ALLAN KAPROW. COMFORT ZONES. JUNE 1975
30 JUNE — 15 OCTOBER 2017
OPENING 29 JUNE 19:00
CURATED BY ELENA FERNÁNDEZ MANRIQUE Y MANUEL SEGADE
In June 1975, 42 years ago, Allan Kaprow staged the Com-fort Zones Activity (word used by Kaprow for his performing actons) at Galería Vandrés in Madrid. The Activity consisted in eight rules or protocols for couples, at a time when demonstrations of intimacy were checked by the authoritarian regime then in place.
The exhibition at CA2M revisits a seminal episode in Madrid’s art gallery history which was instrumental in normalising innovations in the realm of contemporary art. Predicated on this apparently minor anecdote, the show reconstructs the Spanish art market’s attempt to synchronize with the international art world, at a particularly unstable socio-political juncture in the twilight years of Franco’s regime.
Vandrés, the Madrid-based gallery run by Fernando Vijande, Gloria Kirby and Marisa Torrente, was then a meeting place for artists, poets, musicians, collectors and entrepreneurs. In the seventies and early eighties, a number of galleries like Buades, Egam, Edurne and Sen, following in the footsteps of predecessors like Juana Mordó, Biosca and Theo, played a key role in opening up Spanish culture to new disciplines and formats. It was a time of great experimentation, when happening
new art movements were completely reformulating their concepts. Galería Vandrés nonetheless stood out from the rest as it did not shy away from controversy: in 1973, the police had closed La Paloma, an exhibition at the gallery paying tribute to Picasso in which Alfredo Alcaín exhibited a nude mannequin; the exhibition reopened a few days later, now with the mannequin sporting underwear.
First at Vandrés and then at the gallery bearing his own name, where he would organise a legendary exhibition by Andy Warhol in 1983, Fernando Vijande championed the multidisciplinary and increasingly international character of the era. In Spain, performance and other similar disciplines sprung up around the ZAJ group and artists associated with the Computing Centre at Madrid Complutense University, like Yturralde and Alexanco. Against the backdrop of these burgeoning developments, Vijande organised performances by Charlotte Moorman and Michael Buthe at Vandrés, as well as exhibitions by the Spanish artists on its roster.
In 1975, Vijande invited Allan Kaprow to consider a happening for the gallery. And the artist’s response was Comfort Zones, which was held on 10 and 11 June. The title refers to the invisible “territorial” bubbles we unconsciously create around our bodies, limiting our relationship with other bodies and establishing the boundaries of our comfort zones.
Although seven couples actually took part in the Activity, the film Comfort Zones, transferred to digital format, only shows two performers: Mario Costas and Esther, the members of the Body group, a performance collective who worked on a regular basis with Galería Vandrés. Mariano Navarro, now a contemporary art critic and curator, was also actively involved as assistant cameraman to David Seaton, the artist who filmed the action, and another regular collaborator with the gallery.
Space and time factors play a critical role in the action in Comfort Zones: the key word now, pronounced alternatively by each one of the members of the couple in various situations and scenarios, marks the moment when each one has reached the limits of his or her comfort zone.
The exhibition now on view at CA2M is largely based on archive material of the time: projections and audios, activity booklets from the original show, and a mock-up of the original unpublished notebook for Comfort Zones, with the artist’s instructions and his original photos, now reedited in facsimile for the occasion.
Besides this material, we also have some activity booklets from the Galería Vandrés archive: these were the instruction manuals performers used for Activities, based on an idea that started to take hold in the seventies —advocated by people like Joseph Beuys— that the artist should blend in with the audience. Among these are: Rates of Exchange, held in 1975 in New York, which explores another aspect of his examination of the relationships between couples, this time in the private realm, by means of a conversation choreographed using a tape recorder; Match, a piece exploring time, playing with the meaning of the word match: an instrument to create fire and at once a counterpart or union; Air Condition (1975), unusual insofar as it is one of the few pieces Kaprow conceived for a single individual (the activity booklet reads: “Treating the body as a monitor of physical events is actually a way of perceiving the self”); or Routine, in which one can readily discern one of the recurring issues of his practice: the idea that people look at themselves in the mirror of others. Here we also have a rethinking of the role of photography in his work: “The photos here do not document the action. They fictionalize it. They were made and assembled to illustrate the framework of moves upon which an action or set of actions could be based”. In short, they too act like instructions, and are thus closely related with his concept of reinvention, a term he uses to designate repetition in his Activities.
Also on display is an activity booklet posterior to Comfort Zones, published for Maneuvers (1976) –a knowing nod to painting in its citation of Baudelaire and his writing about his friend Delacroix– as well as another essential document: Days Off. A Calendar of Happenings from 1970; a calendar documenting different actions without any apparent motive, held throughout the years before in which Kaprow’s artist friends and art students took part, including the actor, director and art collector Dennis Hopper.
Elena Fernández Manrique and Manuel segade, curators.
- Reinvention of the Activity Comfort Zones:
14 September — 14 October
Thursdays and Saturdays. 19:00
- Roundtable debate:
Allan Kaprow. Comfort Zones.
An Oral History of the 10 and
11 of June 1975:
Thursday 21 September 21 19:00
Participants: José Luis Alexanco, Mariano Navarro, David Seaton and the curators Elena Fernández Manrique and Manuel Segade
The activity booklet Comfort Zones, printed in 1975 on the occasion of the original exhibition, will be published in a facsimile edition.