals or attitudes that ascribed to a profoundly traditional aspect of Spanish Culture.
  14. Miguel de Unamuno, “Sobre la tumba de Costa. A la más cara memoria de un espíritu sincero.” Nuestro tiempo, no. 174, (March, 1911), reproduced in Obras Completas, vol. VIII, (Madrid: Fundación José Antonio de Castro, 2007): 1027. Unamuno’s refusal to technology became the object of intensive debate throughout the twentieth century. On the origin of this quote and its subsequent popularity, see Josep Eladi Baños, “Cien Años de ¡Que inventen ellos! Una Aproximación a la Visión Unamuniana de la Ciencia y la Técnica,” Quark (January–December, 2017): 93-99.
  15. Miguel de Unamuno, Vida de don Quijote y Sancho según Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra explicada y comentada por Miguel de Unamuno, no. I-IX (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1938): 65.
  16. Diaphony is a technique patented by Val del Omar in 1944. This system conceives sound as coming both from the screen and from the back of the auditorium, ideally clashing in the head of the spectator.
  17. Val del Omar summarizes here a longer, well-known quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “Nessuna cosa si può amare ne odiare, se prima non si ha cognition di quella [one has no right to love or to hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature].” Freud looked at this quote in his analysis of Leonardo’s childhood memories through his paintings in a 1910 article. See Freud, “Leonardo da Vinci and A Memory of His Childhood” (1910), [“Eine Kindheiserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci”], in Gesammelte Werke: 140.
  18. Santa Teresa de Jesús, Camino de perfección (Madrid: La Correspondencia de España, 1885): 18. 
  19. Val del Omar refers here to an interview to David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America from 1930 to 1970 at The Voice of America propaganda radio, which was reported about in the Spanish press. See for example, R. S. “Vanidades de la ciencia.” ABC (December 12, 1956): 39.
  20. Val del Omar refers to Marcelino, the leading character in the 1955 film Marcelino, pan y vino (Miracle of Marcelino), directed by the Hungarian director Ladislao Vadja. This work, which takes place in an impoverished nineteenth-century Spain, portrays the story of Marcelino, an orphan living in a monastery which befriends an animated statue of a Crucified Christ. Val del Omar’s Aguaespejo Granadino was screened aside Marcelino at the Semana del Cine Español de Buenos Aires in 1956.
  21. The lecture contains descriptions on two of Val del Omar’s most important inventions: Diaphonic sound and Tactil Vision. Due to its length, and the availability of texts in English on these two inventions, the text has been abridged to focus on its more theoretical arguments. See del Omar, “Theory of the Tactile Vision,” (1955) reproduced in El discreto encanto de la tecnología. Artes en España, ed. Claudia Gianetti, (Badajoz: Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Junta de Extremadura, Consejería de Cultura y Turismo, 2008): 336-341.
  22. In this passage, Val del Omar refers to sites of interest in Granada or close by, in Southern Spain. The “perpetual snow” is to be found at the Sierra Nevada mountains, while the microclimate which allows for the cultivation of tropical species takes places around the Río Verde Basin. The chasm he points to is, most likely, the Sima Honda, which drops 133 meters, at the Sierra de las Nieves Mountain in Málaga. The communion bread is raised in the masses held at the Virgen de las Nieves Chapel at the top of the Mulhacén, the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula.
  23. Muerte de un ciclista (Death of a Cyclist) is a 1955 film by Juan Antonio Bardem. It revolves around the guilt experienced by a couple of lovers, a graduate professor and a married elite housewife, that accidentally strike a cyclist on their way back to Madrid from a weekend getaway.
  24. The expression “arriba” was a motto popularized by the Spanish fascist party La Falange.
  25. Jorge Manrique, Coplas a la muerte de su padre” (1494), in Poesía, ed. Vicente Beltrán, (Madrid: Real Academia Española, 2013): 50
  26. Santa Teresa de Ávila, Libro de las Fundaciones (1662) (Madrid: Aguado, 1880): 30.
  27. José Val del Omar, “Las Misiones Pedagógicas y el cine,” in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 46.
  28. As Ortiz-Echagüe’s detailed analysis shows, Val del Omar’s indistinct use of “meta-mysticism (meta-mística)” and “mechanic mysticism (meca-mística)” evidences that those words are nuanced ways of referring to a single theoretical foundation structuring the filmmakers’ practice. Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, “La Mecamística,” in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 269.
  29. With the use of the original word “luces” Val del Omar intends a pun: in Spanish, this word is both the plural of “light” as well as it refers to enlightenment and intelligence.


The Mechanical Mysticism [meca-mística] of Cinema
  1. The term “mecamística” is a neologism coined by Val del Omar from the conjunction of the Spanish words “mecánica” (mechanics) and “mística” (mysticism). José Val del Omar, “La mecamística del cine.” Cinestudio: Revista de Cine, Issue 1 (May 1961), p. 2. For an archaeology of this term in Val del Omar’s writings, which first appears related to his experience in the Pedagogical Missions in 1934, see Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, “La mecamística,” in Val del Omar, Escritos de técnica, poética y mística, 269-272.
  2. Val del Omar used a very specific vocabulary to rethink codified forms of labor in filmic production. Scholarship on the filmmaker has deemed these words as neologisms. This is particularly the case in the interpretations of Val del Omar’s substitution of the most common word for filmmaker, that of “cineasta,” with his preference for less successful foreign adaptations such as “cinemista” or “cinematurgo.” The notion that “cinemista” derives from “alquimista (alchemist)” first made by film historian Román Gubern, has served to portray Val del Omar’s practice as equally invested in cinema as in magic. Gubern, Val del Omar, cinemista, 15. During the 1920s and 1930s in Spain, see José D. de Quijano, “De los neologismos en el cine.” ABC (July 08, 1936): 14. I would argue, rather, that Val del Omar’s utilization of words in disuse points to his romanticized idea of the origins of film.