Anna Maria Maiolino
In "The human stain" german curator Ellen Blumenstein has delved into the CGAC and Fundacion ARCO collections focusing on the common rather than the dividing aspects of the relationship between Conceptual and non-Conceptual Art. The main aim of her project is to demonstrate that the notion of 'idea' is not necessarily opposed to 'subjectivity', 'poetry' or 'politics', but that a productive tension may arise from the relationships established between these diverse elements which run through a work of art. "A Little History of Photography" is about revision, collection and photographic practices. Portraits, still lifes, landscape and abstract photographs, drawing from classical Western painting, take on a political value which forces the spectator to resituate his preconceptions.
12 March - 31 May 2009
THE HUMAN STAIN
Curator: Ellen Blumenstein
Within the decade of the 1960s, the West is undergoing a number of fundamental changes on all levels of society. Imbedded in a complex historical, social and political process, a major paradigm shift is taking place: the modern notion, according to which the Cartesian concept of the self defines the entire Western mindset, is cumulatively replaced by the conception of a de-centered subject understanding identity as constructed and relational. Conceptual Art emerged within this transitory phase, having to deal with a blurred understanding of the role of the subject in society – and in its succession, the role of the artist in the art context.
A mancha humana thus intends to make visible the paradigm shift in the understanding of subjectivity and departs from a selection of major works from early Concept Art out of the funds of the collections of CGAC. From there, the exhibition follows conceptual and other related movements, such as Minimalism, Performance and Land Art, throughout the last four decades, concluding with current artistic production. The title of this exhibition is taken from a novel by American writer Philip Roth, following his notion of a stain as a smudge, or highly resistant dirt. Of course, a stain can stick straight on the chest; but it can also be attempted to be concealed. One can try to wash it out. But it will never fully disappear. There will always be a shadow, a rest. But a stain also is a defect, something that we carry with us since birth or even before, something that is insisting and cannot be crossed out. It persists both in the artwork itself, as well as in individual perception. The search for The Human Stain has become the guiding principle for the adventure of taking an unusual look at works from the collections of the CGAC.
Choosing the composite image of a human stain – as something that sticks to its bearer and follows him wherever s/he goes or whatever s/he undertakes to get rid of it – as a means to visualize subjectivity and the thread that goes through the exhibition can be interpreted as purposely contradicting ideals of ‘purity’ and/or ‘formal neutrality’ which are commonly connected with Minimal and Conceptual Art. The central thesis of this exhibition is that ‘neutral’ and ‘pure’ oftentimes circumvent a deeper investigation of what actually happened to subjectivity -both on the side of the producer and of the perceiver- in the seemingly subject-free art of the 1960s and its successors. The Human Stain, thus, seeks to shed light on the place of the subject by means of a close reading of three major issues throughout Conceptual Art and related movements: language, space and the body. Using these themes as threads that wind through the exhibition display – sometimes very obvious, sometimes more subtle or implicit – they should be understood as a guideline that provides an underlying structure for this show. The selection of works brings together some of the central artistic positions from the 1960s – such as Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Dan Graham, Donald Judd, Martha Rosler and others – with successive generations of artists that were influenced by Conceptual Art and its contemporary movements – like Richard Prince, Jac Leirner, Jorge Macchi, Melanie Smith or Tacita Dean. Starting in the entrance hall with an installation by Mexican Iñaki Bonillas (that this exhibition shares with Pequena historia da fotografía, a show that runs parallel and also draws from CGAC’s collections) and a newly acquisitioned mural by Pavel Büchler, The Human Stain is mainly presented on the first floor, but also includes the permanent sculpture Trinangular Pavilion by Dan Graham, which is located on the terrace of the museum and which will be accompanied by the newly purchased video Death by Chocolate. A couple of new acquisitions for the collection will take center stage, such as important works from the first generation conceptual artists Esther Ferrer, Luis Camnitzer, Mladen Stilinovic and Channa Horwitz, but also from current production, such as the one by Michael Müller or Nicolas Guagnini.
The intention of The Human Stain is to make continuities, but also important ruptures in Conceptual Art throughout its more than four decades of vivid history visible. Hopefully it opens up a space for viewers and readers to time and again take a step aside the customary viewing habits and understanding of well-known artists and artworks.
