MADRID ABIERTO is an international artistic programme which falls into the category usually referred to as public art, even though this is a somewhat controversial term and which has been rapidly evolving over the past few years. A clear example of this evolution and which is one of the most interesting initiatives taking place in Spain is the Calaf (Barcelona), which arose from a public sculpturing context. Similar to Madrid Abierto, it was initially based on the Open Spaces of the Altadis Foundation at ARCO. The director of Calaf, Mr. Ramon Parramon was an organiser for Madrid Abierto in 2005 and in the current edition, apart from participating the selection jury; he coordinated the debate tables which will take place for the first time at the same time as the artistic interventions. In the words of the director of FRAC Bourgogne, Ms.; Eva González-Sancho, head of the final selection for the third edition of Madrid Abierto, public art “could be that which either makes us question it or reflect on it, or simply decorates our urban surroundings. In my opinion, the interest of the artistic proposals carried out in that space which is in a constant state of transformation, which we refer to as public space, are artistic interventions which influence our comprehension of the same”.
Since its first edition, Madrid Abierto has been promoted by the Altadis Foundation, the Regional Madrid Ministry for Culture and Sports and the Department of Arts of the Town hall of Madrid, and this year it counts with the cooperation of the following entities: ARCO, Fundación Telefónica, the Radio 3 of RNE, Círculo de Bellas Artes, Casa de América, Canal Metro, La Casa Encendida and the Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid. This is a group of institutions which enable this attempt to help people comprehend the construction of the public area through different artistic interventions placed on the Paseo de Recoletos – Paseo del Prado axis in Madrid. The fact that we’ve selected such a specific are of city centre may condition the character of some of the proposals, especially those which are centred in social and community processes, or those which are distant from the most conventional projects. This has been one of the criticisms we have received from time to time, along with the lack of central theme to join the projects. But this is precisely, for better or for worse, one of the characteristics of Madrid Abierto, i.e. to be an open international show of artistic projects. In its third edition, which will take place between the 1st and 26th of February, a total of 595 projects have been received, more than doubling the 234 of the first edition. The distribution per country is as follows: Spain (136), USA (56), Argentina (51), Italy (37), Germany (36), France (31), Mexico (31), Columbia (23), UK (22), Canada (15), Cuba (11), Portugal (9), Austria (9), Chile (8), Holland (8), Finland (8), Brazil (7), Costa Rica (6), Russia (6), Nicaragua (5), Japan (5), Slovenia (7), Uruguay (5), Belgium (5), Norway (4), Australia (4), Sweden (4), Poland (4), Panama (3), Peru (3), Bulgaria (3), Switzerland (3), Turkey (3), Ecuador (3), Guatemala (3), Ghana (3), Singapore (2), Croatia (2), Denmark (2), Venezuela (2), Romania (1), Hungary (1), Santo Domingo (1), India (1), China (1), Indonesia (1), Israel (1), Thailand (1) Latvia (1), Lithuania (1) and El Salvador (1).
I feel that this open character of the proposals, and the growing interest in participating, are a value that should be maintained, even if it is to the detriment of a more articulated artistic approach, such as that which could be achieved with a prior definition of determined lines of investigation and with the direct selection of artists by one or various organisers. However, one should always be open to exploring options which will improve the possible faults pointed out and thus improve the overall results. Thus, on this occasion, we have established two phases for selecting the projects. In the first phase, the selection committee selected 27 of the 595 projects presented, based on the interest and quality of each project. In the second phase, we have tried to establish similarities and see how the proposals can compliment each other, and attempting to achieve a minimum articulation of all the projects, and for this, the definitive selection was left to Ms. Eva González-Sancho, who had also participated in the initial pre-selection with the aforementioned Ramon Parramon, Rosina Gómez-Baeza (Director of ARCO), Nicolas Bourriaud (Co-director of the Palais of Tokyo, Nicolas Bourriaud (co-director del Palais de Paris), Theo Tegelaers (director of De Appel, Amsterdam), and myself. The definitive selection comprises: Accidentes Urbanos by Virginia Corda (Buenos Aires, 1967) and Maria Paula Doberti (Buenos Aires, 1966); Speakhere¡ by Nicole Cousino (California, 1966) in cooperation with Chris Vecchio (Philadelphia, 1964); Post it by Chus García-Fraile (Madrid, 1965); Pulsing Path-ambiguous vision by Gustav Hellberg (Stockhom, 1967); Blend out de Lorma Marti (Karen Lohrmann, Hamburg-Germany, 1967 and Stefano de Martino, San Gallo-Italy, 1955); Ouroboros by Wilfredo Prieto (Sancti-Spíritus-Cuba, 1978); Remolino by Tere Recarens (Barcelona, 1967); Translucid view by Arnoud Schuurman (Leidschendam- Holland, 1976); Reality Soundtrack by Tao G. Vrhovec (Ljubljana-Slovenia, 1972); Locutorio Colón by Maki Portilla-Kawamura (Oviedo, 1982), Key Portilla-Kawamura (Oviedo, 1979), Tadanori Yamaguchi (Osaka, 1970) y Ali Ganjavian (Tehran, 1979). The preselection of the pury also included the project presented by: Armando Navarro and David TV; Ángel Borrego and Jana Leo; Anna Lise Skou; Hermelinde Hergenhahn; Alenka Belic; Peter Moertenboeck and Helge Mooshammer; Otto Karvonen; Helen Stratford and Diana Wesser; Ivonne Dröge-Wendel; Oliver Flexman and Steven Dickie; Santiago Reyes; María Regueiro; Dennis Adams, Catherine D'Ignazio and Savic Rasovic; Leonor Da Silva; Kristoffer Ardeña; Katrin Korfmann and María Linares.
It is interesting to note that this year the dates for presentation of the projects and selection took place much earlier than previous years, and this was in order to enable the second selection phase and the articulation of the projects so the artists would have more time to profile them and decide their localization.
Likewise, I would like to highlight that as in the previous two editions, the 451 team is still developing the graphic image and web site for Madrid Abierto. RMS La Asociación will continuo with the coordination of the programme. As an innovation, in this edition, the national public radio station Radio 3, will collaborate with the production and broadcast of Tao G. Vrhovec’s work.
In its third edition, Madrid Abierto continues trying to deepen the notion of an artistic activity understood as a practice of activation and interaction with other agents, trying to provide all citizens with other views and proposals of participation than those which are usually offered in a museum, art gallery, art centre of fair. Different biennial exhibitions and projects had successfully incorporated this type of event related to public art, but those who do it in a specific manner, through an open call for participation and supporting the production of projects, aimed mainly at upcoming artists and who are awarded a maximum of 12.000 euro per project, are less frequent. The characteristics of the programme, its reduced economic scale and the small team which organises it can be shock in such a large city as is Madrid and who have difficulty in placing themselves on the crowded stage of contemporary Spanish art. We are well aware of all this, but we aim to consolidate this public art project, despite it constantly being referred to as lacking continuity in the initiatives which have arisen from it. Along these lines, we feel it is absolutely necessary to reflect on the model of Madrid Abierto and contrast it with the very artists and the specialists, as well as with other similar national and international initiatives. For this reason we have organised a debate on the 2nd and 3rd of February in cooperation with the Casa Encendida. We will try to incorporate the results of these debates, together with the experience we have acquired, in future editions of Madrid Abierto.