2005. Ramon Parramon. THE CITY OPEN TO THE PROCESS


The projects presented in this edition experiment on the city through micro-interventions in the public space. The city’s infrastructures, i.e., its communication, connection and traffic networks, are often used and linked to buildings, circulation zones and specific elements of the urban furniture.  But they also introduce, incorporate and seek interaction with citizens. This aspect is perhaps the characteristic feature of this edition, making it a process open to investigation and speculation of the public space as a space for interaction. 

A clear example of this process is El Museo Peatonalby Nicolás Dumit Estévez and María Alós. It is set out as an itinerant institution dedicated to presenting temporary exhibitions in the urban space. Through an interactive installation, it invites the participation of people who pass by, work or live in the area where it is presented. It imitates the mechanisms of a museum: the creation of a collection and exhibition. The museum’s collection comes from donations from people who visit, work or live in the area where the museum is temporarily located.

The museum as such takes shape as the acquired articles are assembled. The donation process is free and the objects offered are gathered, classified, packed and then exhibited. All this takes place in the street where the “museum” is located, taking advantage of the continuous flow of people getting from one end of the city to another.

This idea of museum-able and museum-ized city acquires a critical stance towards   the use of the resource of culture as construction of a kind of theme park, in the proposal of Henry Eric, Zona Vigilada. It sets out an interpretation of the transformation of the city of Havana understood as a cultural space in crisis, based on a videographic document that he projects in a thematized cultural space of the city of Madrid: the Open Air Museum of Sculptures in La Castellana. This document has been prepared using personal testimonies, archive images and images taken in “cultural” public spaces of the city of Havana. These images are projected simultaneously with images recorded in the space of the museum itself capturing the “use” and wandering about of the people in this public space under the observation and surveillance of security cameras.  Henry Eric focuses on buildings that he calls cultural ghettos: individual or collective spaces constructed by a specific ideology in a specific period and later transformed until disappearing into oblivion or falling into cultural, ideological, economic or social decadence. 

This connection between specific elements of two cities is a device underlying various projects, presenting Madrid as a link to other cities.


The city as a connection node with other cities

The idea of inserting fragments of one city into another is one of the objectives set out in the project Espacio Móvil by the collective, Compañía de Caracas. Or, as they propose by way of the slogan “Otra ciudad circula dentro de la ciudad” (another city moves inside the city).

The proposal for this connection is the transformation of four buses so that half of the vehicle acquires the appearance of a bus from the city of Caracas, only half, and the other half keeps the colours of the Madrid’s buses. The important thing about these buses is that they establish a link with another city, and at the same time, with many other Latin American cities, the place of origin of many citizens of Madrid. The buses also include a series of photographs of the city of Caracas, and use the bus stops located between Paseo de la Castellana and Paseo del Prado. The images show the urban flow, through specific elements that identify the place being talked about, whilst highlighting elements that are common to both cities: the images of the spaces in transformation in Caracas are not much different from those of Madrid. They are registers that evoke dichotomies like the generic and the specific, the new and the old phenomena of the city, the rural and the technological, the mutable and that which remains immutable. Evidence of the growing social duality, common to the majority of large contemporary cities.


Visibility and intensity of communication

The public space of the city, as physical space, is a large support for publicity and information. Wandering through the city involves passing an infinite number of messages and flashes of information, although we could question the impact of the communicative process. In order for the message to reach the receiver a certain amount of attention and predisposition is required from him. In this respect, the project Taxi Madrid is one of the activities of Madrid Abierto requiring more effort from the spectator (as such) and, as a result, it has less visibility and presence in the urban space. It is an intervention that moves through the city in a series of taxis. It is a project about memory using a selection of persons living in different cities of the world who, in another time, lived in Madrid. Comments and accounts combined with musical elements that refer to the time those persons lived in Madrid and its relationship with the space of the city. In the journey, the taxis include these accounts of experiences of the past, sensations, memories, anecdotes that can refer to the scenes that the citizen taking the taxi is travelling through. These subjective accounts are formulated in a closed space to reach the receiver better so that the communication acquires a greater degree of intensity at the expense of less visibility.

In a similar line, in terms of working with subjective messages, Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio propose the project Soy Madrid, although the strategy of the project is the other way around, given that they seek to reach the maximum number of persons. To do so, they use the classic media channels: newspaper and advertising panels. The project includes the participation of people living in Madrid and the perceptive interpretation of the artists of project, manifesting the condition of tourists and interpreters of this local reality.  The collaboration of the inhabitants entails offering accounts or phrases gathered and transformed by the artists into a comic format. The accounts or phrases are to do with such subjects as the work, the identity and the temporary or ephemeral nature of the tourist. Comments captured in collective spaces where conditions of belonging to a community are generated. Phrases like: “I am from Madrid. I studied maths. I love my bed and I am looking for a woman”, “I teach history in a college. I just have one thing to say: ¡Madrid wake up, you are an ANTIQUATED society¡”, or “I teach English to young people in Spain since leaving college. I love Madrid’s culture but eating in restaurants can sometimes be a problem because I am a vegetarian. Pork is NOT a vegetable!”


