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Magazine

09 January 2012
Critical Mechanisms

Rosa Naharro

From the fourth floor of the Sabatini building, to the protocol room, and from there to the mezzanines of the new Nouvel building, Antoni Muntadas proposes a dérive. To lose oneself in the Reina Sofia, where he exhibits a series of projects distributed around the whole museum that, as well as summing up his career, invite reflection upon and analysis of the current moment that art institutions are passing through.


A mechanism, as Deleuze understood it, is an interstice, a fissure, a vanishing point that allows something new to emerge. One has to approach the work of Antoni Muntadas on this premise, given that his projects are always critical mechanisms where he stages different forms of control. Curated by Daina Augaitis, the exhibition, Entre/Between, has been structured into nine thematic blocks or conceptual constellations that reflect to a large extent the preoccupations and themes explored by the artist up until now: public and private, the broadcaster and the receiver, the spectator and the spectacle, mass media, technology and power; in short, a large part of the idiosyncrasies of the society of information and knowledge and its corresponding bio-politics of power. It would have been hard for the curator to have arranged it chronologically given that the work of Muntadas more than specific pieces are investigatory projects that stretch across time. Situated in the interstices, in “between”, more than a creator of images, the endeavour of Muntadas has consisted in investigating how power, in any ambit, configures images.

“Attention, perception requires participation” is undoubtedly one of the most well known phrases of Antoni Muntadas, which he has introduced in many of his projects and interventions. However, more than a phrase or specific project, for Muntadas it means a way of understanding art, as collaborative and participatory, and this is latent throughout the exhibition that the Museo Reina Sofía now dedicates to the artist: from the postcards that he made in 1975, where he left empty spaces so that they could be resent, to the archive created on the Internet, The File Room, where it is possible for anybody within the creative arts to denounce any form of censorship. It is, as José Luis Brea expressed it, the idea of generating a community, a public and thereby contributing to an “economy of attention”, in which the spectator is able to recognise himself. Quoting Jacques Ranciére, the aim of Muntadas would be to “reconstitute the network of proposals that situate the question of the spectator in the centre of the debate about the relations between art and politics.” One of the greatest achievements of Muntadas is that of having placed the spectator at the centre of the debate between art and politics, giving the spectator an active role, as he is the one who has to interpret and translate according to the codes stipulated by the pieces exhibited. Therein lies the importance of education so that a museum can become a transmitter of knowledge and not just a place to consume images.

As well as the projects situated in the fourth floor of the Sabatini building, all well known, such as On Translation, Exposición-Exhibition, The Board Room, or El aplauso, Muntadas has created Situación 2011, a production made specifically for MNCARS, which supposes the continuation of one that he carried out in the same museum in 1988 for the exhibition Híbridos. If at that time Muntadas reflected on the transformation of a hospital into an art centre, and the influence of the political, social and cultural decisions that were taken, in 2011 he now proposes an analysis of the current situation of art institutions.

For this Muntadas allows some of those responsible and involved in the expansion and management of the museum to have their say, such as Manuel Borja-Villel, José Guirao, or the architect Jean Nouvel. An interesting reflection by Manuel Borja-Villel, where he proposes the museum not so much as a building, but as a city, which is significant bearing in mind the location of the projections: in the mezzanines of the Edificio Nouvel, transitory spaces, without any direct connection with the old building, and from where one can contemplate the exterior, the street. That is to say a space where dialogue is perhaps possible. In the last twenty years, Spain has generated an important infrastructure of museums and art centres, and the need is now for this expenditure to have repercussions in the street, in the city, on the citizens. Without this leading to cities becoming museums, or demonstrations and citizens movements becoming exhibitions or works of art.

Rosa Naharro endeavours to think about the present, considering its distinct contexts, through culture and contemporary art. Looking at exhibitions, writing, reading, film, music and even conversations with friends serve as her tools. Understanding and interpreting “something” of what we call the world becomes a self-obligation, as well as taking a certain stance, that doesn´t distance her from it. She combines writing for A*Desk with writing her doctoral thesis at the UCM and working with cultural management projects.

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