Nov. 2022
Ruta Xarxaprod 4/5
by Rita Andreu

Maintaining the contradiction

(…) to the extent that art always responds to its environment
(even via negativa), what artist isn’t socially engaged?


To examine the interrelationships that creative production spaces establish and enable between contemporary practice, the audiences they work with and their immediate context, means addressing the very nature and purpose of these structures. We need to ask ourselves, over and over again, who and what do we work for? These questions pose the need for a clear definition; structures specialising in creation and production focus their efforts on facilitating ways, means and optimal conditions to develop processes linked to contemporary practices, distancing themselves – at least, in the first instance – from the results-based imperatives to which other types of structures are bound. Unlike centres that are more oriented towards display or exhibition, creative and production spaces can, to a certain extent, distance themselves from the imperative of public acceptance, in order to address issues that require a certain amount of attention before they can be placed into public circulation.

But no space is an island. And, although the aim is clear, these structures are embedded and operate within the framework of specific public policies and contexts, and are affected by each other reciprocally. Just as it is not the same to operate from a public institution as from a private one – even though the focus of the work may be shared – it is different to work in one context or the other. Understanding that these structures are also defined by the way they inhabit, dialogue and interact with their own contexts also means considering what roles we assign to these other agents and what relationships we want to establish.

Rooted in the narrative of the social shift in relation to contemporary practice, we find ourselves in a situation where we are constantly assessing what artistic practice – and, by extension, culture can (or should) do for society. The responses, as Claire Bishop argues in the book Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship*, rarely tend to consider artistic research and experimentation as values in their own right, but rather understand the practice as a system or a tool that operates within the realm of useful gestures, of modest solutions to specific problems, instead of reasserting the intrinsic value of unique practices that leave an unsettling trace in their wake.

This necessarily implies that the agents involved in cultural production operate from a place of radical trust, both in contemporary practice – understood as a kind of shaping of the sensory regime – and in the capabilities of audiences – the people we are addressing or, according to Michael Warner, those who choose to pay attention to what we are doing – when it comes to interacting.

And, in this sense, if we situate ourselves in the sphere of spaces that centre their activity on artistic creation and production and the relationship they establish with their audiences, the potential of these relations should lie in opening up their processes, in enabling an approximation to the here and now of the projects that are developed in these spaces, in thinking of ways of visiting and bringing these investigations and stages of production closer together, and in generating a space to exchange experiences; in other words, abandoning the idea that these structures should be spaces to generate audiences, to let the audiences experience themselves, so that they can be spaces where things happen, given that these collectivities only exist when they pass through these spaces**.


*Bishop, Claire. Artificial hells: participatory art and politics of spectatorship. Brooklyn: Verso, 2012, p.2
**Conversation with Manuel Segade. As part of the programme Públicos. CA2M.

Text by Rita Andreu in collaboration with GRAF. Rita is a curator, cultural manager and audiovisual film-maker.

This November took place the open days of the Xarxa d’Espais de Producció i Creació de Catalunya (Xarxaprod), during which various member organisations opened their doors, organising activities to make their spaces and contexts known. From GRAF we join in with the production of five GRAF Routes, which on this occasion take the form of reflective texts that focus on different themes linked to the centres of the network, from the point of view of five agents from the arts and other fields: mafe moscoso (treballa en entorns entre escriptura, etnografia i art), Helen Torres (sociòloga, traductora i educadora), Bàrbara Sánchez Barroso (artista, feminista i amant dels llibres), Rita Andreu (comissària, gestora cultural i realitzadora audiovisual) i l’equip GRAF. In each Route we link one of the texts with a group of Xarxaprod spaces, suggesting affinities between them.
Translation of the text by Victoria Macarte