El día del ojo

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Especially conceived for the Museo Tamayo, El día del ojo is a new work by Pierre Huyghe entailing research, travel and chance encounters across Mexico. It will be inaugurated next week, as part of the re-opening of this newly expanded and renovated museum. Pierre and I started discussions and work on this project in 2009, during my tenure as director of Museo Tamayo, and it’s a pleasure that it’s finally come into fruition.

The artist’s work consists of a water-filled pool inhabited by live, blind-cave fish and by floating volcanic rocks. It’s built in the museum’s indoor sculpture patio. Within that quasi-natural, quasi-artificial environment underground, these species are left on their own, without any other being bearing witness to them. This work, which is made invisible or visible at the museum according to rituals defined by the artist, will be uncovered by opening the floor… and will remain so until future yet undefined protocols create its disappearance.

To create this work, the artist sited natural phenomena and cultural manifestations that exist, but that are invisible or likely go unseen. Aside from this being insinuated formally through the work, this is also implicated in its title: El día del ojo. If the exhibition title was literally translated to the English, it would refer to a designated day for the warranted observance of the eye or simply of observing; if the translation was more openly interpreted, it would suggest, possibly, looking at the predicaments arising with eye witnessing.

Presented along with this live-sculpture by Huyghe are a number of artifacts and sculptures, all made of minerals and drawn from the collections of the Museo Tamayo and the Museo de Arte Prehispánico in Oaxaca City, both institutions founded by the artist Rufino Tamayo. The placement of these objects in the sculpture patio is determined by the sunlight radiating through the building skylights and cast on its grounds at specific hours. And, their presentation calls on the display that Huyghe experienced on his first visit to Museo Tamayo in 1987. However, it is far from a reconstruction of the exhibition that Huyghe witnessed at that time, and that he captured others seeing with this own film camera twenty-five years ago. Instead, it is an attempt to reverse the condition of encounter: from exhibiting something to being exposed to something.

One more component in a multiple set of operations that constitute El día del ojo is a publication on Huyghe’s journeys and encounters in Mexico. Neither a visual essay nor a travelogue, it includes a text that I penned preceded by images of the Museo Tamayo’s 1987 exhibition drawn from the artist’s personal film-reels; pictures from his journey to the Naica Caves in northern Chihuahua, and; several other points of interest that were unearthed from caves to archives in the process of creating this work.

Huyghe’s El día del ojo—the work and its opening rituals, the presentation determined by a sun-clock, and the accompanying publication—attempts to either expand or constrict the sense of time between what exists in itself and what appears to the eye. In doing so, it is an invitation to reconsider the spaces of interpretation that reminiscences and oblivion create as the place of the unknown. In between all that, the figure of the witness is observed.

Pierre Huyghe’s El día del ojo opens to the public on August 26, 2012 at Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. El día del ojo is commissioned by Museo Tamayo; Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, curator; Daniela Pérez, project coordinator; Melissa Dubbin, producer; key collaborators include the biologist Víctor Hugo Reynoso and architect Juan Carlos Garduño.

Superlative Places

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

While I may someday publish here thoughts on my recent visit to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – someday, maybe, when I finish all the texts past due that I am still writing – I want to at least share some snapshots. Here are a few pictures of Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, where I participated last Monday in the first panel of the Global Art Forum. The following day we proceeded to the UAE to attend the Art Dubai fair, one of the forum’s co-organizers and our host for the following days. An interesting group of galleries participated in the fair; most were spaces from that region, and most were showing artists whose work I had never seen. On Wednesday, buses from Dubai took us to the neighboring city of Sharjah, where the tenth edition of its biennial was taking place. Here are a handful of installation views of Plot for a Biennial, the title of such exhibition, including excerpts of the catalog texts. I hopped on another bus on Thursday evening, this time to quickly visit Abu Dhabi and catch the solo-exhibition of Hassan Sharif. Here are some exhibition views of Sharif’s show, presented in what seems to be the temporary venue of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. It’s worth noting, if briefly, that Doha’s Mathaf, Art Dubai, Sharjah Biennial, and Abu Dhabi’s ADACH are a handful of “locally grown” institutions in the Gulf region. (Besides the well-known Guggenheim Museum projected for Abu Dhabi, there are plenty more educational and cultural institutions brought to the region through a form of institutional franchising.)

