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Fallas - The Sculptures
What the fallas are, how the fallas are made, what kinds of fallas are there and what the fallas are about.
Originally, in the middle ages, the Fallas-Sculptures were just a pile of old junk that got burned after the winter. Then people began having fun - dressing the junk into old clothes, drawing faces on it and engaging in satire.
These days, making fallas is a multi-million industry. The Fallas-Sculptures are highly sofisticated works of art created by professional artistas falleros. It doesn't just take highly specific skills of working with such huge pieces, but there is also a lot of engineering - the fallas are constructed in a precise way, so that when they burn they collapse safely. The Fallas-Sculptures take many months to construct and can cost a great deal - the largest falla of 2006 came to 600.000€. All paid by the members of the Falla-Community, donations only.
What is a Falla-Sculpture
The Falla is made of papier-mache on a wooden carcass. It is then sanded and painted. Most Fallas-Sculptures are so big that they are never seen in entirety up until the assembly on the first day of the Fallas-Festival.
The Falla-Sculpture consists of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. There can be anywhere from a few to many dozens.
The Art of Fallas
Are Fallas-Sculptures beautiful, gorgeous, aesthetic? it's a complex question. What is art? Some people don't like the fallas. They come here with their own expectations of what good art is and they dislike the chaotic pile of the ninots in a falla, and the bright, striking colours.
You have to simply accept the fallas for what they are. They are not a form of sophisticated, intelectual scuplture. They are a unique form of art that exists only in Valencia. They are a pile of messages united by a theme, sprinkled with humour, sex and caricature. They are a focus of a people's festival, built to be understood even by simple folk, built to mount over the crowd and intrude into the daily routine. Yes, they are in bold colours, and yes they do resemble a row of caricatures, but this is what the fallas are. In addition, the fallas have their own framework of boundaries to consider. The wooden carcass and the papier-mache do have their limitations and the stuff that the artists finally come up with, considering they are not cutting-edge architects, is truly amazing.
This is not Tate Modern, this is Las Fallas. And, from another angle, Tate Modern ain't Las Fallas either.
What kinds of Fallas are there
Each Falla-Community commissions two Fallas-Scultpures - a Falla and a Falla Infantil (which is a much smaller falla for children - just above human height)
However, out of all 350 Fallas there are 15 Fallas Especial. These Fallas-Communities have more resources to spend on their Falla-Sculpture, so theirs are the biggest, the most impressive and the most popular. Every year one of the Fallas Especiales wins the first prize for the best Falla of the year.
It is recommended that you don't miss those.
However, the smaller Fallas are likely to be less concerned with pleasing important people, so they can be more radical.
Averages sizes of Falla Especial, Falla and Falla Infantil
See our image galleries of Fallas-Sculptures 2006
What the Fallas-Sculptures are about
Traditionally, the Fallas are satirical. The foreign media coverage of the Fallas creates the impression that the Fallas are about mocking particular people, such as politicians, much like a row of caricatures. This is not true.
More accurately, each Falla-Sculpture has a broad theme. If something is mocked, it is usually a policy, a social phenomenon, a trend in the way of life, etc. The recognisable figures are only a small fragment of a bigger picture, pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of the Falla.
© ValenciaValencia.com 2006