Critics’ Picks

View of “Antoni Muntadas: Information>>Space>>Control,” 2011. Antoni Muntadas, On Translation: Celebracions, 2009, video transferred to DVD, 9 minutes 33 seconds.

New York

Antoni Muntadas

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
September 29 - January 15

Barcelona-born, but a longtime New Yorker, Antoni Muntadas figures among a first generation of artists investigating the social and political significance of information and broadcast media. This thirty-year retrospective, first seen at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, includes several videos from the pre–fiber optic era, such as Video Is Television?, 1989, which magnifies and distorts images from a host of appropriated sources, including several Hollywood films (Poltergeist, Network). Backed by a plunking score, the nearly indecipherable TV images are overlaid with captions such as CONTEXT and FRAGMENT: blunt reminders of mass media’s partiality and its constitutive power. An even earlier interactive installation, On Subjectivity, 1978, invites visitors to comment on media images divorced from their original context and therefore—a critical “therefore” for the artist—shorn of their original meaning.

Muntadas’s newest work, the installation Alphaville e outros (Alphaville and Others), 2011, fills one of the museum’s larger galleries with ads for gated-community apartment complexes, huge banners with slogans in Portuguese, and a video shot partly in a São Paulo–area development that shares its name with Jean-Luc Godard’s sci-fi dystopia. (Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster explored the same Paulista Alphaville in a 2004 project.) Starting with scenes of Anna Karina and Eddie Constantine in the hypermodern Paris of 1965, Muntadas intercuts footage from this Western-hemisphere Alphaville, while a Portuguese-speaking narrator extols the glories of the “exclusive” urban enclave: pristine swimming pools, manicured gardens, and unrivaled security—thanks to high walls and constant surveillance. In this moment of BRIC ascendancy, Muntadas’s installation is a welcome corrective for exhausted gringos gazing longingly southward: The realities of contemporary urban life, there or anywhere, can make Godard’s Alphaville seem almost idyllic.