A project for Tabacalera-Madrid. Ministry of Cuture. 25 to 31 October 2010

« Art is Action », for its third edition, succeeding the habitation of a museum and the occupation of a theater, will be relocated at an ancient fabric in the very centre of Madrid. This old factory will eventually become the National Centre for Visual Arts. The mobile disposition of this project over the past years is a direct symptom of how difficult it is for performance art to exist in the public space: in between and in opposition to the conservative principle of museums and the spectacularity of theaters. Probably, an old factory, not yet into the asepsis nor the amnesia, could constitute a more pertinent location.

 « Art is action » is a project prometed by the Ministry of Culture in Spain presenting the work of international artists in the field of Performance and Site-specific Art. First edition in 2008 was curated by Bartolomé Ferrando: who gathered nine artists presenting their work over three days at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. Second edition, took place in 2009, curated by Marcel.lí Antúnez: where seven pieces made by nine artists over three days were presented at the Teatro Valle Inclán in Madrid.

The third edition will take place between the 25th and the 31st of October 2010 at La Tabacalera in Madrid. In this occassion, other institutions participate in the organization: INAEM and Casa Árabe. a joint effort that we are confident in the future will lead to new lines of action in areas increasingly frequented by contemporary artistic practices and that it is impossible to define according to traditional categories, both from the standpoint of art (drama, visual arts, film, usic) and from a geographical or cultura standpoint.


Along the 20th century, Performance Art has been for many artists a medium to breakthrough the canons of the work of art, a way to involve the audience into a more active relation, with the necessity of sharing a concrete space and time (going back to the origins of theatricality). And also with the necessity to activate the imagination through the memory’s reconstruction, or through the action’s potentiality using traces and documents (going back to the original forms of plastic depiction). In both cases, the intention is to establish some distance between the artistic practice and the comfort of the product that is observed, is bought and is stored to emphasize the dimension of shared experience, the collective construction of subjectivity or the generation of speeches on the present moment.

Art is action when it challenges or it questions its own way of organisation and exhibition, when these challenges go beyond the limits of the institutional frame and they encourage ways of communication and effectively outside them. In other times, we understood that we acted more efficiently by erasing the object and or the product. But when nowadays the museums include in their expositions traces and documents from art actions, perhaps we should re-question the relationship between artistic action and production. In a dominated period of performative capitalism, might be useful to look back and analyse the transformative potentiality inside industrial production.

La Tabacalera, the tobacco factory of Madrid, was build in 1792. At its very beginnings it was the Real Liquor and Cards Game Factory; from 1809, they produced Tobacco and Snuff. Doors were closed in 2000 and since then, the factory remains run aground as a ghost ship at one of the edges of Lavapiés’ neighbourhood. In the last years, some art events have sporadically returned to La Tabacalera (Photoespaña, Reencontres…) as well as self-managed activities.

Our proposal is to re-activate the machinery of La Tabacalera during a few days. Considering that the machinery in the tobacco factory were the workers (mostly women), and that workers do not only operate inside the factory but also out of it, the industrial potential enclosed by the walls transforms into social potential out of them.

Defining action as production, we want to emphasize on its double sense: “Production” as manufacturing objects, but also as the working process for creating something new. Nowadays, as we suffer the adversity of an uncontrollable economy based on speculation and overvaluation, deriving from the most lowered, dishonest and greediness passions, probably it’s becoming necessary to give more value to human being capacities at producing something new in benefit of community.

“Something new” can be understood as invention and repetition of the “standard” according to industrial bases. However, “something new” could also take the form of a new way of organisation and redefinition of how production takes place. Final product based production generating merchandise (assigned to the first generation of standard capitalistic production) was followed by the production based on the mercantilization of the human relations themselves. The challenge now is to subvert this model, not to turn relations into goods, but to reconstruct and transform the mechanisms of relations: designing processes that develop relational enrichment and not pre-designed relations.

What we propose is to transform the ancient factory for a week into an artistic production workplace. Some artists will work within the venue, others will do it with materials. Some of them will collaborate with local artists or will find the specific action space to interact within the environment. During this week the participants will share their creation processes through informal conversations, video sessions, discussions and specific presentations for the work in process. On Sunday, rest day, the factory will open to the city and the work produced during the week will find a way to unfold in the neighbourhood.

Art is action when it enables memory and desire to coincide at the creation of conditions that will not bring forward the same repetitions of what already has been done but the conditions encouraging to rethinking and redefining. Art is action when a shared experience is present. Action is art when a discourse is established.

This project is an invitation to artists coming from different disciplines and contexts to share the production processes, the memory of a neighbourhood, a working place, as well as to share with the actual workers in Madrid and its habitants who live at the same houses occupied 100 years ago by those who gave their bodies to the service of a production that never belonged to them, but nevertheless did not cancelled their desires.

Curated by artea / José A. Sánchez and Tamara Alegre

Artists and projects


Thank you to Lois Keidan, Eduardo Bonito, Hyun-Suk Seo, Catarina Saraiva and Michela de Petris.