INTIMATE SPACES: PERFORMATIVE ART AT ART MADRID

The origins of the art of action can be located in the Dadaist and Surrealist movements of 1920, where the first events or encounters in which the terms collage or assemblage are consolidated sprung up. However, it was not until the 1960s that these manifestations acquired their own entity and became an independent art movement. Action art, also called live art, delves into the idea that you cannot separate the artistic creation process from your own experience, as if everything was connected and true art is what takes place in the processes, not both in the materialised results.

Olga Diego getting ready for the performance. Photo by Marc Cisneros

Allan Kaprow, an artist born in Atlantic City and who gave true meaning to the terms happening or performance, contributed to the evolution of this idea. In the view of this author, art makes sense in the artist's relationship with the viewer in the process of artistic creation itself. Kaprow coined a famous quote on this movement:

The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.

A tireless artist, he contributed significantly to fluxus and body art movements, and carried out countless "activities" (as he called them) throughout his career. Today we owe a lot to this pioneer, who let himself be carried away by the creative impulse channelled into actions where the ephemeral and the experiential merge.

Eunice Artur & Bruno Gonçalves during their performance. Photo by Sara Junquera

Today performance art continues to arouse enormous curiosity, even 60 years after it was born. However, within the history of art, it remains a still novel and minority trend. Precisely for this reason, Art Madrid wanted to give to action art a room into the fair and share with the big public an artistic experience, different from the exhibition offer of the participating galleries, so that contact with today’s contemporary pulse would become a memory, an event, an experience. The momentary, ephemeral nature of these actions, in such a way that they only exist in the here and now, makes each proposal doubly interesting because it is totally unrepeatable.

The “Art Madrid-Proyector’20” program included four actions during the days of the fair. We have had the opportunity to remember two of the performances in which sound and video image dominated, by Iván Puñal and Arturo Moya and Ruth Abellán. Today we give way to the other two, whose main characteristic is the generation of an intimate space, a kind of parallel reality that raises doubts in the viewer about what they are seeing and how they should understand it.

Eunice Artur during her performance. Photo by Sara Junquera

One of these works was “Partidura”, by the Portuguese artist Eunice Artur in collaboration with Bruno Golçalves, which took place on Thursday 27th at 8 pm. This project explores the idea of developing a musical notation for new forms of electronic sound, and it does so through a live intervention that incorporates plant elements, strings that vibrate with the sound and a lot of charcoal dust so that the sound waves move the elements and “draw” their own graphic representation. The performance shows Eunice interacting with these elements while Bruno makes amplified sounds with an electric guitar. The set is mysterious and poetic at the same time. The desire to transform sound into a pictorial expression unfolds in delicate, measured and stealthy actions to interfere as little as possible in the process. Eunice moves between graphite powder-coated sheets of paper hanging from the ceiling, looking for the proper angle to vibrate strings running diagonally across the sheets. This live creation process is based on waiting and contemplation, wrapped in music that seems like a mantra from other lands.

Olga Diego and Mario Gutiérrez Cru before the performace. Photo by Marc Cisneros

The last performance of the cycle was starred by Olga Diego, on Saturday 29th. The entrance of the fair transformed into an improvised stage in which the artist carried out her action "The bubble woman show". Olga Diego has been working on the concept of flight and its integration into art for some time through artefacts that can fly autonomously, without combustion. One of her most ambitious projects on this subject is “The automated garden”, an enormous installation of a hundred inflatable figures made of transparent plastic that occupied the 1,000 m2 of the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art and the Lonja del Pescado Exhibition Hall, also in Alicante. This proposal, in addition to delving into research on the lightness of materials and the ability to stay suspended with maximum energy savings, it is an open criticism of the excessive use of plastic in our environment and its aberrant power of contamination.

Photo by Ricardo Perucha

"The bubble woman show" is an action that involves the viewer. Olga enters a giant bubble of translucent plastic keeping the air inside, and thus, as if she were a soap bubble, she moves through space until she invites someone from the public to enter the bubble with her and share an intimate moment. This personal dialogue is the most unknown and mysterious part of the process and invites us to reflect on situations of isolation, on the return to the mother's womb, on the need to protect ourselves from the excessive noise of this fast-paced world.

Both actions aroused the amazement of the visitors and turned the fair into a space in which live art played a transforming role within the wide artistic offer that the event displays each year.

 

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.