EDITORIAL CONCRETA: The essential image, the precise word

By Teresa de Andrés. March 25, 2013


CONCRETA is a magazine and publisher specialising in artists' books that has stormed onto the scene with its thoughtful, unhurried and insightful perspectives. At a time when culture is facing neglect and is in decline, it is pleasing and surprising to find out about brave initiatives that encourage thought. Often, it is when the unspeakable happens that certain actions become necessary. When we are overwhelmed by trivialised images and faced with empty words, we are responsible yet again for finding opportunities to transform them once more into a means of social response and into weapons of engagement.

We chat to the founders of this publishing project which demonstrates that shared ideas and values always come to fruition in times of upheaval. The avant-garde has donned its finery and is back stronger than ever.

In your mission statement, you mention that Concreta was born of a common desire and the need to fill a void. Traditionally, it could be said that the most turbulent times have also been the most effervescent in the intellectual sphere. Do you think this idea is true of the current climate?

Obviously Concreta has come about at an extremely delicate time resulting from the financial, social and political situation we're facing. It's also a time when things are very difficult for culture due to the withdrawal of public resources and to the populism of political discourses. It may well be that the most interesting artistic practises are always those that conduct a critical analysis of society and the moment they arise in. However, it is true that at times as complicated as these –when a multitude of ideas aren't accommodated by the conventional institutions due to budget cuts, ideology or poor management– initiatives of a collective and self-managed nature, which stand at the margins of the governmental powers, multiply. These are also times when a certain attitude of resistance and commitment is needed the most in order to try to minimise social setbacks. Resources are very scarce. Nevertheless, it's important to demonstrate that culture isn't a luxury but a necessity, and that a country with cultural institutions and self-managed social and cultural movements is a much stronger one.

Can you tell us a bit more about the publishing team behind Concreta? How did you meet and what do you each contribute to the project?

Concreta's publishing team is made up of Nuria Enguita Mayo, Milene Trindade and Laura Vallés. In addition, Pep Benlloch is our Development Manager, Ester Pegueroles is our Distribution Manager and Rafa Barber is our Publishing Assistant. The interesting thing about our team is that we each stem from different backgrounds. Nuria worked at Institut Valencià d'Art Modern when it was a museum with an interesting programme, and managed Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona for ten years, until 2008. Aside from that she’s one of the Editors of Afterall –a magazine about contemporary art based in Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Incidentally, that was where Laura met Nuria in 2009 as she was working for Afterall thanks to a Leonardo da Vinci grant. Milene, who did a Masters in Photography, Art and Technique at Universitat Politècnica de València with her, was also living in London at that time and it was in this setting that the seed for Concreta was planted. Milene subsequently worked in New York, at Printed Matter –an interesting space geared towards the publication and distribution of artist books. Laura was at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography at around the same time. In 2011, on returning to Spain, to Valencia specifically, we developed our publishing project. A fundamental connection and a key element was Pep Benlloch’s inclusion in the team. He is the current Head of the Master's Degree in Photography and Professor at Universitat Politècnica de València as well as the former Manager of  Visor Gallery. We believe that Concreta's strength lies in the way it fuses our different areas of education, ages and experiences. From the management of a foundation to academia, publishing, exhibitions and the arts, our team manages to contribute a multitude of values that we believe filter through into our content.

In addition to the biannual magazine, you also publish artist books. Are there any books in the making or do you have any new artists in mind?

At the moment, we're right in the middle of publishing Concreta 01 which will be launched at 7.00pm on 19 April at Barcelona’s Fundación Tàpies in collaboration with La Central. We'll also be at the fair dedicated to artist books Arts Libris that same weekend.

Together with Concreta 01 we're publishing an artist book called Boletim at the hands of Portuguese artist Carla Filipe. Her publication is an interesting review of the information leaflets designed for the railway developments in the country at the beginning of the 20th Century. Following the example of the French and British rail companies, C.P. (Compañía Portuguesa) promoted the construction of buildings to create homes and social facilities in order to support the new wave of workers generated by the arrival of the rail industry. Inevitably, this process involved changes in the landscape and the relocation and displacement of people.

In addition to the book by Carla Filipe, in the next few months we would like to publish –in collaboration with Fundació Antoni Tàpies– an artist book by Isaías Griñolo entitled Romance de las plazas. The book is currently on display as part of the Contra Tàpies exhibition at Fundació Antoni Tàpies itself. This publication by Isaías uses poetry and photography to reflect on recent political events in Spain and people’s reactions to such.

Do you think the first issue of Concreta has been well received?

It has been received quite well. Little by little we're reaching more people and institutions through subscriptions despite the difficulties posed by the current climate. The evaluation of the product at an initial level –as an object, design and intention– is very positive since the magazine is unlike others about art and is received differently. It's not an academic magazine but academia is represented within it as we share similar interests, nor is it a magazine that is strictly about current matters so its appeal extends beyond the time in which it is published.

We've also received very strong support from some gallery owners, directors of institutions and private collectors that have backed us from the outset and who, by means of advertising or donations, have contributed financially towards our funding. It’s quite an affordable magazine, at a very competitive price. We believe that people view the content favourably but we’ll have to publish more issues before we can really assess the scope of what we’re offering.

Can you let us in on any hints about your next issue?

Concreta 01 includes a series of essays, articles, interviews and works that reflect on the notion of displacement, land and gentrification. Although we don't want to focus on developing just one idea in each issue, we are interested in researching certain points that revolve around specific subjects. In the next issue of the magazine, which focuses on the idea of land and displacement, we can tell you in advance that we'll have contributions from Jean-François Chevrier, Marie José Mondzain, Esteban Pujals, Xavier Ribas, Anna Boghiguian, Graciela Carnevale, Ângela Ferreira, Maia Creus, Lluís Benlloch and Peio Aguirre, amongst others. If you want to find out what they talk to us about you'll have to get your hands on a copy of the magazine.

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