Artists: Vito Acconci, Art & Lenguage, Francis Alÿs, Carl Andre, Dieter Appelt, Jorge Barbi, Christian Boltanski, Robert Breer, Pavel Büchler, Daniel Buren, Luis Camnitzer, Tacita Dean, Esther Ferrer, Michel François, Hamish Fulton, Dora GArcía, Anna Bella Geiger, Liam Gillick, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Dan Graham, Nicoas Guagnini, Channa Horwitz, Donald Judd, Július Koller, Joseph Kosuth, Jac Leirner, Sol LeWitt, Jorge Macchi, Anna Maria Maiolino, Allan McCollum, Ana Mendieta, Michael Müller, Gabriel Orozco, Clemente Padín, Joao Penalva, Giuseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, Richard Prince Rosangêla Rennó, Ulrike Rosenbach, Martha Rosler, Melanie Smith, Mladen Stilinovic, James Turrell
12 March - 3 May 2009
LITTLE HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Curator Manuel Segade
The achievement of likeness, the perfect imitation of reality, was for centuries the obsession that fuelled all artistic practice. The invention of its basic tool, single point perspective, strengthened by positivist rationalism, satisfied the figurative exigencies of western culture for more than five hundred years, in such a way that it came to be a system of immutable visualization. The history of seeing is one of surrender. The surrender to an order of representation based on the mimicry of that which is visible was manufactured by way of omission: to an order of convention, with a defined history and period of development, to the point of naturalizing its identification with the anatomy of vision itself.
Since its appearance, light fixed on a photosensitive plate has fulfilled the dream of achieving an innocent eye that simply cuts out a fragment of reality within its frame. Perhaps precisely because of its technological similarity to the human anatomical apparatus, through its coinciding with the physical means of seeing, the perception of the world as photography was paradigmatic, that no other possible modes of perception seemed to exist, and nor would they. In some ways, humanity sees according to, and with, photography: it does not see in the same way since photography has existed. Now: this culmination of the agreed lie, the final proof of the shining truth of that way of seeing, incorporates into itself its own completion.
The vanguards of the twentieth century, with their battle against the painting as window inherited from renaissance perspective, gradually broke down this literal and perceptualist modality of representation. The model of consciousness which supported that of representation, the philosophical presumptions upon which it was based, were gradually undermined throughout the twentieth century. At the same time that western thought was developing in order to formulate a new way of understanding subjectivity as a fluid, changing outcome in continuous production and evolution, so too the work on the image advanced by its side. The paradox of its own condition, its privileged relationship with reality, was precisely what made photography the perfect tool to investigate into the ways of liquidating its own convention. Photography, critical of the presumption of innocence in its objectivity, of the innocent character of the trace of light, took on the role of making the impossibility of representation visible and, even, dramatizing its literal disappearance. Since then, photography, more than the result of the technical processing of an image, has been a theoretical object: a dangerous artifact that repeatedly makes systems of representation unstable, re-orders the world, rearranges and shakes subjectivities.
Starting from reading photographs, and from their presentation as devices given for public analysis, this little history of fotography militates along the same lines as Walter Benjamin in his famous essay of the same title: to dismantle the possibility of photographic illiteracy, to provide tools for the critical deconstruction of the processes of the creation of images and, so, question the everyday mechanical production of individuals in society.
The structure of the exhibition and the publication that accompanies it is founded in a classical format of art history, using as a starting point the genres of the western pictorial tradition: the portrait, still life, landscape and abstraction. These classifications of the image, frames for reading produced by critical institutions since the inception of the manufactured image, have become representation cubed in the last few decades, as models so overused that they appear worn out, faltering, reduced to a mere code or language structure, subjected to a parasitical appropriation or displaced to a dislocated semantic field.
Artists: Iñaki Bonillas, John Coplans, Tacita Dean, Rineke Dijskstra, Willie Doherty, Pierre Gonnord, Douglas Gordon, Paul Graham, John Hilliard, Evelyn Höfer, Ingar Krauss, Jonathan Monk, Malakeh Nayini, Holger Niehaus, Erwin Olaf, Joao Penalva, Peter Piller, Carla van de Puttelaar, Rosângela Rennó, Andrés Serrano, Toshio Shimamura, Angela Strassheim, Wolfgang Tillmans, Albrecht Tübke, Valentín Vallhonrat, Virxilio Viéitez, Manuel Vilariño, Ben Watts
Image: Mark Ritchie
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