On a chartered flight above the shade, clouds filter a sunny sky above the region of Murcia in Southern Spain. As part of the ARCO Madrid 2010 Contemporary Art Fair VIP program, a group of collectors, curators and a handful of artists spent 24 hours visiting this emerging contemporary art mecca on a chilly weekend in late February 2010. Devoid of the pomp and circumstance of big city art capitals and audiences, the ordinary landscape, small urbanity, and laid back energy of the region, create a stripped down environment for viewing art that requires genuine engagement devoid of distractions.
The region is host to Manifesta 8, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art that highlights the region of Murcia in dialogue with northern Africa from February 10, 2010 through September 2, 2011.
Concurrently, the Proyecto de Arte Contemporáneo Murcia, founded in 2008, invited world class curator, Cuauhtémoc Medina (based in Mexico City), to develop its 2010 edition, entitled Dominó Caníbal. Medina’s vision engages a collective approach whereby a succession of artists will base their work on the work of preceding artists within a single venue as part of a 12 month exhibition addressing the links between colonization, post-colonialism and capitalist globalization.
The lead artist, Jimmie Durham, opened the exhibition in January 2010 with a conceptual collection of artifacts, debris and graffiti from the surrounding city that speaks loudly in contrast to the traditional Sala Verónicas space, a former convent, where the exhibition is housed. What appears perhaps simple to some viewers is actually quite subversive in its visual/textual language, and may speak more to a cultural clash familiar to those who walk in a double consciousness daily. Durham appears to invert insider/outsider status, making outsider discourse visible in an insider space, but perhaps only comprehensive to a few. A subtle power play in a contemporary art context.
Also in the area, a 20-minute drive from downtown Murcia, is La Conservera, opened in 2009 and currently in its third set of exhibitions. Installed in 4 distinctly different exhibition spaces are 4 individual shows loosely organized around a theme that changes every few months and features leading contemporary artists.
A current standout is the exhibition in Space 3 by Manu Muniategiandicoetxea, Night Flight. Referencing formalized space, structures and reinterpreting forms by artists like Rodchenko and Oteiza, the work and its perfectly lit, black walled exhibition space, also bring to mind the form, light, shadow and reflective qualities of the cosmos and the planet Saturn in particular.
Previously exhibited artists include Mickalene Thomas and Marilyn Minter who exhibited under the theme of women, and upcoming artists include William Cordova under the theme of music and performance.
Located in the town of Ceutía, within a renovated can factory that was once the epicenter of a vibrant local economy, where men worked the fields and women worked the factories, the site sits on a sparse landscape amidst quaintly aging architecture creating a spaciousness of mind. A fine and relaxing compliment to the viewing of new works in contemporary art created especially for the La Conservera spaces under the guidance of Artistic Director, Pablo del Val. Another La Conservera space in downtown Murcia links the two locations in a visual dialogue through its presentation of one-person exhibitions, creating an unexpectedly personalized engagement with altering landscapes, sensibilities, and art, just a short plane ride from Madrid.
-Diana McClure, guest writer for DaWire
Diana McClure is a contemporary artist who has worked for over 10 years in both New York and Los Angeles in photography, experimental writing, mixed media and web based projects. In 2009 she was a member of the 2009 Curatorial Committee for PhotoMiami, the international contemporary art fair for photo-based art, video & new media, and wrote the Living Arts column for the NewYorkTimes.com/LOCAL as part of a New York Times experimental project on hyperlocal and collaborative journalism. Diana has also written for Art Asia Pacific and The Studio Museum in Harlemmagazine among others. She has received grants/fellowships from The New School for Social Research and The Mellon Foundation. Her fine art photography has appeared in The Philadelphia African American Museum, The Los Angeles Times, Judy Chicago’s Envisioning the Future project and NYMAG.com. In 2007 she founded Cultureserve.net, a global art + culture news website that was a 2008 Finalist for a Creative Capital l Warhol Foundation – Arts Writers Grant. Cultureserve positions women artists, street art and artists working in an international context in a larger dialogue that challenges assumptions about global art. Diana holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA from The New School, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Text and photos by Diana McClure