In the Face of Violence
Interview with Stephen F. EisenmanEisenman explores issues with ethical and disciplinary significance, elucidating a critical standpoint and acknowledging the ideological ties that join somewhat distant pasts to the present we inhabit.
The work of Marwan Rechmaoui (Beirut, 1964) is strongly tied to concerns, which surfaced among artists of his generation, with archiving and documenting the contemporary history of his country after the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). His work, primarily sculpture, is the product of experimentation with materials from the urban environment — concrete, plastic, rubber — and stems from long processes of research, whereby the artist vindicates maps as a tool for deconstructing meanings.
In this interview, Rechmaoui brings to light the importance of configuring urban space, symbolically, socially and politically, in our interpretation of the past. He plots a journey around pieces inspired by Beirut’s complex urbanism, such as Blue Building (2015), which is part of the Museo Reina Sofía Collection and which examines rampant urban development in a city carrying the memory of successive earthquakes, fires and wars. His installations, moreover, record the history of a city permanently being reconstructed and subjected to constant tensions, such as those resulting from the revolution which, in response to neoliberal policies over the past few decades, occupy Lebanon’s squares today.
Now! We Are All Black
Santiago Álvarez, NOW!, Cuba, 1965, original version with Spanish subtitles, b/n, 35mm, 6’
We wholeheartedly condemn all forms of racism and we hope that, in the aftermath sparked by the tragic death of George Floyd, this implacable wave of protests and demonstrations can produce irrevocable change towards a more just and equal society.
In modern and contemporary art museums we experience art and its ideas as agents of social transformation, as actively being part of a framework of relationships on multiple scales. We do not want to stay on the margins. We want to be spheres that resonate and take a stance, which is why we stand with all people affected by politics underpinned by racism and discrimination across the world.
We join the myriad voices which, from streets and institutions, demand that black lives matter, now and always. With that in mind, we wish to share the work NOW! by Cuban director Santiago Álvarez (Havana, Cuba, 1919–1998). Conceived as a news broadcast to be screened in cinemas in 1965, the film constitutes one of the most emphatic condemnations of US police brutality against African Americans. Álvarez, one of the inventors of montage documentary — “give me two photos, a song, a novel and a moviola and I’ll give you a film”, he claimed — shows a series of photographs of anti-racism protests and their brutal suppression in the 1960s. Sadly, these images could have been taken on the streets of any American city this week. The backdrop to the film is the voice of jazz singer, actress and activist Lena Horne (New York, USA, 1917–2010), in a song with words we make our own: “Now is the moment / Now is the moment / Come on, we’ve put it off long enough / Now, no more waiting / No hesitating / Now, now”.
We associate the overwhelming and current uprising in this short film with the graphic art campaign Argentinian artist Juan Carlos Romero (1931–2017) propelled with the Southern Conceptualisms Network in 2009. “We Are All Black” was the slogan that confronted the fatuous celebration of the bicentenary of independence in Mexico, Argentina and other Latin American countries, and which ignored the memory of an earlier anti-colonial uprising: the Haitian Revolution. That campaign recovered a passage from the first constitution of Haiti written by Toussaint L'Ouverture, a black liberator, which proclaimed that: “all Haitian citizens, hereinafter, shall be known under the generic name of blacks”, explicitly including white women, Germans and Polish, and excluding those who were or would be slave owners. At the beginning of the 19th century, the status of “black” was put forward as a political and cultural denomination, thus disobeying racial or biological categorisation.
Related project: Red de Conceptualismos del Sur and Museo Reina Sofía
Juan Carlos Romero. Ahora todos somos negros [Now! We Are All Black]. Intervention, 2007-2011
There Is Nothing to Understand Here
A documentary on Elena Asins
The Museo Reina Sofía premieres an internally produced online documentary on the artist Elena Asins, resulting from research into the artist’s archive conducted over a two-year period, and assembling unpublished documents and unprecedented interpretations around one of the key figures in geometric abstraction and art as research since 1960.
Directed by Javi Álvarez and Olga Sevillano, the piece also features the participation of Gorka Alda, José Luis Alexanco, Sofía Barroso, Manuel Borja-Villel, Capi Corrales, Ignacio Gómez de Liaño, Luis Gordillo, Juan José Lasarte, Javier Maderuelo, Soledad Sevilla and Ian Triay.
