Matadero Madrid – small changes going big and other cultural politics in the Spanish capital

A comment on the cultural strategies of a city

by Helene Romakin

 

At times it seems as if some places in the world are created never to be finished, but to always remain a work in progress. Who knows what the reasons behind this phenomenon are. It happens that architectural ideas cannot be realized for economical, political or other reasons. In those cases the citizens usually have to get used to fallow, abandoned and lonely places that may severely impact a city´s skyline.

 

Matadero, 2011, photo by Sofia Menendez

Matadero, 2011, photo by Sofia Menendez

 

Thanks to some committed people in the Spanish capital of Madrid, one potential architectural monster was turned into one of the most interesting and alternative art spaces I have seen so far. Matadero, translated as slaughterhouse, has gone through a long history of changes that started with its construction in the early 1900s. Designed by the architect Luis Bellido, the area was supposed to be used as a slaughterhouse – a huge areal surrounded by a 2,500 metre long wall, covering 165,415 square meters altogether. Already then, shortly after its completion, it was used for other than the originally intended purposes due to the civil war. From the 1970s onwards, things began moving into the direction of cultural activities, but only since 2005 can Matadero consider itself as a space dedicated to 75% – meaning to be in charge of 148,300 m2 – to supporting local and international cross-disciplinary arts. Financially supported by the Madrid City Council as well as other public institutions and private sponsors, Matadero sees itself as a place of contemporary creation. Comprising a cinema, a theatre, an open hall for music, hosting performances, etc. Matadero can definitely call itself multidisciplinary.

 

Map of Matadero

Map of Matadero

 

Leaving the technical facts behind us, I would like to try to explain what 148,300 square meters actually feel like once one stand before it. To be honest, the first time I heard of Matadero I was so overwhelmed by the quantity of projects and activities you can see there, that it took me several weeks to pull myself together and do my first visit. I remember getting there half an hour early just to make sure I’d find the right hall. In the end, after getting lost and asking several people where to find the event I had come for, I got there almost too late. Still now, although I think that I kind of have an overview of this giant, every time when I think about Matadero it appears to me as a huge spider´s web or a sort of a matrix I´ll never be able to grasp completely.

 

Matadero

Matadero

Matadero

Matadero

 

 

Besides large and established projects like the Red Bull Music Academy, Matadero is a meeting place for several local projects that focus on social educational work and deal with Madrid´s creative environment. In the following, I am going to present a small number of recent and current projects.

 

Red Bull Music Academy – Hall of Music: Open Doors

Until the 18th of November 2012 Red Bull Music Academy supports the complete music program happening at Matadero. Provided with a radio studio, recording studio and a small stage for concerts as well as rehearsal rooms, the music hall hosts musicians in residency who can be visited during their creative process. The entire hall was designed by the young architects Langrarita-Navarro in collaboration with the Mexican designer Jerónimo Hagerman. Additionally, visitors can be surprised by art works created by 18 local emerging artists exhibited in the space.

http://www.mataderomadrid.org/galeria/actividad/1220/hall-of-music:-open-doors.html

 

El Ranchito – http://elranchitomadrid.wordpress.com

El Ranchito essentially is what the name announces, a ranch – and a meeting place for selected young artists, curators and cultural managers who are in charge of considering and imagining new ways of understanding, producing and displaying culture. El Ranchito fights against the status quo of the financial crisis by seeking other solutions and resources for a creative environment. Organized in working groups, El Ranchito presents their results at Matadero in random time intervals. Until the 15th of April, Matadero shows a public presentation of the latest ideas by artists and scholars from the residency program.

 

El Ranchito

El Ranchito

El Ranchito

El Ranchito

El Ranchito

El Ranchito

 

Workshops

Matadero always has several workshops listed in its activities. While last year Matadero offered a well elaborated children and youth program with different workshops, games and exhibitions, this year special projects such as Experimental Theatre Workshops, Al Matadero Sin Miedo and Rocking Chair Workshop among many others are worth following.

 

Exhibitions

Among other exhibitions I would like to recommend the new project by one of the leading Spanish artists, Fernando Sánchez Castillo. Guernica Syndrome runs from the 20th of January until the 18th of March and points out many questions about Spanish history that the country doesn´t have answers for, yet.

 

Guernica Syndrome shows minimalistic sculptures made out of Franco´s former ship, which occurred to acquire a quite polemic story after the end of the dictatorship. Spain´s first social democratic government used it for vacation trips and after receiving great criticism for doing so, no one could accept this emblem as cultural heritage. So, it was sold privately, brought to the region of Burgos and placed close to a restaurant with the same name El Azor. Now, the only thing that is left of this ship is its symbolic metal.

 

Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Guernica Syndrome, 2011

Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Guernica Syndrome, 2011

Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Guernica Syndrome, 2011

Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Guernica Syndrome, 2011

 

http://www.mataderomadrid.org/galeria/actividad/1203/fernando-sanchez-castillo.html

( For more info see http://blogs.elpais.com/sin-titulo/2012/01/el-azor-deconstruido.html )

 

Other exhibitions:

Navid Nuur with Hocus/ Focus (20th of January – 08th of April)

Luciana Fina with Chant Portraits (28th of January – 19th of February)

 

 

There are also different and controversial ways to invest in real estate – A comment

Just after having visited Matadero I came to read an article by Elena Vozmediano, an art critic from Madrid who also publishes at elcultural.es. The information she gives about investments made by the Madrid City Council are agitating and disappointing at the same time. Since April 2011, Madrid has spent 125 million Euros to renovate a palace, the so-called Palacio de Cibeles that now hosts administrative offices and the art centre CentroCentro. Another 400 million Euros will be spent on transferring the post office that used to be in this palace in other real estates. Each year another 5 millions will be spent on the cleaning and security of this building. Besides the fact that the palace is not convenient at all for exhibiting contemporary art due to its strong architectural composition, other cultural venues are neglected for its sake. Due to a lack of funding, halls 8 and 9 at Matadero cannot be used and construction works have had to be put on stand-by. This is an interesting point and quite characteristic for much of the investments made in cultural politics in Madrid and other cities around the world. The question Elena Vozmediano asks is whether money should not first of all go into contents instead of representational architecture and infrastructure. Secondly, if a variety of cultural institutions are initiated with state money, should they not be maintained by distributing funding more equitably between the cultural institutions rather than focussing almost exclusively on a handful of representational projects?

 

Links to the original article:

http://www.elcultural.es/blogs_comentario/Y_tu_que_lo_veas/20/32935/Miles_y_miles_de_metros_cuadrados

http://www.vozmediano.info/

 

Name (required)

Mail (will not be published) (required)

Website

Comment