Radicalment emancipat(s) / _Audiències Cardinals Cycle /

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

In the course of a year, four solo projects by young Barcelonabased artists take shape in the spaces outside the exhibition rooms, superimposed onto the architecture of the venue like a transitory layer of meaning. These coordinates set the scene for Cardinal Audiences (Audiencias Cardinales) to take over from Composition of Place (Composición de lugar), which was the first of this now-annual programme of exhibitions launched by Espai Cultural Caja Madrid in 2010.

Inspired by the homonymous meditation technique developed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Composition of Place explored the position of artists in relation to their own work and in relation to the art institution. On being invited to articulate the program and continue it by drawing on the development of Barcelona’s art scene, through artists who are just starting to work in the context of the art institution, I decided to reclaim the pertinent dialogue between the authorial figure and the institution as a point of departure.

Nevertheless, in Cardinal Audiences the scope of the map broadens out and the notion of ‘composition of place’ expands to include the reception of art, and the way in which artists and their work frame themselves in relation to it, triangulating, with the venue-institution, a necessary dialogue on their roles and functions.

Opening up to one of the most recurrent topics of discussion in art over the last century – its public – the program revolves around the notion of the audience and tests the forms of a minipuzzle, a random dialogue and a speculative narrative on the reception of art, through the different approaches to the spectator on which Andrea Gómez, Mireia c. Saladrigues, Aníbal Parada and Iván Gómez base their interventions.

Meanwhile the “cardinal” in the title refers to two of the word’s meanings: in the mathematical sense, to the finite or infinite number of elements that make up a specific set, and in the sense of “cardinal points”, that is, the four directions that the Cartesian system defines for the representation of the globe’s coordinates.

From a secular invention and strategy to a statistic for assessment and sustainability within the logic of the cultural consumer market, the audience is an uncertain invocation of the production of social truth through art.

Although it initially emerged with the secularisation of life in Renaissance times, when art lost its metaphysical ability to offer a higher, divinely revealed truth and turned to the spectator’s experience as a social means of safeguarding its attributes, the audience was also a node that united and concentrated social power in the face of the weakening of religious and political cohesion.

Centuries later, well into the industrial era, the field of art fluctuated, mercurial, between ideology, society and the market… Since the twentieth century, the audience has become a cog in the chain of production, distribution and consumption, an ethereal but essential conveyor belt that functions as a space for the validation and devaluation of art, and that affects all its related services and functions.

The meaning of audience in relation to art and in relation to its professional practice takes on significance in the context of the knowledge and information society, given the uncertain future afforded us by innovation in technological uses for the production and reception of discourses, the rapid shift towards the notion of the cultural industries and its resistances, and the fragmentation of agents, spaces and models of production and consumption in relation to art.

From this point of view, the types of relationships that arise through the vast and volatile issue of the public are linked to the nature of the work of each artist, and there has been an attempt to secure an inherent link between the concept of the audience and the artists’ personal processes, and to create a real stage in the development of their work that goes beyond merely fulfilling a curatorial commission at a particular moment in time.

Four artists with different paths, methods, inclinations and geographic origins, whose careers in the institutional field are incipient but marked by their dynamism and commitment, take on the spectre of the reception of art in relation to their own work, from perspectives that are consistent with their position as creators, their formal registers and their thematic interests.


Direct audience involvement through an essential gesture: the public and its words.

Based on first-person verbal enunciation as a node for the production of meaning, Andrea Gómez draws on all the strategies of her broad arsenal as a creator and communicator while opening up her work process to citizen collaboration, using various channels including new technologies. She also reinforces the notion of public device by not only distributing the participatory newspaper The Abilities at Espai Cultural, but also at several key points in downtown Barcelona.

Documenting particular traits in the exercise of the spectator: the public and its works.

In the framework of her broader project on artistic reception and her current interest in the behaviour of visitors under surveillance at art centres, Mireia c. Saladrigues engages in a theoretical, detective-like, ironic and romantic investigation through her unusual documentary work in progress entitled Radically Emancipated. Mixing rigor and suggestion, she introduces us to a particular group of users for whom breaking security regulations and codes of conduct in art institutions is their own brand of artistic communion.

The drive of the spectator in the desire to read: the public and its omission.

Incorporating new formal strategies into his exploration of image, device and discourse, Aníbal Parada stresses the agitation that users experience on witnessing the confluence between formal appeal and encoded references, and creates an ode to his own apparent absence in I Was Not Here. Erratic, the audience is encouraged to connect with a singular iconographic sensibility, to recognise the dialectic games of a latent, fragmented enunciation in which that which is familiar sails the waters of that which is disquieting.

Reflection on the actual status of audience: the public and its thought.

Starting from the multiple cinematic mirroring that takes place between the psyche, visual culture, image technologies, narrative, legacy and identity, consummate spectator Iván Gómez symbolically reflects on what is now a natural state, that of the spectator. Drawing on the idea of montage, Desire for Witness talks about the interplay of identification and tension through the gaze, as the place of the individual’s self-negotiation in relation to the always biased codes and models of representation that create us as society and as audience. The effective mechanisms that the artists employed in their temporary occupation of the space went beyond subtle intervention, simulated accident and anecdote, and transformed the circulation areas of Espai Cultural into the true exhibition-paths that this catalogueseeks to record.

Furthermore, each of the four projects has a dialectical complement in content and tone, in the texts that a series of authors were invited to write for the occasion: the astute, complex shifting of conceptual coordinates that Joan Morey achieves through a basic selection of abilities from The Abilities; the colloquial, incendiary approach taken by Andrés Hispano and Félix Pérez-Hita in their historical and ideological contextualisation of the Radically Emancipated; the zigzag between text and image through which Antonio Gagliano paraphrases the reluctance to reveal the trick that is at the heart of the dialectics of I Was Not There; and the reflection of reflections involved in the conversation between María Ruido and Pablo Marte on their exchange of views, emotions and stories around their experience of Desire for Witness.

In addition, as a kind of paralipomena, four artists’ books function as an expanded appendix: The Essential is Andrea Gómez’s personal post-project review of the formal research processes and concerns that arose during the process of creating The Abilities; No Touching is a hypertextual overview of the extensive source material that Mireia c. Saladrigues has drawn on so far in her open research for Radically EmancipatedI Ended Up Adding an Image to the Title is Aníbal Parada’s somewhat self-ironic commentary on the meaning of images that once again invokes the narrative distortion that underlies I Was Not Here and Corpses inside the Cavern is a collage-narrative in which the images manipulated by Iván Gómez emerge like mercurial symbolic meanings in a further expression of the infinite possible paths that Desire for Witness puts forward.

Drawing on a range of formal resources of attention and solitude in relation to the spectator, Andrea Gómez, Mireia c. Saladrigues, Aníbal Parada and Iván Gómez have been able to test their own understanding of the notion of audience by exploring their position as artists in relation to it, from the perspective of the art institution. Aware of their own relationship as transmitters to their historical practice of citizenship, they have ventured deep into complementary dialectics: the skill of the individual in his or her practice as audience.

It is impossible to gauge the potential inner stimulus of each visitor in relation to each project. There are those who still believe that art exists and prevails in its intimate relationship to the individual, and in the individual’s relationship to his or her society, and that this is its purpose, beyond the idea of audience as a univocal power that needs to be entertained and quantified as a resource.

What about you – do you agree? I want it to be yes.

Alex Brahim, Cardinal Audiences curator