Living Matter

Other Approaches to Material

30 May - 29 June 2024 - Check programme
James Lee Byars, The Tomb of James Lee Byars, 1986 © The Estate of James Lee Byars. Courtesy by Michael Werner Gallery, Nueva York, Londres and Berlín
James Lee Byars, The Tomb of James Lee Byars, 1986 © The Estate of James Lee Byars. Courtesy by Michael Werner Gallery, Nueva York, Londres and Berlín
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía

This public programme explores, via lectures, drifts, encounters and performances throughout the month of June, one of the main strands in the Museo Reina Sofía’s temporary exhibition season: the return of materiality. The exhibitions Antoni Tàpies. The Practice of Art, James Lee Byars. Perfect Is the Question and Eva Lootz. Making as if Wondering: So What Is This? all share references to the affective, speculative and spiritual capacity of matter.

At a time of digital overload in every sphere of our lives, matter has become central to new thinking around the human and our changing relationship with the inanimate natural world. The contemporary fascination with the materic reveals the need to once again perceive from the physical and the tangible, the real and the sensorial, and, at the same time, it connects with a series of mystical and spiritual interpretations with which to confront the dualism between the living and inert world. Such examples are esoterism and alchemy, pivotal in James Lee Byars’ oeuvre; Eastern philosophy, a core part of Antoni Tàpies’ work; and the cosmogeny of Indigenous peoples, protagonists in the work of Eva Lootz. This same reflection is related to the present with “new materialisms”, a school of contemporary philosophy that champions an ontology based on this same expanded concept of matter.   

The programme includes two performance tours through the James Lee Byars show, conducted by artists Laura Mema and curator Claudia Rodríguez-Ponga, specialists in the relationships between art, matter and spirituality; a Zen session in the galleries of the Antoni Tàpies exhibition, led by artist and calligrapher María Eugenia Manrique and Zen master Pedro Taiho Secorún; a lecture by artist and philosopher Ignacio Gómez de Liaño on Hermetism and spirituality in modern philosophy; and, finally, a day of reactivating the performances of James Lee Byars, culminating in an action based on the text Acaeció en Granada by Miguel Benlloch, who had a unique relationship with Byars. 


Ignacio Gómez de Liaño is a writer, philosopher, translator, university lecturer and experimental poet. He was a founding member of the Cooperative of Artistic and Artisan Production, an epicentre of experimental poetry in Spain in the 1960s, and participated as the coordinator of the Seminar on the Automated Generation of Plastic Forms at the Computing Centre of Madrid, a pioneering international computer-generated art group. Notable among his broad number of publications are Los juegos del Sacromonte (Editora Nacional, 1975), La kabbala cristiana del Renacimiento (Taurus, 1979), Mundo, magia, memoria: selección de textos sobre Giordano Bruno (Taurus, 1987), El círculo de la sabiduría: diagramas del conocimiento en el mitraísmo, el gnosticismo, el cristianismo y el maniqueísmo (Siruela, 1998), El círculo de la sabiduría II: Los mandalas del budismo tántrico (Siruela, 1998) and Athanasius Kircher: itinerario del éxtasis o las imágenes de un saber universal (Siruela, 2001). He was the subject of the monographic show Ignacio Gómez de Liaño. Forsaking Writing held in the Museo Reina Sofía in 2019.   

Laura Mema is an Argentinian artist and researcher who is based in Madrid. Her work relates different fields of nature and explores the link between living beings, translating energy and sound landscapes into matter. Moreover, she shifted her research over to the sphere of education with the project AMANCIA, in which she runs workshops on sacred and cymatic geometry at the School of Asiri Methodology in Ibiza. Since 2021, she has worked on editing the book Sonic Geometry at MACBA’s Research and Documentation Centre.  

María Eugenia Manrique is an artist and calligrapher. With a degree in Fine Arts, she is a specialist in traditional painting and calligraphy in China, and trained at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her calligraphic practice has been awarded with the Bronce Price from the Osaka International Triennale (Japan, 1990) and the Sumi-e Grand Award for Eastern Painting, from the Anshan Museum (China, 2014), among others. She is the author of different books on Eastern painting and calligraphy, such as Caligrafía zen. Método y arte del Sumi-e (Editorial Kairós, 2006) and Mano de mujer. Método y arte de la caligrafía japonesa (Editorial Kairós, 2024), and is a Zen practitioner at the Centro Zen Barcelona.  

