TIZ 5. Phantasmata
No form comes about without its ghost. Like the shadow in relation to its body, the ghost is, from its etymology (phantasma), imagination made visible; an appearance made manifest; a fiction that allows that which exists to be thought of. Like the castle that inhabits the ruin or the peace that inhabits the army, all institutions can be thought of from the phantasmagorias that wander through them.
There is truth to the rumours of spirits in the corridors of the Museo and the rooms of the old hospital remaining today in its exhibition rooms, in the same manner that a work disintegrates in its phases. For instance, the other forms Guernica took on during its process of creation — the pictures that never were — still enchant it, while the very notion of an archive, as an artefact to document a collection, represents a ghost for the Museo. Yet how can performances be collected if by their very nature they leave no trace?
This TIZ reflects on ghostly relationships, the relationships of events with history, of citizens with politics, of inhabitants with the home or of the missing with those still waiting for them. In the month of the dead, we think about mourning and lamenting, memory and forgetting, and forms of presence and disappearance from the unique spectrality which the same idea of a museum imposes upon us.
Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine is a phrase that appears in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, in which people memorise books in an attempt to save them from censorship and political persecution in a dystopian future. Therefore, books can only continue to be visible by not being visible, inhabiting other bodies as ghosts. In this project by Mette Edvardsen, people from different countries memorise books of their choice, and together they form a library collection of “living books” which, at stipulated times, are available to the public in the form of individual encounters from which to recite what has been learned to a visitor.
Meeting point: Nouvel Building, Library and Documentation Centre
If the very nature of performance defies the possibility of leaving a trace, how can works of this type be collected? Or maybe they are destined to be a ghostly presence? This series of lectures and activities with artists, theorists, curators and researchers approaches how performative artistic practices are inserted inside a collection and its institutional framework. Therefore, the aim is to spark debate and collaboration around the theoretical, practical and ethical commitments underlying this act of collecting.
For this edition of Free Unions, the Museo invites Benvenuto Chavajay, a pre-eminent Guatemalan performer with works in the Collection, such as Hombre de maíz (Corn Man, 2019), to perform. Chavajay’s work, self-defined as chunchero, in reference to objects thrown on the ground, is characterised by its strong content of social and political critique, and with a production that includes, along with performance, the masterly use and/or reconfiguration of day-to-day elements from the community to dignify objects. In the artist’s own words: “Everything has a soul; even a plastic bag has meaning. And so there is nothing more to do but recognise, identify, multiply and dignify”.
Sabatini Building, Floor 1, Room 105
Alexandra T. Vázquez, an associate professor from NYU’s Institute of Performing Arts at the Tisch School of the Arts, gives the seminar To See What We Hear. On the one hand, she presents certain ways of incorporating the intuitive revelations that underly thought and writing into research practice and, on the other, explores the sound archive and interview as devices which are able to lead research in fascinating directions. Vázquez will also give a lecture entitled To Hear What We See, where she demonstrates how music is able to create visionary relationships towards and between objects and different forms of expression. Both activities are organised inside the framework of the Juan Antonio Ramírez, devoted to the historiography of art
The Museo presents the fourth edition of ESTUDIO, an annual programme which assembles presentations in different formats, the results of research developed by a series of artists and researchers whose practice is linked, directly or dialogically, to the sphere of choreography and performance. This latest instalment is made up of three performances: Doble muda, by Alejandra Pombo Su, Duet, by Kike García and Fran MM Cabeza de Vaca, and Javiera de la Fuente’s Envioletá / un estudio. It concludes with ESTUDIO IV in Conversation, an encounter organised in the form of dialogues between participating artists and speakers who collaborate in their processes
The work of Beatriz Colomina centres on the crossroads between architecture, the media, advertising, sexuality, art and technology through a theoretical and historical gaze. Colomina is a professor at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, where she is also the founder and director of the Media and Modernity interdisciplinary programme. Some of her publications, for instance Domesticity at War (MIT Press, 2007) and Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (Lars Müller Publishers, 2016), have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Inside the Museo Reina Sofía, still inhabited by the ghosts of its previous conception as a hospital, one of her most recent books, X-Ray Architecture (Lars Müller Publishers, 2019), resonates in its exploration of how medical discourse and its technology have influenced the formation and representation of twentieth-century architecture.
Sabatini Building, Auditorium and online platform
The murders of women accused of being witches, and ordered by civil and ecclesiastical powers from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, live long in the collective memory as a chapter that must be revised. They are at the root of processes of women’s dispossession and defamation which today are still replicated in other global coordinates. This is the argument set forth by feminist historian and activist Silvia Federici in her seminal book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia, 2004), where she expounds the foundational nature of this witch-hunt with respect to capitalist modernity and both its break-up of communal relations and the disciplining of women in order for them to accept their new role: as invisible workers in a production system and the carers of labour. Federici herself participates in the encounter, along with other activists and researchers.
