Observing your trajectory from fine arts to the audiovisual world and the grand shows, I would like to know how this drift was produced and how you discovered all those forms of expression, primarily abstract from the classical conception of artistic expression.
I give a few courses and I always say the same, because I have a motto in my life, which is “life happens while you are busy making other plans” (John Lennon). So I actually studied Fine Arts although I specialized in painting, a purely manual concept, totally reclusive and with a minor technological aspect. Due to my relations with the theatrical media sector and family I have always have always crossed-over between the two activities. I studied painting, then I specialized in stage design, I went to Milan, although I’ve always been involved in the theater world particularly. This gently transformed and eventually I saw myself designing content, shows and for a very long period focused on the great public spaces, knowing how to organize street parties and perhaps as a result of my preparation, my culture and my relationship with the scenic world. There were a lot of factors that led me to always mount, to conceive and to design ephemeral shows, because they are spectacles that happen in the public space, in the street, where it is a great surprise and a great event, but that they begin and finish shortly. If in the baroque ephemeral work was something that was built with painted tips of wood and huge forges were made to transform that transformed the city, now the way to transform the city in an transient method, is through technology. Thus, it is absolutely necessary and useful to use the great technological advances, in this case the video projection/mapping or in other cases other types of supports to transform the city and to tell the story from very singular basis.
Do you consider audiovisuals the endorsement to artistic art in the 21st Century?
It seems to me that the audiovisual world allows us to express things in a different way in distinct spaces. What I think is important, and I think that in this videomapping that we have done together we have achieved, is that the audiovisual and all the technology and all the tools you have are used in order to tell a story. What usually happens to me when I see visual shows supported by audiovisuals is that I lose interest because they are used in a somewhat contemplative way. To me I am interested in using it, perhaps for my theatrical past, to be able to tell a story and to serve as a narrative element in this type of shows that I design. Probably if I, as a plastic artist or as a painter would have evolved and would have ended up using audiovisual equipment as a tool, I would use it as Canogar does, to tell a story and wander into his creative world, as a tool and as a support for his creative world . However, for the spectacle, the big commemorations or sports shows and all the spaces in which the audiovisual equipment is used, it would seem to me that it has to be a support to continue telling a story.
Have you gained vast experience artistically intervening in public spaces, what are the singularities of these projects with respect to exhibitions in museum halls or that are specifically intended for artistic exhibition?
Now we are talking a lot about technology, but in general, not being for a live show with actors, it seems to me that the most important thing to work in the public space is that not all spaces serve the same purpose. It seems to me that a very important part of designing these commemorations is to think of the space. Now we are centered in the Plaza Mayor, so when we decided to execute the videomapping, what I had very clear is that it had to be a 360º, or that the peculiarity of the space screamed for the four facades to be used. When the projects do not happen in a plaza, like when I did the Greco Year, I used the whole city of Toledo. Then you go, locate the different spaces of the city; you can’t use them for the same objective and you have to conceive the city as a stage and each space requires for a different type of intervention, a type of program and a type of show. That is why this space vision and that use of space as a scenario that implies thinking about a specific programming is extremely important.
And the audience? How do you introduce the factor of interacting with an audience that is often unexpectedly involved with your intervention?
That is another of the handicaps of working in public space. We have a very rare specialty that is that we are a company of big city events, we call ourselves, great city events. Being in the street, talking about the city and talking about public space you already have something to start with which any creator does not count: We are forced to work for all audiences. The one who goes to a theater, buys a ticket and has previously heard what he is going to see, the one who enters the Prado knows he is going to see pictures, the one going to a rock and roll concert has chosen the concert to attend. We have an audience that has been informed and comes and we have a public who just finds itself in our artwork, with an audience that walks along the street and finds that. That is why it is very important to program thinking unfailingly for all audiences, for a so called family audience. When I organized the first Kings’ Cavalcade, the first thing that I thought of when I was there (I had found a cavalcade very soley child oriented)was what a torture to the parents and rest of audience, which is a waste because if you have such heterogeneous audiences, what you have to do is satisfy and have different levels of language and reading, and that’s a bit of what we work for when I’m on the street. To take advantage of that space, take advantage of that event and what the audience is going to see has different readings, that interests the 7 year old boy and that interests the 80 year old grandfather and that the information is so wide as to fascinate or capture their attention or interest. Let the event have different readings and different levels.
