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Group Exhibitions

Many of the videos have been shown in group exhibitions throughout the years. For example, three of the films from the series GAPS were in exhibition “How Many Angels Can Dance On the Head of a Pin?” curated by Christopher Marinos. “Heaven”, 2nd Athens Biennal, June 15 – October 4, 2009. The installation Nothing is Missing has been in a range of group exhibitions. Different from solo exhibitions, group shows reframe the films in terms of the curatorial concept and the other artworks. In a sense, it is out of our hands; in another sense, this may introduce new, unexpected and fresh conceptions of the works. So, I decided to begin documenting these screenings as well, starting with the 2011 group exhibition Convergences in Stockholm, November 14 and 15.

Convergences

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A Human Rights Intervention in Stockholm,Sweden
curated by Lara Szabo Greisman
November 14 and 15, 2011

Set up as an audio-visual accompaniment to a Human Rights Conference about Migration, this exhibition was meant as, and successfully made an intervention in the intellectual debates going on during the conference. This is exactly what I want to happen with my video works. They are not (only) museum pieces to be put on a pedestal, but audio-visual arguments as well. Also, the participation of Ursula Biemann, an artist and researcher whose work I admire immensely, made it especially attractive to me to participate. I feel a great affinity to her video, Performing the Border, which was in this exhibition.

 

 







The curator, Lara Szabo Greisman, requested to screen two videos, Un Trabajo Limpio (A Clean Job), made with Gary Ward in 2007; and Lost in Space, with Shahram Entekhabi, in 2004. The former explores the situation in Murcia, in the South of Spain, where many immigrants from North Africa and Latin America first enter into urban space. The latter is an experiment video with the imposition of global English at its heart. It explores the unnoticed violence this imposition entails.

Extranjerías y otros extrañamientos

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A group exhibition at MUAC, curated by Néstor García Canclini and Andrea Giunta
México Ciudad, México, from January 28 to July 22, 2012 (with catalogue)

What does that non-existing but evocative word mean, and how does it define this exhibition? In their brief for the exhibition for the beautiful MUAC (Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo) in México, helde from January 28 to July 22, the curators, Néstor García Canclini and Andréa Giunta, define “extranjerías” as the transition for the “proper” or “own” (the Spanish word “propio” is nicely ambiguous). The exhibition forms a cleverly designed area of ambiguity and enigmatic, personal imaginings of what the word means for each artist.

 

My three films, Becoming VeraColony, and Elena, focus on the ambiguities of migratory situations: multiple identities, labour relations in the past, and the loss of the mothers of migrants respectively. Elena is one video from the project Nothing is Missing.

 

These were the only works touching on the subject of migratory culture as an area of estrangerías. Thus, they put a gloss on the other works, which were all more enigmatic related to the title theme. The spectacular building of the new MUAC emphasizes the “strangeness”. I am very happy with the way my works are installed. One of four galleries had been divided in three sections with open pass ways between them. This gives a lovely permeability while the sound is isolated for each, and there is no light interference. The exhibition is attracting many visitors. The opening weekend, 9000 came. Many visitors are young people, families, not the elitist public so often predominant.

In the gallery above, we see how Elena is an element of the video installation Nothing is missing. This multiple screen installation is normally installed like a living room with a minimum of 5 videos on old-fashioned monitors. Elena is the only element that lends itself to independent screening. Elena is very open, outspoken, intelligent, and emotional. Her son Simeon, who is behind the camera and asks her questions, sometimes tries to divert the conversation when his mother becomes too emotional for his comfort. This makes the video very dramatic, even though it has the relentlessly singular, one-shot bust image where only Elena’s face and part of her upper body is visible.
The photograph gives a sense of the way the works were installed. On the left you see a section from Colony on the next room. The walls are white, but the darkness necessary for good vision makes them appear darker.


