Muntadas: Entre/Between

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Entre English

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Entre English

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Muntadas: Entre / Between


7 Ministry of Culture

8 Manuel J. Borja-Villel

Territorios de lo público /  Communal spaces

10 Daina Augaitis

Muntadas: Between


Microespacios / Microspaces


52 Eugeni Bonet

Sensitivity and (sub)senses Muntadas, from painting to active engagement 59 Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker

Private / public in a time of lead


Paisaje de los media /  Media landscape



138 Judith Revel

Muntadas: An ethics of the common

The art of separation


144 Marc Augé


Espacios de espectáculo / Places of spectacle

160 Simón Marchán Fiz

Spaces of spectacle

168 Iris Dressler

What is a stadium? And where does it take place?



86 Ina Blom

Muntadas' mediascapes

Ámbitos de la traducción /   Field of translation 177

190 Emily Apter


Esferas de poder /  Spheres of power


110 Marcelo Expósito and Gerald Raunig

The Muntadas-method. Existential corporeality in a new aesthetic paradigm 116 Brian Wallis

Born-again architecture: Muntadas’ The Board Room

Muntadas’ art of translation: Medium, media and politic

195 Raymond Bellour

Looking, listening


La construcción del miedo /   Domain of fear 201

210 Octavi Rofes

Translations: Facing the wall

Ethics and aesthetics of a paradox


216 Lise Ott


El archivo / The archive

234 Sven Spieker

Muntadas’ entropic archives

240 Anne-Marie Duguet

Between archive and censorship. The File Room.


Sistemas del arte /  Systems of art 247

262 Mary Anne Staniszewski

Being framed

276 Biography and bibliography

291 List of works 294 Authors

Daina Augaitis

Muntadas: Between

In between Muntadas has often spoken about the condition of being ‘in between’ as a point of depar­ ture for his work. Such a state of contingency is the product of mobility, a condition that defines today’s society more than ever. This between can be characterised as a place of ambiguity situated outside specific sites or des-  tinations. Perceived as an inactive intermediary  zone that separates, it nevertheless foreshadows distinctions and gives shape to identities that are delineated beyond its margins, for at the limits of between lie the beginnings of some thing or some place, the foggy appearance of new frontiers. Drawn by a relentless curiosity, Muntadas has always been a traveller, spending a great deal of time in those murky spaces between arrivals and departures. This insatiable  desire to investigate the little known tugged   at Muntadas as early as 1971 when at the age of twenty-nine he left Barcelona for New York, and since then has maintained studios in both those cities, as well as created projects, exhibited and taught in innumerable locations throughout the world. As a result of such intense  and constant immersion, he is able to point out the growing similarities of an increasingly homogenised global culture noting those inbetween spaces that offer little sense of belonging, what the French anthropologist Marc Augé—in describing ubiquitous spaces such as airport lounges or shopping malls—refers to as ‘non-places’.1 More significantly, Muntadas’  engagement with the movements and unpredictable changes of our world—transformations  that have given rise to critical writing on the subject of the nomad—governs his conceptually   based practice to its core. His regular and repeated involvement in many cultures, languages  and ideologies has given Muntadas the ability   to focus on interconnections and to act on the transgressive potential of a constantly shifting position.2 10

Daina Augaitis

So, between is not only the space of separation, it is also its opposite—the space of connection. Thus it is an ever-growing field of passages and conduits that offers unknown possibilities associated with unspecified or unclaimed space; it is a highly active and productive zone, one that might even posses a utopian dimension. As a term that bridges space and time, between has been readily used in relation to theorising about human migration and ensuing cultural shifts. The post-colonial theorist Irit Rogoff, for example, in speaking about changing conditions of space, the massive ‘dislocation of subjects, and the disruption of collective narratives’,3 laments ‘the absence, of navigational principles’.4 In her discussions of geography and location she asks, ‘where do I belong?’5 suggesting that our ‘difference, rather [than] our homogeneity determines what we know’.6 Homi Bhabha’s perspective on cultural difference in relation to social upheavals suggests that these ‘in-between spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood … that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself’.7 He proposes that in today’s highly migratory world, to ‘unbelong’ and ‘to not be at home’,8 are in fact essential to having a critical perspective; and, to occupy such ‘interstitial passages… opens up the possibility of cultural hybridity’.9

