L'home urbà

Year 1983
Category Performance
Work L’home urbà
Presentation Sitges International Theatre Festival
Award Gran premi Cau Ferrat del XVI Sitges International Theatre Festival

Returning from a trip to Paris, I received an invitation from Ricard Salvat to present another work at the Sitges Film Festival. My answer was clear, sincere and carefree:

A. -Ricard, the only thing I would like to do now would be to sit in an armchair to read the newspaper quietly
R. -Great, and why don’t you do it?

From that nice stimulus, we will start some fun and creative encounters.

A. -Listen, Ricard, what if instead, I stay in a hotel and the public can enter the room at half past nine in the morning and see how I get up, wash, get dressed and go out on the street? All this, of course, as if no one is watching me. And then I still go for a coffee on the terrace of a bar, read the newspaper, and so on. Everyday life turned into a spectacle.
Soon after,

R. -Albert, I have spoken with the owners of a hotel that is currently abandoned and that is where I would like to take your proposal. But the fire department won’t give me permission because of the danger of demolition.

A. -Well, what can we do… Look, I already have it, there in the square, under the church, on top of the grass, we plant this whole route. We put a bed, a toilet to shave, an office to pass the time, a bike to exercise, a television.. And I go about my daily life in front of the people inside this enclosure.

Thus we arrived at what was originally entitled PARC ANTROPOLÒGIC: EXPOSICIÓ VIVA D’UN CIUTADÀ


Creation and direction Albert Vidal
Interpreter Albert Vidal
Artistic director Lucy Pinkus
Assistant Lluís Quintana
Technicians Ramon Ferrer Ripoll, Menut
Costume designer Josep Fernàndez
Graphics Tiua
Hairdresser Tito
Furniture Joan Almirall
Photographer Leopold Samsó

This act lasted 42 hours without interruption. What does that mean? Well, at a certain point, the character would retire to a little house he had to change his clothes, put on his pajamas, brush his teeth and go to bed. And because he was tired, he would fall asleep. It didn’t represent that he went to sleep, he would fall asleep. His state as a sleeping man was still theater.

But do you know what happened? At 4:00 a.m. some hooligans came and wanted to steal our TV. I woke up because of the voices and discussions they were having with my two assistants, who were awake But I had the courage not to break the character and, from inside my enclosure, I watched them as if they were simply unknown spectators, without abandoning my character, nothing more. I don’t know what magic was created, but my two assistants finally won the game. Disappeared, the character went back to sleep.

The great theater lesson was given to me, as always, by a spectator, in this case a lady of about fifty years of age, and I would say that she was oblivious to cultural avant-gardism. The lady would surprise me in a moment of tiredness and with my guard down, and she would be distracting me with the touch of the leather armchair where I was sitting. That is, I repeat that out of tiredness, I was simply disregarding the signs of the banal actions I was performing as a citizen on display. I was just touching the armchair, without any meaning whatsoever. Just at that moment, the lady goes and says: “And that’s what they pay him for? Great. I had to accept, put my guard up again and, yes gentlemen, keep on meaning.

An amusing encounter was with the poet Joan Brossa, who attended the performance amused by looking at the Ciutadà through a huge magnifying glass that separated the two gazes.

What had begun as an innocent game about banality and everyday life, with the Australian actress Lucy Pinkus, whom I had met in Paris and who accompanied me to Vidrà to mount this work, deserved, surprisingly for us, Cau Ferrat Award of the Festival.

A few months later, exhibited in a space of the Barcelona Zoo, precisely the one destined for chimpanzees, Home Urbà was in the right place.


EL PUBLICO. Parque antropoloógico. La rara especie del hombre urbano. Xavier Fàbregas. nov/1983
EL PUBLICO. Albert Vidal: Yo quiería ser clown. Maryse Badiou.nov/1983

What a nice feeling, waking up in a zoo cage sleeping in the fresh air and with adequate time to get ready and be presentable when the visitors arrive.

he Urban Man did not speak, he communicated with his presence, actions and movements One of the great successes of this work was that he was dressed in one of the best tailors of Barcelona and was surrounded by designer furniture of the latest generation of the 80s. Quite the opposite of what the public expected to find him inside a zoo cage. This urban man was handsome, elegant, restless, polite and above all respectful of the people who looked at him.