Claudia Rodríguez-Ponga is a contemporary art curator and lecturer at Nebrija University, IE University, Escuela SUR (Círculo de Bellas Artes) and the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). She explores the relationships between magical thought and contemporary art and has curated an array of exhibitions, including those devoted to Débora Bolsoni (Galeria Athena, Paris, 2017), Sara Ramo (Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid, 2019), Valeria Maculan (OTR Espacio de Arte, Madrid, 2023), Eva Lootz (Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid, 2024) and, with Alexis Callado, the show centred on Clara Carvajal (Centro Párraga de Murcia, 2024), to mention a few. She has also published essays in Revista Concreta, Revista de Occidente and Revista Re-visiones.

Pedro Taiho Secorún is a Zen master and the founder of Centro Zen Barcelona, a pioneering centre in Zen practice in Spain since 1979. A spiritual leader of Zen Bodaishin (the Spirit of Awakening), he has devoted his career to disseminating and teaching Zen Buddhism.


Laura Mema, Vibration as Territory, performance and objets, 2023. ©Fabián Ramos
Actividad pasada Thursday, 30 May and 6 June 2024 - 6pm
Link of Links. Sacred Codes
A Tour in Dialogue with the Work of James Lee Byars

— Conducted by Laura Mena and Claudia Rodríguez-Ponga

The set of beliefs called “magic” in Western history is a long way from being eradicated by science and remains present in today’s society. Yet the division of knowledge into enclosed areas and faith in the progress of modernity have hindered an analysis of the networks of flows in which we are immersed (magnetic, auratic, energy, quantum). 

The artist Laura Mema and curator and teacher Claudia Rodríguez-Ponga put forward a tour through the James Lee Byars exhibition, which is centred on magical thought, characterised by its capacity to discern links between dissimilar objects and assume the world from the said articulation of flows. 

Retiro Park, Palacio de Velázquez

20 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior registration via email by writing to until 25 May (encounter on 30 May) and until 1 June (encounter on 6 June), stating personal details (name and surname)

María Eugenia Manrique, Body, drawing, 2024
Actividad pasada Friday, 14 June 2024 - 7pm
Zen Session Drawing from Tàpies

— Conducted by María Eugenia Manrique and Pedro Taiho Secorún

Artist and calligrapher María Eugenia Manrique and Zen master Pedro Taiho Secorún conduct a live Zen session and calligraphic activation in the rooms of the Antoni Tàpies exhibition.

Zen brings together the major concerns of the Catalan artist: an interest in Eastern, non-rationalist wisdom and the search for the void through elemental matter. The activity seeks to turn the Museo into a space of reflection and to offer an understanding of Tàpies’ painting as a path towards meditation, whereby the roundness and symbolism of matter lead towards an ethics and aesthetic of silence and dispossession.

Sabatini Building, Floor 4

40 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior registration via email

Sold out

Giordano Bruno, De imaginum signorum et idearum compositione, drawing, 1591
Actividad pasada Wednesday, 26 June 2024 - 7pm

— By Ignacio Gómez de Liaño

In this lecture, philosopher Ignacio Gómez de Liaño posits a Hermetic and spiritual reading of the Renaissance, a period traditionally considered to be the origin of the prevalence of science and logic over ancestral and mystical knowledge. 

However, the Renaissance breathed new life into Platonic philosophy, with Marsilio Ficino’s translation in the fifteenth century of the works of Plotinus and those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. In the sixteenth century, Giordano Bruno was the heir to this neo-Platonic-Hermetic renewal, radically shifting it upon conceiving of matter as an animate and intellectual being. And Bruno went further still: in his art of memory, he transformed the matter-idea into geometric structures in accordance with the tradition of diagrams used by Gnostics and Manichaeists from the second and third centuries CE, in addition to Buddhist mandalas. 

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

200 people


Free, until full capacity is reached. Tickets may be collected at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 24 June (a maximum of 2 per person). 20% of the visitor-capacity will be reserved for attendance without ticket collection on the day of the activity. Doors open 30 minutes before the lecture

Re-staging the performances of James Lee Byars in the Palacio de Velázquez, Madrid, 2024. Photograph: David Serrano

Retiro Park, Palacio de Velázquez

150 people


Free, until full capacity is reached