Thursday was my last day in the UAE and, aside from visiting Sharif’s exhibition I spent the morning and afternoon wandering through town with a colleague. We first took an Art Dubai architectural tour of Burj Khalifa. This is the tallest building in the world, the tour leader said to us, 828 meters to be exact. To clear up any doubt about what that meant, he explained that the Burj Khalifa measured the sum heights of New York’s iconic Empire State and Chrysler Building. Here are city views from Dubai, taken from that building’s observation deck in the 124th floor, as well as images of the largest aquarium in the world, which is sited in the same building complex. The burj (tower) is part of a new and innovative Dubai, and as big as it is it wasn’t enough for our wandering. We decided to look for the historical side of town. A day before, we had seen in the biennial Kamran Shirdel’s Pearls of the Persian Gulf: Dubai 1975, and didn’t want to leave Dubai without exploring some of the locations in that documentary film. After a taxi ride of some 20 minutes in a billboard-less freeway, we were suddenly set in another Dubai. Our hotel, we realized, was probably a steroidal Las Vegas version of the old town, with all the older building’s original proportions, wind towers and alleys for souks (markets). Indeed, the architecture and urban plan of this part of the city changed from vertical to horizontal. It was a flatterer and simpler, yet seemingly busier and livelier city, at least publicly so. Locals walking everywhere, or gathered in spontaneous meetings in the street or spending time outside their shops, or gathering in corners. Finally, I felt foreign.

Not even twenty percent of Dubai’s population is Emirati.

Visual Arts Facsimile

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

In 1973, the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) in Mexico City launched the magazine Artes Visuales. The magazine was one of the museum projects of the ever-dynamic Fernando Gamboa, MAM’s director from 1972 to 1981. During his lifetime, and through and beyond his work at MAM, Gamboa became a leading exhibition designer and organizer, museums director, arts promoter, as well as prominent figure in all matters relating to cultural politics in this country. His work is recognized for its attempts to present a “modern” Mexico to the world.

This year, MAM published an anthology of Artes Visuales compiling selected pages in facsimile of each of its issues, and including a forward by Josefa Ortega and an essay by Carla Stellweg, collaborator of Gamboa and co-founder end editor of the magazine. The book is released in conjunction to MAM’s current exhibition Fernando Gamboa: La utopía moderna. Curated by Ana Elena Mallet, the exhibition explores Gamboa’s work as exhibition maker, cultural politician and arts institution builder at large.

In the book’s Documenting the Undocumented, Carla Stellweg narrates the story of Artes Visuales. I take particular interest in her text, for beyond being a personal essay that describes the inspirations and history of the magazine, it takes the writing style of storytelling to anecdotally account a particular arts scene in Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s, and a little written-about, even seldom discussed, cultural institutional history of the time. Stellweg cites influential projects to the making and emergence of Artes Visuales, including The Counter Biennial (1971), a book of Museo de Independencia Cultural Latinoamericana, known as the project MICLA; the New York’s Museum of Modern Art exhibition and catalog Information (1970); and Mexico’s Taller de la Grafica Popular (founded 1937).

Stellweg openly states in her essay how Artes Visuales was tied to a political ideology beyond (and, perhaps, also through) the curatorial program of the state-run and publicly funded MAM. It was discursively part of larger cultural project of Mexico’s 1970-1976 President, Luis Echeverria, which she describes as being rooted in “a return to the democratic ideals of basic human rights and freedom of expression…” and a call to “intellectuals who had left Mexico in 1968 to return and be part of a reconstruction process.” Echeverria was recently prosecuted for the Tlatelolclo massacre of 1968, and other similar events and insurrections that led to killings while he served in the cabinet of the presidency before him and during his own. Notwithstanding, Stellweg acknowledges this, and that relating Artes Visuales with his governance is a tricky subject to address, yet, I should add, necessary for mapping public projects and their structures.

The image above is part of Vicente Rojo’s contribution for issue six of Artes Visuales (June 1975), guest-edited by Salvador Elizondo, and reprinted as facsimile in the new anthology of the same title published in 2010 by Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. This issue was project-based, and approached the use of image, text and typeface in concrete poetry and contemporary art of that time. The visual artist Vicente Rojo collaborated as graphic designer of Artes Visuales.