He did not know who was in front of him. He could not judge them, nor did he find that he could be judged. It was in a way an innocent and pure look in front of another human being, transcending any circumstance. What a beautiful mystery was hidden in those eyes that met in the same gaze. Up close, he could even bring his forehead to someone’s forehead or hand, knowing that in no case would this approach be rejected.

He strolled ignoring himself, just as that panther in Màscares i Movement could do. Depending on whom, he would stop, as if avoiding his profile, as if he were losing his gaze towards a distant, confused landscape, just as a deer looks into the distance with the suspicion of discovering the silhouette of a predator. The human being in its pure state, educated, wild, modern and atavistic. All the contradictions of existence governed by a ritual of memory that made it easier for him to feel in a familiar habitat.

He could sit in his office, mechanically move his wrist as if he were writing, or answer a hypothetical phone call, although no one was talking He would simply activate a memory, like the chimpanzee that swings on the iron bar from which no fruit hangs. At the appointed time, the zoo workers would bring him his food, which he would put on a tray, and he would eat absorbed in the silence and with an empty gaze, a gaze that perhaps met that of someone who was watching him In the background, the chimpanzees, in an enclosure separated by a hole, created the perfect optical complement, as they too were eating their banana and surely with the same lost look. A strange human warmth flooded the place.

For the first time at the Zoo, visitors were contemplating themselves.


This production was toured all over the world.

Special mention should be made to the directors of the London International Festival of Theatre, who wanted to present L’Home Urbà at the London Zoo. But there was a problem, the management of the zoo, the oldest in the world, was not entirely convinced, so they told me: “Albert, the last possibility we have left is for you to come to London and convince them yourself, because they don’t see it very clearly”.

Knowing the anglo-saxon mentality, I stayed in one of the best hotels in the city, dressed as or more elegantly than the Urban Man and went to the interview with the zoo directors. After the courtesy greetings, when I had gone through some long corridors full of portraits and more portraits of all the directors the zoo had ever had, I made my presentation in the boardroom of that institution.

I knew that when I spoke, my gestures and tone of voice should reveal the purity of my spirit and show how plausible my proposal was. I explained that it was very interesting for a zoo to show the human being as another creature of nature, with its culture and its worlds. I had to tell them something else, but you know that in these cases the words you pronounce are almost as important as the energy you are communicating when transmitting your ideas, and that is precisely what experienced beings read.

At the exit, the directors of the Festival congratulated me: “Vidal, we don’t know how you did it, but you have convinced them”. The media echo was impressive. After this very representative presence at the London Zoo, the zoo par excellence.


UTRECHTS NIEUWSBLAD. Urban man acepteren als verschijnsel. Jan Jaap Berkhout. 11/juni/1987


l’Home urbà was present in zoos in more than forty cities around the world, including Zurich, Geneva, Brussels, Rome, London, Cologne, Ouwehand, Tel Aviv, Quebec, Madrid, Miami…


EL 9 NOU. juny/4/ 1987

QUÉBEC, LE SOLEIL. L’homme urbain d’Albert Vidal: : une exposition vivante. Martine R.Corrivault. juin/6/1986

JOURNAL DE QUÉBEC. Une brève halte ou de longues heures. juin/8/1986

GENÈVE. Le spectacle marathon des cinq ans du Théâtre “Pluriel”.Serge Bimpage. juin/12/1985

TAGES ANZEIGER. Ein Hombre urbano was ist das? juli/4/1984

PHOTO REPORTER. Urban man. nov /1984

PUBLIC. Albert Vidal: un revenant de choc. Daniel Jeannet. juin/1985

Always, in one of the clauses of the contract, I demanded that at closing time I could stay overnight in the assigned space, and that I would also be allowed to coexist, when possible, with the animals that normally inhabited, in the case of London, the giant tortoises of the Galapagos.

