GETTING CLOSE TO EXPERIMENTAL ART

Art is an expressive language that does not conform to the pre-established guidelines and dares to explore new creative options. Indeed, we are before something intrinsic and consubstantial to art, because one of its purposes is to question the raison d'être of our reality, to go a step beyond the established orthodoxy, to break with classicism and pose a challenge both for artists and for the spectators. And in this creative magma, the incursion of new techniques and the combination of disciplines is the ideal breeding ground to originate new movements and trends.

Yoshi Sodeoka, “Utopia”

Experimental art wasn’t labelled until the last third of 20th century. Until then, the emergence of artistic movements gave way to more and more abstract manifestations, farther from the classical aesthetic, which had experienced small episodes of evolution on the emergence of new techniques, but with a production based on the demands of the sponsor of turn. It was the domination of religious motifs, the reconstructions of mythological stories, the tyranny of royal and nobiliary portraits, the expansion of pompous landscapes. However, the last century was the cradle of the concept of the modern artist, an autonomous, independent, irreverent and difficult to master author that also wanted to take refuge in a new language to live outside the canons.

Nacho Criado

As usual, in the beginning, new expressive proposals that move away from academicism usually receive a harsh criticism from the most conservative and consolidated group of the fine arts. Let us not forget that this had happened to the Impressionists, openly rejected by the most traditionalist authors, who saw in their style a kind of subversion (and even perversion) of painting. Today, however, this movement of the late 19th century has established itself as an inescapable reference in the history of art.

Cristopher Cichocki, “Fish With Enamel Illuminated by Ultra Violet Radiation”

Likewise, every experimental form tends to deal with less friendly and riskier themes that give way to the significant concerns of the moment. For this reason, these forms of expression are often associated with open criticism of the established system and the status quo of power. Nothing better than muddying the harshness of a social rethinking with a blow of novelty, such as the one proposed by experimental art. A break in the rules that requires a double reading to get to the bottom of the matter. Because, in this current, things are seldom what they seem.

Jim Drain

Thus, experimental art feeds on contemporary resources and builds its message on the value of discourse itself: what is said is more important than how it is said. The image, the "extra-artistic" elements, the influence of other professions and the media impact play a fundamental role in this stream that is still difficult to define and specify. The development of the artistic tissue in each moment and place determines the expansion and reception of these models. The old and veteran Europe, so attached to its history and cultural heritage, has always lagged behind other pioneering foci, such as those from beyond the Atlantic. Perhaps the absence of a thousand-year historical weight and the unconsciousness of living a reality with a barely bicentennial past serve as an impulse to set trends and become the field of experimentation par excellence. Let's lose the fear of being wrong and try.

 

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.