Re-discovering the Architecture in the Capital

Façade-view of the Instituto Eduardo Torroja, built in 1953.

 

 

This Friday 29th of September the 14th Edition of “Week of the Architecture” starts and the COAM has programmed, due to the birth centenary of the activist Jane Jacobs, the projection of “Citizen Jane, The Battle for the City”. This film-documentary, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, tells the story of this urbanist from New York that achieved to mobilise crowds of people so as to stop an aberrant construction plan. The project foresaw the demolition of various buildings of lower Manhattan in order to layout a net of roads of eight lanes and to invade the city with tonnes of asphalt. The film arrives now to Spain after its recent first release in the US.

 

 

SGAE headquarters. Longoria Palace, built in 1904.

 

 

This real-fact case is just an example of the impact that urban decisions might cause into the preservation of the architectural heritage, one of the essential aspects to define the aesthetics of a city and to confer identity. The COAM’s program also counts this year on an invited city: Paris. the “Paris-Madrid Tandem 2017” aspires to go deeper into the architectural richness of these two cities and their urban transformation through culture. The proposal counted on the collaboration of both city councils, the embassies of France and Spain, the Institut Française and the Instituto Cervantes, and it offers a series of activities that will take place simultaneously in Madrid and Paris, besides the exhibitions “Réinventer Paris” and “Co-urbanismo” that will open in the Institut Française and L’Alliance Française of Madrid.

 

 

Paris-Madrid Tandem 2017.

 

 

One of the ways to appreciate this importance is by knowing our architecture by oneself, inside and outside. That’s why one of the most interesting proposals is the possibility of visiting the inner side of buildings that usually remain closed to the public. The Open House Festival and the COAM offer access to some of these reserved places like The Lira Palace, the Banco de España, Metrópolis or the Racecourse of Zarzuela. The catalogue overpasses one hundred of buildings and will certainly have a high demand, so you should be fast to register ahead. Last year, there were more than 40.000 visitors and many people couldn’t get access because tours were sold out.

 

 

Old underground station of Chamberí, 1919.

 

 

To close the program, in late October, the proposal “Madrid, otra mirada” (Madrid, another look) includes a series of concerts, visits, lectures and exhibitions to give a larger dissemination of the urban and monumental heritage of the capital. The city council has counted on the collaboration of 107 institutions that will open their doors for the visitors to approach the historic and monumental buildings with “another look”.

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.