Esther Ferrer: an artist of performance

Esther Ferrer, 2012. Photo ©Publiescena.

 

 

 

Esther Ferrer was a pioneer in the art of performance, precisely at a complicated historical moment in terms of freedom of thought and expression. Her figure stands out not only for the fact of entering into the artistic action as a form of manifestation but also for being a woman in an eminently masculine context.

 

 

 

Esther Ferrer, Biografía para una exposición, 1982. Collage. Photography and ink on paper.

 

 

 

Esther joined in 1967 the group Zaj, along with Ramón Barce, Walter Marchetti and Juan Hidalgo. It was a transgressor and critic collective who, however, knew how to break through in the 60s and 70s and offer a multitude of artistic performances, even before they were named as such. Faithful to its Decalogue, Zaj organised actions in numerous Spanish cities but never allowed their performances to be filmed. As Esther, herself explains, "I have never asked for help from the Franco regime or tried to participate in anything they organised." They wanted to maintain their independence.

 

 

 

Incidents at the Teatro Gayarre during the performance of Zaj in the Encounters of Pamplona, 1972. Via: lajuntadecarter.com.

 

 

 

Settled down in France for many years, a country where she has lived more than in Spain, she worked as a journalist and translator for Gallic media specialising in art with outstanding collaborations in El País or Lápiz magazine. This creator has always been concerned with pedagogy and the role of women in society. In fact, she educated in teaching and pedagogy. She founded with José Antonio Sistiaga a school focused on promoting free expression of children, based on the method of the French pedagogue Freinet, whose technique gives absolute freedom to children from the creative aspect.

 

 

 

Esther Ferrer, Canon para siete sillas. Performance, 1990.

 

 

 

The Reina Sofía exhibition, titled "Todas las variaciones son válidas, incluida esta", offers a tour of her artistic career and focuses on the analysis of the author's own creative process, very interested in representing the passing of time, the changes of the body, and the mobilisation. She lives all these questions in the first person and, although she tries to be objective, she recognises that there is always something of ourselves that sneaks into our expressions.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.