Mapping an artistic practice Muntadas’ art practice is comparable to a type of field study. For the four decades that he   has mined the latent power of indeterminacy— using it as the springboard for much of his cultural exploration—he has borrowed from the   social sciences such methodologies as observation and informal interviews. Most often   positioned as an open but informed outsider,

Muntadas studies sensations, gestures, memo-  ries, perceptions, interactions and representations by observing people, places, events and   objects. By approaching his art practice from that state of ‘unbelonging’, he has been able to  uncover some of the complexities of contempo-  rary social discourses and structures. One of the bookends to this survey of Muntadas’ œuvre   is Proyecte / Proyecto / Project, a text-based series of prints that reveals some basic tenets   of Muntadas’ methodology. The prints proclaim,  sheet by sheet, in standard Helvetica Bold, ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ ‘How?’ ‘Where?’ ‘When?’ ‘For Who?’ ‘How Much?’—simple questions that serve to launch many of his research-intense investigations. By adding ‘For Who?’ and ‘How Much?’ to the five classic Ws, he emphasises that attempts to uncover the trails of power and the dominating effects of economic systems are as important to him as the broader cul­ tural analysis of how things function. Many of Muntadas’ art works tend to be projects, rather than autonomous art objects, with   a somewhat tenuous relationship to the art market. These projects typically engage groups of citizens, students or staff in their formulation, research and production, an involvement that is sustained over months or even years. While Muntadas’ hand is firmly present, the nature of this work is collaborative, open to input, even to disruption. The works are sometimes exhibited in the same public realm that they investigate, often as site-specific pieces that are dependent on a localised setting for their display, whether this is on the Internet, in the museum or in the street. Rather than presenting a specific point of view, the resulting installations, photographs, videos, interventions, actions and publications— while critical in their outlook—tend to convey fields of information that might be re-organised according to typology, re-framed without their former lustre or re-examined cross-culturally. Not particularly concerned with formal harmonies, Muntadas prefers to utilise an information-based aesthetic that is highly graphic and text-based. The brochures, posters, newspapers, banners, TVs, CDs, light boxes, street signs and architectural fragments prevalent throughout his works echo the techniques and technologies of the mediated environment that he scrutinises. They are re-purposed as art works that highlight or juxtapose and return anew an isolated slogan, headline or jingle; this distancing process not only focuses the content of but exposes the means behind the message, revealing what lies ‘between the lines’.10 11

Muntadas: Between

Poster of the exhibition  Two Projects at L’Appartement 22, Rabat, 2010.

Preliminary sketches for the exhibition Entre / Between at the Museo Reina Sofía, 2011.



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46 47 48 49 50 51

Subsensory experiences, actions and activities Reflexões sobre a morte Anuncios por palabras Arte  Vida Diario 10-22 diciembre Acción / Situación: Hoy. Proyecto a través de Latinoamérica Biography Emissió / Recepció Diálogo Home, Where is Home? La Siesta / The Nap / Dutje Mirar Ver Percibir Related projects About (2) “228 . 30 . 54”, 1974 On Translation: Listening, 2005



Microespacios /  Microspaces Reflections on how private space is constructed, perceived and expressed bring together a number   of relevant concepts in Muntadas’ work. A first group of projects made roughly between 1971 and 1973 examined the knowledge provided   by the senses, in other words, the ways of challenging reality through the body. Underlying these works   is a questioning of perceptive hierarchies, but also a certain transformation of the subjective into a space of exchange, a territory in which identity is socialised. Whether they be mobile, participatory structures, recognitions of common objects and bodies, morphological expeditions through spaces, shared sensorial investigations or everyday synaesthetic   actions, a significant part of the proposals grouped together under the heading ‘Subsensory Experiences’ seems to deconstruct the private and, at the same time, define an architecture of perception based on the traffic of collective experiences. Another group comprises works that explore communicational space between individuals, starting from the media, as in Anuncios por palabras (1973), and the questioning of strangers, as in About (2) “228.30.54” (1974). In spite of their differences, the two works relativise notions of private identity and public information, triggering ruptures and confronta­ tions that invite us to critically rethink their respective frontiers. The two lines so far described draw to a close in two transitional projects that take our previous reflections to new fields. In the artist’s own words, Reflexões sobre a morte (1973) could be understood as ‘a death   of the body’, i.e., an epilogue in which the physical has ceased to be a perceptive tool to become   17

Subsensory experiences, actions and activities: Acción Bolsas (Wall Street) New York (1972) An action that consisted in distributing fifty rubbish bags filled with a range of materials around a square under the towers of New York’s World Trade Center.



