System on hold. Diagnoses and proposals around the (in) sustainability of contemporary art


In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the precarious conditions prevailing in the sphere of contemporary artistic production. The major international events (biennials, fairs, traveling exhibitions …), which have been accelerating the current model for decades, have highlighted a few “star” artists over a mass of quasi-anonymous producers who survive in a circuit of calls for production, residencies and group exhibitions. The incessant adaptation of the artists to this acceleration of the system does not promise but an ephemeral recognition and always subject to the continuation of the struggle for visibility. Such conditions are not without their reflection in the sphere of artistic reception, as it is structured in the global network of museums and art centers. Art audiences have been at a crossroads of institutional and political tensions for decades, subjecting them to a homogenizing and quantitative model.


These structuring conditions of the spheres of artistic production and reception were suspended globally in March 2020. The conference seeks to contribute – from research, artistic practice, curatorial work and cultural management – to the window of opportunity which is now being opened to reconsider the less sustainable dynamics of this suspended system and to propose forms of “new normality” that are more respectful of the needs of those who produce art and favor the emergence of a diverse and plural public sphere.


The conference is located at the convergence of two research projects of the State R + D + i Plan: “PREKARIART. Multidisciplinary study of the precarious condition of artists and contemporary art “(HAR2016-77767-R) and” PUBLICUM. Publics in transformation. New forms of the viewer’s experience and their interactions with museum management “(HAR2017-86103-P ), coordinated, respectively, by the University of the Basque Country UPV / EHU and the University of Deusto. Both projects approach the art system from an interdisciplinary perspective. The PREKARIART project studies the precarious conditions of work in art and its alternatives, thus as artistic proposals that make this situation visible. PUBLICUM analyzes the contemporary transformations of the museum public and their organizational drifts. Taking advantage of the dynamism of the two research projects and seeking a convergence of orientations allows us to provide a more comprehensive perspective of the art system.


Sala Baroja, Bizkaia Aretoa, Bilbao. Free entry until full capacity and streaming broadcast. May 27 and 28, 2021 (streaming:



– 4.15pm-4.30pm: Welcome: Concepción Elorza Ibáñez de Gauna, Jaime Cuenca and Fernando Bayón
– 4.30pm-5.30pm: Diego del Pozo, Stomach, Throat, I speak, I listen…
– 5.30pm-5.45pm: Break
– 17.45h-18.45h: Belén Sola, From the Promise of the Educational Turn to the Disappearance of the Museum as a Public Space. (Or How Museums were Kidnapped by Neoliberal Thinking in Collusion with the Cultural Mainstream)
– 6.45pm-7.30pm: Round table



– 4.30-5.30pm: Gerard Vilar, Daring and Sharing. Artistic Research into Precariousness
– 5.30pm-5.45pm: Break
– 17.45h- 18.45h: Olga Fernández López, Only the Public is Necessary
– 6.45pm-7.30pm: Round table




Diego del Pozo Barriuso: Stomach, Throat, I speak, I listen…

Abstract: The artistic practices collected in this research involve the need to reconfigure the roles of the art system, both of exhibition mechanisms and of artists themselves, as well as to place value on some current processes of experimentation and artistic research. A synthesis is offered of the common characteristics that properly define the “Artistic Mechanisms of Affectation” that are analysed. This research addresses a state of the question of what is understood as neoliberal malaise as a consequence of the neoliberal policies of the last 40 years. During this period, precarity has gradually become an ontological condition of the human being as a result of neoliberal policies. This malaise is defined by the simultaneity and complexity of a series of economic, social and cultural phenomena: the HIV crisis, the geopolitical reorganisation following September 11, 2001, the consequences of the financial crisis of 2008, etc… How do current artistic practices act in relation to the malaise provoked by the neoliberal policies of the last 40 years? What to do with the emotions provoked by this malaise? 

Biography: Diego del Pozo Barriuso is an artist and professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Salamanca (USAL). He is also a member of the art collectives C.A.S.S.I.T.A., Subtramas, and Declinación Magnética. In 2019 he was awarded the Leonardo BBVA Scholarship. His solo exhibitions include those held at the X Central American Biennial in San José, Costa Rica and Managua, Nicaragua in 2016-2017, the Huesca Provincial Government in 2012, the CAB in Burgos in 2011, and at the ECAT in Toledo in 2009. Among other group exhibitions, he has participated in: XIII Havana Biennial (2019), II South Biennial (2019), “….is all of this a possibility?” at the Centre del Carme in Valencia (2018), “A Certain Research on Images: Building Ghost Transmission” at XIV Fotonoviembre Biennial at TEA-Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (2017), “AIDS Anarchive” at CC Conde Duque in Madrid (2017) and at Tabakalera in San Sebastian (2016), “Our Desire is a Revolution” (2017), “Atlas of the Ruins of Europe” (2016-17) both at CentroCentro Cibeles in Madrid, “Really Useful Knowledge” at Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid (2014-15), “Until the Lions Have no Historians…” (2014-15) at Matadero de Madrid, “Apocryphal Colony” at MUSAC de León (2014-15), “Inventing the Possible. An Ephemeral Video Library” at Jeu de Paume de Paris (2014), “Here Together Now” (2013), and “Our Work is Never Over” (2012), both at Matadero de Madrid, “Educating Knowledge” at MUSAC de León (2010), “After the End / Work Value”, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany (2009) and Heterotopias, Oktogon de HFBK, Dresden, Germany (2007). His works of art can be found in collections such as: Reina Sofía Museum, CA2M in Móstoles, MUSAC in León; CDAN in Huesca; Domus Artium 2002 in Salamanca (DA2); Martínez Guerricabeitia Foundation; Huesca Provincial Government; Díaz Caneja Foundation; Castilla y León Provincial Government; Valladolid Provincial Government and Caja Burgos. 