Sunday, September 28th, 2008

In one of the drawings by Emma Hedditch that is part of the exhibition Archaeology of Longing, there are two characters depicted in profile. One is lying down on the ground, or, well, at the edge of the paper; the other one is just above, leaning towards the first. Both figured with short hair, and barely rendered with soft pencil and minimal lines, their sexuality is left ambiguous. They appear, however, in a moment of intimacy, the hand of one slightly peeking in underneath the other’s shirt. Their thoughts and speech encircled in bubbles lightly drawn over their heads. “We have been thinking about longing as a part of capitalist thinking which reflects in all our relations. Longing is connected to ideas and feelings of scarcity.” This is some of what a character says to the other.

As part of this exhibition, Emma also performed a work along the lines of this drawing; video documentation is here included. The performance took place on the evening of September 18, 2008, at the Musée de Montmartre in Paris, which is the vicinity of the exhibition host and organizer Kadist Art Foundation. Aside from Emma’s performance, the evening program also included a reading by Luca Frei of his The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg—An interpretation, and a narration by Gérald Bloncourt of the events surrounding a lecture by Andre Bréton in 1946 Haiti. I will soon write about these presentations, too.

One of the galleries at the Musée de Montmartre inspired the decision to make the program there. It is the room (that is at most 18 square meters) dedicated to The Paris Commune of 1871, which started in Montmartre, and to the construction of the Sacre Coeur, which sits atop its hill. Condensed in this small gallery are items about the rise and fall of a historic political event led by working class struggle, along with documentation of the construction of its anti-monument, this was a basilica built, accordinging to David Harvey, to “expiate the crimes of the communards.” Disenchantment is at the heart of this display. The break of the spell that is the political awakening of the commune is the first sign of this, and the appreciation of a monument about but yet against their struggle follows next.

But, as I said, there are other reasons for choosing this museum as venue. Tucked in a quiet shaded street at the top of the Montmartre hill, the building that houses the museum was once the home of Auguste Renoir. In his Paris Des Avant-Gardes, Alain Rustenholz also tells that it is here where Renoir settled to paint Le Moulin de la Galette (1876). It was also the home of Émile Bernard and Raoul Duffy, and in 1906, of Suzanne Valadon and her son. She was the reason for why Erik Satie lived next door. In choosing this venue, I wanted to reactive the artistic life of this place with a live event and an artistic community, rather than through display and tourism.

Special thanks to Danièle Rousseau-Aicardi and Isabelle Ducatez at the Musée de Montmartre for collaborating with Kadist Art Foundation and hosting the program of September 18th, including Emma Hedditch’s performance.

Examining Tests

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

“We live in a culture so saturated with tests—administered by schools, corporations, the military and hospitals, amongst others—that we have come to believe that we can only know ourselves through the mechanics of examination.” This is the start of the introductory wall text of The Museum of Projective Personality Testing. Created by Cabinet magazine editors Sina Najafi and Christopher Turner, this museum includes a collection of early “projective” personality tests. Some are rare, and most extinct. Goethe-inspired color tests, Rorschach diagrams, and cartoon-illustrated image plates, were among the devises used in these kind of psychological exams, which were (still are) thought to project the unconscious. This miniature museum looks at how psychoanalysis and, eventually, objective rather than projective testing replaced these earlier attempts in the study of human behavior.

The Museum of Projective Personality Testing was one of five mini-museums that were part of the exhibition The Soul curated by Anselm Franke and Hila Peleg. The Soul, in turn, is one of the four exhibitions that makes-up the current edition of Manifesta 7. The current edition of this itinerant biennial is hosted in Italy. Invited by the exhibition curators to sketch an imaginary museum of sorts, Sina and Christopher’s mini-museum responds to a curatorial premise that inspired by a historical event of a religious order, literally. Anselm and Hila looked into the sixteenth century, when Trent was host to a religious council who determined that, in the Roman Catholic Church, imaginings, wishes and desires were subject to confession as if these were performed actions themselves (The Council of Trent, The Bull of Indiction, Chapter V). Read The Soul curators talk on this subject, and about their curatorial process in general, here.

Image: The materials displayed at this and every other miniature museum in The Souls were in glass-covered pedestals and vitrines, except in one case, The Museum of European Normality. Above, at the The Museum of Projective Personality Testing, some books appeared to be testing exhibition scrutiny.

What does it mean to be international today?

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

This is the first in a series of interviews with young curators working inside and outside of institutions in China and Hong Kong. I’ve specifically interviewed curators that are foreigners there, each with a distinct relationship to the contemporary art scene in China, as well as to ideas of local community building and international cultural exchange.

