Press Release of the Exhibition
Muntadas (born in Barcelona 1942) exhibits for the rst time at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, in Lisbon. The exhibition Spectacle / Power / Mass Media presents works from the 1990’s to the 2010’s, most of them never shown before in Portugal.
Muntadas’ multidisciplinary practice explores and analyses the social, political and anthropological phenomena of our world, in order to reveal the way in which reality is con gured and controlled by the mass media. His work uncovers the power mechanisms that support the systems of persuasion by using the same strategies of the mass media.
Muntadas rejects a linear reading of the present and proposes a history that is a combination of multiple events, including memories of the past and visions of the future.” Michael Tarantino; Artforum, Feb. 1995
Two works from the 90s are based on the analysis of gesture as a symbol of power. Portraits is a series of silkscreen prints exploring discourses in front of cameras with images taken from the media of public gures addressing an audience, one of the most recurrent images in the media landscape. The super enlarged images focus on the act of talking, isolating the mouth and the microphone, suspending the action and making any reference to the identity of the public gure, to the location and the event disappear. The microphone becomes a symbol and a prosthesis of power. On the other hand, Architektur/ Räume /Gesten II is a photo collage series focusing on the relationship between a hand gesture, the interior space for decision-making space and the exterior of an urban building. The combination of the images in this tryptic unfolds to establish relationships between gestures of authority, agreement, consensus and imposition, boardrooms designed speci cally for people who control a company to meet and take decisions, and architecture as a representation of the economic and political power in post-industrial society.
The sphere of spectacle is re ected upon in three works based on football, investigating topics such as mass events, identity, violence and sport. They belong to the series On Translation which analyses the concept of ‘translation’ from wide-ranging perspectives, tackling linguistics, as well as economic, political and cultural issues. Football has become one of the biggest mass media spectacles in the world followed by millions of viewers, feeding the lucrative sports business. There are various packagings and rules for the way in which the ‘spectacle’ is presented by the producers and managers, to send messages to the audience. In international competitions played by national teams, there is the ritual of singing the national anthem at the beginning of the match. On Translation: Hinmes discloses the different social behaviours of the players during that moment in order to re ect on patriotism, colonization and globalization.
One of the most exciting moments in a football match is when a goal is scored. On Translation: Celebracions makes manifest a chain of such reactions and rituals, re ecting on the personal, intimate and almost erotic reactions between the players as well as on the universal phenomena of interaction between the player and the sports fans. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is responsible for the organisation of the international tournaments and their rules. On Translation: FIFA 2014 is a mural of different images related to football, presented during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil where advertising, fanaticism, violence and control to point to the ip side of ‘spectacle’.
Antoni Muntadas was born in Barcelona in 1942 and has lived in New York since 1971. Through his works he addresses social, political and communication issues such as the relationship between public and private space within social frameworks, and investigates channels of information and the ways they may be used to censor or promulgate ideas. His projects are presented in different media such as photography, video, publications, the Internet, installations and urban interventions.
Muntadas has taught and directed seminars at diverse institutions throughout Europe and the United States, including the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, the Fine Arts Schools in Bordeaux and Grenoble, the University of California in San Diego, the San Francisco Art Institute Cooper Union in New York, the University of São Paulo, and the University of Buenos Aires. He has also been invited as a resident artist and consulting advisor at various research and education centers including the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, the Banff Centre in Alberta, Arteleku in San Sebastian, The National Studio for Contemporary Arts Le Fresnoy, and the University of Western Sydney. Antoni Muntadas has been a visiting professor at the Visual Arts Program in the School of Architecture at MIT in Cambridge from 1990 to 2014. He is currently teaching at at the Veneto Institute of Architecture in Venice.
Muntadas has received several prizes and grants, including those of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Arts Electronica in Linz, Laser d’Or in Locarno, the Premi Nacional d’Arts Plàstiques awarded by the Catalan Government and the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas 2005. One of his most recent awards is the Premio Velázquez de las Artes Plásticas 2009 granted by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
His work has been exhibited in numerous museums, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Berkeley Art Museum in California, the Musée Contemporain de Montreal, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, while other international events in which he has presented work are the VI and X editions of Documenta Kassel (1977, 1997), the Whitney Biennial of American Art (1991), the 51st Venice Biennial (2005) and those in São Paulo, Lyon, Taipei, Gwangju and Havana.