Subsensory experiences, actions and activities: Life, 10th Annual Avant-garde Festival Art   New York (1972) One of the many interventions Muntadas made in different public spaces, using a variety of supports and materials, in which both concepts (art and life) were interrelated and also connected to the actual spots where the inter-  ventions took place.


Microespacios / Microspaces

Anuncios por palabras Diario La Vanguardia Española, Barcelona (1973) An intervention carried out in the framework of the Grup de Treball that consisted of the publication of several advertisements in La Vanguardia Española newspaper in June 1973, with a short ironic message that requested information  on the situation of the country due to the artist’s ‘temporary absence’.



Arte   Vida Carrer Comerç, opposite Estació de Franca, 10 November, 20.00–22.00, Barcelona (1974) The reversible association of these two concepts, transformed into a motto that explained the artist’s work and his stance before life, triggered several   interventions in public space.


Microespacios / Microspaces


70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85

Polución audiovisual Mercados, Calles, Estaciones Confrontations Emisión / Recepción Cadaqués – Canal Local Barcelona Distrito Uno The Last Ten Minutes I-II On Subjectivity La Televisión Personal / Public Media Eyes Drastic Carpet Credits Slogans On Translation: El aplauso On Translation: Social Network Related projects TV/FEB 27/1 PM, 1974 Two Landscapes, 1978–1979 TV Générique, 1987 Watching the Press / Reading Television, 1981 Media Ecology Ads, 1982 Derrière les Mots, 1987 Video is Television?, 1989



Paisaje de los media / Media landscape The concept of media landscape was coined by Muntadas in the late seventies in reference to   an incipient communicational space that emerged with the amplification of information in written media and audiovisual material, in the classic press and   in television, and in the new communication supports in urban contexts. However, this analysis of how information is an opaque area that thwarts complex interpretations has played a very important role in Muntadas’ work, to the point that many of his projects are considered emblematic of the questioning of the media by art. Muntadas’ intervention at the Pamplona Art Encounters in 1972 consisted of several devices for audiovisual reproduction (television sets, radios, slide projectors, microphones and loudspeakers) simultaneously emitting commercial press and television messages. The project could be considered one of the first of those related to the idea of media landscape, which would be followed by Mercados, Calles, Estaciones (1973–1974) and Media Eyes (1981), a hoarding on a central street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the question ‘What are we looking at?’ appeared above the anonymous gaze behind blind glasses that showed decontextualised advertisement excerpts. Four other projects followed   the same guidelines: La Televisión (1980), an installation in which images taken from advertisements and the media were projected on the screen of a   television set, turned off, placed in a corner of the exhibition space, to the background music of La televisione sung in Italian dialect by Enzo Jannacci; Drastic Carpet (1982), a visual carpet that projected media icons and untimely press messages that   was a prelude to the show entitled Media Landscape 67

La Televisión Galería Vandrés, Madrid (1980) An installation consisting of a television set, turned off, placed on a shelf in   a corner of the exhibition space. Slides showing advertisements and media  images were projected on the screen of the set, ironically counterpointed by   the background music of La televisione sung in Italian dialect by Enzo Jannacci.



Personal / Public The Kitchen, New York (1980) An installation that reflects the huge paradox of personal information becoming public through television, and public information becoming private through the interpretation of different individuals.


Paisaje de los media / Media landscape

Media Eyes Cambridge, Massachussets (1981) A project produced in collaboration with Anne Bray that uses the physical support of a hoarding in order to explore the symbolic nature of the language of advertising and its persistent announcements.



Drastic Carpet Addison Gallery, Andover, Massachussets (1982) A visual carpet or doormat made up of ‘drastic’ news items and headlines projected on the floor, that gave way to the exhibition entitled Media Landscape (1982) held in the Addison Gallery, Andover, Massachusetts.


Paisaje de los media / Media landscape

On Translation: El aplauso Casa de la Moneda,   Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá (1999)

This work starts from   an analysis of the local   context of Colombia, applicable to other places characterised by extreme violence, corruption, inequality and international indifference and It draws a picture of the obscene gruesomeness with which the media translate and accept atrocities committed anywhere in the world.