Obviously the highest quality is not at odds with all this. I also care a lot and I always say when they offer me projects and we discuss about the project, that I prefer to do four fabulous things to do fifty things in public space; It’s different when they call me to schedule a small room in a district meeting, then you perceive it differently, but when they ask you to arrange a commemoration, a centenary, an anniversary or an opening to me it seems that you are obliged to leave the audience surprised in a short period of time, in the case of a videomapping or in the case of a fireworks castle to really play with the surprise and the enormous quality.
Where do you start to face a great challenge such as to carry out the artistic direction of the program of the IV Centenary of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid?
That’s where where my backgroung comes together a unites from Delia Piccirrilli the painter because when I face designing a project I observe it almost like a plastic creator, I look for a concept that feeds me that content, I look for a phrase, it’s often just something that I have read about that, I am looking for a concept that drags me and sets up all the contents. For instance, for the Greco Year, El Greco being a very great figure with a lot of risk of being labeled by the painter and his time, suddenly reading a catalog of Jonathan Braun from an exhibition that was made of El Greco in 85 in El Prado Museum, I found a phrase that took me to the contemporary, which spoke to me of the light, the color of El Greco and that gave me an argument for when I presented the project. From there I could afford to do a 100% contemporary programming, already the exhibitions were set to tell the story and we carried out an exposition honoring the figure but from contemporary proposals.
In the case of the Plaza Mayor, the argument was another, it was for explaining what the Castilian square was born for and what sense it had when these squares were made. They were made so that everything could happen in these places, so that it could be the place where the people were executed and canonized, crowned and fish was sold. It was the space where everything happened and where citizens came to celebrate. We wanted to go back to what it was like and how it could be done, making a program of its own, doing things that are attractive for citizens to come to see something exceptional with different readings, from contemporary reading through proposals by contemporary artists who will work in the square and reinterpret it, or a baroque party that we will set up in October or the famous videomapping. In addition to our own productions, so that this is the space where everything happens, we have sought agreements with other city entities of high quality, of important productions so the Theater of the Zarzuela is going out for the first time to the street and it’s going to go out to the Plaza Mayor and it’s going to take out it’s lamp, it’s stage and they’re going to set up in the Plaza Mayor, that’s what the show is about. It is going to be the place where all the locals met and where they continue meeting and where they meet during this commemoration. The Teatro Real leaves its Plaza de Oriente and its surroundings and comes to the Plaza Mayor. That is the basic idea; big festivals, PhotoEspaña, all that is and will have a space in the Plaza Mayor because it is the space where everything is found and that is basically the leitmotif that drags the whole program.
What is the star event, the most relevant of the IV Centenary of the Plaza Mayor?
Well, I think if a program is only based on one thing it is misconceived, because it is assumed that throughout the year you drag and dosify it. We opened with something impressive, which to me is important, we opened with a very ambitious videomapping that I think was carried out exceptionally and that we feel proud to have pulled forward with in the nick of time. Also because this project was commissioned to us with much less time than desired. It is also true that it is always similar, and this was no surprises. When I spoke with Oscar, he told me that we were missing a month, but we always have a missing month, and if we had another extra month we would have two weeks missing, because the creative process is very wretched and you always carry the possibilities to the limit. Earlier when these marvels were done in the baroque and the spaces were transformed with painted curtains and adaptabel wooden tips and backdrops that came to view, there were less changes of idea because you said this is what we are going to do, and the work was done. But now, the night before, we may be changing an image, we have so much to choose that we dilate the final decision and thus we always lack time. Well then, the inauguration always has to be powerful but then throughout the year there must always be important things like what I have told you about, such as this agreement with these great centers of production.
We are going to carry out an extremely precious program in September around the verse that seems to me has the square as its place. Lope de Vega in the Plaza Mayor made poetic tournaments and what would be the poetic gathering right now but holding meetings of great poets. We are going to have a baroque party, a parade that I think is going to be another one of the highlights of the centenary and we are going to have a closure that I am very sorry but I can not tell you about because we are still in a closing phase, I can’t say yet, but I think we are going to have a very powerful closure too. As you see, they are all your children and they all look good to me.
