“As part of our time, culture and society, art shares and is affected by rules, structures and tics like other economic, political and social systems in our environment.” So began the interviews carried out by Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona, 1942) from 1983 to 1991 with one hundred and sixty agents from the international art scene, which are compiled in the installation Between the Frames: The Forum (Barcelona)1983-1993, (2011). The origins of the work are to be found in the exhibition Comments at the Long Beach Museum of Art (1983), in which the artist participated, and where the museum guides' interpretations of his piece La televisión (1983) prompted him to embark on this new project.
According to the artist, Between the Frames: The Forum (Barcelona) 1983-1993 offers a vision of the art system in the eighties, although the work continued to take shape in the late nineties and early 2000s. The work includes eight “chapters” of varying duration, amounting to a total of 260 minutes of screening time, edited by Muntadas from two hundred hours of interviews with art dealers, gallery owners, art collectors, museum directors, guides, critics and specialists from a range of media outlets. The final chapter is an “epilogue” in which Muntadas gathers together the opinions of several artists regarding the art system. The interviewees – professionals who represent the various kinds of mediation between the artwork and the public – talk about their values, roles, responsibilities and points of view.
Muntadas presents these interviews with a radial exhibition device: a circular modular structure with a central space (a physical space for discussions, hence the term “Forum” in the title), marking the convergence of seven cellular spaces containing one monitor each, where the various chapters are screened simultaneously. Each space (lit in a different colour) is set aside for a particular type of art professional. Each section functions independently, but also as an integral part of the series that converges in the central space, a meeting point where spectators can compare opinions and wander, reorder and interpret what they hear and see.
In the videos screened in the different spaces of the installation, Between the Frames: The Forum (Barcelona) 1983-1993 avoids the classic interview format. Instead of showing the interviewee (who appears only at the beginning), the recorded answers are accompanied by images that symbolise their role in the art system. Thus, a day at the Tokyo stock exchange for art collectors, the comings and goings of waves for the critics, and a train for the art dealers and gallery owners. Muntadas associates each group of professionals with a visual theme, but the images come from multiple camera perspectives: a strategy that indicates that what matters is not the people speaking or their positions of authority, but the values and opinions they bring into play.
Since MACBA acquired the work in 2010, Muntadas has recovered the original circular structure, which is exhibited alongside photographic documents of each successive version and update. Meanwhile, the artist has also deposited the original interviews at the MACBA Study Centre so as to make them available for consultation. Far from limiting or closing the work, this double acquisition encourages new readings and interpretations of the project.