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La Neomudejar, an avant-garde art center, holds a privileged place within art, until now orphan in Madrid’s artistic scene. A place for experimentation that feels distant from conventional landscape.
It has a more than ambitious proposal: in addition to organizing extremely attractive exhibitions for the capital’s public, it also has an artist residency project, the first in the city.
Francisco Brives, one of the center’s promoters, talks about it in this interview.

FLIC: What drove a video-artist, a writer and movie director and a cultural manager to embark on this project? From where do you know each other? Had you worked together before?
FRANCISCO: The impulse comes from a long journey on the Underground, where a series of performance acts strengthened team work and the way of understanding creation that collided head-on with conventional culture that didn’t allow the visibility that for years we had been asking for. Nestor Prieto and I met at the Villa de Vallecas, like the old school, precursor of avant-garde in Madrid (Vallecas School), although under very different circumstances. The journey that began 12 years ago has been taking us towards a strong union that springs from the mutual admiration of our works and the tenacity to do what we have to do, not what we dream about.

The performance act is one of the bases that keep our tandem strong. What has been strengthening this communication is live performances and militant acts, and today this project enraptures us in a way that beats all expectations. The performance of “Chilantro”, “La terraza de Lavapies”, “pandereitada”, or the “performance de las piedras” were emblematic.

What made you choose La Neomudejar’s current location? Was it offered to you or did you already have your eye on it?
The location was offered by our main partner, ADIF. The original project had applied for another location from a list of more than 20 places where you had precincts as well as unique buildings, with the essential requirement of being in the city center.

The choice was almost imposed on us, given the deafness of the other institutions to which we presented the project and which were unable to see or understand us like ADIF has done since day one.

What do you think La Neomudejar can bring to the art scene in Spain, and Madrid in particular? Do you think the city was lacking an artistic center like this one?
La Neomudejar offers a loudspeaker to the artistic resistance. We don’t have any other requirements for this project other than to be able to complete the cycle we have planned for these 8 years. Our day to day is filled with learning that in the end is what really moves us. To learn and to play are a part of this project.

We don’t believe in Madrid’s orphan-hood. Madrid has thousands of voices saying a lot of interesting things, but nobody wants to hear them. We came to Madrid to listen, as we did before in other countries like Argentina at the Ibero-American Culture Forum. Listening is fundamental in order to beat ignorance and we Galicians know how to listen.

What advantages do you consider you have, being so close to the MNCARS, the Museo del Prado…?
None, our audience is intelligent and selective.

What other residencies and art centers inspired you?
Tacheles in Berlin, La Cartucherie in Paris or Hontalillas in Guadalajara were sources of inspiration.

Which artists are residing at La Neomudejar at the moment? What criteria do you have when selecting them? Could you tell us something about them?
At the moment there are a total of 6 residing proposals. Greg Gobel, Emma Ferguson, Joana Kirby, Marc Janus, the Video-artists’ association and La orquestra en el Tejado, made up of 14 musicians. We have opened two residencies of Argentinian artists in a project called “from Quilmes to the world”, funded by the Argentinian Embassy in Spain. And for this year we would like to fill three other residencies we are already taking a look at.

The criteria are always the same: excellence, avant-garde and execution. At La Neomudejar we consider talent a starting point, but besides talent there also needs to be dialogue. The works you don’t feel passionate about are unlikely to transcend. About our residents, we can point out that each one of them, in their area, is an innovator; they are bound by a fundamental personal exigency and a project that interacts with space.

At the moment you are showing several exhibitions simultaneously in the center and it seems you are gaining media coverage. Did you notice an increase in the number of visitors during these first six months of La Neomudejar?
At the moment La Neomudejar is the subject of discussion and sensation. The talks we promote about creativity provided by Marga Iñiguez or the meetings of video-artists where we highlight the brilliant mind of Julia Juaniz are a delight to us. We recently enjoyed the talent of Tapio Rosenius at a talk about digital light. Being able to listen to experience and talent is always motivating. La Neomudejar has a clear intention of providing training, training for the public and training and examination for the artists and creators. You have to learn and research. We believe the increase in visitors is significant and is due to those factors. The word of mouth is the best publicity. International audiences are now regulars at the center and it is not because of the press, but because Tom told Dick and Harry that in Madrid they had to go to La Neomudejar.

Can you give us a scoop of any project you have prepared for the near future?
Talks with Marga Iñiguez (about Creativity). The themes to be discussed are:
– What happens in the act of creating?
– How do ideas come about? From the doing, the feeling, the thinking. What to do with them?
– Creative processes.
– Connecting with the internal archives of data, images, sensations…
– Internal Look / external Look.
– Perception: data collection.
– Going to unusual places.
– Who is the person who creates? Uniqueness.

Vanguards and Peripheries opened on the 29th April. It is an international project with a local impact. For that reason we are involving a lot of palpitating voices from the neighbourhood, the Basilica de Atocha, El pantano de Personalidades ilustres, La Neomudejar and the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Atocha.