MAKING TIME: Ferran Barenblit

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the symposium MAKING TIME: Art Across Gallery, Screen, and Stage taking place from April 19-21, 2012. Participants have been invited to respond to the prompt “what does the phrase ‘time-based art’ mean to you?” in advance of the event. This posting is by Ferran Barenblit, Director of the CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in Madrid.
I have been using the concept expanded event for some years as a way to refer to time-based art. With this concept I have referred to those works, mostly shown in exhibitions, which experiment with some kind of change during the time they stay on view to the public.
For the last two centuries the main form of relationship between art and public has been the exhibition: the setting out of works of art in a public space—the museum or gallery—to which visitors are allowed access. For decades that model has been undergoing reformulation thanks to the questioning of the social roles of art, the role of the art institutions and their position in relation to the market. Since the 1960s, these ideas have taken shape in works that in many cases are impossible to present in an exhibition space, such as Land Art, Actionism or certain conceptual practices. In due course museology itself would adapt to these challenges, designing mechanisms with which to incorporate these works into their collections.
Forty years on, this type of practice has evolved in the context of a society that is increasingly linked to the communications media and entertainment. The expanded event is the intuitive response: exhibitions in which the visitor’s experience is still paramount, and which apply the new logics of leisure culture and the event.
As a sample of what an expanded event is, I will mention a project I did in 2005 with Barcelona-based artist Martí Anson. The project was entitled Fitzcarraldo, 55 days working on the construction of a Stella 34 yacht in the CASM. What the visitor encountered was exactly that: the artist himself working alone in the construction of a 33-foot sailing yacht. The choice of a ship was all but naïve: it was the bigger object that could make sense to take as a valued art object after the exhibition. He did very well (he is a good craftsman) and almost finished the ship in the 55 working days that the show lasted. He worked 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, while the museum had different opening times. However, as planned, the yacht never left the museum: it was 3 inches wider than the venue’s biggest access. Thus, it was quickly destroyed the day after the show was finished.
The expanded event is configured as a way of developing these ideas by generating multiple readings, some of which enter into contradiction with one another. It takes a critical approach to many of the practices that are put forward as established norms in contemporary art. It obliges the ‘art institution’ to develop new ways of accommodating these proposals and in so doing brings about various changes. The most important of these is that in order to host such projects the centre has to look for new tools with which to produce and render accessible a work that is in process. These changes, in turn, also pose challenges to the other agents involved in this art institution, including critics, the academy and the market. All of this is done by creating a new pattern of work which paradoxically shares in many of the practices already accepted by a society ever more closely linked to the spectacle.