escenas discursivas
Research on critical discourses on the contemporary performing arts scene in Madrid
by Ana Vujanovic, buy more about
Marta Popivoda – TkH: Walking Theory platform, sale
Matadero – El Ranchito, approved
April 2011


Short intro

We are not experts who come to Madrid to explore its scene, nor we approach it as an exotic tribe. We define ourselves as ‘aliens’ to the scene, who are theoretically-politically laden. Thus, we could hopefully give a challenging insight into the scene, being outside its circles, clans, and doxa. On the other hand, we see this research as a tool to re-think our own context and scene.

Before we came, we had known a few people active at the scene: Catarina Saraiva, Juan Dominguez, Victoria Perez Royo, and Isabel de Naveran. So, the first phase of the research comprises working sessions with them in order for us to get know about the scene from their subjective perspectives. Departing from the diagrams made during the sessions, we make interviews about the key concepts and questions with several artists, theoreticians, and programmers (Juan Dominguez, Cuqui Jerez, Victoria Perez Royo, Natalia …, Maral Kekeijan, Jaime Conde Salazar, Paz Rojo, Amalia Fernandez, Carlos Marquerie, and Oscar Cornago). During this phase, we also try to indicate connections between the notions and concepts that appear, but don’t try to evaluate them. This rhizomatic net of interviews, together with our diagrams would rather stay one of the possible images of the scene, created at the inter-section of how the scene sees itself and how we could reflect it and give it back to its actors through our lens.

The story of the research

In December 2011, Catarina Saraiva invited us to have a research residency within Matadero’s project El Rachito, and she also suggested us to collaborate with ARTEA research group, with whom we seemingly share similar concerns and approaches to performing arts.

We accepted the invitation, and also the suggestion, since we had already collaborated with ARTEA and found this a good opportunity to develop this collaboration. On the other hand, we have been thinking what we could offer to the performing arts scene in Madrid, and how we could think this context on our way, trying not to be only privileged free floating nomads (artists or theoreticians) who move from place to place and keep a transcendental position within the Artworld. Therefore, we proposed to carry out a brief research on critical discourses that operate on the contemporary performing arts scene in Madrid, as it, on the one hand, could be an useful insight for the scene, and on the other, is one of the central concerns of the Walking Theory platform in Belgrade and the other contexts where we are active (especially in Paris, through our project How to do things with theory in les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers).

And at the very moment of decision, numerous problems and questions arise, so what we are actually doing now in Madrid is both carrying our the research and reflect our own position and approach to it.

Step 1 – Aliens: Thinking our own position, we define ourselves as ‘aliens’ to the scene. It indicates that we are not the experts nor insiders, but colleagues who come from outside and have no knowledge about the scene in Madrid. It is a challenge to us, and we understand our ignorance as curiosity, not incompetence. On the other hand, we believe that as aliens we could give a relevant insight into the scene, as we are outside all the circles, clans, and doxa that operate and shape the scene. For us, there is no common sense or unquestionable truisms about the scene in Madrid.

Step 2 – Gates: From our experience of working on the international scene, we know a few people who are active at the scene in Madrid: Catarina Saraiva, Juan Dominguez, Victoria Perez Royo, and Isabel de Naveran. Interestingly enough, they are either not from Madrid (Catarina is from Lisbon, Isabel from Bilbao), or they live here only partially (Juan and Victoria live between Madrid and Berlin). It seems symptomatic, but we still don’t understand what this fact says about the scene. Anyway, we have decided to organize firstly working sessions with them in order to get know more about the scene, its actors, and critical discourses from their subjective perspectives. We comprehend these talks as our gates to the scene and the central problematics, which route us to the other important actors and agencies. During the sessions, we make notes, and try to re-create the image of the scene as it appears after each of the sessions through diagrams.

Step 3 – Rhizomatic interviews: Departing from the diagrams, we make interviews with the artists, theoreticians, and programmers, who appear as important actors of the scene, especially in the sense of creating / generating critical discourses. Those are: Juan Dominguez (choreographer; apart from this own performance, the topics include IN-Presentable festival and El Club), Cuqui Jerez (choreographer; the topics include her performances and theneverendingstory group), Victoria Perez Royo (theoretician; apart from her theoretical discourse, the topics comprise Master en practicas escenicas y cultura visual; ARTEA, Archivo virtual de artes escénicas; and Cairón magazin), Natalia … (responsible for performing arts and lecturing program in Museo Reina Sofia), Maral Kekeijan (programmer in La Casa Encendida – producer of IN-Presentable festival, also a member of El Club), Jaime Conde Salazar (theoretician, Continuum blog), Paz Rojo (choreographer; initiator of a research group on performance practice), Amalia Fernandez (choreographer), Carlos Marquerie (theatre director; direcor of Teatro Pradillo), and Oscar Cornago (theatre theoretician). Because of the tight time-frame, we should limit the list to 10 persons, but the following persons also appear as relevant interlocutors: Javier Garcia Yague (Cuarta Pared, festival Escena Contemporanea), Monica Valenciano, Elena Córdoba, Rodrigo Garcia, someone from Sala Triangulo, and much more. Jose Antonio Sanchez seems a must, but unfortunately he is in London during our stay in Madrid, so we’ll try to shape his voice through how he resonates in the words of the others.

While interviewing them, we will try to realize and to indicate some connections between the aspects, discourses, and concepts that appear in the talks. However, we won’t try to make final conclusions. This rhizomatic net of the interviews, together with our diagrams would rather stay one of the possible images of the scene and it’s critical discourses, that might inspire, challenge, or at least irritate someone to improve its weak points or to develop further those that seem potential and promising.


What is El Ranchito?

El Ranchito is a cultural research project. Promoted by Matadero Madrid in collaboration with other artistic stakeholders of the city, it has a division for reflection, an artist-in-residence programme, a division for presenting to the public and a satellite programme of activities.

El Ranchito works under the following parameters: the collective production of meaning, cross-disciplinary work, site-specific work, experimentation, the construction of an emotional community, reflection from the place where work is done, emergency situations, process-related aspects and the resource economy.


El Ranchito’s lines of action

  • Cross-disciplinary work. Echoing a context of permanent cross-influence among disciplines (interdisciplinary nature) in which many artists work in the interstices between the plastic and performing arts, design and architecture, and even other forms of knowledge such as biology, physics or philosophy.
  • Experimentation. Like any research project, trial and error is relied on as a method for learning about and exploring new territories for art.
  • Site-specific artistic creation. Promoting the specific production of projects for a concrete space that responds to a certain context (physical, geopolitical or social).
  • The collective production of meaning. Proposing and developing collective and inclusive research that anybody can peruse and contribute to through different calls and devices.
  • The construction of an (emotional) community. Sharing the idea that philosophy, thought or creativity can promote the building of a community of like-minded individuals with a sense of fraternity, based on the thinking of philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben and Aristotle himself.
  • Emergency situations. Giving special attention to the peripheral areas of art but also to those in the “folds”, meaning those artists or forms of artistic creation that do not occupy centre stage in the artistic scene.
  • Process-related aspects. Understanding artistic creation as a work sustained through time in which different phases of the process are as important as the final result.
  • The resource economy. Working in the current context, which is conditioned by an economic crisis and humankind’s indiscriminate use of resources, to consider concern for minimising the environmental impact of the proposals and/or help to think about the same.

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