In addition, we see the curators. Néstor García Canclini, a professor of anthropology at the UAM, the Università Autónoma de México. He has a strong philosophical background.Of his many books, the translated Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, was my first encounter with this fabulous scholar. Since then, he participated in the “Encuentros” around the exhibition 2Move. The book that came out of the “encuentros” just appeared. I never met Andrea before, and was ever so happy to get to spend some time with her - we were two and a half hours stuck in traffic, in this very densely trafficked city. Andrea is professor of contemporary Latin-American art at the university of Austin, Texas, and commutes between Austin and buenos Aires, where she conducts numerous additional activities.


On the photo, in the background you see the work on installing Carlos Amorales’ large-scale work “Historia de la música pirata”. This work was also part of the first installment of Extranjerías, in Buenos Aires in 2010. It is an interactive work: visitors may take one of 3000 home-burnt CDs from the wall and play it in the gallery. Not every disk is hung back afterwards, unfortunately…


During my visit to the exhibition I was invited to give a talk, followed by a conversation with the curators. As in a previous occasion, I was struck by the intelligence, the commitment, and the international openness of the (mainly young) audience. Their questions were fabulous, and given my still-faltering Spanish, quite challenging. But I enjoyed the meeting tremendously, which makes me an easy victim for the seductive invitation that followed immediately…

Finally, a strange picture, worthy of the concept of the exhibition, and my favorite work in the show. This work by Argentine artist Graciela Sacco is called Trilogía del Metro Cuadrado: Cualquier salida puede ser un encierro. It is a kind of cube. The image of water seems extremely simple. But when you come closer, mirrors turn it into an infinite mise en abyme. And when, as here, high-school students play games behind it, the strangest shapes appear. The wall text explains this estrangería thus: “A simple game of mirrors reflects endlessly the images of a video. A video which registers people’s shadows “passing-by” through airports and transit places, sites filled with farewells, urgency and possibilities. One square meter (m²) refers to an individual space in which one lives, the thousands of gestures we make during the day striving for the square meter we need to live. Borders mark the present time; those which are built within and design the scenarios of exclusion. Imagining “the other side”, the desire that cannot be captured, the seduction of the ocean, refers to the promise of a possible future, to the challenge of those who dare to imagine other fairer, more harmonious alternatives.”we see the curators. Néstor García Canclini is professor of anthropology at the UAM, the Università Autónoma de México. He has a strong philosophical background.Of his many books, the translated Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, was my first encounter with this fabulous scholar. Since then, he participated in the “Encuentros” around the exhibition 2Move. The book that came out of the “encuentros” just appeared. I never met Andrea before, and was ever so happy to get to spend some time with her - we were two and a half hours stuck in traffic, in this very densely trafficked city.

 

Andrea is professor of contemporary Latin-American art at the university of Austin, Texas, and commutes between Austin and buenos Aires, where she conducts numerous additional activities.


On the photo, in the background you see the work on installing Carlos Amorales’ large-scale work “Historia de la música pirata”. This work was also part of the first installment of Extranjerías, in Buenos Aires in 2010. It is an interactive work: visitors may take one of 3000 home-burnt CDs from the wall and play it in the gallery. Not every disk is hung back afterwards, unfortunately…

Care Crisis

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A group exhibition at the gallery Futura in Prague, from March 9 to May 27, 2012
curated by David Arlandis and Javier Marroquí

The exhibition in Prague addresses the consequences for women of the paradox that women’s access to the labour market has contributed to the current crisis that, yet again, hits women most. The Spanish curators wrote: “the state of precariousness brought in the wake of the integration of women in the - traditionally male - labor realm, and which lays manifest either a deficit in the care needed for personal life development, or a transformation in the system which supplies it.” The roster of contributing artists makes me very proud to be included. This is the second time within a semester that my work is exhibited in the vicinity of Ursula Biemann’s work, for example - an artist I deeply admire. I am also very pleased to contribute to the artistic reflection on the sociological phenomenon the curators seek to put forward. It brings all my feminist suspicion to the fore. Why is it that in our allegedly enlightened time the hardest lot falls on women yet again?


