PRINT December 2011

Manuel Borja-Villel

Puerta del Sol, Madrid, May 20, 2011. Photo: Arturo Rodríguez/AP.

1 Puerta del Sol, Madrid, May 15 Tired of seeing the balance between politics and economics tipped definitively in favor of the latter, and aware that the financial oligarchy determines our fates even more directly than the military-industrial complex did during the Fordist period, a varied multitude occupied the center of Madrid. For more than a month, thousands of people organized themselves in makeshift tents, voiced their demands, and showed the world the need to rethink the basic principles of politics and democracy. The flame of their indignation spread around the world, from Tokyo to New York, sweeping through the major cities of Europe. Many of the groups who started to occupy public squares subsist precariously through cognitive labor, which is by no means alien to the sector of art and culture.

Philippe Van Snick, Blauw Glas (Blue Glass), 1979, thread, glass, dimensions variable. From “1979: Un Monument a instants radicals” (1979: A Monument to Radical Moments).

2 1979: Un Monument a Instants Radicals” (1979: A Monument to Radical Moments) (La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona; curated by Carles Guerra) The 1970s were a political and artistic turning point. 1979 was the year that Antonio Negri was jailed for allegedly leading a terrorist organization. The Centre Georges Pompidou had recently been inaugurated in Paris. These two historical facts reflect the path that art and politics were to follow in the coming decades, as illustrated in this exhibition of artworks and artifacts largely produced around ’79. The trial of Negri was a symptom of the system’s refusal to permit a radical political project, and a stark indication that the revolutionaries of the 1960s had come to be perceived as terrorists. The Beaubourg effect opened the era of the museum as blockbuster, with auteur buildings designed to dazzle and attract a public eager for the consumption of spectacle rather than to preserve memory and foster innovation and knowledge. Culture is thus finally absorbed by property speculation and the tourist industry.

Suely Rolnik, Arquivo para uma obra- acontecimento (Archive for a Work-Event) (Carta Blanca Editions, 2011).

3 Suely Rolnik, Arquivo Para Uma Obra-Acontecimento (Archive for a Work-Event) (Carta Blanca Editions) Lygia Clark’s practice is a challenge for both art historians and curators. How can one catalogue experience, meaning “that which exists only at the instant of its occurrence”? How do we construct narratives on the basis of therapy? How can process be displayed? Answers are provided in the series of interviews and testimonies collected over the years in the course of Suely Rolnik’s ongoing research on the Brazilian artist. Rolnik has created an “archive” that breaks disciplinary boundaries and encourages the reader to navigate freely, allowing these invaluable documents to come to life without being fetishized.

Pablo Picasso’s Construction with Guitar Player, ca. 1913, and Violin, ca. 1912, in the artist’s studio, Paris, 1913.

4 “Picasso: Guitars 1912­–1914” (Museum of Modern Art, New York; curated by Anne Umland) MoMA at its best. The sixty interrelated assemblages, collages, paintings, and photographs on display reflected the most modern and experimental Picasso, the artist who conceived of painting not as an optical resource but as a linguistic construction.

Surasi Kusolwong, FeetBall Rietveld Table (Klompen Kick Yes-No-Ok), 2008, mixed media. Installation view, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Nether- lands, 2011. From “Play Van Abbe Part 4.” Photo: Peter Cox.

5 “Play Van Abbe Part 4: the Pilgrim, the Tourist, the Flâneur (and the Worker)” (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; curated by Charles Esche) Our typically patrimonial view of collections tends to focus our attention on the objects in them. What is unusual and provocative about this presentation of the Van Abbemuseum’s collection is that it is articulated around the spectator’s experience. Here the viewer became a flaneur, wandering around the city in search of its hidden secrets; a tourist, always looking up in hopes of finding what has been described in the guidebook; or a pilgrim, whose gaze is, conversely, turned inward and who recognizes himself in every artwork yet always remains a stranger.

Patricia Bueno, Juego de damas (Checkers) (detail), 2003–2009, resin, each figure 10 5/8 x 9". From “Ejército rosa: La feminización de lo marcial” (Pink Army: The Feminization of the Martial), Sala Luis Miró Quesada Garland, Lima, Peru.

6 Micromuseo, Lima, Peru The Micro­museo, founded by Gustavo Buntinx, isn’t a new project but has been growing for some time now and has taken multiple forms, including exhibitions, publications, seminars, and actions of various kinds. On July 7, one of its latest presentations, “Ejército rosa: La feminización de lo marcial” (Pink Army: The Feminization of the Martial), opened at the Sala Luis Miró Quesada Garland in Lima. Buntinx describes the show as an oblique view of a period of Peruvian history when authoritarian policies were pursued on the bases of the militarization of society and the simulacrum. Two of the Micromuseo’s lines of force, the political dimension of images and their rampant proliferation, are foregrounded here.

Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm, 93 minutes. Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin).

7 Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre Kaurismäki is undoubtedly one of today’s greatest working filmmakers, and Le Havre, like all of the Finnish director’s astounding cinema, quotes freely from the work of such luminous predecessors as Melville, Bresson, Renoir, and, especially, Tati. If there is something anachronistic about this film, it serves only to bring us closer to the present rather than lead us away from it.

René Daniëls, De Terugkeer van de Performance (The Return of the Performance), 1987, oil on canvas, 74 3/4 x 51 1/8".

8 “René Daniëls: Painting on Unknown Languages” (Camden Arts Centre, London) One of the most intelligent and refined painters of his generation, René Daniëls (born in Eindhoven in 1950) managed from the start to unite profound pictorial wisdom with great literary sensibility. His work is heir to the poetry of Baudelaire and Mallarmé and to the painting of Magritte and Broodthaers. The Dutch artist’s well-known “architectures” are references to painting and the galleries in which it is exhibited, but they are also linguistic signs arranged over the surface of the canvas like a poem.

David Goldblatt, Domestic Worker on Abel Road, Hillbrow, Johannesburg, 1973, black-and-white photograph, 7 7/8 x 7 7/8".

9 “David Goldblatt: TJ, 1948–2010” (Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris; curated by Agnès Sire) The photography of David Goldblatt is intrinsically linked to the city of Johannesburg (the “TJ” in the title stands for “Transvaal Johannesburg”), whose social and political transformations have been witnessed by his camera for more than half a century. His work is also inseparable from the people he portrays, so that photography is for him a way of engaging in politics that is not necessarily usable for political ends. He does not photograph events, but the situations that lead to those events, which requires a process of mediation and complicity between the subject and the photographer. That mediation is furthermore always critical, for it reflects reality yet also distances itself from it.

Jorge Ibargüengoitia, ca. 1975.

10 Jorge Ibargüengoitia, Estas Ruinas Que Ves (These Ruins You See) (RBA Libros) The work of this Mexican author, a cult writer, remains largely unknown. First published in 1975, the inaugural novel of his memorable trilogy set in the imaginary town of Cuévano was reissued this year. The situations sarcastically described act as critiques of the dual morality of an intellectual class besotted with itself. Through deliberately humdrum scenarios, Ibargüengoitia constructs a choral narrative of a society living both in the present and in the past, in its own time and in ours, like ruins.

Manuel Borja-Villel is director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, where he recently organized (with Teresa Velázquez) a retrospective of the work of Lygia Pape. He is currently preparing major shows on James Coleman and Hans Haacke for the spring.