What is the relationship established with the new audiovisual technologies?
As you can imagine I am from a time in which for me … I have appropriated it with great curiosity, but it is true that there is an immense offer, there are many fantastic creators who use new technologies as a tool and it is thanks to the investigation of very clever people of whom I surround myself and advise me. For example, for this four-season festival in which urban artists are going to take part in the Plaza, this Waterlive (led light that comes on contact with liquids) that we have made has been a very fun and very special. It is also a result of the research of these new technologies as a playful tool, this program has been commissioned by a specialist curator who knows urban artists very well, going to all light and urban festivals there is in the world and that has been advising me; fortunately YouTube and the channels in which we live attached to are an endless source of information that many times you keep track, you get on a Whatsapp a YouTube of something and you say look how funny this is! Then you stay and say I’ll see where this is, how much its worth and all relevant things, then the ideas come. I think it is important to be informed and connected and its part of my work.
How do artistic concepts lead to the most industrial process of production and prices?
Before I told you that a plastic’s artist has to deviate from normal scripts, a plastic artist is a person who is in a workshop, in a studio, because painting is a lonely job and what I do now is a team effort. In Ciudadano Kien, is a group of people of four or five people who grow according to the projects, a technical director, two people of production, a stage manager and I but there are some people for production. When I do these courses I always make this joke, I do not know how to do an Excel, really I know how to do it but I do not; I work with people, with my fellow from Ciudadano who are the ones who later do it. I the prices, after so many years, I set them, I know more or less how it works, but then lower them, of course, here it is necessary … and the truth is that the prices influence the projects much regrettably. Many times when they call me and ask me do some projects … I tell them to tell me the budget and let’s not do the things the opposite way because time is wasted. Usually there are set prices, it is preferable that you tell me what you have and where we stand because otherwise it is wasting time and energy. Generally for these types of programs, which are linked to the administration or foundations, the prices or budgets are known and there is no need for unlimited budgets. I adapt and base my work on those budgets; you build a suitable program and better five than twenty five if the budget is small, and if it is large … I am very used to work under demand.
In addition, I think here is a the strategy, the talent that you have to make it attractive. And there are other things apart from creating a good program; around these kinds of events there are other very important things like communication, such as the relationship with the media, how it is explained, how to make a document that explains acutely well the intention of what you are doing or what you are saying. Behind a good program, bad or regular (if it is good than better) there is a paper of documentation that has to be prepared to be able to tell the story well, which is also very important.
What has been the biggest challenge that has been faced up to now and what were the biggest difficulties you had to solve?
I believe that a very complicated project was that of Costa Rica, the opening and closing of the Central American Games. It was a very complicated project because of the distance, because they were mixed teams, because everything was done at the last minute, because it is very far away, because there were many shortcomings and many technical problems in a space where practically neither they knew well. The stadium of San Jose Costa Rica was built by Chinese, its a very surreal thing because it was an agreement that the Costa Rican government made as something commercial and the Chinese in exchange for this trade agreement gave them the stadium. So many Chinese came to San Jose and built that stadium they delivered with posters in Chinese and with a manual of use in Chinese, so that no one in Costa Rica knew where there was anything in this stadium. We 6 months after the keys were delivered to the stadium got there and no one could explain where was what. To give you an idea of what it was like, we did not know if there were generators, where the light was plugged … well, that way until the last day. We used equipment that was imposed on us, with problems that we found and obviously this equipment gave us some nasty problems;It was very difficult, very hard and very difficult.
How do you value the proliferation in Spain of megaconstructions and large enclosures in which no one has thought of endowing content?
