In Me Too. Desire and Crime the Museo Reina Sofía invites Albert Serra to curate, for the first time in his career, a series of screenings which run alongside his new film installation, Personalien, made for the Museo’s Fissures programme. Serra’s voice is one of the most original in the reinvention of contemporary cinema, attested to by the Golden Leopard Award (Locarno, 2013), the Jean Vigo Award (2016), the Grand Prix Award at FIDMarseille (2018), and other prizes.
Across five sessions, the screened films allude to the film-maker’s cinematic references, developing a key theme in his recent films and audiovisual installations: the struggle between desire and morals, between emancipation and ethics, between impulse and duty, between a world of debauchery and other moral limits. Serra has approached this controversy in a cinematic history which transcends genre, becoming at once an allegory and emblem of the present, constituting an image of contemporaneity, for instance in the passage from illustration to Romanticism, in the encounter between Casanova and Dracula in Historia de mi muerte (The Story of My Death, 2013), in the slow and spurious demise of total power in La muerte de Luis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV, 2016) and Roi soleil (The Sun King, 2018), and, finally, in Personalien (2019), where sexual utopia in the twilight of the Ancien Régime at the end of the 18th century counters contemporary desire, articulated as a question of rights.
The series sees Albert Serra select different manifestations of desire in dark, varied episodes in the history of cinema, from the Japanese underground or Warhol’s Factory and entourage in late 1968 to post-dramatic and performative cinema by contemporary film-makers such as João Pedro Rodrigues and Ulrich Seidl. This journey, assembled as “cruising between images and impulses,” in the words of the film-maker, is an approach to desire understood as totalitarian power, psychological liberation through the uses of the body, social emancipation during counterculture and an outwardly fetishist and perverse dictatorship.
The title of the series refers to the Me Too movement and the moral involvement of the spectator’s gaze, while the subheading alludes to a key manifesto of modernity, Ornament and Crime (1908), in which the architect Adolf Loos identifies functionalism or structure with virtue, while decoration, the ‘flesh’ of architecture, is the voluptuous element and thus superfluous and criminal. Furthermore, upon choosing films that seek transgression, Serra pays homage to Amos Vogel’s book Film as Subversive Art (1974) – he also wrote a foreword in the French reprint (Capricci, 2016) – a cult essay on avant-garde film.