April 18, 2021

Concrete geographies | Babelia | THE COUNTRY

Concrete geographies | Babelia | THE COUNTRY

The first thing that appears when we think of art magazines is that there is not. The cost of production and the lack of sales is a bad combination to undertake editorial projects, although there are still those who venture to put paper into thinking. Concrete it's an example. It was born in 2012 when the other magazines closed, challenging what did not seem to work: an art and thought magazine published in Spanish and on paper. He did it, also, in a context as devastated as Valencia, with Consuelo Ciscar at the head of the IVAM and its mismanagement in the headlines of the press. The idea of ​​its publishers was to avoid the agenda and the market, and to stand on the margins to edit. There they continue: Nuria Enguita from the direction of the art center Pumps Gens, and Laura Vallés from London, where she completes her doctoral thesis.

The model to follow was clear: Afterall, the British magazine linked to Central Saint Martins of London, a project installed in the transversality or extradisciplinarity of art, that place so longed for in theory but so difficult to materialize in practice. Here is one of its virtues: connecting actors and resources of the artistic circuit with projects and experiments that do not exhaust themselves inside that circuit, but extend to other places. Surely for that reason, Concrete be one of the most remarkable projects in the publishing field. In these seven years, has been installed in the cracks of the spectacular and normative opening a space for debate on those artistic practices, activists and collaborative fundamental to understand what is contemporary. Or what is the same: put disparate points of view on the same plane to expand our ability to understand and imagine the world.

For this they work a year ahead, with an advisory team although amplifying the choral gaze. To date they have published thirteen issues and, for a few years, they have invited external editors to think with them about a possible index whose structure includes diverse formats, from essay articles to conversations, through portfolios or reflections on the systems that define art. In a moment in which the capitalism of desire leads to a homogeneous consumption of culture, Concreta seeks that connection of the symbolic with the political and invites to think the image from the restlessness. There we settled with them to analyze the idea of ​​present.

About art magazines. Do they exist but they are not visible or really there is not?

There has been a gradual disappearance of a type of magazine focused on contemporary art criticism, largely due to the crisis of the role in favor of new technologies. The new environments allow other ways of "following" opinions of authors, without such visible intermediaries. The writing of art in specialized blogs or its transfer to the walls of Facebook or Twitter and Instagram posts is very interesting. However, we can not forget that the algorithms of the networks favor quantity to the detriment of quality, they show you some and not others. It remains to be seen what consequences this has in critical thinking: greed or lethargy? The lack of publications or visibility due to lack of economic resources drags the commitment of the reader who now has to be more alert of the channels on Y off line. What is undeniable is that every time we feed on more references, and hence the sense of art criticism in periodicals as "guide" tends to disappear. Sometimes we have the feeling that it is often the authors who discover publications and not the publications who propose new discourses. The difficulty lies in that growing inverse inertia that the new modes of idolatry and following they carry.

Societat Doctor Alonso, inserted in the magazine 'Concreta 12' (2018).
Societat Doctor Alonso, inserted in the magazine 'Concreta 12' (2018).

What advantages and disadvantages does the Internet have for editorial projects?

Internet is a very powerful and necessary tool to communicate the editorial proposal. Its great advantage is the window it offers: it makes it easy to dive into the files while allowing you to navigate on the surface, in the most immediate and ephemeral contents. They are two very different rhythms that need to live together. We have all the numbers on the web and many of them are open for free, but we also have the section Online, with that other character of critical response and with issues, sometimes, more linked to the present. With the resources we have, we are trying to redraw this relationship between the physical magazine and the internet, and the next spring issue will be a small advance. A journey that we started with Concrete 06 by overflowing the pages of the magazine, curating the index and including it as a sound "insert": a magnificent piece of Imogen Stidworthand published exclusively online, Introduction to BLISS for Two Voices with Chorus. In the last issue we have also proposed another collaboration with Societat Doctor Alonso, of which we are super happy and we invite you to visit: Andrei Rublev: A panography.

And of the paper, what interests you?

Its physicality, its weight, its visuality and touch: the power to turn the pages and underline them. We also enjoy very much proposing links between elements, putting one thing in relation to another. For us it is a way of communicating and, without a doubt, it is also a way of curating and taking care of the contents that makes possible other rhythms that are slower and, in our opinion, necessary.

In this map of specific topics, which of them persists in recent years?