Subsequent to On Translation: I Giardini displayed at the Spanish Pavilion in the 51 st Venice biennial, his latest solo exhibitions include Protokolle, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Muntadas. Proyectos Urbanos (2002/2005)... Hacia Sevilla 2008, Centro de las Artes de Sevilla and Muntadas. Histoires du couteau, Le Creux de l’enfer, Centre d’art contemporain, Thiers. In 2006 he presented the installation On Translation: SocialNetworks at the Inter-Society of Electronic Arts in San José, California. In 2007 Muntadas/BS. AS. was exhibited simultaneously at the Telefónica Foundation Space, the Recoleta Cultural Center and the Spanish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires. In 2008 he presented Petit et Grand at the Cervantes Institute in Paris and Muntadas: The Construction of Fear and the Loss of Public Space at the José Guerrero Cultural Centre in Granada. During 2009 he made an intervention at the Mies van der Rohe Pavillion with the Project Muntadas. On Translation: Paper BP/MVDR. In Montreal he showed La construction de la Peur at the Contemporary Art Gallery SBC and Muntadas: Vidéo, média critique, a retrospective presented at the Cinematheque Quebecoise.
In 2010 he presented his project On Translation: Açik Radyo, Myths and Stereotypes, supported by the program Lives And Works in Istanbul, exhibited at the Istanbul Modern Museum. This year Muntadas has exhibited Informação-Espaço-Controle in Estaçao Pinacoteca in Sao Paulo, Brasil; and About Academia, at The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. This exhibition has travelled to Arizona State University Museum and to the American Academy in Rome, Italy. His most recent exhibition, Muntadas: Entre/Between, took place in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, from November 2011 until March 2012. It was exhibited at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa, Portugal and it was shown at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and in the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, in 2013.
Recently he has shown in Kent Fine Art, New York, Galleria Michella Rizzo, Venezia, Galeria Joan Prats, Barcelona and Galeria Moisés Pérez de Albéniz y in Madrid as well as the MuCEM- Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediterranée- Marseille in France.
In 2015 he was invited by the 72nd Venice Film Festival to show in the public space his new work Dérive Veneziane, a video projection dedicated to the city of Venice.
Since 2011 he has been working on the project Asian Protocols, which was rst presented to the public in 2014 at the Total Museum in Seoul, Korea. The second stage took place at 3331 Arts Chiyoda in Tokyo, Japan in 2016, and the next step of the project will develop in China.
During 2016 Mutadas has worked to continue his artwork About Academia (2011). This has resulted in the two homonymous exhibitions Activating Artifacts: About Academia, at De Appel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA. Currently, from February until June 2018 Muntadas is presenting “Estrategias del Desplaziamiento”, an exhibition at CGAC in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Press Release of the Exhibition
The voyeuristic gaze is the subject of much of Julião Sarmento’s work. Desire, sexuality, control, and violence—emotional and physical—performed via female bodies, reappears in myriad forms in his work. The exhibition Reel Time includes a number of films, videos and performances, created at different points during a forty year period, from 1976 to 2011. Sarmento’s moving image and performance works are rooted in a history of performance and conceptual art from the mid to late twentieth century, that uses the body as both a site of action and a tool—by the likes of Marina Abramović, Bruce Nauman, and Carolee Schneemann. Yet Sarmento’s protagonists, and their performative gestures, are also restrained by a kind of stylistic formalism that recalls late Nineteenth century impressionist figuration—Edgar Degas Little Dancer Aged Fourteen c.1880 comes to mind—which is present in his three dimensional works, in particular his sculptures of female body parts. Yet this formalism is subverted by a highly staged form of sexuality, akin to that performed by the female protagonists of Pedro Almodóvar’s cinematic world.
The subject-hood and object-hood of Sarmento’s female protagonists is blurry. Sometimes they perform a powerful psychological agency. Other times they are reduced to the signifiers of their femininity. The film Faces, 1976, is a triptych of sorts. Two heads of hair, a blonde and a brunette, rub against one another at the bottom of the screen. This is followed by a close-up shot of two women kissing. The camera focuses on their mouths and tongues—licking, sucking, and moving in and around one another. At first glance it might seem erotic. But as time passes, and the kiss goes on and on and on, the tongues become chunks of wet flesh, the movements less sensual, or erotic, and more grotesque, becoming rudimentary in the abstraction of the close-up. Eventually, although beautifully shot, it becomes almost dull to watch. The final section depicts the two woman sitting, nude, but with heavily made up faces, one leaning her head on the other’s shoulder—a tender epilogue to the intensity of their performance.
Faces was made in Portugal just after the country had reached the end of a 41 year dictatorship—decades in which expressions of art, sex, religion and politics were censored and forbidden. Read through this lens, the film has much wider connotations of freedom, privacy, and complicity. The kiss has, of course, been the subject of numerous studies by artists, from Auguste Rodin and Gustav Klimt, to recent contemporary performances by Tino Sehgal. Yet, when viewing Faces through the lens of the Internet revolution—the fuzzy intimacy of its kiss, and the fact it is performed by two women (particularly when considered in the context of works that directly explore queer and lesbian identity)—it reads as a historical artefact, as the digital world is filled with videos of women performing with other women for men. Yet this actually serves to emphasise what Sarmento confronts: the desire—and all the cultural and social influences that surround this—of the viewer.
