Florentino Díaz at the Matadero

https://player.vimeo.com/video/133094369 (interview with Florentino Díaz in Spanish with images of installation)

http://www.mataderomadrid.org/ficha/4502/europe:-winter-arcades.html  (Matadero webpage in English)


In Abierto por Obras in the Matadero – (Open for works – the Slaughterhouse), Madrid (Winter Arcade)

Installation of a barack style (arcade) space made using old madrileño doors – up to 150 years old. Curious space given that it is raining when it is 40º outside. Luckily the Matadero keeps this space open until 10pm as its so hot outside. This is one of my favorite ‘gallery’ spaces. It was like a fridge where they kept the dead animals before sending they went off to the butchers or other meat makers and seller. It is ground level but feels like underground. Díaz’s installation occupies a relatively small space within the space and has a wintery shanty town look with all the doors. I spend some time looking at the variety of doors – so many that we have rejected and replaced with ugly new ones. Inside there are corridors and 3 spaces with slide shows of the photos from the albums showing as loops. All three appear to be unedited but its difficult to know for certain. The zeppelin one has some amazing ariel views and a more ‘distanced’ relationship. The travelers one from 1930s and the french one are obviously more intimate and the french one draws you in more. However I find it interesting that they are so as found and there is no intervention. Quite a restrained act to just leave them as they are – found albums in their entirety. I can’t help feeling they could have been edited – fewer images – or mixed with others.

I haven’t read the Walter Benjamin unfinished book ‘Winter Arcades’ in which he apparently begins to doubt utopian dreams – as I imagine he was trying to flee to US. The unfulfilled promises of the early 20th Century still weigh hard on us – For my generation the great advances of the second half of the 20th century being unpicked and deconstructed. Those doors are so much more beautiful than most doors we are producing now and having gone looking for a carpenter I can confirm there aren’t any left in a village where there were at least 3 in 2004. I don’t know if I should be fed up with dystopian work but I am not – I like the reminder of the unreliability of sources (because undoubtedly it relates to what I am doing). The construction worked really well although I did find myself looking at how the rain was created which is totally irrelevant to the idea and the feelings it produces. For me the combination of the doors worked really well. I am so overwhelmingly jealous of being able to use that space.



experimentation with found objects

FullSizeRender       FullSizeRender (1)


continuing to work with tools and equipment from disappearing skilled trades – also making the objects disappear literally under layers -separatedness of history.

IMG_0311         DSC_0034

this is my piece of tarmac from Clarence road also lost to me

IMG_0314      DSC_0029


stolen piece of artwork from Ciempozuelos

Importance of collaboration with local people

This article was really interesting for me not only as it deals with local collaboration but also the artwork they are protesting about is by a group known as NLE (no longer empty) which uses abandoned buildings. according to the article the group were engaging with the local community but are coming up against some serious long term issues. From this article it is difficult to judge how serious the collaboration actually was and suggests that the protestors were justified in being indignant. The building a courthouse disused for over 35 years had been contested for a long time within the local community and although the NLE is a non profit group they were themselves it seems being used for some kind of real estate game. This is just one blog’s viewpoint but given the information here it is hard not to be skeptical. It appears that art (and furthermore community based art) is being used to boost the local economy and the locals are at risk of being excluded. Its a tricky question as artists tend to be a trigger for this type of gentrification. We tend to move to cheap areas to live and make work as we are not generally high earners. We hope to have a positive effect on the environment, we open studios, galleries, and if this is successful the neighborhood becomes fashionable and the prices go up. The Bronx could be East London, East Berlin or any of those places which were cheap and are now too expensive for ordinary people or artists to live in. I don’t have a solution. I lived in Hackney in the 1990s and my neighborhood in Madrid is definitely positively influenced by artists – although maybe the economic crisis has saved it somewhat.

nos quedamos

Whatever way it serves as a reminder or how you work with other people’s stories. One thing from the top of my head is to involve people literally in making or showing the work in some way. Even not for profit organisations pay out for some work. Is that money going to locals? As artists we tend to be drawn to more interesting areas we must maintain sight of what it is that interests us.

protest on opening night

video of opening

La Corrala

outside       through gate

I went to visit La Corrala this morning and found out about the process of exhibiting. I then had to call for more information. Unfortunately they say it is impossible to exhibit in the patio which is what I really wanted to do. They also say the downstairs gallery is pretty booked for next year. What I need to decide is what proposal to present. I need to decide what I really want to do (as opposed to what might be ‘safe’, a ‘good idea’ or what I expect them to want). My original plan was to make an installation in the patio of fabrics – like sheets or clean washing – painted with images of madrid from when the corralas were full of life as people came to the city from the countryside looking for work and more ‘freedom’. I wanted to investigate this change in society and try to reflect on it. The downstairs exhibition space is well renovated and includes original beams and a variety of small spaces. I have visited before but it is currently closed so no photos for the blog. This space is less interesting and I am also considering alternatives. However, I would like to make a proposal of some sort as this is literally in my street and will at some point be available. I am also starting to feel bad as during the first year of the MA I didn’t exhibit at all and I both want to exhibit and be able to reply to that question.

