Exhibitions Museums Spain

Spain finds time to act

Two important museum shows focus on performance art during a “moment of crisis”

Pedro Reyes’s, Philosophical Casino, 2012/2014

Performance art comes to Spain at a critical time with two museum exhibitions. In Madrid, the curator and critic Chantal Pontbriand is organising a five-month-long project “Per/form: How to do Things With[out] Words” (until 21 September) at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M). Pontbriand says museums’ recent interest in performance “comes at a moment of social crisis” as museums evolve to deal with the diversity of contemporary art.

“There is an urgency to reinvent oneself,” she says, and “performance is a mode of investigation that provides the right frame of mind to address many questions in the present”. Her exhibition, which takes up half of the museum, examines the different role a spectator can take in performance art, and includes videos, participatory works and interactive installations.

A highlight among them is Pedro Reyes’s, Philosophical Casino, 2012/2014, part of his “The Sanatorium” project, were a pair of large dice covered with text are rolled by visitors and interpreted with the help of a therapist; for the show in Madrid, the artist has used philosophical quotes in Spanish. Other artists in the show include Simon Fujiwara, Roman Ondák, Chloé Quenum and Dora García.

Meanwhilem, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona looks at some of the earlier roots of performance art, with the exhibition “Allan Kaprow: Other Ways” (until 30 May). The show’s curator Soledad Gutiérrez says the institution saw the need to explore a period of art history less known in Spain.

Greatly influenced by John Cage and Jackson Pollock, Kaprow believed in blurring the distinction between art and life. The focus of the exhibition are his “happenings”, a series of carefully planned actions that encouraged audience participation. His very first such work, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, 1959, in which participants are instructed via index cards to complete simple tasks, such as juicing an orange or climbing a ladder, is recreated in Barcelona.

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