The Museo organises Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning, with a live arts programme which participates in the 40th Autumn Festival of Madrid. The first part features the performance of MONUMENT 0.6: Heterochrony, a stage piece by Hungarian choreographer Eszter Salamon, who creates an imaginary scene between past and present. The work also includes echoes of music archives from Sicily with choreographic impressions inspired by the mummification rituals of the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, presenting a continuum between life and death, a phantasmagorical co-existence, while inventing its own utopian body: a dancing, acoustic body. The performance is followed by a conversation between Eszter Salamon, Isabel de Naverán, Germán Labrador and Alberto Conejero.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on the last working day before the activity. A maximum of 2 per person. Doors open thirty minutes before the activity. Punctuality is required given that entry will not be allowed once the activity is under way
The second part of the Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning programme presents the performance Unending love or love dies, on repeat like it's endless, a choreography by Alex Baczyński-Jenkins which explores relationships between desire, dance, fragmentation, love (understood as communality), mourning and time. Through the gesture, sensuality, relationality and touch, Baczyński-Jenkins’s practice unfurls structures and politics of desire. Relationality is present in the dialogic forms of developing and performing the piece, and in the materials and poetics it invokes. This includes the study of the relationships between feeling and sociability, embodied expression and alienation, the textures of daily experiences and latent queer utopian legacies.
Sabatini Building, Floor 1, Room 102
Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on the last working day before the activity. A maximum of 2 per person. Doors open thirty minutes before the activity. Punctuality is required given that entry will not be allowed once the activity is under way.
Denise Ferreira da Silva is a professor at and director of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and one of the most eminent anti-racist intellectuals in the global academic and artistic sphere. Her book Toward a Global Idea of Race (2007) considers how the notion of racial difference governs the global configuration of power in modernity. In recent times, Ferreira da Silva has published different benchmark manuals for racial and post-colonial theory and history, such as Routredge Handbook of Law, Race, and the Postcolonial (2022) and Routredge Handbook of Indigenous Peoples & the Law (2022). As an artist, she has worked with Arjuna Neuman on the films Serpent Rain (2016) and 4 Waters-Deep Implicancy (2018), and in relational artistic practices such as Poethical Readings and Sensing Salon, in collaboration with Valentina Desideri.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform
The pale, drugged and syphilitic bodies of the bohemian night inhabit the march of the modern city from the shadows. The painting of José Solana crosses through daily life in 1920s and 1930s Spain in a gloomy dialectic represented on spectral faces sitting in cafés, dining areas and at shows. In his work, death traces the Catholic rituals that invoke it and he depicts how excluded layers of society lived. His canvases, like the photographs of José Ortiz Echagüe, open out towards the Tenebrist perception of Spanish reality, uncoiling, on the wounds of modernity, the ghosts of a sinister and irredeemable nation: España Negra (Black Spain).
Sabatini Building, Floor 2
This room shows, alongside Guernica, photographs of the different stages of the work’s execution taken and retouched by Dora Maar. The images grant us a view of how Picasso progressively amended the postures of the personages and removed elements to offer greater compositional clarity. In the final stages, the drawings were filled in, with the initial narrative sense lost and the symbolic weight shared between the protagonists. These photographs, and other original sketches by the artist, show other forms the painting had and could have had and which inhabit it today as a ghostly presence.
Edificio Sabatini, Planta 2
With the defeat of the Axis in 1945, Francoism closed in upon itself, and from that moment Catholic imagery took over the regime’s cultural expression. National Catholicism as an aesthetic placed the question of death at the centre via well-known tropes — Descent, Ascension, the Holy Shroud, the corpse, the wound, the ruin — invoking the idea of Spain resurrecting in search of its origins. The fantasies of the regime were summoned in the works of José Gutiérrez Solana and Aurelio Suárez, where a legacy of the pre-war avant-garde was reflected from its connection to popular culture through paintings inhabiting the minutiae of daily life.
Sabatini Building, Floor 4
Pauline Boudry (Switzerland, 1972) and Renate Lorenz (Germany, 1963) have worked together in Berlin since 2007, focusing their concerns on a revision of cultural inheritance, conventions around the spectator, gender discourse and, above all, queer theory. Their artistic production questions the normativity of historical narratives, often revisiting materials from a bygone era to recover marginalised or ignored readings. In this project, the Palacio de Cristal becomes the perfect context to dissolve the transparency inherent in the building, which seeks opaqueness before its own historical legacy. The exploration of ghostly visuality also entails a reflection around the continuity of these footprints of violence in the contemporary world.
Retiro Park, Palacio de Cristal
Burning Torch! joins this TIZ encounter to light up the secret corners of the Museo, inhabited by magical creatures such as spirits, angels, ghosts and imaginary animals. Across these two months, and in dialogue with the Royal Theatre, the Museo explores the traces left by certain invisible presences in the building, playing with the disappearance of impossible reflections and invoking magic in secluded underground spaces.
To exorcise the self-fulfilling prophecy which forces us to have little hope of a better future, the Argentinian publisher Caja Negra invites a group of historians, theorists and artists to conduct a series of four podcasts on the critical and cultural legacy of Mark Fisher. His death in 2017 further fuelled the caustic view of how neoliberalism manufactures objective and subjective conditions of a reality tailor-made from the cycle of exploitation, accumulation and profit. Moreover, the remains of his critical theory abound and enjoy new lives beyond death.