One of the best experiences of the last year was the exploratory project and that was because I decided off the top of my head to write a proposal of something I really wanted to do. Of course in spite of the seeming spontaneity I had spent months thinking about what my practice was and audiences etc so it was spontaneity arising from reflection and thinking. I also decided in doing the MA that I have always made art and if I am continue for the rest of my life I should try and make it meaningful and not dependent on expectations. As decision making is so stressful and time limited I need to hone it to my criteria.

I could present 2 proposals including a photoshopped patio (and just ignore that I know this is ‘prohibited’.

:casa_di_ringhiera   images

A typical Corrala

The Museum of Popular Arts (UAM) Madrid

patio 3    patio 2

patio   patio 4

As you can see the building is renovated and there are wires and cables for the sun shades they sometimes pull across when they use the patio for events. Proof in fact that the space has in fact been used for concerts or markets in the past. My idea was to use this space. The main consideration in presenting for the downstairs gallery is whether to relate the work to the idea of the corrala or document my previous work or something else? I feel it should be related but it loses a lot downstairs.

through entrance    patio with hangings




In some ways these videos made on my phone are more successful that the ones I made using a DSLR – the video camera has disappeared. Because of the floor it was impossible to use a makeshift dolly and a tripod so I was holding the camera by hand and although I was doing so from underneath not the lens it was still quite shakey. I also moved too quickly at times as it was heavy and uncomfortable that way. My phone being a lot lighter was far more comfortable. It is difficult to transfer longer segments from the phone so I have included 3 relatively short ones here.


What I liked about this segment is the way the sheet moves in the wind and managing to capture this, I think I could slow it down if I could import it into imovie.


This is a movement from a group of men via the same sheet as before to a group of women workers I was quite pleased witht eh sheet as I caught it as I went past from good angles. Being able to see the drawing, if not the subject, adds to this. There is also an interesting contrast with the wall work and we end with someone else’s wheat paste.


Here we see practically the whole space rather too quickly. I needed to slow down. It is also unusually calm and there is much less noise than in the previous recordings. There is also the issue of the lighting and I am not sure how this can be helped  with the strong sunlight outside when I pass windows, the camera automatically compensates. At times this works quite we but at others things I want to be seen remain invisible.

This afternoon I saw ‘The way things go’ The Fischli and Weiss video on you tube. I wanted to see how they documented their work and remembered it as being in this type of room.  Of course it is very different, apart from being focused on carefully controlled movement the light is also controlled and they have some kind of a dolly. They also have a whole crew. Still the pacing in my case is something I need to think about and although I don’t have a dolly I can cut and make shorter segments and edit them. I really like the sounds in their video and when I managed to get this in mine.

documentation and relics

At the site I have been looking for ways to document the project. I am planning to go back and film and make sound recordings when I have my friends car on Friday. If I can find someone to come along as audience even better. In addition to attempting to show what the experience of the site is like I also like the idea of bringing back things I find and playing with them in some way. The spaces are pretty empty as one can see in the photos so I have been looking at the garbage and thinking what to do with it.

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The graffiti artists leave spray cans behind they are in a variety of conditions this one is well oxidized and reminds me of a similar relic I have of the 2011 London Riots (Clarence Road, Hackney). I have used the one from the riots for printing but I also really respond to the object as historical text which in some way holds its experience. It is a found object but one which is chosen for its history and that gives it a special quality for me.

DSC_0023  I placed the two together. Of course the Ciempozuelos can is totally removed from the story of the workers or inhabitants of the space and is about the present or recent past. The Hackney can is about what happened on a very specific date from Summer 2011. They both however form a type of evidence about the places, both public and both relating to issues of (il)legality. Why are these objects significant or are they any different from any other rusty can.

IMG_0269 (2)     IMG_0271    DSC_0034 

In the workshops there are chunks of building materials that were the walls like the ones I am painting on lying on the floor. These are made of brick, plaster and paint. This is literally the fabric of the building falling away. On the right is a piece of tarmac from Clarence Road, Hackney, also found the day after the riots. Here the materials are both literally part of the built infrastructure. Things which are constructed by people and are either in the process of decay (in the London case aided by disturbance). Both sites are contested and could be said to have been abandoned, they are both in a way liminal and unclearly defined. Both are possibly controlled from outside the law. These man made rocks seem to have an almost archeological function and appear a bit like specimens.

For me they contain an almost magic significance. They are pieces of incredibly common substances displaced and collected because of their location and I removed them from it but had they been the same objects somewhere else I would not have even considered doing this. One could say I picked up  the walls of the workshop because of the project, there is no such excuse for the tarmac. I was not consciously trying to document anything.