Appropriations of space

The subject of collaboration and construction of meaning based on the appropriation by people who live in the area, is one of the aspects that stands out in the work ofthe collective Tercerunquinto. They work from the initial perspective of constructing formal elements that generate situations, using the term sculpture, currently rejected by the majority of artists. In any case, they introduce these “sculptures” into contexts whose raison d’être, as such, lacks meaning. Asphalting a fragment of street in the periphery of Monterrey or paving an area of self-constructed houses which are still unoccupied constitute a constructive action of an element that is subsequently appropriated and reused by the people who live the area. The asphalted street becomes a platform for bringing the community together and generating events. The paving, in a peripheral and marginal area, becomes an integrated part of the self-constructed houses. Tercerunquinto documents these uses during an extended period of time, generating material which becomes a process of analysis of the uses and the subsequent appropriations on the part of the inhabitants of the place.

In the case of the project for Madrid Abierto, they set out to reproduce an element that is present in the urban environment, some watertight boxes destined for connections of telephone cables. They are multiplied until interrupting the trafficable space of a fragment of Paseo de la Castellana. This intervention proposes a modification of the urban experience, inverting the circulation systems and the elements that coexist among these systems. A “sculpture” which will multiply its meaning the moment it can activate this appropriation by citizens.


Against the resource of skin

Using the façade as a support device, such as the façade of Casa de América, transforming it into a trafficable vertical surface, and thereby a privileged viewpoint of a fragment of the city, entails tattooing the skin of the building with a live prosthesis.

On the proposal of José Dávila with his Mirador Nómada, he constructs a trafficable scaffolding on the façade of Casa de América, reversing the  normal relation acquired by scaffoldings in the city, from being observed to becoming a viewpoint from where to observe a part of the city of Madrid and contemplating its daily urban events. Through this proposal and the strategic position of this building we can contemplate an emblematic node of the city in an unusual manner.  The project emphasises the large number of scaffoldings found in most European cities. Elements that symbolise active cycles of change and highlight, with the mutation of skin, the prosperous mark of real estate capital. In this case, something normally observed by passers-by becomes a temporary observatory.

In this line of inverting the resource of skin, we find the project by Oscar Lloveras. He normally works in open spaces in direct association with nature, constructing evolutionary structures that establish a direct dialogue with natural spaces. His intervention is proposed for Paseo del Prado, inasmuch as it is a space that evokes a culturised relation with nature. His work channels and promotes this relation of the individual with the staged natural space, using fragile materials such as polychrome silk, paper and rope. Large suspended spatial installations that establish a dialogue with and relate to the vegetation. At the same time, this nature is a support and a stage for his interventions, suspended shapes that generate meanings that connect the city, domesticated nature and the perception of the individual.


Seeking and finding. Images found and localised

“In the city it is not just easy to seek and to find, but also to find without seeking, by sheer chance, with all the structures and intercommunications of the city”. Oriol Bohigas. Against the Urban Incontinence. Moral reconsideration of the architecture and the city. Electa, Barcelona 2004.

Working on the historic memory and linking it to an institution like Círculo de Bellas Artes, turning the monumental presence of the building into a screen that communicates, is the process proposed by Fernando Baena in his project Familias Encontradas (1 enero 1971 al 17 marzo).

The chance encounter of a series of photographs of large families is the pretext for a project that investigates the collective memory. Based on a selection of these images, enlarged and arranged on the façade of the building, a number of events are remembered, historic facts or event belonging to this brief period of time, associated with the present. Five electronic panels accompany the images. Four refer to the society of the moment the photos were taken, classified in the sections: General anniversaries of events - The family - Art in Spain - Círculo de Bellas Artes. The fifth is information, news, the report or the piece of data corresponding to the present. Whilst in the other four panels the information projected is a cyclical repetition of a documented selection, the fifth shows the ephemeral nature of the events that are happening.  It is also a project that seeks subjective privacy within the framework of the public space, as he suggests “In contrast with the hustle and bustle of Gran Vía, in competition with the seduction of publicity, in the opposite direction of current art, it is ultimately a project about time and about us. About the passing of. About the sensation of getting worked up, of uselessly getting worked up and expiring, brief microscopic lives that spring up and fade away without altering the appearance of the final texture”.

Constructing meaning using alternative discourses to the reality manufactured by the media and with this idea of seeking and finding, the proposal of Raimond Chaves, El Río, las cosas que pasan,takes up again this idea of connecting the city to other cities, to other realities.  Taking advantage of his condition of travelling artist who lives and works between Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, he bases his project on a collection of stories and the re-elaboration of images to offer versions and ‘news’ that he considers relevant. Through images, he sets out events and processes that are taking place in Latin America. Events that although local and restricted to specific areas of Latin America, due to the effects of globalisation and migratory processes, have an influence on Spain and are seldom disseminated in Europe. As a passer-by, citizen and artist, he offers these accounts in the streets of Madrid to boost their public nature and to explain why he wants to bring them to the public’s attention. The work that he presents in Madrid Abierto is included in the Canal Metro schedule and displayed in advertising panels of the city. He takes this idea up again with enthusiasm, developed in other projects, of trusting people’s ability to tell their own experiences, of constructing other stories of the reality, the other side of the wickedness with which it is often constructed in the media.  Connecting with other cities, using media devices, including the participation and opinions of people, seeking new communicative strategies, are all aspects embraced by Raimond Chaves in this project.

In this edition, Madrid Abierto promotes an open process, some projects are a product of a previous path and others have recently initiated a path that is not yet concluded. Others, due to the individual strategy generated, have been unable to establish the mechanisms initially set out and have been readjusted to the moment and the adverse and complex circumstances of interacting in the public space. Madrid Abierto does not pretend to offer clear answers, but to set out issues that require analysis capacity, negotiation capacity and ability to design tactics consistent with the objectives pursued. Time is needed to renew the exhausted forms of public art and to be able to connect with everyday culture.



Ramon Parramon