This first interview is with Kate Fowle, International Curator at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, China, a nonprofit art space founded in 2007 by the Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens. Originally from England, Kate had been based in San Francisco since 2002, where she established and then directed the Curatorial Practice Graduate Program at California College of Arts. Today, she splits her time between New York and Beijing.

I interviewed Kate in May 2008, a little over a month after her first exhibition at UCCA opened, and still less than a year since her arrival at that institution. This interview touches on several subjects, but particularly curatorial processes that engage in the formation of artistic communities and new audiences, and specifically as it relates to Kate’s work in China today. (Click below to read the interview.)


In Times of War

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Not only the dinner last night at Ananais—where we savored rabo de toro (bull’s tail)—had prepared me for this event. In fact, it seemed that every day this past weekend was grounding for tonight’s bullfight. It had been long since I last attended one of these events, and never had I been to one in Spain. To be specific, tonight’s bullfight was a novillada con picadores, including three matadors, plus the complete entourage and six novillos, the largest of them weighing 1175 lb (533 kg). This bullfight was part of the month-long Feria de San Isidro, which started in Madrid in 1947. This and the rest of the bullfights in the program take place at Las Ventas, the beautiful Plaza de Toros in that Spanish city. With a brick façade designed by the Spanish architect José Espeliú, the definitely Moorish-influenced bullring of Las Ventas opened in the early 1930s. However, the spectacle and culture of bullfighting, also known as tauromaquia, has a centuries-old history. Also far in history are the debates following criticism of whether or not this so-called blood sport ought to be permitted.

While some of the criticism on bullfighting centers on animal rights (this argument being the least strongest, considering that hunting for survival, food industry or pleasure are stone age and modern day practices), the strongest critiques focus on elevating violence through sport. The counterarguments of the taurina community in Spain, as well as in other countries where bullfighting is practiced—mostly, found in Latin America—frame bullfighting as an artistic expression and cultural tradition. And this all sounds like rhetoric until you’re there, bearing witness to the dance and spectacle of the matador and the bull. Like every art form, bullfighting does indeed have a universe and language of its own. Yet, some things, perhaps the matador’s tactics of torture and distraction, now feel overtly familiar—and to the trepidation of all.

My experience of tonight’s bullfight was certainly influenced by a couple of artworks I had seen only days before here in Madrid. The first was the 2007 video by Antoni Muntadas, On Translation: Fear / Jauf, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The second was La Tauromaquia, a series of drawings and prints created by Francisco Goya in 1815-1816, which formed part of the Museo Nacional Del Prado’s thoughtful and timely exhibition Goya in Times of War. The third was Pablo Picasso‘s Guernica (1937) in the permanent collection of the Reina Sofia.

Muntadas’ video is one of two works with the same title and addressing geopolitical borders and the cultural anxieties endemic to those overly monitored regions. The earlier work was developed in the framework of inSITE between 2003-2005, and dealt with the Mexico and US border region of Tijuana and San Diego. Inspired by that project, Muntadas looked at the geopolitical relation that his home country, Spain, has with Morocco. This new video is based on a series of interviews with citizens in both sides and political camps of the Strait of Gibraltar, a stretch of thirteen miles of sea that separate Western Europe from North Africa. The fifty-long minute video—originally created for television broadcast as the site of exhibition and distribution channel for the work—emphasizes the sense of fear that naturally emerges from experiencing a constant state of preventive security, particularly as it pertains to illegal immigration and an escalation of cultural intolerance.

No less intense was the visit to Goya in Times of War at El Prado. The exhibition covers a span of twenty-five years of the life and work of Goya, from 1794-95 to 1820. This is a period of intense political changes and war in Europe that affected Spain as every other country. During this time, Goya created what were then as today some of his most celebrated works, including the series of prints and drawings of Los Caprichos, Disasters of War and Tauromaquia. The introductory wall text to the gallery with the last of these aforementioned series states that Goya’s series of,

Tauromaquia has to be understood as more than a mere illustration of the history of bullfighting. The time at which this series was created and the resulting images suggest that beneath this apparent intention lies Goya’s need to express his criticism of man’s deep-rooted cruelty, which he himself had witnessed.

Brutality, which is explicit from the outset of the series, is an inherent characteristic of the bullfight, and we can interpret the artist’s characterization of the figures from this world as a veiled critique of human barbarity, already expressed shortly before in the Disasters of War. In its representation of the bullfight, the Tauromaquia emphasizes the idea of a combat between victory and torturers in which terror and madness prevail and in which death is the only outcome.