Udlot, Udlot, by José Maceda
In March 2019, the Museo opened a call to participate in the performance of the piece Udlot Udlot (1975), by Philippine composer José Maceda, whose work combined his interest in traditional music from Southeast Asia and Europe. The performance of the piece required no prior musical knowledge, simply attendance at a workshop organised by the Museo, in collaboration with the Escuela Municipal de Música y Danza del Distrito Centro María Dolores Pradera. Some one hundred people learnt the score together and kept in time with its rhythms. During the current pandemic, the experience reminds us of something essential: the power of union and respectful co-existence, not only between humans but with all other living organisms on the planet.
Interview with Eszter Salamon
About MONUMENT 0.7: M/OTHERSChoreographer Eszter Salamon explores in depth the creative process of the piece MONUMENT 0.7: M/OTHERS (2019), made with Erzsébet Gyarmati, surveying the mother-daughter binomial from a commitment to producing intersubjective temporalities.
The artistic production of Miriam Cahn (Basel, Switzerland, 1949) materialises with a strong influence from 1960s feminist and pacifist movements. For the artist, her work with drawing and painting is a bodily act with a performative quality, and since the start of her career in the 1970s the centrality of the body has been related to a growing awareness of feminism. For Cahn, art is politics and the imprint of issues related to contemporary society can be discerned in her oeuvre. Each gesture, movement and thought is “just as important” as the rest. The breadth of her work is traversed by her interest in important issues: feminist defence, war, violence, sexuality, family and death.
Moreover, the artist alludes to intersections and connections with the work Pablo Picasso produced during the Spanish Civil War. During the Yugoslav Wars, the media showed images of concentration camps, torture, and the rape of women and girls… their faces expressing the pain that made her think of the weeping women in Picasso’s work. Works that recount ethnic clashes between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia or the media’s use of contemporary armed conflicts as a spectacle.Inside the framework of:
Since the start of her career, Natalia Iguiñiz (b. Lima, 1973) has worked in close connection with different women’s collectives and feminist movements in her country. In this interview, she analyses issues that include how her projects approach the way in which the containment of women’s sexual and reproductive rights creates major tensions in the cultural and social context of Peru. Both in her solo work and as part of different artists’ collectives — with Sandro Venturo in La Perrera (The Kennel), or alongside Claudia Coca, and others, in Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Collective) — her practice as a poster artist has evolved towards a more direct, first-person intervention in the city’s public space as she reflects on themes such as gender identity, violence against women, political denunciation during Alberto Fujimori’s term of office and inequality in civil society.Inside the framework of:
For the third year running, the programme Archipelago encourages an understanding of the complexity of the contemporary world through listening, exploring what is understood by experimental music and the relation it bears to popular culture by way of different narratives and geographies.
The present edition explores the concept of tradition: a term predominantly associated with conservatism and regression in the face of change, but with a meaning that implies the transfer of knowledge from one person to another and from one generation to the next.
The Task of the Painter
This retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of Jörg Immendorff (Bleckede, Germany, 1945 –Düsseldorf, Germany, 2007) surveys a career spanning more than four decades, setting forth the key stages and transformations in the artist’s work: from the sociopolitical and political upheaval works he conceived between the 1960s and early 1980s, to the encoded paintings in the latter stages of his output.
Time Is Mute
This retrospective on the work of Mario Merz (Milan, Italy, 1925 – Milan, Italy, 2003) surveys the provenance of a body of work suspended in a kind of pre-historic time, at odds with the discourse of modern-era history. This anachronistic perspective, apparent in the choice of materials and iconography, stems from the ideological and committed stance of an artist and his relation to the political and intellectual climate in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, in addition to his rejection of pervasive capitalism and the American way of life after the Second World War.
The search for mythology distinguished Merz’s work from his kindred contemporaries, for his archaism bore no relation to a melancholic yearning for the past, but instead was related to a razor-sharp critique of industrial and consumerist modernity.
Interview to Bouchra Ouizguen
As part of the performing arts series staged in collaboration with the Community of Madrid’s Teatros del Canal, the Museo Reina Sofía presents, over two sessions, Corbeaux (Crows), by choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen.
Corbeaux is a kind of “living sculpture” with no contrivance, comprising raw elements, gestures, silences and, at times, the cries of a group of women dressed in black, their bodies creating figures and forms in the space they share with spectators. As the piece evolves, pre-conceived notions of time and space vanish, making way for a hard-to-classify lived experience intended to be both intimate and universal.
