SOMEONE WALKING AROUND at the Fundació Antoni Tapiès, Barcelona

SOMEONE WALKING AROUND is the title of a cycle of performances and interventions organized by the Antoni Tapiès Foundation this spring.

The event is announced as a kind of extra program on the entrance door.  With a graphic design reminiscent of a Sex Pistol’s record cover, this event figures announced next to the exhibitions dedicated to Tapiès himself ‘Certeses Sentides’ and Albert Serra’s  film projection ‘Roi Soleil’.

This is no doubt an interesting aspect of this serie of performances curated by Erich Weiss :  it incrusts itself in the museum’s everyday’s reality.  Like a parasite it occupies the staircases, the corners, the terrace and even the offices of the building.  The visitor is confronted by it as by surprise.  The actions and installations function as 'uninvited guests’ in the museum’s surroundings. 

This becomes immediately clear when one is confronted with Roman Ondak’s installation entitled ‘Autonomous Colors’.  It are colorful pieces of lead (recycled pieces of tiles from Ondak’s house’s rooftop) hanging on short metal wires.  They hang here and there in the museum at the walls, randomly, with no sign or explanation next to them.  Only the title explaining note at the entrance of the museum  indicates that they all refer to flags belonging to European independent movements.  In the local context of Catalunya this work has of course a special connotation, with all the ado about the ‘process' of the imprisoned regional politicians and all linked polemics.  ‘Autonomous’ colors are indeed the talk of the day in Barcelona, with people wearing yellow ribbons as protest against the imprisonment of these political persons.  During recent elections it was even forbidden to decorate the façade of public buildings with this colored sign.  This provoked a heavy discussion about the freedom of expression. It’s no coincidence either that the exhibition earlier this year organized by the Tapiès Foundation was subtitled : ‘Tapiès/Biografia Politica’, focussing on the artist’s political involvement during the Franco period.

Performance by Nils Nova, 2019 Performance by Nils Nova, 2019
An other semi-permanent installation also refers to Tapiès’ universe.  Nils Nova transformed into an optical installation a forgotten corner next to the roof terrace with Tapiès’ famous ‘Mitjo/Sock’ from 1991 standing on it.  He created a photographic reflection/transformation of the existing space in Domenech I Montaner’s museum building, turning it into a ‘Kaleidoscope’ in the form of a cross.  This form refers clearly to the masters’ vocabulary and so does the black monochrome canvas placed in the middle of the composition.  Although its colored borders add a funky touch to the whole : a typical detail characteristic of Nova’s style, who likes to mix Latin elements (he’s born in El Salvador) and Swiss seriousness in his work.  

During a sound performance on the opening night, he occupied the central room of the museum, with a testament-like painting by Tapiès as backdrop.  In front of it he placed four classical electric guitars and their accompanying amplifiers.  The artist appeared like a visitor, walking around … Until he touched the first instrument, tuned D, then the second, sounding like E, three A and a final D on the fourth.  He started walking in a circle around the music instruments, making clear he was re-enacting Bruce Nauman’s emblematic walking piece ‘D.E.A.D.’ (1968). 

In fact all the artists selected by the Belgian guest-curator Erich Weiss for this cycle are all international artists with a solid professional career and have in common that their works  often refer to  - for example Art History.  They all accepted perfectly the imposed rules of the game : they seem aware that they are ‘invited guests’  in this scenario and behave as such.  The curator compared their role quoting Marcel Duchamp axiom : ‘a guest + a host = a ghost’.  They indeed were invisible (like Ondak), or appeared and disappeared as a kind of phantoms.  This way they offered the chance to the public to become -as accidental witnesses-  the real protagonists of the project.  They are invited to become active participants of the whole, trying to construct mentally an explanation for the unexpected elements and interventions they are confronted with.  This questioning of the classic museum- or exhibition- model and the role of the public is in my opinion the most interesting aspect of this initiative.

Like Nils Nova, the Dutch artist Germaine Kruip also choose to refer directly to Tapiès heritage.  She spent several days in the Foundation’s precious library, analyzing the collection of books that once belonged to the artist’s private collection.  Trying to dive in the master’s subconscious, searching for themes, forms and problematics that inspired him.  She discovered his fascination for abstract art (Malewitch), surrealism or oriental philosophy, esoteric imagery and Zen Buddhism.  The result is the script for ‘A square with no corners’, meant as text for a spoken word performance by a professional actress.  This presentation took place in complete darkness in the Foundation’s auditorium, with only a single spotlight illuminating the silhouette of performer Jaqueline Seeligmann at the beginning and the end of the poetry session.

Kruip is indeed known as an artist, specializing in artworks that use light sources as basic element.  She is also active as scenographer, like for the set design of Philip Glass's ‘Einstein on the Beach’ executed precisely during these days at Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica.  

An other artist who decided to explore the possibilities of Montaner I Domenech’s architecture is the Czech performer Jiri Kovanda.  Kovanda is generally considered as the ‘godfather’ of body art or conceptually based performance art in Eastern Europe.

He decided to use the original space of the library as stage for his emblematic, historical action ‘Kissing through glass’.  Here the artist turns the visitor first in a voyeur and then in an active participant and partner in crime.  Soon people start queuing to steal the artist’s furtive and virtual expression of love.  Sharing this intimate and emotive moment, turns this simple and trivial act into a thing worth to remember or to save on a ‘selfie’.  My impression is that the happy few who were able to share these magic moments are proud to be part of this family of ‘ghostbusters’.

Performance "Kissing", Jiri Kovanda Performance "Kissing", Jiri Kovanda

  And the good news is that due to the many positive reactions, this original experiment will be repeated in 2020.

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.

L'auteur a choisi de fermer cet article aux commentaires.