"THE EVENT THAT IS AN ARROW IN THE DIRECTION OF THE WORLD" — Alain Badiou
The Quantum Leap of the Critic into the Third
The self-reflective event examining the role of the critic taking place in Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid was meant to happen in Spain.
The glorious structure of the museum itself was a proclamation of Spain’s official passage into a modernism when it opened in 1992.
…But where were the movers and shakers of “la movida” which made Spain politically and culturally one of the most liberated and exciting places in Europe? I learned this in Argentina in 1984, which was attempting to emulate the Spanish freedom in breaking out of their military dictatorship with a transgender aesthetic I struggled to capture as literature in my first novel, Champagne Tango.
I decided to begin my Spanish paper from a subjective view, of my teenage experience with the late night transgender scene revealed in Madrid’s hot spot — le Drugstore in 1978. A decade later, this 360 perspective progressed to my meeting the Spanish auteur Pedro Almavador on the occasion of presenting his first film, the black comedy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al borde de in ataque nervios) at UCLA that would propel him to the global stage upon winning the 1988 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I remember Pedro telling the audience that he was so involved in his creative process that he never thought about the reaction.
Pedro Almavador was the first artist I heard referencing the Third. It was a flippant response to a didactic question from the audience that provided three speculative ideas regarding Almadovar’s aesthetic strategy. While I can’t remember what the question was, his response still resonates: “All three!”
He got that right! Transgender is the Third which is why I recreate the word as construction/deconstruction: Trans/Gender sourced in a crucial and hidden icon unearthed in a formerly Turkish village, the oldest in Cyprus…
Surely this was an impulse of a new modernism sourced in the Aquarian transgender icon that we see in the Almavador film, yet where was such an aesthetic to be found in a Spanish art dominated by past masters: Picasso, Dali, Goya and El Greco?
Could the problem be — not in the art — but the critical reception by the gatekeepers torn between upholding the Spanish legacy of art and the art intent on smashing that tradition?
I seized the moment through the gap of the Third state of critical self-reflection to declare two progenitors of the hermeneutics of a New Modernism, the timing at 11:11
Among the great deal of self-reflection on the two and a half days of panels with collectors, institutional directors and even critics, along with papers addressing the topic of criticism in crisis and renewal, there was a representative from the U.K. AICA who neatly summed up the problem of criticism in the last fifty years as that of Conceptualism!
A lone contribution that actually depicted art renovation in bricks and mortar was by the architect representing the Spanish innovations in the field.
Criticism and poetry frequently blend in the Spanish language.
The ghosts of the critical giants of the 20th century were summoned…
Then there was the demonstration of the bounty of living a life in arts: the sheer pleasure of being a critic who collects poets and artists as amistades along with works of art.
The two and a half days of reflection and discussion coming to a close, a 12:30 Roundtable on Saturday was devoted to critics: “Necessita la critica renovacion?”
This set the stage for an authentic renewal of art criticism, in Spain and across the globe.
Now, finally we may be able to appreciate such erotically charged art as this:
Lisa Paul Streitfeld, a member of AICA since 2000, is a roving critic and media philosopher.