Delphine Seyrig and the Feminist Video Collectives in France in the 1970s and 1980s
Delphine Seyrig (1932-1990) is best known for the roles she played in French auteur cinema, most notably in Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais. However, during the 1970s, she became indeed an activist working collaboratively within the framework of the feminist movement. Around 1975, together with activist video maker Carole Roussopoulos and translator Ioana Wieder, she produced a series of videos under the collective name “Les Insoumuses” (Defiant Muses). This exhibition explores the intersection between the histories of cinema, video and feminism in France.
Focusing on the emergence of video collectives in the 1970s, the exhibition proposes to reconsider the history of the feminist movement in France through a set of media practices and looks at a network of creative alliances that emerged in a time of political turmoil.
History Keeps Me Awake at Night
From the late 1970s until his untimely death in 1992 through AIDS-related complications, David Wojnarowicz (New Jersey, USA, 1954 — New York, USA, 1992) produced a body of work that was as conceptually rigorous as it was stylistically diverse. His artistic career fused a broad array of forms, mediums and devices, for instance the use of photography as a narrative tool; collage as a resource for critique and political statements, stressed through the poverty of the medium; painting adopted to explore different allegorical processes; and photomontage and text employed as an approach to the queer and identity politics that also shaped his role as an activist.
Self-portrait of Other
The work of Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishida (Yaizu, Shizuoka, 1973 – Tokyo, 2005) gives the experience of the contemporary subject a face as it explores the uncertainty and desolation of Japanese society, drastically altered by the technological advances and successive crises that have affected economies and politics the world over. More specifically, Ishida portrays, with descriptive precision, the mood of his generation, defined by the bursting bubble of finance and real estate and the mass lay-offs that plunged the country into a deep recession in 1991.
Rogelio López Cuenca
Keep Reading, Giving Rise
Keep Reading, Giving Rise is the first retrospective of the artist Rogelio López Cuenca (Nerja, 1959). He has worked at the crossroads between the visual arts and the mass media. Taking writing off the page, he has exercised his own visual poetry that operates inside the tradition of institutional critique and the offshoots of Pop through multiple mediums such as painting, installation, urban interventions and publishing.
The Avant-garde Networks of Amauta
Argentina, Mexico, and Peru in the 1920s
The Peruvian journal Amauta (1926–1930), founded and directed by José Carlos Mariátegui (Moquegua, Peru, 1894 – Lima, Peru, 1930), was one of the most influential publications in twentieth-century art. Conceived as a platform for the core debates on modernity, and in contrast to other avant-garde publications, Amauta was not the expression of one group, nor did it seek to impose one sole aesthetic or political programme. Rather, it aspired to become a medium with which to explore and discuss different movements of social transformation.
H. C. Westermann
American artist Horace Clifford Westermann (Los Angeles, 1922 – Danbury, 1981) assembled a distinctive and singular body of sculptures. His works were predominantly made from wood through his masterly command of carpentry and cabinetmaking, yet he also used other techniques and materials such as metal, glass and enamelling with incredible precision. In this retrospective presented by the Museo Reina Sofía, a concern with going back to shelter would soon emerge, be it in the home or the body —and blighted by the threat of confinement and death. Also, stubborn or helpless figures would recur through Westermann’s oeuvre.
Westermann: Memorial to the Idea of Man If He Was An Idea
A documentary film by Pentimenti Productions
Westermann: Memorial to the Idea of Man If He Was an Idea is a 3-D documentary film that explores the art and life of sculptor and printmaker H.C. Westermann. Directed by Leslie Buchbinder, executive produced by international art icon KAWS, and featuring interviews with Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, and others, the film's narrative is driven by Westermann's prolific and wide-ranging letters that reveal a dramatic personal history reflected in his beguiling, surreal artworks. A veteran of WWII & the Korean War who struggled with the ramifications of modern warfare, and an acrobat who viewed his life as a constant balancing act, Westermann forged a life of art from the crucible of chaos and death. Pentimenti's use of 3-D technology immerses the viewer within the beauty, mystery, comedy, and pain of Westermann’s work and life. For more information please visit the Pentimenti Productions website.
Interview with Luis Camnitzer
The work and thinking of Luis Camnitzer (Lübeck, Germany, 1937) is anchored in a comprehensive ethical awareness, which for this US-based Uruguayan artist gives meaning to artistic creation in his social context.