Olga Fernández López: Only the Public is Necessary

Abstract: Trapped in the queues of blockbuster exhibitions and biennials, participating in collaborative works or generating content for social networks, audiences are a growing object of desire for artists and institutions. This is not a new phenomenon. For a long time, audiences have been considered, according to Georges Didi-Huberman, as figurants: an utterance issued by others, anonymous figures serving stories that are not their own. They are often circumscribed in a collective dimension that assimilates them as an undifferentiated set of people, something that sometimes causes them to be interpreted under the notion of the public sphere. Yet publics, at once concrete and elusive, are difficult to conceptualise and, even more so, to predict. How, then, can a possible agency of and for them be imagined?

Biography: Olga Fernández López is a lecturer in contemporary art and curatorial studies (Department of History and Art Theory, Autonomous University of Madrid). She is part of the project The Publics of Contemporary Art and Visual Culture in Spain, New Forms of Collective Artistic Experience Since the 1960s. She is author of the book Exhibitions and Curatorship. Crossed Stories (Cátedra, 2020), and she has curated A Thousand Roaring Beasts: Exhibition Mechanisms for a Critical Modernity (2017, CAAC, Seville) and the programme Unstable Communities (2016, Intermediae-Matadero). Between 2001 and 2006 she was Chief Curator and Head of Research and Education at the Museo Patio Herreriano (Valladolid). 


Gerard Vilar: Daring and Sharing. Artistic Research into Precariousness

Abstract: What can artists do in the face of economic, social, psychological and cultural inequalities? How do the processes of precarity affect art, its production and its reception? The pandemic we have been living through has only exacerbated the problems. Artistic research will not save the world, but it can make contributions to the knowledge of these social realities, not so much because it provides explanations but because it brings an empathetic understanding of the facts, formulated more in the first and second person than in the third. Ultimately, of the three concepts that matter most now – daring, caring and sharing – artistic research can only address two of them. Artistic research projects cannot care directly, they cannot replace the public action plans of institutions, but they can contribute to sharing in the understanding of what is happening, and they can dare to think differently, to imagine new concepts for alternative forms of life, which has been called a poetiology of transformation.

Biography: Gerard Vilar is a Professor of Aesthetics and Theory of the Arts in the Department of Philosophy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), of which he is a former director. He is coordinator of the Master’s Degree in Art and Design Research at Eina / UAB. He is the Principal Investigator of the research project “Artistic Research and Aesthetic Thought”. His latest books are Precarity, Aesthetics and Politics (2017), Lyotard: Aesthetics and Politics (2019) and Contemporary Art as Research (2021). Since December 2017 he has been the President of the Spanish Society of Aesthetics.


Belen Sola: From the Promise of the Educational Turn to the Disappearance of the Museum as a Public Space. (Or How Museums were Kidnapped by Neoliberal Thinking in Collusion with the Cultural Mainstream)

Abstract: This paper aims to be a first-person account of the experience in the Department of Education and Cultural Action (DEAC) of MUSAC, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla y León, located in León, Spain. From its foundation before the opening of the centre in 2004 until March 2020, when the managing body, the Siglo Foundation for the Arts and Tourism of Castilla y León, confiscated the budget of the centre with the argument of strong restrictive measures against COVID19. The lecture will try to show the main phases that have accompanied the development of MUSAC and that are somehow defined both by the policies of the Council of Castilla y León and the curatorial programs of the three directors who have been at the museum. It will also expose, however, some of the dynamics and work strategies that the DEAC was able to implement in collaboration with the public under the promise of an educational, political and social turn in the museum that, despite the efforts made by citizens and the museum’s educational team, have never managed to structurally permeate the centre.

Biography: Belen Sola is a researcher, teacher and independent cultural producer. She is a Co-Director of LAAV_, Laboratorio de Antropología Audiovisual Experimental, together with artist Chus Domínguez. Between 2005 and 2020 she was Director of the Department of Education and Cultural Action of MUSAC. She is co-author and editor of the books Learning Experiences with Contemporary Art in the Politics of Diversity (Actar. Barcelona, 2010), which gathers the foundations of MUSAC’s educational project, as well as To Exhibit or Expose: Museum Education as Critical Cultural Production (Catarata. Madrid, 2019). She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Didactics of Musical, Artistic and Corporal Expression at the University of Valladolid. She has a degree in Art History from the University of Valladolid and a PhD in Art Education from the University of León.