David Lamelas

Kunstverein München

For a long period David Lamelas’ position in the art world was somewhat peripheral—partly because of his Argentinean origins, but also because his cultural critiques at times challenge the very workings of the art market. This substantial exhibition, entitled “A New Refutation of Time,” recognized the significance of Lamelas’ production between 1963 and 1976.

Although a critique of mass media’s pictorial conventions and narrative structures has become central to Lamelas’ project, he began as a sculptor in the early ’60s, exploring the symbolic potential of abstract forms and the tension between the work of art and its context. Office of Information about the Vietnam War: At Three Levels: the Visual Image, Text, and Audio, which was created for the Argentine pavilion at the 1968 Venice Biennale, bore the hallmarks of his later work, with its skeptical stance toward statements generated by the media. As news about the Vietnam War came in via telex to a room sealed off from visitors by a glass wall, someone read the telexes into a microphone. These were then replayed on request throughout the Biennale.

A single photograph was the only documentation of this project that could be exhibited here, but other, less time-bound works were reconstructed. In Analysis of the Elements by which the Massive Consumption of Information Takes Place, a piece from the same year that meditates on the impact of news media, Lamelas appropriated a six-hour BBC radio broadcast including news, music, and advertising. He then used the original tape segments to create a new track, adding to the work an assortment of newspapers and a film about an advertisement for milk (here, the original 8 mm film was replaced with a video projection, but ideally, 16 mm film projections would have animated the darkened exhibition space). In Gente di Milano (People of Milan, 1970), Lamelas repeatedly contrasted moving and static images, making the viewer conscious of the way meaning is structured in technological media, and in Interview with Marguerite Duras, 1970, he presented a 16 mm film alongside a series of typed sentences and photographs of Duras taken at the moment the sentences were spoken.

Lamelas’ critical orientation is underlined in the title for Film Script (Manipulation of Meaning), 1972, an installation incorporating three slide projectors and a 16 mm film. Initially, the “script” is hardly suspenseful: a gallery assistant (although what she does and where she works is only clear from accompanying slide projections) drives to her workplace, then directs activities in a generic-looking space, before departing the way she came. While the events that take place are banal, as often are the things that take place in a gallery, it is nonetheless fascinating to reflect on the differences in the way that static and film images are received. Still to come, however, are humorous photographic portraits of Lamelas as a rock singer, which promise to take his work in a new direction.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Vivian Heller.