In his 1987 essay “Access to the Mainstream”, Camnitzer writes: “We’re primarily ethical beings who can tell right from wrong, fair from unfair, not only as individuals but in community contexts (…) Art becomes the instrument of choice for implementing these strategies.”
This interview looks over Camnitzer’s main ideas of Conceptualism, going back to the radicalism of his early work with the New York Graphic Workshop (NYGW) collective – grounded in ephemeral, word-based works – and elicits general reflections on his artistic mediums and the concepts of ethics and education that are patently linked to his creative activity. A special section is devoted to the idea of violence and a key work, Puerto Montt Massacre (1969), which belongs to the Museo’s Collection. In the work, Camnitzer approaches political content through signs, words and geometry, placing the spectator inside the work so that, rather than passively consuming it, they are forced to experiment in the “field of knowledge”.
Interview with Lotty Rosenfeld
Lotty Rosenfeld, a visual artist and founder of the group C.A.D.A. (Art Actions Collective), along with artist Juan Castillo, sociologist Fernando Balcells, poet Raúl Zurita and novelist Diamela Eltit, discusses the group’s origins and its development during the years of Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Its works were based on the reformulation of the mechanisms of artistic production and framed inside counter-institutional practice, while the use of direct action in public space as a tool for redefining the conditions of its creative participation defined the group and the individual work of some of its members. Emblematic works such as Para no morir de hambre en el arte (Not to Die of Hunger in Art, 1979) and No + (No More, 1983–1989) went beyond the artistic sphere, coming to form part of the collective imaginary in Latin America. Rosenfeld also analyses the notion of archive and her solo work, both individually and as part of feminist groups in Chile.
From Art, Despite Art
Interview with Lucy Lippard
Lucy Lippard (1937) is one of the foremost critics and creators in the conception and history of contemporary art. Her writing, exhibitions and biography have been the subject of far-reaching studies and shows, for instance the recent Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of the Conceptual Art (Brooklyn Art Museum, 2012–2013) and From Conceptualism to Feminism. Lucy Lippard’s Numbers Shows 1969–74 (Afterall, 2012). Lippard was a guest at the opening of the Juan Antonio Ramírez Chair, which explores different approaches to art history – understanding it as a constantly evolving discourse – and signalled the start of activities in the Museo Reina Sofía’s Study Centre. Therefore, on the occasion of her visit, a master lecture, workshop and interview were all conducted, the latter of which looked over, for the first time, her career as a whole, for example the landmark exhibition Eccentric Abstraction (1966), representing a feminist and organic critique of Minimalism, a key term in the “dematerialisation of art” (1972), or the displacement of the institutional systems of art by community- and territorial-based aesthetic practices.
The Poetics of Democracy
Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition
The Poetics of Democracy: Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition originates from research undertaken in 2008 by the Museo Reina Sofía’s Department of Collections, the objective being to vindicate the artistic experiences excluded from the institutional discourses of the history of Spanish art of the 1970s. In this video, Manuel Borja-Villel (director of the Museum) and Rosario Peiró (Head of Collections) explain this research process —which was carried out over a decade— to recall a period when, alongside civil demands for democratic liberties, social justice, and self-government, there arose a new aesthetic linked to innovative cultural practices that sought to subvert the order of Franco’s regime and the institutional schemes attempting to inherit it.
Lost, Loose and Loved
Foreign Artists in Paris 1944-1968
This show explores the contribution of foreign artists who, after the Second World War, were working in Paris, a city which still preserved a certain aura surrounding its mythical modern embodiment as a “City of Light” in the 19th century. The broad collective exhibition reflects the vitality and vivacity of the art scene in all its complexity, displaying the different creative trends which took hold in the city inside and outside the School of Paris at a time of fervent political debate, held to the backdrop of the new global stage opened by the Cold War. From a broad array of artistic fields — from painting and sculpture to jazz, literature and film — foreign artists dealt with mounting tension by bringing their approaches and hopes to the Parisian milieu in an attempt to connect with the tradition of international modernism but without losing a grip on their own cultural identity.
Throughout his career as a sculptor, Jaume Plensa (Barcelona, 1955), who has recived the the prestigious Velázquez Award for the Arts in 2013, has drawn on spirituality, the body and collective memory as the primary sources which tie together his visual artwork. Literature, psychology, biology, language and history become strategic tools in the creation of his work, and, through a broad spectrum of materials — steel, cast iron, resin, glass, water, sound — Plensa lends weight and physical volume to the components of the human condition and the ephemeral. In this instance, the invisible forms the essence of his intervention in the Palacio de Cristal: a group of steel mesh sculptures which take the space to draw the incomplete faces of figures hanging in the air, intersected by light and suspended in time.
