Antoni Abad grew up in a creative family – his mother is a poet and his father was a sculptor – and after earning a degree in Art History from the University of Barcelona in 1979, he embarked on his own career as a sculptor. He soon moved on from big blocks of 'soft' materials such as foam rubber to industrial-style mobile structures made out of Mecalux (industrial metal shelving systems). In both cases, he adopted a minimalist aesthetic that emphasises the visualisation of the creative process and dynamic shapes that suggest infinite possible combinations. Accordingly, these works are often accompanied by photographic sequences that document the different stages of production. These works also sparked the artist's interest in systems of measurement: Abad obsessively measures the reality around him in a desperate attempt to apprehend it.
In 1993 he travelled to Canada to take part in the Nomad Project artists residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts, an experience that turned out to be a turning point in his career. Abad arrived a sculptor, and returned a video artist. In the Rocky Mountains he discovered the creative potential of video and projections in space, and also of computers and the Internet. 'When I returned to Barcelona my suitcase no longer contained the tools of a sculptor, just video tapes and my first e-mail address,' he recalls.
His somewhat Kafkaesque chameleonic video projections express the fragility of human beings in an existential but also playful and sensual tone. They include works like 'Últimos deseos' (1995), the first version of 'Sisyphus' (1995) and his 'rat trilogy': 'Errata' (1996), 'Natural Sciences' (1997) and 'Love Story' (1998). These video installations later evolved into net.art, continuing a process of dematerialisation that crystallised in his network of virtual colonies of flies that parasite the net: 'Ego' (1999) and 'Z' (1999-2003). Abad is also the author of the first piece of net.art ever sold in Spain, '1,000,000' (1999).
Nonetheless, he reached a point where he felt the need to connect all this technological know-how with a social reality that transcends the boundaries of the art world. And so he began working on his community mobile publishing projects, intended to give voice to groups that are usually ignored or discriminated by the mainstream media. The immediacy and autonomy of new-generation mobile phones make them an effective tool for online broadcasting, in first person, of issues that participants initially discuss in group assemblies. In these works, the artist plays the role of an instigator or catalyst of narratives that are soon freely expressed by the protagonists themselves in their own voices. Since 2004, the following projects are hosted on megafone.net: 'sitio*TAXI', México DF 2004; 'canal*GITANO', Lleida 2005; 'BARCELONA*accessible', Barcelona 2006; and 'canal*MOTOBOY', São Paulo 2007.
Antoni Abad's work has been shown at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1997); Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (1999); New Museum, New York (2001); Hamburger Banhof, Berlin (2002) and MACBA (1996, 2003 and 2014).
00:26 From sculpture to video projections
02:06 'Sense títol' (Creu esclava), 1990. Foam rubber and Mecalux sculptures
04:20 Measurements: tape measures, hand spans, feet and inches
07:12 'Últimos deseos', 1995. The temptation of allowing oneself to fall
10:23 'Natural Sciences', 1997. A colony of rats in the museum
13:48 'Sisyphus', 1995 and 1996. Online art
17:10 Z, 1999-2003. Flies parasite the Web
19:55 Mobiles, social networks and activism
22:03 Trip to Sao Paolo: 'motoboys'
23:47 Trip to México City: taxi drivers
25:17 The artist as catalyst: displaced authorship
27:05 Documentary installations or expanded documentaries
28:15 Mexico City. Taxi drivers, 2004
29:50 'canal*GITANO'. Young gypsies in Lleida, 2005
32:36 Inaccessible Barcelona, 2006
37:08 Concluding thoughts
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