COLLECTING PERFORMANCES: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Action art as an independent art movement dates back to the 1960s. At that time, there was an explosion of creative proposals in which the entry of new media, the moving image and live interventions wanted to overcome the traditional barrier of a more static and objective art anchored in classicism. The trends of the beginning of the century focused on the representation of movement and three-dimensionality, such as Cubism or Futurism, did not reach the impact that the artistic experience achieves. Among the experimental video, the installations of sound artefacts, the integration of television and radio devices in the works and the personal activities of the authors, the last-third-of-the-century artistic panorama was plagued by experiential actions where the essential thing was to participate in art live and to enjoy the messages that this type of speech, direct and personal, gives.

Performance by Arturo Moya & Ruth Abellán at ArtMadrid'20

With the evolution of this movement, subspecialties and specific terminology to designate them also emerge. Performances and happenings begin to be distinguished depending on the open and spontaneous participation of the public, or by being a scripted and established representation by the artists. The participation of the spectators can be foreseen within the performance, and even be the very essence of the action; but when this intervention escapes the author's control and is generated autonomously by the public, a happening takes place, an event with its own internal and unpredictable pulse in response to an initial trigger, which is the artist's original approach, already transformed otherwise, in a new work intervened by these spontaneous actors and actresses.

Performance by Eunice Artur at ArtMadrid'20

The movements that create new artistic realities, that break the patterns established in the already consolidated relationship between object and idea, pose numerous challenges in various spheres, from exhibition to acquisition. Once the trend is established, performance enters the creative scene in a situation of equality with the most traditional disciplines, however, it continues to be at a disadvantage for issues related to its commercialization and economic exploitation, something that also affects the professionalization of the creator that wants to be a performer. We can ask ourselves, how is a performance profitable, how can it be collected?

Olga Diego in the performance "The bubble woman show". ArtMadrid'20

At first glance, a performance is assimilated to a theatre play, so that, when it takes place in a museum or an exhibition centre, it can be treated as a contract of services under the payment of a caché. This is the method chosen on most occasions when the performance takes place in the context of an exhibition or within the programming of a centre, which wants to incorporate action art into its calendar.

It also happens that many performers decide to record their actions to get a tangible result. This is a way of transforming the work from its original conception to incorporate it into a medium. In this way, the performances become video creation pieces, whose distribution or commercialization is easier.

Performance by Marina Abramovic "The artist is present". MoMA 2010

But the real problem arises when one wants to collect the performance itself, as a live-action that happens only once, at a specific time and place, and is never repeated identically. At this point, we must take into account a distinction between the performances starring their authors and those with actors. In this second case, the authorship of the action is identified with the design, script and staging of the proposal, as well as with the description of its execution, timing and implementation guidelines, and it can be understood that the choice of the person involved it is not determinative. In the first case, on the opposite, when it is the artist himself who stars in his/her performances, despite having a script and a detailed description of the project, it can be concluded that we are dealing with a very personal act and that this action will not be the same if carried out by a person other than the creator. A clear example of this would be the intervention of Marina Abramovic in the framework of the exhibition that MoMA dedicated to her in 2010 with the title “The artist is present”. The nature of this action requires that Abramovic herself participates in it because the essence of the proposal is to sit in front of her and look her in the eye. Although it is an activity of simple description and easy execution, we are before a very personal act where the author would be irreplaceable.

Today, most of the performances that are collected are previously captured on video, as a documentary record of the event, or the script is sold so that the action is reproducible.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.