I fondly remember the presentation of Urban Man at the Zurich Zoo. Although I was not able to share the space with the bears that lived in the area assigned to me, I had the opportunity to contemplate them when they took it back after my intrusion was over. The bears sniffed intensely at the places where I had been, with a restless air and, evidently, seemed angry. After a few moments, they began to rub their bodies hard against the walls of the enclosure to mark their territory again. It was a good thing I didn’t have to go back inside to retrieve any forgotten objects, otherwise, when they had smelled me, not even my shoes would have been left.

A very curious case occurred with the continuous tours of zoos and squares around the world. The Urban Man was losing some of his innocence. He was beginning to “act”. He was becoming an actor, a performer who knew how to make the audience laugh or distract them using old tricks of representation. Everything was going too well, but as I said years later through the mouth of The Prince: “Distrust success as the most perverse of counselors”. Where was that absent gaze bathed in love that ignored the whole situation around it? I couldn’t see it anywhere; like so many other times in my life, I wanted to leave the theater.

I remember my friend Stavros Doufexis, a theater director of Greek nationality for whom I had worked in Germany as a choreographer for actors, said to me: “I think that the work you have done in Urban Man is very good, but I wonder what else you can do next, and I can’t find the answer”.

It is true, after the performances of the Urban Home, what would I do or propose to myself after having refused to be seduced? Some suspended points would have to return to extend my life without enough wind impulse to navigate.

When this happens, you don’t have to worry. Please wait patiently. At no time do you ever compromise your course, that course which in the caravan was to surrender to an unknown goal. Never stop being true to yourself, and the respect you have for your own journey should also be recognised by others.

The Urban Man’s presence in the zoo was nourished by hundreds of gazes that watched him with the same energy with which they stalked a zebra, a hippopotamus or any other animal. This obviously puts a strain on the performer. If you look at me like that, you are communicating to me that I am not only a human being but also a mammal on display. And something very curious happened that I can’t tell you scientifically, but I can tell you what my body felt: I sent that look back. Some cells felt the awakening of a memory, possibly one of the oldest still contained in the neurons of our brain, which is the reptilian memory, perhaps the most hidden, hidden at the bottom of the cave of genetic memory and which we will see come to the surface in this itinerary.

Sometimes, and this was closer cellular memories, what was walking could be a deer, a feline or any other animal. Era la maravilla de lo que yo llamo “la mirada resonante”. “I, deer, look at the deer in you”. And so travelling without limits to all manifestations of what exists. Sacred Way of the Actor.. It is knowledge by immersion, that is, to know what a snake, a cloud or a tree is, I must know how to be reborn in these entities. That’s why the biggest obstacle is the ego, because if I don’t empty myself I won’t be able to fill myself with the essence of what I want to know.

I must say that all these continuous and prolonged performances, because I was in each place for an average of three days, affected me as a person in a curious way, since those hundreds of decontextualised gazes of visitors from zoos all over the world, looking at me simply as a mammal, were awakening cells of the anthropological man inside me, that man common to all, without name or surname, that purely existent being who ignores, accepts and celebrates both his life and his death.

Perhaps I had less and less desire to distract and instead felt more and more an urge to merge with the pure essence of life. Something was coming soon. The Urban Man did not want to become the actor of non-performance, because it would be betraying the essence and the impulse that led me to conceive it.

In any case, between ’83 and ’88, when I said goodbye to the montage, creative restlessness began to give birth to works that orbited around the Urban Man.

Perhaps I had less and less desire to distract and instead felt more and more an urge to merge with the pure essence of life. Something was coming soon. The Urban Man did not want to become the actor of non-performance, because it would be betraying the essence and the impulse that led me to conceive it.

In any case, between ’83 and ’88, when I said goodbye to the montage, creative restlessness began to give birth to works that orbited around the Urban Man.