The disaffection of recent years, which involves the cancellation of any idea of ​​progress or historical linearity, has placed a very important issue on the table, that of care: how they make visible the bonds that unite us, between people but also with the objects we live with, or with the ground we walk on. A couple of years ago we dedicated a number to this question that included, among other fantastic texts, an interview with Donna Haraway. In the event we organized to present the number we projected the film that Fabrizio Terranova made with the philosopher. Undoubtedly, the author anticipates issues of great importance in the artistic debate of the last decade: the incursion of science fiction as a speculative space, technological utopias, ecological awareness and, therefore, the Earth's survival in the Anthropocene and its points of friction with the colonial past. Although there is nothing new under the sun: these themes have entered the museum with renewed force. The world widens, but at the same time it accelerates and compresses, it is perhaps more time than space that matters now.

One of your lines of work are artist's books. Tell us

'I Copy Therefore I am', by Superflex, in poster format, inserted in number 00 of the magazine 'Concreta'.
'I Copy Therefore I am', by Superflex, in poster format, inserted in number 00 of the magazine 'Concreta'.

The magazine includes, in its central part, a color section that has two "folders" with works of artists with different practices. Artist books are born as a megaphone in this section, as a collaborative space that expands all these issues that we mentioned. For example, our first book, Pressed (2016), by Inmaculada Salinas, offers a reading of the representation of women in the daily press, a tool to which Isaías Griñolo also resorts to interpret, along with other collaborators, the political situation of our country in the romance of the squares ( 2012) or debla of the night (2016). Through the juxtaposition of images and text, Timelines (2014), by Lia Perjovschi, or Brazil, country of the future (2016), by Carla Zaccagnini, question the linearity of history and the fallacy of progress as that horizon that never arrives. The technological contamination of The spoken streets (2016) by Clara Boj and Diego Díaz, a sound experiment of geolocated narrative is complemented by other more speculative and autobiographical narratives such as those given in Boletim (2013) by Carla Filipe or in the next book by Moyra Davey that we will publish next year.

A line based on Concreta Textos, launched in 2017 …

Yes. It arises from the need to generate a framework that welcomes the research of some of our collaborators. Human zoos, ethnic freaks and ethnic exhibitions by Hasan G. López, the first volume, investigates the relationship between colonial photography and anthropology from the 19th century to the present. The collection also hosts a space dedicated to tourism that arises from the collaboration with the research group TURICOM (Image, body and death in leisure culture). Although we have just published The great experience: the commune of Otto Muehl in La Gomera by Ralph Kistler, about a group of comuneros in the Canary Islands whose utopia turns resort tourist, we are already working on the next volume that will include the work of the anthropologist Fernando Estévez.

Laura, since you have a permanent foot in London, how do you see the Spanish art scene outside?

It is not an easy question and in the global times that run, in those of diluted contours that we said before, the borders also dissolve … no matter how hard some insist on lifting them! In general terms, the Spanish scene is perceived as committed, persevering and, as with Portugal at the moment, perhaps also at a moment of apogee. Many artists, curators and teachers have passed through the English institutions and maintain a link with the city, which means that colleagues in the sector are up to date with the programming of our museums or cultural spaces. In addition, unlike in Spain, many English institutions spend more time doing fundraising what programming. In that sense they consider us lucky. Some colleagues have moved to Lisbon or Berlin and others are with one foot already in Spain. After the Brexit I would not be surprised if that number continued to rise …

Is going out of art the best way to expand your audience?

The growing hybridization of formats and disciplines makes contemporary art, together with music and cinema, increasingly visible. We think, for example, of the exponential growth of the Niño de Elche. Our concern would not have so much to do with how to win more followers because, as we said, to some extent we continue to defend the margins. We are more concerned that this growth leads to the loss of a critical conscience.

What is the function of art?

"Art is the recognition of a useless act and the recognition of chance as an autonomous concept outside of logic. Art is the dilemma, the path to choose from Oedipus. The domain of mythical thought inhabits the dilemma; as a useless act, it inhabits the domain of critical thinking ". This was the start of the inaugural article of the magazine Arena in the year 89 at the hands of Mar Villaespesa, one of those key publications that we mentioned before and that barely had a year to live. Or as another person loved by the team, Laurence Rassel, reminded us, it could also be said that art serves to continue doing "with love and anger" …

Put a topic of debate on cultural policy on the table, the most urgent.

We are concerned about the fragility of institutions and art professionals, the lack of resources, personnel, and also the flexibility to rethink their structures … which often prevents the recognition that our and our artists deserve.


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