He is a musician, artist, art curator and audiovisual producer, but he believes that trying to label oneself in our day and age is to take part in a 'false debate'. For him, referring to himself as a cultural producer, the real debate is elsewhere: how do we produce, how do we distribute and above all how do we consume culture? The popularization of digital supports and broadband is in itself a cultural revolution that forces us to look for new answers to these three questions. ‘Nowadays what is really important is not so much the what but the how.’ In his opinion, digital arts (and digitalisable works) are a complete subversion with respect to aesthetic and ethical art forms that have preceded them.
As a curator, Òscar Abril Ascaso (Barcelona, 1966) has been responsible since 1997 for the exhibition showcases in Sónar, the International Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art in Barcelona. He has been co-director of the Zeppelin sound art festival, curator of the Audio programme for the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica in Barcelona and he was also responsible for, along with Elastico, a cycle of conferences on free culture and intellectual property, CopyFight, in the Contemporary Cultural Centre in Barcelona (CCCB).
As an artist, in the nineties he founded Club 7, an association promoting performance, action art and sound art, with projects such as Ready Made Sounds, Metareference Projects and Low Tech Music (LTM) (1995) that came together under the name of Oaa soundworks. These projects offered a line of experimentation unique in Spain up until then in areas such as soundscapes and silence. They even published a manual, LTM Manual, translated into five languages, and a hypertext, Machina LTM, about how the sound catalogue, LTM, works. Recently Òscar Abril Ascaso has started up, among many other projects, Òscar Abril Ascaso + Sedcontra Avec Les Autres, a music group from Barcelona inspired by pop and French philosophy from the sixties and seventies.
His latest proposal, Centre d’art produeix música pop (Art centre produces pop music), could be seen during the first three months of 2008 in the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica in Barcelona. It was an exhibition but there was also a stage with a different concert every day. Fourteen emerging groups from the city rehearsed and recorded a track in musical studios set up in the centre in front of the prying eyes of visitors. The groups could use the space, time and infrastructure under one condition: they had to use the copyleft license, without royalties, so that the music resulting from the experience could be distributed on the Internet.
What Abril Ascaso calls ‘the depotentiation of the notion of authorship’, is precisely one of the consequences that he sees in the cultural revolution dictated by new technologies and new ways of cultural consumption. However there is still another more important consequence, ‘the desubstancialización of the artistic object’, and also a confirmation: ‘the sign of the times manifests itself not in the exhibiting programmes of art centres but in the activity programmes.’ So what is really modern is no longer the who or the what, it is the how.
It is for this reason that in order not to lose the train of contemporariness, he believes that it is absolutely necessary to give cultural investment a new direction, to burst ‘the inflation of museums’ bubble that we have been living in recently and to commit ourselves to new ways of management, production and a lower impact consumerism that ‘are more capable of capturing what is happening in each moment.’ Óscar Abril Ascaso as always speaks about the avant-garde. However every day he is increasingly more convinced that we are living in a historically important period of change, with the Internet as a ‘public place’, new rules for the game and criteria to define. He has eleven years of experience in charge of the exhibitions at Sónar and more than twenty years of work as an artist behind him. He is always chasing, looking for the sign of the times.
Santa Mònica Art Center
Hangar is a Barcelona-basedarts production centre placed in the area of Poblenou.