Concert for the Biocene with plants as an audience

The Teatro Real Coliseo Carlos III, located in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, celebrates 250 years since its construction at the initiative of Carlos III. And the commemorative activities planned by the Community of Madrid, which manages this space, which was the first Spanish roofed theater and, in the 20th century, stood out as the epicenter of theatrical effervescence and zarzuela, are inspired by versatility, the interdisciplinary character and the scenic power of space, and its symbolism in the history of Spanish arts and culture. For this reason, the program, which will run between October and December, is theatrical, musical, performative, lyrical and cinematographic. Thus, after the screening, last October, of the short film The spirit of the theater (directed by Pablo Barrón and interpretation by Carlos Hipólito), and interpretation of the concert Paths of the soul, by María Espadas y Nereydas, on November 14 it will be the turn of the performance Concert for the Biocene: a proposal by Eugenio Ampudia, one of the most important contemporary Spanish artists.

The play was presented for the first time at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, ​​and is now beginning its journey, in different versions, through international institutions and biennials. It is a symbolic action of a paradigm shift: it expresses a will to reformulate the present, of a paradigm shift that would launch the new post-covid era. Unlike the presentation at the Barcelona opera, in which the audience was exclusively vegetal, this time it will be interspecies, because the plants will share seats with a select group of spectators, in a hybrid audience that will enjoy Musica Notturna delleStrade di Madrid Op. 30 nº6, by Luigi Boccherini, at the hands of a five-piece orchestra. Thus, on November 14, there will be people and plants sitting in the seats of the Carlos III and the Jorcam interpreting pieces by Luigi Boccherini and Giacomo Puccini. After the concert, the plants, with a certificate from the artist, will be donated to the attending public.

The Biocene as inspiration

The action has the collaboration of the Max Estrella Gallery, and the curator is Blanca De la Torre, who, after a research thesis, has coined the concept of Biocene, replacing the well-known term Anthropocene to name the beginning of a new era that finally put life at the center. In this way, if the Anthropocene was popularized on the threshold of this millennium by the Nobel Prize in Chemistry Paul Crutzen, replacing the Holocene who described the previous period and recognizing the human being as responsible for the state of degradation of the planet, the Biocene emerges to highlight the political, economic and especially colonial implications of the ecological deterioration of the planet, in line with other terminological proposals such as the Eurocene, proposed by Peter Sloterdijk, or the Capitalocene, coined by Andreas Malm and Jason Moore, and widely extended by Donna Haraway.

In the case of the Biocene, it aspires to a paradigm shift and calls for the beginning of a new era that places life at the center. For this, a Copernican turn is necessary that connects with posthumanist thought, the line where this Concert for the Biocene is situated, since one of the tasks of contemporary art and aesthetics has to be to promote new alliances between human and non-human entities. , that recognize the importance of inter-species dependencies that usher in a new era of true ecosocial engagement.

A proposal with philosophical support

Recent scientific studies on the behavior of plants reveal that they are organisms capable of reacting sensitively to musical stimuli, and surprising with sophisticated behaviors. Taking a step further, the philosopher Michael Marder develops an elaborate theory around what he calls Plant-thinking, assigning plant life the ability to develop its own way of philosophizing. For the thinker, plant beings have their particular way of expressing themselves, without resorting to any vocalization, although they do use postures or gestures. Marder proposes that contemporary philosophy includes plants in its tradition of analyzing language as a means of communication, not necessarily associated exclusively with the human realm.

Secondly, Concert for the Biocene connects with posthumanist thinking, which questions anthropocentrism, focusing on the questioning of binomial approaches that assume an interior and an exterior of nature. One of the tasks of contemporary art and aesthetics must be to promote egalitarian modes of collaboration between humans and non-humans, focusing on the coexistence of multiple species. Thus, the feminist theorist Rosi Braidotti advocates the egalitarianism of the species, based on the premise that we are all interdependent beings in the framework that we have previously defined as nature. Ecological awareness is about recognizing the astonishing variety of scales, temporal and spatial, and that human scales are only a very limited part of a much larger and necessarily inconsistent and varied space of scale possibilities, and that the human scale is not a higher scale.

Ultimately, Ampudia’s proposal would be framed in artistic practices that can clearly create symbolic and practical gestures to advance towards new alliances between non-human entities, and recognize the critical importance of dependencies between species as the only possible path towards a new era. of ecosocial commitment. And, since we are not the only species that inhabits the planet, we must establish relationships with others and, perhaps, music and culture are a way of relating to the plant kingdom, especially in a space as intimate as the Carlos III, who brings new scenic possibilities to the concept of performance.

About Eugenio Ampudia

As a multidisciplinary artist, Eugenio Ampudia’s work addresses artistic processes from a critical point of view. The artist thus stands out as a promoter of ideas, and the political role of creators, the meaning of art pieces, the strategies that allow them to give life, their production, promotion and consumption mechanisms, the efficiency of the assigned spaces stand out. to art, as well as the analysis and experience of those who look at and interpret them. Ampudia’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, in centers such as ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan; Carrillo Gil Museum, Mexico; Boston Center for the Arts, Boston (MA), United States; Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines; the Whitechapel Gallery in London; the Sala Alcalá 31 of the Community of Madrid; and in Biennials such as Singapore and the Biennial of the End of the World in Argentina. And it is also kept in museum collections such as MNCARS, MUSAC, ARTIUM, IVAM, La Caixa, among others.

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Concert for the Biocene with plants as an audience