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Photo Essay from the Corrida at the Corpus Christi festival in Granada

(All Photos by Joseph Nechvatal)

Photo Essay from the Corrida at the Corpus Christi festival in Granada
(June 20-26, 2015)
Plaza de toros
Av del Doctor Oloriz, 25 Triunfo, Granada


The Feria de Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Fair) in Andalusia celebrates the Christ bathed in holy water every June. Especially famous are the celebrations in Granada (home to the spectacular Alhambra) and Seville, where six choirboys in period dress perform the dance “Los Seises” in the cathedral. The Feria lasts just over one week, with fairgrounds, food and drink, competitions, flamenco concerts, flamenco dancing, bullfights, market stalls, parties, and crowds of both participants and spectators, with many locals wearing typical Andalusian dress and riding decorated horses and carts.

From Goya to Picasso, the bullfight (corrida) has been a recurring subject for painting, so while there, I went to the tauromachie (bullfight) again; this time drinking some fine fino and tinto verando in the sun. I could see the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevadas behind the arena. Something really funny — and fucked up — happened that day.

I was watching one of the matadors work a huge and magnificent black bull, a real bête noire. What I love about bullfighting is its complete lack of cynicism. The matador is always deadly serious and noble, as is the audience of aficionados, unless he does something stupid, in which case the crowd whistles to show its disapproval. Even then, it is an art without a trace of cynicism, without a trace of irony. It is a classical rule-based art, set in ritualistic repetition (with difference).

Anyway, the toreador had done magnificent muleta work with this stately bull, and when it came time for the estocada (killing) he chose the dangerous al volapié approach, where the bull charges on its own initiative. This gesture is the hardest and most dangerous one in current bullfighting when properly executed, as the bullfighter loses sight of the bull's horns, which may, in a defensive reaction, raise up and gore him.

There was this dramatic pause, as the matador waited in the recibir position for the charge of the bull, when a young American lad seated behind me loudly cried out “olé”!

It was the most inappropriate expression imaginable, and a huge breakage of the classical rules that horrified me  — and everyone. Makes for a funny story, however.

Anyway, that was a distraction from the true allegorical meaning symbolized in the bullfight. An allegory based on a dance-of-death between man and woman  where, at first, the bull symbolizes the human male and the male toreador symbolizes the human female. I took these photographs to hopefully illustrate this point some. (These roles are then reversed with the sacrifice of the bull.) WM


Joseph Nechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal is an American artist and writer currently living in Paris. His The Viral Tempest limited edition art LP was recently published by Pentiments Records and his newest book of poetry, Styling Sagaciousness: Oh Great No!, by Punctum Books. His 1995 cyber-sex farce novella ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~venus©~Ñ~vibrator, even was published by Orbis Tertius Press in 2023.

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