Doppelgänger, 2001, plays with clichés of communication in heterosexual relationships. Two women, one dressed in black, one in white, one inside, one outside, perform an almost identical script. As the woman in black cleans her face in a hotel bathroom, the other walks along the seafront. Both answer calls from men whom they seem to be in romantic relationships with. The calls begin cordially, then digress into an argument of sorts. The two men state similar phrases: “Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my thoughts, I start staring at things…”. The woman empathises, then explains that she feels sick with a fever. The men reply: “Bloody hell, you’re such a bore, always on about your illnesses and problems!” The two women swap positions, the woman in white washes her face in the bathroom, the woman in black walks. The title of the film eludes to the idea of the doppelgänger, or doubling. The two women are experiencing identical situations, enacting a humorous, yet sad, performance of gender roles in heteronormative relationships. Sarmento has often worked with diptychs of female bodies in his paintings and sculptures. However, these two characters, and their actions and narrative, are closer to the idioms, and the clichés inherent in these, of cinema, that to the archetypes of painting. Clichés become clichés because they are circumstances that occur frequently. We know of their existence, because we have experienced them. The cliché is not “bad”, rather it is a cultural short hand for a collective, sometimes unconscious, truth.
Sarmento addresses considerations of colour and form, and the affect of the language used to describe these things—which, in turn, alters our perception—in the video R.O.C. (40 plus one), 2011. A woman slowly strips as she reads Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Colour, 1950. This text considers how the perception of colour manifests in the language used to describe it. Wittgenstein touches upon ideas that originated in Goethe’s Theory of Colours, 1810, which addresses the psychological ideas at play in our experience and understanding of colour. Wittgenstein focuses on the perception of whiteness, lightness, transparency, and opacity, and the impact other colours have on the way we perceive these states. In Sarmento’s video, as the text becomes more elaborate, the woman stumbles over the pronunciation of certain words and phrases, whilst painstakingly folding each item of clothing after its removal, to place it on a chair. What would normally be considered an arousing act—the striptease—becomes mundane. Three systems play out simultaneously—colour, language and the body—the semiotics of one, relates directly to the other two, in this conceptual triangle. However, R.O.C. (40 plus one) also recalls Andrea Fraser’s performance Official Welcome, 2001, in which Fraser reads a pastiche of a welcome speech—created from a collage of quotes taken from art world protagonists—whilst stripping naked, in a feminist critique of the position of women in art history. In this context, the male artist, directing the female performer to strip as a conceptual act, is complex.
I have not seen the performance Cometa, 2009, in real life. I have only watched video documentation and listened to Sarmento’s description of the work. As such, I can only relay what I imagine the experience of it might be like. A lone person enters a room. Inside they find a man and a woman seated on two chairs in a space that is painted entirely green. Bright, almost luminous, forest green. When the door closes behind them, the woman stands and puts on music. She begins dancing alone. Soon the man rises and joins her. The dance becomes heated, more sexual. As they reach a kind of climax, the music stops, and they sit down again. Sarmento described the experience as violent. And that viewers feel as if they are somewhere they shouldn’t be. That they are too close to the performer’s intimacy to be a voyeur. As such, the viewer seems to enter into a kind of unspoken psychological threesome.
Art historian John Berger famously wrote: “A woman is always accompanied, except when quite alone, and perhaps even then, by her own image of herself. While she is walking across a room or weeping at the death of her father, she cannot avoid envisioning herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she is taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does, because how she appears to others–and particularly how she appears to men–is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” Indeed, women are socially conditioned to be aware of their image at a young age. Yet surely we have moved past this binary consideration of female object-hood and subject-hood.
In the Internet age, these conditions apply to everyone, as we perform our lives in public. Yet the emphasis Berger places on how a woman must appear to men, and how this is of crucial importance for the success of her life is, sadly, still dominant. It implies a woman’s personal and public value is derived via her sexuality. And although feminism and civil rights movements advanced the cause for women’s status via their achievements, the latent subtext that a woman must remain sexually alluring, attractive by society’s normative standards, is stronger than ever. Sarmento’s women in “Reel Time” are not alone, as each addresses a different form of relationship: between two women, a woman and a man, a woman and an audience and a woman, a man, and one viewer. The contradictory states of intimacy, performed persona, and the joy and violence that occurs in the act of looking—both voyeuristically and objectively—is highlighted in Sarmento’s work.