On Translation: Social Network San Jose Convention Center, San José, California (2006) Project made in collaboration with a group of students from the CADRE Laboratory for New Media at San José State University. This project examined the paradoxes between the language used by international organisations in   a range of fields including the military, economics, the arts and technology. A geo-spatial reference was provided by a search engine to the terminology employed by each organisation and the axes representing the various systems explored were assigned colour codes. The data thus obtained underwent constant change; its results projected live on a map of the world that shared the same exhibition space.


Paisaje de los media / Media landscape

Dos colores Espai B5–125, Departamento de Arte, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (1979) This installation divided a space according to colour and confronted the Spanish and the Catalan flags, placing one on each wall, at a time of particular political and cultural tension between the two national identities.



The Board Room North Hall Gallery, Massachussets College of Art, Boston (1987) A video installation that recreates an actual boardroom with a central table. Hanging on the walls are thirteen portraits of leading figures from the realms of religion, television and politics. A small monitor placed in the mouth of each leader broadcasts brief excerpts of their respective speeches, creating a constant occasionally interrupted by the appearance of words such as money, power, future, etc., that adds a touch of ambivalence to them.


Esferas de poder / Spheres of power

La sala de control (per a la ciutat de Barcelona) Centre de Cultura ContemporĂ nia de Barcelona (1996) An installation presented at the 19 th Conference of the International Union of Architects held at the CCCB, that recreated a surveillance space with cameras focusing on the three districts affected by the urban transformations triggered by the celebration of the 1992 Olympic Games (Raval, Montjuic and Poblenou). It also included interviews with residents and cultural agents, and slow-motion images of demolitions in these areas.



On Translation: The Bank Manhattan Art Projects, New York (1997) A computer-generated image that reproduces the currency charts in exchange bureaux. In the centre of the image the artist formulates an ironic question.


Esferas de poder / Spheres of power

Ciudad Museo (1991–2011) Galerie de Lege Ruimte, Bruges (1991) An installation in which a number of small openings or perforations in the walls of a white space—that could be seen as an ironic reference to the contemporary museum or white cube—allowed viewers to behold, as in a peep-show, several urban snapshots of people taking pictures, shooting film or just contemplating the city.



Marseille: Mythes et Stéréotypes (1992–1995) Marseille, 20 July 1995 A project that focuses on a specific city, Marseille. The film is a montage of interviews with people in the world of communication and images, texts, slogans and audiovisual excerpts from a range of documentary sources, in particular the filmic imaginary generated by the French city. As indicated by the title of the work, the outcome is a collage of the myths and stereotypes surrounding Marseille in which the commonplace percep­ tions of her inhabitants are compared to the city’s media image. Two moving suitcases bearing the projector and screen enabled the film to be shown in several public spaces.


Territorios de lo público / Communal spaces

Marc Augé

The Art of Separation Excerpt from the text «The Art of Separation», in Muntadas. On Translation: I Giardini,2005

It is not so simple to escape the strategies of enfolding and absorption characteristic of consumer society. The various shows of contem­ porary art (for example, the Venice Biennale, the events organised by ‘European Capitals of Culture’ such as Graz, Lille, Genoa, or different ‘fora’ such as Barcelona, 2004) play a part, today, in plans for the development and regeneration of host cities. Such a plan sees them inscribed into the global network of the economic and technological system which encloses the world but which still only marginally concerns the majority of human beings. Architecture, too, is subject to the same ambiguity. If great architects are figures of global renown, and if the names of architects are familiar to the general public, it is because their works are considered by many as a sign of belong­ ing to a worldwide network. These works are ‘singularities’ in a double sense: an artist signs and validates them and they are hence less the expression of necessity or local particularity than a call to global consumerism in the shape of tourism. This latter dimension, marked by the preponderance of global character over local character, and regardless of the attention paid to the context of his project by the architect, makes architecture a crucial component of the accelerated urban development which is the most spectacular aspect of globalisation. In these conditions, the question can always be asked as to what message, if there is one, art and architecture deliver in the face of the de­ velopment of a system (globalisation, consumer­ ism and urbanisation) of which they appear to be an expression or an echo. This question finds different responses depending on different strategies. Architectural proj­ ects obviously depend on the conditions of their commissioning. But they are able to develop an aesthetic that is, to a certain degree, inde­ 144

