Primer Episodio

Radical Conceptual Art revisited: A social and political perspective from the East and the South


Name: Esther Ferrer

Place and data of birth: [1937] San Sebastián (Euskadi)

Place of work during the 60’s and 70’s (personal biography):

Esther Ferrer (San Sebastián, 1937) joined the Zaj group (founded in 1964 by Madridian musician Ramón Barce, Canarian artist Juan Hidalgo, and Italian Walter Marchetti) in 1967. Zaj is linked to the attitudes of other international experimental groups of the late 1970s avantgarde, which integrated Neo-Dadaist tendencies. One of the most important movements along these lines was Fluxus. In fact, Fluxus invited the Zaj group to participate in the autumn of 1966. Some of the Fluxus members (Allison Knowles and Dick Higgins) traveled to Spain to collaborate on some of the Zaj actions. However, though there were many parallels between the performances and the ideals of both groups, the Fluxus actions, particularly in the group’s North American branch, always demonstrated a more festive, exuberant and spectacular tone, while the Zaj group had a more contained style. Despite international recognition and the group’s American performances in the 1972, Zaj was not officially recognized in Spain until 1996, when the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid organized and held an exhibition centered on the group’s activities. Since Zaj’s creation until 1973, when all of the members established themselves outside of Spain, the group carried out an intense amount of activities including concerts, actions and performances as well as publications, installations and post cards.

Esther Ferrer carried out her first performance in 1967, and since then that ephemeral practice has become the leitmotif of her work. The spectator’s role and the concept of her performances are similar to Bertol Brecht’s theater in which the absence of fiction on stage and the isolation that the spectator feels provoke consciousness and critical reflection. For Ferrer the performer is not an actor, but an element that executes an action, and what happens in a performance is real. It is evidence of materiality and moves away from any illusionist game. At the same time the artist tries to transmit a consciousness of the passing of time: Time, Space (which includes mental space) and Presence (hers and everyone’s) are elements that manipulate her actions in which she usually incorporates everyday objects: hammers, watches, tables, chairs, frames, threads, ropes, shoes, etc.


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