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MACBA photo: Raimon Sola


In the beginning of March, I was invited by the Museu d' Art Contemporarni de Barcelona to collaborate on the organization of an extensive exhibition of the work of Öyvind Fahlström that is due to open October 17 and will continue until January 9, 2001. The plan was to gather in Barcelona a group of Fahlström scholars to advise the curators of the exhibition on which texts by Fahlström would be most appropriate for publication in the catalogue. Sharon Avery-Fahlström, widow of the artist and one of the curators, had made absolutely clear the need for the group to come to Barcelona; the Fahlstršm Archives had been moved from New York after all and installed for the time being in a room in the museum. That is to say that I had been warned, but still I had no idea.

The Öyvind Fahlström Archives, or ARXIU ÖYVIND FAHLSTRÖM as it is written in Catalan on a glass panel by the entrance, occupies a room of considerable size with impeccable white walls. Under the care of Mrs. Fahlström, the archives new abode manages to out-Meier Richard Meier, the museumÕs architect, and set the right atmosphere for one to fully appreciate its contents: all of Fahlstršm's papers, manuscripts, personal library, record collection, and some family memorabilia are there. The manuscripts, only a small number of which have been published, have been organized in archival boxes by Teddy Hultberg and Lars Hjelmsted and cover a huge variety of subjects ranging from Surrealist and Concretist poems, to essays on art, radio plays, sketches, and glossaries of "monster languages," as well as drawings, studies and photographic material for some of his most important artworks. They constitute an incredible source for researching Fahlström's work and methods, and will most likely keep scholars busy for several generations.

What MACBA has undertaken is, as far as I know, unprecedented and clearly a model to be followed. The museum has refused to take the easy route of re-dressing what already has been done in the past by other museums, and has set an ambitious agenda for their new exhibition. The curators' singular view is anchored in the acknowledgment that Fahlström was not solely a painter, but a poet and a thinker. According to Jean François Chevrier, one of the exhibitio's curators together with Sharon Avery-Fahlström and Manuel Borj--Villel, Fahlström doesn't even need anyone to write about his work because he speaks for himself. Hence the moving of the archives to Barcelona, where it will be housed throughout the entire tour of the exhibition which ends in early 2002.

The archives are a catalyst in the sense that they gather people with shared interests. During my stay there, I collaborated mainly with Jesper Olsson, a Fahlström scholar from the University of Stockholm, specifically on two projects: the selection of material for the poetry pages of fahlstrom.com, and on a modified version of the exhibition for the Sáo Paulo Bienal in 2001. Sáo Paulo being the birthplace of Fahlström as well as of Concrete poetry, we thought the exhibition should concentrate on both the biographical and FahlströmÕs early involvement with Concretism.

Teddy Hultberg, who recently published a bilingual (Swedish/English) volume on two of FahlströmÕs text-sound compositions, has been working on the archives for an extended period selecting texts to be used in the catalogue. Hultberg shares my enthusiasm for the archives. For years he has been studying Fahlström, but only now has he had the opportunity to delve more thoroughly into this material. The presence of the archives in Barcelona and its availability to Fahlström's scholars is opening the possibility to advance the study of Fahlström's work. I encourage everyone who has a serious interest in this subject to get in touch with the museum via Ana Cestelli, acestelli@macba.es and arrange a series of appointments. The time is now.

AS Bessa Brooklyn,

New York 2000