Marc Augé

pendent. When faced with the urban horizon set out by the architecture of the world’s major metropolitan centres, we sometimes have the impression of confronting an image of the future that far exceeds the concerns of today’s plan­ ners and managers, one that allusively and uncertainly prefigures the ideal city of tomorrow. To the four corners of the world great architects have thrown scattered fragments of a radiant utopia—that of a world in which human relations would be in the image of the materials used and the forms deployed: brilliant, transparent and aspirational. Utopia is an illusion if one thinks of what in fact exists in an alienated world of consumerism, but is also an allusion if one thinks about what could exist and, in fact, does not. To the extent that the most spectacular examples of contemporary architecture can be seen as both the illustration of our world and its critique, depending on whether one looks at them from the point of view of the illusion or the allusion. Architecture is an art to the extent it takes on this ambivalence and ambiguity. But it remains the case that, when speaking of architecture, power and dominant institutions are never far behind. This was true in the era of cathedrals, in the period of monarchical power, in the time of Fascism and Communism. It remains so in the time of Capital, business and media power. It is easier for the artist than the architect to make ambiguity the instrument of strategy. Muntadas is explicitly concerned with this question, pre­ cisely as it involves the relations between art and architecture. On one hand, it can be observed that his work has much in common with that of the architect, to the degree that it, too, departs from a project that is only realisable over time and in successive stages. On the other hand, as regards the place and the role of media in art and architecture—obviously a central question in a world managed and conditioned by all manner of media—it is observable that current ar­

chitecture, if it integrates media into its con­ cepts (consider the appearance of so-called ‘intelligent’ buildings in the tertiary sector), does so with a certain timidity and, in doing so, architecture is submitting to an established order of things more than it is criticising or transforming it. So, architecture integrates new electronic methods into its façades or infrastructure but it does not propose examples of new, hybrid landscapes that could be the equivalent or the echo in our physical and geographical reality of the ‘media landscapes’ which, as Muntadas ably demonstrates, constitute today—notably via television—our everyday horizon. For him, Rem Koolhas in the architect who has gone furthest in exploring this hybrid landscape where the material and immaterial merge, albeit more in his writings and exhibitions than in his building projects. According to Muntadas, the response to these difficulties must be sought in a two-pronged reflection on time. On one hand, we can reflect on what sense it makes in our epoch to con­ ceive of architecture (and, by extension, art also) as marked by the desire to endure and survive, the desire for permanence. Is this not too great a sacrifice to the dominant system and to aes­ thetic illusion? Muntadas wonders whether we cannot conceive of architecture that, like foodstuffs, has an expiry date? Would such archi­ tecture not be able to respond better to emer­ gencies and be less costly? On the other hand, does the sense of expiry and ephemerality not have other advantages? Would it not permit art to conserve its critical function relative to institutions and ideologies by playing with time in order to escape the insidious tyranny of the image and the present? Would a work presented at the end rather than at the beginning of a forum—or of any other ceremony where the system’s self-reproduction can appear as the ultimate end—not have a better chance of re­ vealing the gap between what was promised or announced and what actually took place, thus avoiding being mixed up in the official message propagated by the media? To speak today of a global technological and economic system is not simply to evoke a form of hierarchy and authority with which artists and writers have to work: it’s to put on record an intellectually totalitarian revolution that doesn’t even need to ‘recuperate’ those who contest it because their places and roles have already been assigned. To put it otherwise, what art­ ists, writers and intellectuals didn’t see coming 145

The art of separation

España va bien, 1999, Silkscreen print.

Brasil… Tudo bem, Tudo Bom!,

1999, Silkscreen print.

Colombia Is Doing Well, 1999 Silkscreen print.

Estamos condenados…, 2002, Silkscreen print.


154 156 157 158

Stadium I-XV On Translation: The Games On Translation: Die Stadt On Translation: Stand By Related Projects Snowflake, 1977 Stadia / Furniture / Audience, 1990 Media Stadium, 1992–2006 6 mai 94, 1994 On Translation: Celebracions, 2009



