Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with all the news!

The Spanish Pavilion in Frankfurt: a living dictionary of words and colour

The writer Ignacio Vleming states in his essay El cuento de nunca acabar that Carmen Martín Gaite compared storytelling to eating cherries: stories are conected to others, and we tend to put two or three in our mouths. “Books, the writer liked to say, are those good friends who introduce us to other good friends, as we would like to see in the Spanish pavilion in Frankfurt”. She points out this was the starting point for The Theory of Cherries, the idea that will turn the 2,000 m2 space into a living dictionary that strings together words, languages, and stories and transforms the space, thanks to Artificial Intelligence, into a magical environment. The pages of a book written and to be written, through which, next October, around 200 authors, translators, and representatives of the Spanish book industry will parade.

Designed by Enorme + Vitamin, and by Vleming, together with TwoPoints.Net in the graphic design and illustration and the collaboration of Giselle Etcheverry in the contents, this pavilion will have as its main element three enormous “cherries” in the form of capsules with different scenarios. In addition to these, there will be two auditoriums, a happy hour area, and another for workshops, where the interaction of the attendees will be essential to transform the content of the place, which will be dominated by words and colour. 

Far from the conventional representation of writing as a sea of letters to be interpreted, we wanted to reproduce the reader’s real experience when the alphabet seems to vanish before his eyes to open up images that evoke physical sensations,” says Vleming. For this reason, the poetic device of synaesthesia – appealing to one sense through others – is one of the keys to the project. The words and stories we utter become coloured spots that gradually colour the pavilion. Each day will be different, depending on what the audience and guests say.

Ignacio Vleming. Writer and journalist. Photo: Berta Delgado. YanMag

According to the author, it is in part a version 4.0 of Words, the installation made by the American artist Allan Kaprow in 1962, in which the public could enter and write on the walls. “We wanted the walls and screens to be a reflection of collective intelligence and of the issues that are on the table for authors and publishers”, he adds.

An interactive landscape

To achieve this, Rocío Pina of Enorme Studio explains that the space plays with the idea of an interactive landscape where each element “not only takes advantage of that aspect of the theory of cherries in which words become an almost infinite tool with which to express oneself but also presents its form of interaction that is different in each case, trying to awaken the curiosity of the visitors”.

Design and content merge to make up the space. “We find the pavilion’s counterpoint between the technology of the interactive stops and the softness of the Boa Sofa, or the erudite and rigorous nature of all the programming of the auditoriums and the festive nature of being able to play with words turned into the colours of the photocall, very interesting. The whole design of the pavilion focuses on this duality that is in the DNA of our identity, rigour, and efficiency without losing our fresh and creative character”, explains the architect.

Some of the installations that will try to surprise anyone who ventures into this Spanish space at the Frankfurt Fair From are the three cherries that give meaning to the project with a sea of quotations and literary references, a voice interpreter who transforms words into colours, automaton writers, the mentioned photocall and a surrealist writing game. Visitors will be able to will transform the space through their bodies, voices, and words.

Enorme Studio. Photo: Javier de Paz

A message for every visitor

“In most areas of the pavilion, we will be able to interact with different formats: paper, digital, audiobook, talks, etc., but it will be in the cherries where the visitor will feel immersed in the protagonist: the book”, explains Laura Gabriela, from Vitamin Studio. Thus, for example, in the central installation “visitors will not be immersed in visual recreations of books, but in a holographic and magical environment of words that, when mixed, transmit a different message for each visitor. Each word doesn’t need to be understood, but its goal is to cause a feeling as they are connected”.

And, like any space, the Spanish pavilion will not remain unchanged by the presence of people who can transform its content as they interact with it. In this way, says Gabriela, “the users’ experience in the interactive installations will never be the same as any other their actions modify the form and structure”. The intention, she says, “is for visitors to live their own experience, unique and different from that of others, so that they can draw their own story from their time in the pavilion”.

Javi Mujica Torres and Pablo Alpe, creators of Vitamin Studio. Photo Germán Cabo

Curiosity and desire

In this context, Pina adds, the aim is to arouse the visitor’s curiosity and desire. To do so, “all possible states of the word will be used. This ranges from the poems recited at the interactive stop La Oyente, to the written word of an infinite poem written by mechanical arms in La Escritora, to your voice converted into the graphics of the pavilion itself in La Intérprete”.

A mise-en-scène where, as Gabriela explains, not only words gain prominence. “From the beginning of the concept and space development, we considered the use of colour as the key to conveying the messages, designing all the installations based on a graphic line where these merge and flow with others, thus differentiating zones, themes, and feelings. In this way, we have made an analogy with the connection of words to create phrases that can become books, poetry…”.