DSC_0029  IMG_0002  This is one final object for the museum vitrine. The artist who made the white sculptures left one of them on the floor so I stole it for my museum. I was pretty sure that this one was not a part of the piece as all the others were stuck down and this one was quite far away. I may be going at a complete tangent to how the world would expect documentation to be. I must record the space and show what I actually made there I realise this but this slight digression was so much fun and I love collecting ‘significant’ objects as can be seen in the 2011 photos. I also wonder how they could complement the ‘story’ in a gallery space.

More experiments on card


I have tried drawing the iron workers tools and forge from drawings – the tools are related to those once used in the workshops. They act a little like the animals, another form of livelihood in the times of the building. The diagramatic and codified nature of the drawings appealed to me and suggests I could continue with the cataloguing of the trades represented in the space.

forge PG

Although this is also on recycled cardboard I would like to try this on the wall as well. I want to experiment with addition of the tools in different ways. Also I like the idea of the categories and how this relates to work. The tools for example are varied and since starting this project I have realised that overall this space included work that has largely disappeared and has been replaced by a completely different means of production. It might also be good to bear in mind that in Spain the industrial revolution was far later than in Northern Europe and that rights to common land also remained longer. In many ways Spain would therefore have been viewed as backward, however, in the case of this type of work and some aspects of relationship to the land etc this could be viewed as positive.

Why site specific?

I need to reflect on why I currently find this more meaningful than placing work in a gallery. I would also like to find a meaningful way of exhibiting the work in gallery or other more accessible places. Part of this question might be down to my own preference as a viewer for visiting these spaces – The galleries nearby that I prefer to visit are the once which have been recycled in terms of function. For example the ‘matadero’ formally a slaughterhouse and the Tabacalera – the cigarette factory. But what do these spaces offer and what is missing in a typical gallery? For example both the Caixa Forum and the Tate Modern (Herzog and de Meuron recycled buildings) have lost that sense of a place and been converted into ‘gallery’ space – with the exception I think with the turbine hall and underground spaces at the Tate.

The Bankside powerstation

A major consideration for me is the fact that the work becomes a part of the place and not a separate entity. What Caroline called public art without the capitals. There is also the notion that it needs to be discovered and that it isn’t somewhere prescribed to visit. The audience is less likely to be on a prescribed art trail and is unknown to me: there is no explanation, no written text and the audience can respond by painting over it or ignoring it. It is totally outside the art world unless I document it and disseminate that documentation. We return to our debate on the asynchronous seminar about labelling and the Mary Kelly crits where the maker is not allowed to speak. If we encounter the work in this way we respond to it directly. There is no parallel discourse.

There is also the loss of the object of painting. There is no commodity, no ownership and possibly no future for the work. Arguably the work is about loss and fulfills a kind of ‘memorial function’. Now that there are other artists working there, and we could say with the graffiti artists there always were long before i arrived, the space will continue to change. There is an unknown ownership/legal status of the building.

The physical act of painting in this way is very different to working in the studio. I did make the cardboard animals on the making day and the hangings also in the studio but the act of painting directly on the wall I have found really energising and the fact that your marks are impossible to erase and the proportions difficult to control has allowed me to let go of and work in a freer way. The wall figures therefore have acquired new types of distortions and unfamiliarity.

IMG_0236This is a new one I started last Sunday.

New Additions

IMG_0002       new addtions

Today I went back to Ciempozuelos dreading that either the building might be boarded up or that my work might have been destroyed. I wasn’t so worried about some adaptation to the work – like a dialogue but if the whole thing were destroyed it would mean remaking something in order to experiment with documentation. However completely unexpectedly I found some new interventions. first the sculptural forms invading one of the windows. These are made with plaster and are like small creatures or growths. The way they are crawling either through or out of the broken window is really effective. This far wall is a real combination of works  the original graffiti alongside my painting and the sculptures – I am excited by the way all these are left to coexist in this ‘abandoned’ space.

new addtions 5:7

What I found really compelling about these new additions is that I didn’t immediately notice them. They sort of blend in with the space as I was hoping my work would. I cannot know whether I would have noticed my own paintings so quickly but I really enjoyed discovering the work. The Fabric hangings are obviously not so subtle you notice them immediately.

The second new thing took me much longer to discover. This was a lino (or wood?) cut on brown kraft paper wheat pasted on to the wall over some (random?) spraying. It therefore also made a connection to the room.

IMG_0015         new additions 5th july

As you can see there is another space or room directly behind but the authors of this work chose to use the room I had started using which is the only one in the workshops with work other than graffiti in it. Now there are 3 of us in addition to the graffiti artists. I am assuming that the work is by two different people here although obviously it could be the same person. This reminded me of a drawing exercise where you all start making an observational drawing and then after a specified time everyone moves around to the next space and continues working on their neighbor’s work. This is not the same thing as the work is independent and we appear to have established rules, for now, which is you do not put your work on top of anyone else’s work. I wonder if anyone else has met anyone else or if we are all completely anonymous. I find this unknowness of the authors very appealing as it means the work is the work. It reminds me of the Mary Kelly crits where the maker is not allowed to speak.