Espacios de espectáculo / Places of spectacle Spectacularisation in the broad sense of the word, i.e., the spectacle of the mass media, the spectacle of cities transformed into scenarios in which political and economic powers display their hierarchical re­ lationships, and the spectacle of events (cultural capitals, Olympic Games and sport in general), re­ produces social differences, dramatises everyday life and casts out collective violence. As such, it has now become a distinctive trait of contemporary life. The spaces in which all these aforementioned rituals take place have ended up shaping a truly spectacular architecture in two senses: firstly, as a set of unique architectural works dotting the urban landscape and arousing our admiration, and secondly as buildings that catalyse leisure rituals, concealing a series of ambiguous corporate and ideological intentions behind their ostentatious façades. Stadium I-XV (1989) is a paradigmatic project that focuses on all these issues. The installation re­ creates and also calls into question an architectural typology that is intrinsically associated with spectacle (the Roman circus, the monumental amphitheatre, the sports stadium and the public square, among others). Over time, such venues have staged competi­ tions, music concerts, political acts, religious cere­ monies and macro cultural events, bringing propa­ ganda exchanges into play and sometimes even be­ coming places of repression—in short, extending the historical archetype of media amplification, panem et circensis, but also emerging as sites where audi­ ences craving for collective emotion can be controlled. The series entitled Stadia / Furniture / Audience (1990) expanded on this project in a series of photo­ graphic triptychs that link pictures of stadia with details of some of their fixtures and snapshots of 151

On Translation: The Games The Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta (1996) A project that explored the complex semiotics of the Olympiad: the sign codes of the participating countries, the economic asymmetry that moves from the political sphere to those of language and sport, and the profu­ sion of national anthems and flags that appear alongside logotypes and brands. The communicative impor­ tance of the translator and his invisi­ bility is an ideal metaphor for under­ standing the fissure between media and public, between the will for global harmony and the fierceness of competition, and even the diplo­ matic relations between nations.



On Translation: Die Stadt (1999–2004) Barcelona (13 –25 September 2004) / Lille (1– 23 October 2004) / Graz (6–21 November 2004) An intervention from a mobile device consisting of a lorry equipped with a film screen that travelled around three cities (Graz, Lille and Barcelona) which had staged important events related to the celebration of culture. The ‘nomadic’ film was screened in public spaces without prior announcement and included interviews with architects, town planners, local authorities and various other agents whose opinions were in sharp contrast with those of three taxi drivers who worked in the cities in question.


Espacios de espectáculo / Places of spectacle

without pedestals, invisible virtual monuments that are transformed into allegories amplified by the media, that whisper to us even before being registered in the collective memory or indeed before actually being commemorated. ­Benjamin’s beautiful metaphor of history, ‘What has been is to be held fast, as an image flashing up in the now of its recognisability’, is more relevantly applied to these than it is to physical monuments. Projects such as Doppio Senso: SpettatoRe Osservato o Speculazione Voyeuristica, and particularly Ciudad Museo and On Translation: Die Stadt (1999–2004) are urban series, archi­ tectural and monumental apotheoses, huge signs and people watching, indiscrete snoopers who photograph, film, record, capture fleeting images and memories, highlighting how the obsession with media visualisation tends to transform experiences into images. Monuments (be they physical or virtual) and buildings work as places of memory, which is sometimes tragic, and yet they also promote a tourism of mem­ ory that enjoys the advantages of free time and becomes a mass spectacle. In the voyeuristic imaginary of the tourist, experiences mediated by images displace the in situ experiences of the traveller, absorbed by a leisure industry that combines culture, trade and entertainment, fully integrated in the productive system. Our difficulty in finding our bearings in cities is usually the result of our inability to map in our minds the position we occupy in them. In order to alleviate these shortages, tourist maps out­ line and consolidate itineraries, interesting locations, museums and monuments (as we increasingly discover in the information conveniently provided by any American visitor center or European tourist office), guiding visitors even when they stand by in queues. Whereas some buildings rise proudly as spec­ tacles in themselves, monuments, on the one hand, fall like symbols that condense the traces of a past that fades into frozen inert images and, on the other, float in a disorderly fashion in the hostile environment of museification. Perhaps the living spectacle that cities have now become demands such museum landmarks. In these projects, monuments are somehow sensitive to (although they also rebel against) the fate reserved to them by the Athens Charter, as commented by Le Corbusier,* as scattered items isolated in museum, subject to a process of museification. Unlike administered tourism, therefore, Muntadas inverts and sometimes sub164

P/M Marchán Fiz Simón

verts topical places of memory, triggering a typical and perhaps even inopportune memory of places. Such is the case of the work produced in Bremen, On Translation: Erinnerungsräume (places of memory) in 2004, that adopted the form of a publication modelled on a tourist guide of the city.