The interesting thing, however, is that these actions provoke the public with “a feeling similar to the one you get when you get hooked on a good novel: you don’t want it to end, but you devour it at great speed,” Vleming recalls. Fortunately, there is always another title, and others, with which to continue the never-ending adventure of reading. That is why the pavilion is also, in a way, a library, an encyclopedia or a dictionary – in other words, a book in which all books fit – a Scheherazade that, based on Artificial Intelligence, connects concepts and stories”.

Being a living dictionary

Inspired, as said by Martín Gaite, another great woman, María Moliner, has also been present throughout this project, according to its author, who wanted to recall that “between some domestic chores and others, the lexicographer found time to write what is perhaps ‘the most complete and useful, the most thorough and entertaining dictionary of the Castilian language’, according to García Márquez”. Although she thought she would finish it in six months, she devoted fifteen years to the encyclopedic enterprise of containing all the words of the Spanish language in a single book. He collected the meanings of each word, but also their common uses, synonyms, connotations, metaphorical meanings, and the semantic fields to which they were related. In other words, a whole catalogue of expressive possibilities that goes beyond the limits of the language itself”, he stresses.

This is what it was all about,” he continues, “pushing the limits of creativity. Year after year, María Moliner’s house became populated with specific cards for each term, to which she returned, again and again, intending to complete, expand, and polish them. That is what we want the pavilion to be, a living dictionary, a book that leads us to others or the never-ending story”.

And it is precisely here where Giselle Etcheverry intervenes, in charge of selecting the contents to be used and how everyone can read the great book that is the pavilion itself. “A book that speaks, writes, recites and converses with visitors through the common language that is contemporary Spanish literature”, she points out. Conceived to show “an overview of the different facets of the book”, he says that in this sense, “there is space for Spanish publishers, with a selection of memoirs and biographies of the most outstanding, and for writing, with the electronic presentation of the first pages of the most recent titles of the authors in the literary programme, also physically present”. 

Literature as a starting point 

Meanwhile, “in an interactive and playful way, an installation will be dedicated to translators with a game about the ‘untranslatables’ from Spanish to German and vice versa. The writer will have mechanical arms that will write the great universal poem created in real-time and online by anyone who wants to participate in a project of the Spanish collective Poetas. The melody of the Spanish language and the other official languages of Spain will be the protagonist in a series of sound installations scattered throughout the pavilion,” she says.

Giselle Etcheverry Walker. Photo: Javier de Agustín

The idea she explains is for “visitors to discover the work of writers, poets, musicians, and playwrights, but also publishers, translators, and collectives. Bearing in mind that the fair hosts two very different types of public: the professional and the general public, with different needs and interests”, she warns.

In this sense, Etcheverry recognises that “the word as a first approach to the languages of the Spanish territory, and to the way of thinking about the world through it, is very present in La teoría de las cerezas. The idea is that the visitor creates his own narrative imaginary with those suggested to him in the immersive installations and other spaces. The apparently fragmented reading of all these concepts that ‘float’ along the route forms a vocabulary of its own for the occasion that brings us together: that of a happy event in a world that is increasingly complex and full of words with which it only seems possible to construct stories that are not very habitable”, he concludes.

A visual identity

In the background, the invaluable work of TwoPoints.Net gives a visual identity to the whole. A tandem, formed by Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz, in 2021 has developed the concept, claim, images, and animations of the Spanish participation in the Fair, and has supervised its implementation. “We have created an image that has been adapting to different applications for more than a year now and, thanks to its flexibility, it has been possible to apply it to different media, always changing and surprising”, says Asensio, who explains that “being a guest country in Frankfurt is not limited to the five days of the fair or to literature; it is a window to the world for a whole year to show the country’s culture. That is why the slogan is broad: Spilling Creativity”.

Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz, TwoPoints.Net Illustration: Berto Martínez

It was translated into an image later: “Spain as a territorial structure represented by an open ‘S’ (SpainSpanien). And creativity as different gestures that come out of this ‘S’ and overflow its borders”. Made with a technique “invented for the project”, composed of “handmade paint stains and then digitised and treated in a 4D programme – the image is also animated”, this mixture of the analogue and the digital “is an allusion to the book and current culture, where both coexist”, stresses the author.

With an unlimited palette of colours – “many are used, and they are changeable” – Asensio says that they have tried to use bright tones “as a reference to the passion of our character”. And he points out: “One important thing, which was made possible by using acrylics, is the mixture. In a global world, there is nothing pure, we all have mixed influences, and great works are the result of the mixture of various creativities: that of the author, the publisher, the translator when there is one, and also the bookseller”.