Intelligent but provocatively over-determined, the text misses to allude that it is not in the depiction where meaning is generated but in experiencing what is rendered. A sense of devastation awakens before the picture. I felt similarly the following day, when we went to see Picasso’s Guernica (1937) at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Like Goya’s Disasters of War, this is another work inspired by human violence and the atrocities of war. As it is when encountering Picasso’s work, my eyes were immediately activated at my encounter with Guernica. The painting’s monumentality and abstraction slowly began unfolding. It was a moving image, with all scenes happening at once to tell of an emotion that is as complex as the history that provoked it.


Antoni Muntadas’ video screening was part of Rencontres Internationales, which was brought us to Madrid—Tom was participating in the same video and film festival, and he invited me along. On Translation: Fear / Jauf will next be broadcast on Al Jeezera TV.

The exhibition Goya in Times of War covers a span of twenty-five years of the life and work of Goya, from 1794-95 to 1820. It is organized and on view at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, from April 15-July 13, 2008.

Since 1992, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) is on permanent display in the collection galleries at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, after a long stay at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who ceded the work back to Spain in 1981.

Some ‘casas’ in Mexico City

Monday, March 10th, 2008

I flew direct from Buenos Aires to Mexico City on Friday, and spent a busy weekend attending family commitments and social events. Of course, there were other activities, too: on Saturday, visits to Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky and La Casa Azul of Frida Khalo, both house-museums in Coyoacan. On Sunday, the afternoon was devoted to exhibitions. At the Museo Rufino Tamayo, most of the museum was dedicated to a solo exhibition of Wolfgang Tilmans, guest-curated and organized by Domenic Molon and Douglas Fogle. There was also an exhibition of a new installation of Thomas Hirschhorn; one of the museum curators, Tatiana Cuevas, organized this project. I was also tempted to visit the formerly-sleepy Museum of Modern Art (MAM), across the street from the Tamayo, as it is now directed by Osvaldo Sanchez, former artistic director of inSITE. There were numerous exhibitions at the MAM, two particularly memorable. One of them was a small but beautiful exhibition of Spanish-born painter Remedios Varo (1908-1963). Varo emigrated to Mexico in 1941 as a political exile and lived there for most of her life. Her exhibition included a series of beautifully illustrated drawings and paintings, filled with ghosts, doubles and other fantasmagorical references of the otherworldly. The works were collected by Varo’s late husband, Walter Gruen, who donated them to MAM. The other excellent exhibition was of the MAM’s collection guest-curated by the art historian James Oles. His curatorial address privileged “realism,” and the selection of works emphasized the cultural concern and ultimately paradigm of shaping modern Mexico, with the protagonist many times representing a community, the worker, and the common man and woman. While it was a collection exhibition, it was complemented by artworks on loan from other collections.

In the evening, I attended Anselm Franke’s program for unitednationsplaza, “an exhibition as school” that originated in Berlin and is sited for a month at Casa Refugio in Mexico City. unitednationsplaza is created by Anton Vidokle, and this new, month-long iteration of the project in Mexico is organized by the Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo (PAC). (Concurrently, Night School, a year-long version of unitednationsplaza, is taking place at the New Museum in New York.) Franke’s seminar was titled From Animism to Animation: Moving Image in Modern Culture, and focused on the work of Sergie Eisenstein. The evening was briefly introduced by Franke, followed by a lecture by Oksana Bulgakowa. As part of her presentation, Bulgakowa screened excerpts of a biopic on Eisenstein that she co-directed with Dietmar Hochmuth. The documentary was informative and provided much biographical depth on Eisenstein, from his family background to his incursions in theatre and eventually cinema. Sadly, the DVD jammed during the run and little did we get to learn about the makings of Eisenstein’s unfinished film Qué Viva Mexico!

Esentstein’s Qué Viva Mexico! has been the subject of numerous research-based works in Mexico. So much that even at James Oles’ exhibition, La colección: el peso del realismo at MAM, for example, an excerpt of the Eisenstein’s footage was included in the exhibition. Mexico City-based curator Olivier Debroise wrote and directed Un banquete en Tetlapayac (2000). A kind of film reenactment to address historical aspects of the original, Olivier’s film was staged at Tetlapayac, the hacienda that served as location of Eisenstein’s film. (Art historian James Oles was an actor in Debrois’ film, as were curator Cuauhtémoc Medina, and artists Andrea Fraser and Silvia Gruner, among others active in the art field today.)