Archipelago 2018. Concert series
In its second edition, Archipelago asserts its approach to listening as a form of both knowledge and aesthetic pleasure. Attendants are encouraged to approach the complexities of the cotemporary world not only through the ear, but also through the body, by absorbing sound with all their organs and bones.
Participants: Janneke van der Putten, Agnès Pe, Hashigakari, Tutu, Clara de Asís, Cedrick Fermont, Toukadime, Sofyann Ben, Youssef (Ammar 808), Áine O’Dwyer, Tarawangsawelas + Rabih Beaini, Nadah El Shazly, Errorsmith and Dj Lag.
The Words of Others by León Ferrari
A Theatre of the Present
This video assembles a series of interviews, carried out in conjunction with the presentation of León Ferrari's literary collage The Words of Others, which explore the Argentinean artist's approaches to his work and the challenges and research entailed in staging this theatre piece in the Museo Reina Sofía.
Ruth Estévez. Independent researcher. In charge of direction and mise en scène.
Ana Longoni. Director of Public Activities, Museo Reina Sofía.
Javier del Olmo. Representative of the León Ferrari Foundation.
José Antonio Sánchez. Researcher. In charge of dramaturgy and mise en scène.
Isabel de Naverán. Dance advisor, Museo Reina Sofía.
Luis Camnitzer. Hospice of Failed Utopias
This retrospective offers a global, contextualised view of the Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer’s multi-faceted work, spanning nearly sixty years. As an essayist, art critic, curator, teacher, lecturer and a creator of objects, actions and musical compositions, Camnitzer focuses on art’s transformative capacity, viewing it essentially as a product of reflection. His practice, whether it be artistic, or through his essays or teaching, is defined by its approach to the controversial issues of our times: the criticism of art-commodity, the demystification and obsolescence of the role of the artist in consumer society, or the capacity of neoliberal societies to turn education into an instrument of propaganda.
Dorothea Tanning. Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door
This exhibition collects Tanning's extensive, exhaustive and expressive body of work between the USA and France, producing paintings, drawings, costume and set designs for ballets, “soft” sculptures, novels and poems. The exhibition revolves around themed rooms drifting through the periods which were integral to Tanning’s career — spanning childhood and family scenes, girls dressed in Victorian clothing, baroque and bucolic nudes, red-rock deserts, and representations of flowers, highly pertinent in her mature work. Moreover, her installations include Chambre 202, Hôtel du Pavot [Poppy Hotel, Room 202] (1970–1973), with amorphous sculptures inviting visitors to see, feel and be part of the surreal world she inhabits.
An Approach to Afal
The Autric-Tamayo Donation
The collective of photographers which operated under the name AFAL Group hailed from the publication AFAL, a magazine specialised in film and photography, published over a six-year period, from 1956 to 1963, and coordinated from Almería by José María Artero García (Almería, 1928–1991) and Carlos Pérez Siquier (Almería, 1930). Its independent approach and fresh tone soon attracted inquiring photographers from all over Spain, thus turning the magazine into a force driving behind the renewal of post-war Spanish photography.
Interview with Dora García
In this interview, Dora García (Valladolid, Spain, 1965) draws from different works in the Museo Reina Sofía Collection to reflect on her work from its starting point, with themes such as narrative, infinite writing, performance and psychoanalysis shaping a coherent and continuous world. The artist analyses her use of the book as an object and repository of stories, and, by way of literary and psychoanalytical references, from James Joyce and Freud to Lacan, she discusses the transformation of reading and text production into collective actions. Similarly, she explores the key strands running through debates on performance: how to document and transmit it and questioning the classical idea of impossibility associated with its repetition, present in her approach to the works and writings of Allan Kaprow and Óscar Masotta. She also focuses on the damned artist, the notion of the anti-hero and the inappropriate to define a way of approaching reality through fiction.
Russian Dada 1914–1924
This exhibition explores Russian avant-garde art through the perspective of the Anti-art canons associated with the international Dada movement. The anti-academic work of Kazimir Malevich to eclipse classical art and the transrational language experiments (zaum) of Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh are just some of the early contributions which substantiate the reasoning behind this show.