Project - text - Announcement - Performance - Video - Publication

In 2010 Laia Estruch spent some time in New York studying Visual Arts at the Cooper Union. One day, shortly before starting classes at the university, she went into a bookshopin Brooklyn, chose a book from the shelves that had caught her eye, and when she was about to pay for itthe bookseller gave it to her. It was the book Trebisonda or Sonia Balassanian in the Time of the Foxes by the New York- based Iranian artist and writer Rene Gabri. Estruch decided to used the book as the starting point of the project that she had to do at university. Later on, after she had completed and presented her project which she called The Lecture, by chance she happened to meet Rene Gabri, the book’s author, who described this meeting between her and Estruch as ” serendipity”, a word that describes when a fortunate event or discovery takes place by accident, chance or coincidence.
At that time Estruch was already looking into the importance of coincidence and happenstance in artistic projects, and so she decided to delve into the concept of “serendipity” in greater depth. During her research she came across the story of the three princes of Serendip ( the Arabic name for the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka), an 18th century oral story from Persia about some monarchs who solved their problems by following the dictates of chance. This led Estruch to come up with a new artistic idea wich would be to recover the content of her The lecture project along with these other events and turn them into a story to be told orally.
This is the origin of Serendipity, a piece made up of three live performances by way of introduction, core and outcome and through which Estruch relates all the stories, events and happenings that have given rise to her artistic project. Using the language of performance, she builds a meta-referential story within the tradition of oral literature, yet far from embracing the epic meaning that often characterizes the great stories transmitted orally, and avoiding the frequent mystification of the circumstances surrounding the conception of a work of art, Estruch’s tale stresses chance details and seemingly insignificant situations which have nonetheless been crucial in the development of the project. Through these oral narratives Estruch explains the process of creating the artwork, thus making it into a story that her listeners can transmit and spread too.
However, if chance happenings and accidental situations take on such relevance in the process of conceiving the work, this is mainly due to the position Estruch adopts with respect to the artistic idea in itself. In both The Lecture and Serendipity , and aware of the importance that chance has in the development of artistic projects from her standpoint, she makes her intentions and ideas regarding the proposal she is seeking to realize secondary and instead allows it to develop based on events and situations generated by the people around her or even by strangers who at one time and by chance have interacted in some way with her. Estruch decided to turn these accidental events into key factors in the construction of her work. Hence, for example, when Estruch was talking to her mother’s partner about the Serendipity project, he recommended she read the English translation of Vladimir Propp’s book Morfologija skasky (Morphology of the Folktale), in wich Propp analyzes the basic components of Russian fairy folktales. Much taken with this recommendation, Estruch got hold of the book and without reading it, decided to arrange the story in her project using the conceptual and structural parameters Propp identified in these tales, so that her story, even though it has no connection with the popular Russian narrative tradition, would be a “Russian” fairy story.
While Estruch’s previous artistic work had been in sculpture and photography, her recent projects have turned to performance and hence shun the objectual component of artwork: only a visual and/or sound record of her live performances remains. In addition to the three performances mentioned above, her Sala d’Art Jove project also involves the publication of the written version of the oral story that she has told in her performances and which is to be presented at the end of the exhibition period. However, Estruch sees this story not so much as the physical completion of the project but rather as a record and document for it which will be published at the very end of the exhibition period after the live performances, the essential elements of Estruch’s artistic proposal, have been completed. Furthermore, by transforming the oral story into a publication, she explores the relationship between the open and permeable format of live storytelling and the stable formal specification of a written text.
The conception, design and publishing of this story, which Estruch is to carry out in conjunction with the graphic designer and artist Ariadna Serrahima, highlights another characteristic aspect of her way of working, at least in her most recent projects: the inclusion in her work process of professionals from other fields who help her to bring about her projects. This does not, however, entail delegating the formalization of the work to a professional who has mastery of the techniques necessary to realize it, as often happens with many conceptual art projects, but rather that alongside these professionals Estruch goes through a learning process that enables her to gain knowledge of the techniques and concepts that they have mastered so that together she and they can give shape to the project.
The relationships she establishes with other people are therefore crucial in carrying out her projects. This is because not only does she afford decisive importance to random interactions with people around her, but she also makes much of the success of her projects subject to her collaborators’ experience and knowledge. It might seem that in a way Estruch is in a position of vulnerability and fragility when it comes to realizing her work, yet it is precisely by making the evolution of her projects subject to circumstances that she does not control, and by making her artistic practice part of an “expanded authorship”, that her work takes on unwonted potential and richness.

Text by Alexandra Laudo