The staging of spectacle: Stadium I–XV Media images rock us into an accumulation of spectacles in which ‘Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation’. I shall replace Debord’s term with staging, for the allusion to the stage has imposed itself as a paradigm for a constellation of forms of be­ haviour, practices and discourses that transcend the field of the theatre and move away from the postulates of traditional and even modern plays, turning towards an aesthetics of action and realisation, of the performance of acts, i.e., performativity. Staging is an actor’s mise en scène, his political or social persona, that of works and actions, thinking of the effects it produces or exchanging roles so that it transforms spectators into actors. Staging attests to the decline of GraecoLatin leisure in its aristocratic and plebeian, its Christian and secularised forms that characterised sages, painters and poets, and the rise of the entertainment industry as it has been understood in America since Mark Twain and Buffalo Bill; ‘entertainment’ that uses the media, marketing and advertising to devour the use­ less time of delectation and the place of rest in order to work through other means, a use of time, the utmost negotium.

As is usual in Muntadas, Stadium I–XV (1989– 2011) is a living being, a long-standing project that progresses in successive versions incorpo­ rating new ingredients. Conceived as an instal­ lation of variable dimensions that simulates the miniaturised construction of a stadium, it com­ bines architectural elements with video screens, slide projections, sound material and photo­ graphic enlargements of the typical iconography of sports competitions, musical spectacles and all sorts of political and media propaganda. As Muntadas shows us in the irrefutable ex­ amples selected, Stadium I–XV is a fine architectural typology, geometrical in shape, that flourished in Roman colosseums and spread

throughout the Empire in southern Europe and northern Africa. In 1896, with the celebration of the first Olympic Games of the modern age in Athens, the stadium was revitalised and from the nineteen seventies onwards would reach new heights, first in the United States and Europe and then worldwide. Without losing its original character, the stadium has evolved into a multipurpose container that consummates spec­ tacle’s division between physical reality and reality perceived in its transformations by the media; between the direct sensory impact produced live and the effect it produces on audi­ ences as a mediated event.

Editing room for the video Media Hostage S.S.S., 1985.

Both the project and the comments provided examples in which the stadium typology com­ bines the beauty of the architecture and the spectacle with the staging of power. Outstanding among them all were Berlin Stadium, where the 1936 Olympiad was held, and the German Stadium in Luitpoldhain, Nuremberg’s municipal park, that had welcomed Nazi conferences and other patriotic acts since 1934. The flood of crowds flocking to spectacles has been characterised as the ‘ornament of the masses’ (Siegfried Kracauer). In the nineteen twenties this ornament took the entertainment industry by storm thanks to ‘employee’ culture (Angestellte) in sports competitions, parades and military marches. Nevertheless, this peculiar ornament reaches its paroxysm in the stagings of the masses during Nazism, for these rede­ fined the genre of ornamentation after the local was transcended by the national and interna­ tional thanks to media coverage in the public sphere, i.e., radio transmission, photography and film, the mass media of the day. This also explains the success of Triumph of the Will, the film that made a name for Leni Riefenstahl and which masterfully captured classicist compositions, architectural settings and the aestheticisation of politics at sports events, processions and mass concentrations, dramatically presented in orderly, hierarchical scenarios. These grandiose self-representa­ tions were performed on stages that were no less dazzling, as beautiful as opera sets, such as the ‘cathedral of light’ designed by Albert Speer for the 1936 Nazi rally at Nuremberg, where the gregarious masses saw themselves as parts of the ornament, products of natural beauty, the organic beauty forged by that great political artist, the Führer. The unique individual was both the actual material of the work and 165

Paysaje de Espacios delos espectáculo  media / Mediascapes / Places of spectacle

Stills from Media Hostage S.S.S., 1985.

On Translation: La mesa de negociación I Fundación Arte y Tecnología, Madrid (1998) An installation composed of a circular table sectioned into ten equal parts, the surface of which displays a set of backlit charts related to the production and con­ sumption of leisure economy. Piles of books wedged the legs of the table, their spines offering a succession of titles that also referred to the process of the globali­ sation of culture.

On Translation: La mesa de negociación II Spanish Pavilion of the 51st Venice Biennale (2005)



On Translation: I Giardini Spanish Pavilion of the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) A project that explored the trans­ lation and reinterpretation of a public space—in this case, the Giardini di Castelo—brought about by a cultural event such as the Venice Biennale. The main installation evoked an air­ port lounge, with a unit similar to a tourist or estate agents’ information panel, showing audiovisual docu­ mentation on the history of the Biennale, the countries taking part in the event, the different pavilions and the memory of the gardens that accommodated them.


