Palau de la Virreina

Muntadas’ latest installation was held in a part of town where the urban landscape is particularly rich in architectural, sociological, historical, and political resonance. It used the symbolic energy of the building housing the installation—a Baroque construction situated on the noisy and bustling Las Ramblas—as a starting point. A passageway running through the building connects Las Ramblas with the beautiful market of the Boquería. This passage had been closed to the public for several years until Muntadas reopened it, creating a vital symbolic link between two parts of the city. The building contains five levels—a small gallery is on the ground floor; the first floor contains the city’s Bureau of Documentation, seen here with its doors ajar; the second floor holds a Rococo dining room, intact since its construction; the third floor is the main area for executive offices; and the fourth floor contains conference rooms. The visitor could follow the exhibition along either of two axes, one horizontal, the other vertical. The horizontal trajectories were sparingly appointed with stretches of sheet metal painted a neutral gray. Tiny TV sets placed throughout the building on metal supports kept a “vigil” on the spaces. The vertical connection was established through the elevators, which, like music boxes, were equipped with recordings of an 18th-century fandango composition.

Muntadas confronted the visitor with simultaneous dualities, some more abrupt than others. The work inspired multiple readings, clearly modified through the screen of subjectivity. The first point of tension was established by the collective setting, which functioned as an objective container for free interpretation. At another, particularly intense level, the installation created a connection between the business world and the sphere of social ferment: it implied the intervention of politics into culture. On an even more subtle level, the piece explored the role of architecture—on the one hand its double meaning of ritual or decorative discourse at the service of power; on the other, its symbolic and vital commemorative function in the creation of an urban totality.

As the viewer returned to the ground floor, the monolith of the five television sets took on an expanded meaning. The experiencing of one’s particular situation within the frameworks of culture, politics, and history forced a recognition that could not be contained within a linear and correlative system. Rather, one’s individual life was experienced as a series of shifting tensions and subjective relations that interact with events in unforeseeable ways.

Gloria Moure

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.