Born to burn

What's that you say?

What’s that you say?

We’re on the home stretch with posts about various aspects of Las Fallas in Valencia. It has taken a while to put into words and pictures all the amazing things we’ve seen, though it’s nothing to the hundreds of thousands of person-hours that went into the making and destroying of the fallas. If you want to go back and look  through  the pictures or read anything you missed, start here, and move forward in time.

I’m still getting used to the idea that so many people put so much time, so much effort and so much money into something so large, so elaborate and so involved, only to burn it to the ground. It will take me a while to ponder on the implications–much longer, in fact, than it takes a five-story falla to become a modest pile of ash.

I’m told there are around 700 fallas created every year–each neighborhood creates one large and one small, an infantíl, which burns at 10 pm instead of midnight or later, so the kids can go to bed early (!). Each falla, or torch, is made up of ninots, Valencian for doll or puppet. Many have dozens of components. El Guapo took hundreds of pictures, but I’ll include just a handful here. I don’t want to wear you out. After a session of looking at all that complexity, you begin to hanker after a simple view of a zen garden, just to rest the eyes and mind.

It’s remarkable to think that they filled the city last week, and this week they’re gone. I’ve posted some pictures of entire fallas, to give you an idea of the scale, both conceptual and physical (they fill entire intersections and plazas), as well as pictures of individual ninots. I can’t begin to get inside the mind of the artists who do this, but I can still be awash in admiration.

A Pirate Kid

A Pirate Kid

Was that on purpose?

Was that on purpose?

Looking at this picture I’m struck by the relationship between the cubes in the falla and the cubes in the facade of the building in the background. I know the artists knew where the falla would be erected–was this deliberate?

A cautionary tale

A cautionary tale

It's difficult to explain....

It’s difficult to explain….

There are a lot of goatees in Valencia

There are a lot of goatees in Valencia

all together now

We three kings

Pirates

Pirates

 

Zeus and friends

Zeus and friends

 

High stepping horses

High-stepping horses

You should have seen it before it broke

You should have seen it before it broke

This was one of the most elaborate fallas we saw. We went one day to see it, and were suitably impressed, and then went by a few days later, startled to find that there were several elements added–a carousel, some guys in combat gear, a barbershop quartet in a gazebo, a hang glider cantilevered at a great distance. This turned out to be a fatal flaw. At some point near sunrise one morning, the hang glider came crashing down. If you look closely at the woman in the pink dress in the center, you’ll see her head has toppled off. There’s a plinth up to the right, and all that’s above it has fallen down to the left. Even knowing that the whole thing would be burning soon, the fall must have been devastating to the designers.

  falla in context with the street lighting infrastructure

falla in context with the street lighting infrastructure

Valencia must have more artistic talent (of a certain flavor) per capita than nearly any place in the world. To quote an Irish friend of mine, “I’m gobsmacked.”

 

 

 

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Born to burn

  1. Lori, These are amazing! In my wildest dreams I haven’t seen anything to compare! Thanks so much for sharing. Peggy H.

    • I completely agree. I had no idea it was going to be this amazing. We toured the Fallas museum, where they have on display one example that was spared the cremá from each year (going back many decades), and I thought I knew what to expect. But those in the museum are a bit dated and dusty. Seeing this year’s fallas in all their vibrant colors, several stories high and filling intersections, was quite remarkable. The artistry was breathtaking.

  2. What are they made of? I’m distressed that all of that effort and talent is then burned up!! It really is amazing.

    • It is a bit of a shock, I know. The origins of the practice are not entirely clear, but some believe that the burning first began as a sort of spring cleaning of carpentry scraps–getting rid of the old to make way for the new. The fallas as they are currently known come from mid 18th century, and the burning has a social function, as well as a housecleaning one. The fallas sculptures generally depict some person or event that is worthy of derision–corrupt politicians are a favorite theme. I guess it was a way for the community to criticize something they felt should be addressed. I think the burning of effigies on Guy Fawkes night has historically had a similar purpose.
      The fallas used to be made of wood and papier-mâché; these days other materials may feature as well, including soft cork and styrofoam. It’s hard to fathom the building only to destroy, but I guess it can serve as a sort of time-lapse photo of the general nature of things–anything we make has a limited lifespan, and the burning of the fallas highlights that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s