For the curators as for myself, this exhibition at the Centre for contemporary art FUTURA in Prague is part of an interdisciplinary research project. The exhibition will be up until the end of May. My contribution, a version of Nothing is Missing, foregrounds the fact that even when all they can do is stay at home and see their children leave, women bear the burden of the global economy, when their homes are depleted of their inhabitants and they stay alone within their sometimes remote villages somewhere on the globe.

Although I could not go, my “delegate” Ernst van Alphen who saw the exhibition was very enthusiastic about the installation. He says it is brilliant - and he doesn’t use that word lightly at all. It is consistently in a 1950s style. Also, Ernst says the exhibition as a whole is very consistent in its political, feminist thrust. The space is labyrinthine, so there are no overview photos. In the short gallery of photos here I show a work by Gülsün Karamustafa (Turkey), one by Maria Galindo (Bosnia) and one by Larissa Sitar (Romania) to give a sense of the space.

The Importance of Being a (Moving) Image

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The exhibition was the first in a series, and celebrated the opening of the new department of moving images, initiated by chief curator Adam Budak. I gave a long keynote lecture the day after the opening. This lecture can be heard and seen on the page News and Events, the blog of March 2015. There were about eight artworks by different artists, and although I cannot show them all, here are at least some visuals. The first gallery of photos were taken by Jan Kratochvil the day before the opening, so the space is still empty. The loose ones are my own snapshots.
When you watch this video of the entire lecture you will also see the consequences of a terrible fall I made the day before, right before the opening.

Because the lecture is so long, which may be taxing your patience, I give below the gist of my lecture, and my view of the connection between art and movement.

With Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory as my starting point, I consider “movement” the defining feature of art – not only in moving image art, but in all visual art, and in this lecture I explain why this is so. If I can make this plausible, then, of course the art form of which we were inaugurating the display in that wonderful museum – an ongoing program of moving image installations – is more than a section of the museum; it is an extended metaphor, in other words, an allegory of art as such.


I derive the importance of movement in art from the question of the functioning of art in its social environment, its political function, or, if I may once more generalize, its status as political art. Yes: I claim that for art to be culturally meaningful and worth our time and means, it will be political – I will explain how I mean that. Stimulated by the late Spanish philosopher of aesthetics, my much-regretted friend José Luis Brea, initiator of the Spanish journal for visual studies, Estudios Visuales; and influenced by old debates initiated by Theodor Adorno, I have become suspicious of “loud” political art that comes unsettlingly close to propaganda.


Story-telling, seen as the presentation in whatever medium of a series of events according to a perspective or vision or what I call, as focalized, has two special properties that make its ethical aspect more specific. It concerns others, and it is always at least in part, fictional, even when, or perhaps especially when, it concerns difficult, painful, or extreme situations that can occur, or have analogies in, reality. And while not all images are narrative, these two features also pertain to images in general, due to images’ dependence on movement. The question of ethics, then, makes art necessarily political.

I seek to develop a vision of art the political force of which depends on its reticence to “speak up”, but instead, pursues as its goal to produce affect. This is where movement comes in.


Ethics, or the development, awareness, and compliance with, general norms of what is right or wrong, is with each of us all through our days, in everything we do. It intervenes in all decisions. Values such as modesty, honesty, and commitment – the values that are as central in my discussion of art as is, say, the aesthetic – are of an ethical nature. Ethics concern our relation to reality; and images are as much part of reality as people. Images relate to people and often, present people – or animals, or things – to other people.

Debates on the ethics of story-telling or representation more in general in the face of extreme circumstances raise two contrasting cultural needs: for modesty, which imposes silence, and for commitment which requires exposure. Here, the image presents that dilemma in the act of looking at mentally ill people. Hence, these issues have invariably led to two opposed positions. The first, decennia-old, comes from Adorno’s famous indictment of “poetry” after Auschwitz.


The second position has been revitalized recently in the wake of Georges Didi-Huberman’s plea for attention to even the vaguest photographs of Auschwitz: in order to know, you must imagine. And in order to relate to others we do need to know, and when full knowledge is impossible we still must try to approximate, encircle, or feel it. That is what it means to imagine.

