PERFORMANCE AND SOUND IN THE LAST ART MADRID'S EDITION

When it comes to exploring new artistic disciplines, it is sometimes difficult to define what the present and the future hold for us. The concept of "contemporary art" itself has shifted in time from the present moment to encompass not only the most immediate but also what was created twenty years ago. Thus, what we call contemporary today will no longer be so two decades later, as it happened to the art of the 70s or 80s, then also known as such. Before a mobile and fickle adjective like this, the efforts of definition, so typical of the still-acknowledged academicism, of the innate need of a man in society to understand his context, of the tendency to consolidate the profession by sealing terms that are habitual and understandable, they are somewhat unsuccessful. Reality offers us a panorama that has learned to avoid labels, that responds to a seasoned and irrepressible creative impulse for which inherited notions are not worth.

Image screened during Iván Puñal's performance

In this context, Art Madrid has wanted to organise in its last edition a program to accommodate hybrid expressions that are committed to new-generation art, where the boundaries of concept and shape are already overcome. This program aimed to transform each action into an experience for the spectator, in an experience that overcame the most contemplative barrier of art to open a direct dialogue with the observer. One of the highlights of the program was the performances that took place during the fair itself, with a variety of proposals that broaden the understanding of this term and take us into an unrepeatable creative reality, which can only occur at that time and place.

For all those who have not been able to attend or even for those who want to remember, we bring you a reminder of two of those performances, in which one of the basic elements was sound and synchronisation with the image. We refer to the performance "RRAND 0-82" by Iván Puñal, which took place on Wednesday 26th, and that of Arturo Moya and Ruth Abellán, "Barrel of the Danaïdes", on Friday 28th of February, during the fair Art Madrid’20.

Iván Puñal's proposal is a unique and unrepeatable work, based on the author's interaction with the screened images and the creation of live music. For this reason, each staging of “RRAND 0-82” generates a new piece, made from scratch to open a dialogue between image and sound.

This project is based on a simple approach: is there true freedom? To what extent are our acts predefined by factors that we do not choose? Where does the true consciousness, the control of the "I" begin? The questioning of our decision-making capacity, the apparent illusion generated in ourselves that we freely choose our fate and the course of our lives, contrasts with the fact that many elements are given to us (environment, social situation, place of birth, genetics, etc.), and even neuroscientists claim that the vast majority of our brain activity is unconscious. That being the case, what does the concept of freedom respond to, is it an empty term?

On these premises, Iván Puñal presents a live intervention in which he tries to explore the edges of human decision and his ability to respond to unpredictable situations. To do this, based on a set of images generated by a non-predictive algorithm, the artist sets out to create sounds that accompany them and at the same time modify the behaviour of the mathematical formula so that it continues its process of visual elaboration. In this way, the mechanism feeds on itself and human intervention tries to be as little controlled, predictable and conditioned as possible. The result is a unique audiovisual work, created at the very moment with a wrapping and captivating staging that also plays to offer us an approximate representation of randomness and free will.





Of a different nature is the performance by Arturo Moya y Ruth Abellán. The title "Barrel of the Danaïdes" refers a mythological account in which 49 of the 50 daughters of Danaus are sentenced to eternally fill a bottomless barrel with water after having murdered their husbands on the wedding night by order of their father. Danaus' daughters married the 50 sons of his brother Egypt, as a sign of reconciliation after long enmity, but it was all a trick to eliminate the possible descendants of Egypt and annihilate its power. Of all the daughters, only the eldest, Hypermnestra, saved her husband's life.

This story is often taken as a reference to represent the dichotomy between obedience to parents and the performance of a prohibited act, because in the classic narrative, Zeus initially punishes Hypermnestra for disobedience, although later, during the Avernus' judgment, she is acquitted while the other 49 sisters are sentenced. Likewise, this story takes up the idea of repetition, eternity and fluidity, through the water that the Danaïds must constantly pour into the barrel, in an infinite action that does not release their frustration.

The performance by Arturo Moya and Ruth Abellán is inspired by this mythological narration to take the constant flow of water as a visual starting point for a sound action that both star in front of the public. The performers sing one into the other's mouth, enclosing the sound they emanate and representing the impossibility of propagating out, in a cyclical and hypnotic action that synchronises with the images screened behind them.

In the screen, we see the two performers drenched in water, water whose flow becomes denser or weaker in response to the sound they make when singing live. But there is no barrel to fill, the water does not stop falling, the voice never comes out... And everything is part of a live-action where, above all, the enormous intensity of the looks, the rapport of two interpreters who respond to an impulse fed from intimacy and reserve, who sings one inside the other when they feel that they must do so when looking at each other, and who metaphorically immerse themselves in a watery and translucent space that moves and overwhelms us.





 

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.