“FROM FIX IMAGE TO NEW MEDIA”: THE ROUND TABLE WITH PROFESSIONALS IN ART MADRID’20

The activities program that Art Madrid carries out every year always reserves space on the agenda to organise a meeting with professionals in the sector. The goal is to provide a vision more linked to institutional and work practice around the topic that linchpins the set of activities, and in this past edition we had the opportunity to focus on the evolution of the use of the image, video art and the entry on stage of technological art and new media. With these meetings, the renowned voices of curators, directors of creative centres, critics, academics or cultural agents opens up a forum for debate in which to overpass the plane of artistic production to focus on that of exhibition or presence by the exhibition spaces, what invites to reflect on how the process of institutionalization of contemporary art takes place.





Within the framework of the program on video art, new media and performance, the subjects that underpinned the proposal, we were fortunate to have the participation of Rafael Doctor, Karin Ohlenschläger and Berta Sichel in a round table conducted by Miguel Álvarez-Fernández. The professional background of these three curators, cultural agents and historians over the years adds to their experience in charge of departments or institutions of great prestige in the national territory. This allowed them to lead an encounter in which they shared their theoretical knowledge, but also contributed their vision from the management of art centres, identifying gaps and strengths of the system.

It is also remarkable that the most recent professional experience of the speakers has been linked to distant geographical areas within the country, which also offers a more enriching panorama, close to the cultural reality of the whole territory, on a northern-southern axis that portrays the socio-political circumstances to which the contemporary creation sector is sometimes subject.

Photo by Romer Ramos

Rafael Doctor is a historian, independent curator and cultural manager, specialising in the History of Photography and contemporary art. In his role as director, he has been in charge of the Andalusian Photography Center (CAF) between 2017 and 2019, he directed the programming of Canal de Isabel II (1993-2000), the Espacio Uno of MNCARS (1997-2000) and the department of Plastic arts from Casa de América (2001), and was also the first director of MUSAC (2002-2009). Thanks to his long career, Rafael summarised the history of photography from its origins to get to deal with the moving image, a somewhat later discipline that, however, was in the pulse of creative interest since technology made it possible the capture of the image on fixed supports. The transition from a purely documentary interest to an artistic one occurred early, and all of them led to a series of creative movements that marked the great milestones of video art throughout the 20th century. Today we speak of this discipline as something new, when the novelty is the updating of technique and the easy access to the modes of creation, but not so much the creative impulse or the discursive concerns that underlie this type of work.

Photo by Romer Ramos

For her part, Berta Sichel, a cultural agent, curator and director of the Bureauphi Art Agency project, took advantage of her experience in charge of the audiovisual department of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in its early years, to tell us how the museum built up its video art collection. Berta was responsible for curating the selection of pieces for the collection. She aimed to tackle a wide window of time that truly represents world video art, although this objective had to be reduced to adapt to the budgetary conditions that the museum was going through, which is why there is more presence of works in the first years of the movement (1960s) than later decades. During her speech, Berta emphasised one of the characteristics of the beginnings of video creation as a phenomenon: that it was art made mostly by women. The rise of traditional disciplines along with the trend of prevailing male roles in public artistic life as well as in the market made video art an accessible resource for the women authors, who approached their works many times from the seclusion of their own homes. This is also one of the reasons why video pieces very often have a denouncing component around gender issues and capture environments or realities more connected to family, domestic settings.

Photo by Romer Ramos

Karin Ohlenschläger is also a curator, critic and contemporary art theorist. From 2002 to 2006 she was co-director of the MediaLab Madrid program at the Conde Duque Cultural Center in Madrid, and has been in charge of numerous festivals and projects connected with new media and technology. Today she is the director of activities for the LABoral Center for Art and Industrial Creation, in Gijón, an exhibition space specifically dedicated to art, science, technology and the visual industries. Karin has specialised in action art, postmedia art and new transversal creation projects that merge languages, taking references from fields such as communications or science. Thanks to her experience in these years, she offered us an overview of the hybridization of art since the last decade of the 20th century, a period in which many processes initiated during the 70s-80s culminate and which originate collaboratively based creative processes that aspire to break the barriers between branches of knowledge (biotechnology, programming, artificial intelligence) to generate another form of knowledge, materialised in works of art. Today we have gone from the digitisation of creations to the materialisation of digital proposals. Karin's talk leaves a door open to the future of art to come, knowing that the paths to explore will be almost infinite.

Foto de Marta Suárez-Mansilla

The conference was moderated by Miguel Álvarez-Fernández, a jurist, musician, music theorist, and composer, who, in addition to working as a curator and expert in sound art, has directed the radio weekly program Ars Sonora since 2008. Miguel's knowledge of the topic of debate and of the speakers facilitated an easy and friendly conversation in which many people in the audience wanted to participate during Question Time.

The round table took place in the auditorium of Sala Alcalá 31 on Thursday 20th of February. We want to thank the space for its support and, in particular, Antonio Sánchez Luengo for his excellent reception of the proposal to host part of the “Art Madrid-Proyector’20” program.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.