Report on Autopsy

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008


Less than a week after its opening, the group exhibition Autopsia de lo invisible (Autopsy of the Invisible) at MALBA has received critical acclaim in Argentina: art critic Fabián Lebenglik writes an extensive article for the newspaper Página 12; so does Mariana Rolandi for the newspaper Clarín; Ana Martínez Quijano for Ambito Financiero, and; Mercedes Urquiza for Perfíl, who makes fun of me by referring to the exhibition as a “show” (a colloquial and telling word in itself). A video walkthrough of the exhibition was produced by the website of the newspaper La Nación, and another one was produced by Cultura al Dia, which was aired on television on Sunday, March 2, 2008. (It aired by METRO in Argentina on Channel 13 of Multicanal and Channel 13 of Cablevisión.) The independents Beatriz Montenegro de Antico and Alejandro Zuy, who are interested in researching contemporary curatorial practices, interviewed me for their arts and culture website, Leerlo.com.

Addendum. Two more reviews were published: Judith Savloff writes one for Diario Crítica and Alicia de Arteaga for La Nación. Also, Carmen Boullosa includes a note on the exhibition for a column on Art of the Americas published in El País of Madrid, Spain. (March 17, 2008)



Autopsy of the Invisible

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Autopsia de lo invisible MALBA

I’ve been in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a bit more than two weeks. The purpose of my stay is the exhibition Autopsia de lo invisible (Autopsy of the Invisible), which I curated for the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires – Fundación Costantini. (The museum is most commonly known as MALBA.) Autopsia de lo invisible is one in a series of contemporary art exhibitions that are part of MALBA’s program Contemporáneo, a series of rotating exhibitions featuring work by local, national and international artists through in-house and guest-curated exhibitions. Begun in 2002, MALBA’s Contemporáneo typically presents four exhibitions a year, one of which is organized by an international curator, as in the case of Autopsia de lo invisible.

Autopsia de lo invisible is a group exhibition including artworks by Juan Manuel Echavarría (Colombia), Regina José Galindo (Guatemala), Mario García Torres (México), Ignacio Lang (Puerto Rico) and Teresa Margolles (México). This exhibition explores the idea of artistic research as an autopsy that involves dissecting a topic or social body of sorts in order to reconstruct historical deeds or contemporary events. Beyond the aseptic, clinical format of a scientific laboratory or the white cube of modern and contemporary galleries, the exhibition design of Autopsy of the Invisible proposes to go backstage, so to say, behind a curtain. The exhibition’s title plays with the early and the contemporary and most common definition of autopsy. “An eye-witnessing” is a definition of autopsy that emerges during the mid-seventeenth century, which derives from the combination of the Greek “autos” (self) and “opsis” (a sight). The most common meaning of this term today refers to the dissection and inspection of a corpse to determine cause of death.

There are two other strong influences in this exhibition. One comes from the history of conceptual art, from the movement’s beginnings during the 1960s in particular, when the articulation of ideas came before objects’ materialization, where the assumption was that viewers would put into practice a sort of faith in something unseen, something without a physical presence. The second influence comes from contemporary cultural and socio-political events based on some kind of ambiguous presence—events that at times seem not to exist, events presented as phantom deeds, whose concrete definition is hard to discern and whereby any determined impact that these have on collective memory is similarly elusive.

Autopsy of the Invisible presents a group of artists who work with pseudo-scientific methodologies—physical or social autopsies—in creating their work. Their practice involves collecting and presenting fragments of existing narratives or objects, which in their reconfiguration make use of extended object labels or accompanying text to explain the work’s context or materials. In this sense, you could say that these works depend on a diagnosis in order to be comprehensively understood and experienced. With the works presented in this exhibition, these artists delve into disappearances, kidnappings, deaths gone unnoticed and deformations and interruptions in reality.

While the English section of MALBA’s website does not have a description of this exhibition (nor of others in the Contemporáneo program), a brief description is included in the Spanish section, which you can read here. In the following days, I’ll include some exhibition installation shots, as well as details of the artworks.

Finally, I should add that aside from working on the exhibition –which opened last Thursday, and closes in mid-April– I’ve been visiting numerous artist’s studios and exhibitions in town, as well as attending other cultural events and parties. Meeting people here, all creative, bright and beautiful, has been one of treats of my stay. I’ll write about this next.