Adorno’s arguments were urgent at the time, and, I submit, have lost nothing of their relevance. They are also quite sensible, to put it simply: he refuses making sense of what doesn’t make sense, which would be honoring violence with semiotic access; and to take pleasure, in other words, make a pornographic use of the suffering of others.


In spite of the somewhat forbidding formulation, especially the second argument has always been on my mind when dealing with issues such as rape, racism, and problems of migration – to name three subject areas that have occupied me a lot. Didi-Huberman’s major argument in favor of images is the desire of the victims to be seen and heard. And many people forget that Adorno very soon retracted his interdiction with a similar argument.

To put it, again, simply: art moves, and that movement inherent in images is where we can both learn to “imagine” and to avoid even the slightest voyeurism and explaining-away – making sense of – the suffering of others. This is where the primary importance of (moving) images lies, and of people being engaged with such images, even inside them; hence, the title, “The importance of being a (moving) image”.

My thinking about movement as a condition of politically meaningful art through the ethics of representation and story-telling begins with a questioning of two tenets of traditional thinking about art and more generally, society: boundaries and fixation. Both denote untenable, unrealistic, and defensive attitudes that nevertheless structure much of our thinking, situations, and policies. Against the first, boundaries, I approach the search for viable alternatives by means of what I call “inter-ship”, and I mobilize the idea of “movement” against the second difficulty.

“Inter-“ stands for relationality, and this distinguishes the preposition from alternatives such as “multi-“ and “trans-“, which I reject. Multi-, for example, just groups together disciplines, genres, cultures in a gesture of an accumulation without contact. Trans- suggests that you can just move through disciplinary, artistic or social fields without changing yourself.

Inter- means that the encounter between disciplines, media, or ethnic, national or historical specificities changes both partners. I have been working on things inter-, especially during and after making the film and exhibition pieces A Long History of Madness: international, interdisciplinary, intermedial and other forms of research between traditionally delimited fields, media, or regions, not to forget intertemporality, with my plea for anachronism in what I call “pre-posterous” history; and last but not least, scale: between close analysis and theoretical generalizations, as between the local and the global.

A first point I derive from this inter-maniacal reflection is that relationality, or inter-ship, on all levels, is a primary starting point for ethical thinking about story-telling and (moving) images; the ground such thinking stands on. This means: no “third-person” distancing narrative, nor “first-person” navel-staring; no vicarious, exploitative identification – “suffering envy” – but a first/second-person dialectic without synthesis. This I call the fundamental “second-personhood” of the image. The image needs its second person to be able to speak and be recognized as an interlocutor.

I think the concept of contemporaneity is crucial for a relationship between art and social practice in whatever time, then bound to now. We cannot, can never, know how the contemporariness of art from the past really worked, and with the modesty of the non-expert we must endorse to be, acknowledging this limit of what we can know is a first step of the possibility of trans-historical comparison. The paradox is that to pursue a “faithful reconstruction” of the past is by definition anachronistic. With this qualification of the project of history writing, we are better equipped to address the contemporaneities of the past as well as the present, and establish an exchange with the past. Instead of reconstructing an insular past falsely considered objective, we can bring it to bear on the present, and vice versa.
For all these reasons, it is important to exist, to move, in the present where we are not but are always in becoming. Aesthetic work may be eminently suitable to double-bind artworks to a social world whose fabric allows their visions to be voiced. This is where the affection-image Deleuze theorized as emblematically situated in the close-up, comes in with its typical temporality.


I draw from Spinoza, a 17th century migratory subject who, in the wake of Descartes developed a sense of what we can call “Spinozistic responsibility”. This is derived from the philosopher’s concept of self as social, and consists of projecting presently felt responsibilities “back into a past which itself becomes determinate only from the perspective of what lies in the future of that past – in our present.” Taking seriously the “temporal dimensions of human consciousness” includes endorsing the “multiple forming and reforming of identities over time and within the deliverances of memory and imagination at any one time.” Understanding doesn’t happen in isolation. (all quotes are from Gatens&Lloyd)

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