Ámbitos de la traducción / Fields of translation

Protokolle (2005–2006) Wßrttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Stuttgart (2006) A proposal that revolves around the idea of protocol. Different anonymous professionals were asked to explain what the concept meant for them in their respective disciplines. Their comments were shown together with abundant images, documentary material and works by Muntadas.



About Academia Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge (MA) (2011) Three projections that show quotes, interviews and architectural spaces from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Academia, a paradigmatic institution in the Western world, is the core of the project, which explores the controversial relations between the production of knowledge and economic power in a series of interviews conducted with distinguished figures from Harvard and other academic bodies in the American context, including Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Doris Sommer and Howard Zinn.


Ámbitos de la traducción / Fields of translation




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N / S / E / O Selling the Future On Translation: Fear / Miedo On Translation: Miedo / Jauf Cercas Alphaville e outros Related projects On Translation: Sicherheitsvorschriften, 1981… The Close-Up Series, 1984 Pou / Ull, 1993 On Translation: The Symbol, 2002 Fear, Panic,Terror, 2010



La construcción del miedo / Domain of fear The On Translation series explores a range of issues related to the idea of translation, and in most cases establishes an interpretative framework that enables the artist to question cultural, ideological and economic situations that challenge analysis and comprehension. However, fear introduces a distinctive element into these aspects, a problematic factor related to its psychological nature. In this regard, Muntadas has stated that ‘analysing fear as a form of instrumentalisation we see that silence and what remains unsaid are an important part of its narrative’. Indeed, projects like On Translation: Fear / Miedo (2005) and On Translation: Miedo / Jauf (2007), in which the presence of the border reveals clashing realities (North/South and East/West) that make trans­ lation a dialectical exercise, or like The Construction of Fear (2008) and Fear, Panic, Terror (2010), that tackle the media’s use of the extended semiotics of fear, especially after 11 September, seem to occupy a double and paradoxical position, for they probe into verbal resources and their own inhibitions concerning the collection of stereotypes and the lack of terms to describe a certain degree of complexity. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in these works the determination of fear should adopt an equally schematic configuration that unfolds in austere neutral settings conducive to the development of discourses that will embrace their own tautologies. As a counterpoint to these projects, Muntadas has also developed lines of analysis that are not strictly linguistic. For example, he has studied the impact of fear on private and public space in works like Cercas (2008) and Alphaville e outros (2010), 201

The File Room Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (1994) A double-sided project on censorship that consists of an online database ( and a physical and temporary installation. Users can consult the archive and, by following a simple questionnaire, actually add new cases.



Political Advertisement (1984 –2008) An ongoing project, revised every four years, that is a compilation of television advertisements of the successive political campaigns for the United States presidency from 1952 to the present. Made in collaboration with Marshall Reese.


El archivo / The archive

Media Sites / Media Monuments (1982–2007) Washington Project for the Arts, Washington (1982) / Ludwig Museum, Budapest (1998) /  Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Buenos Aires (2007) A photographic and documentary project about several ‘media events’ produced in the Argentinean capital. It contrasts two images: one in black and white that reproduces the exact spot where the historical inci­ dent had taken place, and the other one in colour, taken in the same place in 2007. A number of photo­ graphs configuring a sort of bank of images set the final selection of compositions in context.



On Translation: The Bookstore (2001) Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz, Pamplona (2002) A photographic series that reproduced the criteria for classifying books in a general bookshop and invited reflection on the motives behind these criteria, how they are translated and filtered and, finally, how personal interpretations influence codes designed to be understood globally.


El archivo / The archive

On Translation: Petit et grand Instituto Cervantes, Paris (2008) An installation that examined photo­ graphs, texts and other archival ma­ terial in order to document the pecu­ liarity and social use of the terms ‘petit’ and ‘grand’ in French, in con­ nection with smallness and privacy, on the one hand, and grandness, state affairs and hierarchy, on the other.



On Translation: Paper BP/MVDR Mies van der Rohe Pavillion, Barcelona (2009) An intervention that consisted of giving the Mies van der Rohe pavilion at the 1929 Inter­ national Exhibition held in Barcelona olfactory connotations in order to obtain a completely different impression of architectural space. The smell recreated was that of paper (docu­ ments, closed spaces, etc.), a reference to the building process in general, and in particular to the survival of the pavilion (thanks to Van der Rohe’s original plans) from its dismantling in the early thirties to its reconstruction in 1986.


El archivo / The archive

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