Photos: Eva Carasol, Miquel Coll, Roberto Ruiz.

Panorama 21. Notes for an Eye Fire

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, 22 October 2021–27 February 2022

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With the participation of: Ana Domínguez, El Palomar (Mariokissme y R. Marcos Mota), Laia Estruch, Arash Fayez, Antoni Hervàs, Rasmus Nilausen, nyamnyam (Ariadna Rodríguez & Iñaki Álvarez) with Pedro Pineda, Claudia Pagès, Aleix Plademunt, Marria Pratts, Stella Rahola Matutes, Eulàlia Rovira, Ruta de autor (Aymara Arreaza R. & Lorena Bou Linhares), Adrian Schindler, Rosa Tharrats, Gabriel Ventura and Marc Vives.

In 2021 the MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona initiated a new multidisciplinary triennial programme entitled Panorama focusing on contemporary art practices from and around Barcelona. With an emphasis on collaborative practices, each edition is intended to be led by a different curatorial collaboration, composed of a member of the museum and an external curator or agent.

Panorama’s first edition, titled ‘Notes for an Eye Fire’, was an exhibition curated by Hiuwai Chu (Head of Exhibitions, MACBA) and Latitudes, and coordinated by Berta Cervantes. As the “notes” of the title suggests, the exhibition attempted to jot down, to lay out and to connect without seeking to be in any way definitive.

Occupying the 1200m2 top floor of the Meier building, ‘Notes for an Eye Fire’ brought together specially commissioned works and recent productions shown in Barcelona for the first time. It comprised a wide range of disciplines, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, video installation, performance, photography and textiles, and was driven by a desire to defend and verify the making of on-site exhibitions as experiences that envelop us as whole sensing bodies in space.

Considering some visitors were unable to visit the museum, particularly in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, significant efforts were made to maximise the communicative potential of the exhibition website. This entailed the inclusion of participant profiles, images showcasing related works, detailed artwork descriptions, as well as behind-the-scenes photographs and videos documenting the exhibition-making process.

The works in the exhibition weaved together concerns and leitmotifs that emerged from the curators’ studio visits and conversations with the art community, including the city’s self-image, notions of reparation and belonging, gender dissidence and our relationship with nonhuman life.

The exhibition title, taken from from the homonymous 2020 book of poetry by Gabriel Ventura, conjured up a powerful metaphor that provoked a questioning of the dominance of vision, urging us to explore an expanded definition of seeing that engaged our other senses and entailed new ways of navigating the world, of remembering and of producing knowledge.

The ocular form took on a life of its own in the exhibition’s imagination, in the form of projects that explored theatre or performance, the spatial relationship between stage and auditorium and the loop as narrative. Such perspectives and scales also encircled how the museum established a connection with its neighbourhood, and vice versa, at a time when perhaps we all questioned and saw afresh what our own place in the world might be.

A small publication “Passió i cartografia per a un incendi dels ulls” [Passion and cartography for an eye fire] was the poetic colophon of the exhibition, and included a new three-part poem–dérive by Gabriel Ventura that decomposed the exhibition’s plurality of voices into a textual topography. As part of the exhibition’s public programme, on January 13, 2022, Ventura and the flamenco singer Pere Martínez recited and sang the verses during a performative event that took visitors through the museum galleries. Designed by Ana Domínguez Studio, the book also features photo documentation of the works in the exhibition, as well as a ghostly evocation of its graphic identity—translucent pages that seem to veil the images and words with billowing smoke clouds and flashes of energy.

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