We live a crisis era in which you were nobody, or in other words the municipalities were not considered important if they did not have a multipurpose space or a fabulous exhibition hall, and these were built without awareness. When you build a space then you have to provide content, and to provide content you have to have a budget and to keep that up, you also need a budget. So all those spaces that were built do not seem bad to me, but they were built with a very little perspective and are unsustainable and then there is no money to program those fabulous spaces. That the wharehouses of the Madrid Slaughterhouse have that endowment and that capacity of which they benefiting is fantastic as long as they have use, that until now it has had, and that I suppose that it will continue having, although the model or criteria of what it is of may change. But it is true that in Spain there are spaces, and well there are those who have stayed half-built who are ambitious but have stayed halfway. The problem is that you then have to leave a backup to provide content and there are many people trained to design programs. It is not a problem of scarcity, the problem is that what you can not do is create spontaneous centers. What is the real problem in the background and in my opinion a serious problem? It is the general disaffection of culture in our country. Now because we are in crisis, part of the people assume that culture is not a public service and does not require the same attention as the bus or the health, for me, it requires it. It seems to me as important and as necessary for the well-being of society, culture, as health and as public transport. To me, to Delia Piccirrilli, it is so important … it seems to me that the administration has to take care of it, not taking it away from one thing to put it in another but to attend to the culture, and if this were so, it is true that in the different administrations, in all the places where all these spaces have been constructed they would have an efinancial plan; Which does not mean enormous amounts of money, it means sustainabilty, affection and protection of culture as a public service necessary for citizens to grow in their ability to understand life and to be free and this is given by culture, and culture is something that happens in cultural spaces or in the streets. For my taste its the greatest subject pending. There was a time when they started up building crazed spaces to make cultural acts but not only because they cared about the culture but because they wanted admiritaion, to also have a space and there are many abandoned or very poorly used sites.
What other projects are ahead?
Well I have a multipack life, I also do cinema and cinema decoration. I am now ivolved with a couple of American series in which I have already worked and I continue working, and then Citizen Kien, my company: we have small things, not everything is huge like The Plaza Mayor, we have a thing in Alcalá de Henares, we have a project open to see if we can curb in Malaga. We are a small but active company in this specific part of the city events. Then I have many fronts open and the study of closed painting as you can imagine.
We were commenting before on the proliferation of foreign productions in Spain, using Spain as a great natural set …
I have been doing an American series last year in Cáceres, I had previously made another that is already being broadcast called Emerald City in which a significant part of the exteriors were shot in Spain. I’ve been a whole year doing this series called Still Star-Crossed, I’ve been in Extremadura and there was a day in Cáceres we were filming in a plaza, Game of Thrones in the street that went down from the Cathedral del Mar to the plaza next to it. It has become very fashionable among the great American producers to shoot in the outdoors, to shoot in real spaces, not in plateaus. It is true that now this is fashionable, it seems that narrative cinema is a little fashionable: the era such as that of the Game of Thrones or like Still Star-Crossed which is Renaissance; Spain is a fabulous natural setting because we have excellent spaces, we have a very varied geography that allows, in a few kilometers, to be in the mountains or on the beach and then we have a fantastic heritage that generates natural scenery where the intervention needed is small and obviously you do not have to build a Renaissance palace because you have fabulous Renaissance palaces in Spain. So, fortunately that is joined by the fact that there are very good technical teams and so this is saving the profession. The cinema and all the film technicians. We have to thank a lot of these producers who come to shoot in Spain because they are giving a lot of work.
To finish, I would like to know your opinion about the culture as an economic enabler.
Returning to the Plaza Mayor, the most active, those who have pushed the most so that the Plaza Mayor had a centenary was the Association of Merchants and Hoteliers owners; because they understand that to revitalize the place generates a wealth to them. If 8,000 people attenda videomapping I am sure that, not the 8,000, but of those 8,000 there are probably 3,000 who will consume more beers than they would have had because of the event. In Toledo the same happened, for the people, hoteliers, and merchants the Greco year was very important because we made programs that happened at night. Toledo, for example, is a city that at 8 pm the AVE has brought back to major cities all the foreigners who have been visitng it and is calm. For them it was fantastic to have a happening at night. It forced people to stay to sleep or to dine in the city, of course it is an economic dynamizer; the cinema that is being shot in Spain of course, Cáceres what I told you before has had the hotels full and is very important, it is another thing that understanding it well and using it well … Governments unprotected culture and we in that sector are generators of wealth. The USA has it very clear, the cinema is an industry and as such it is protected and we lack this here. Everything will happen eventually.