spanish

Bolaño y 2666

Bolaño y 2666

Por Linda Morales Caballero

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Bolaño, Roberto. 2666. Anagrama, Barcelona, 2004, 1124 p

Con 2666 Roberto Bolaño nos lega una obra seria, sólida y de naturaleza aparentemente infinita por su contenido simbólico, por su tiempo circular, por su lenguaje poético, por su estructura de entramado minucioso y por su reflexión sobre la realidad con elementos para ser estudiados a fondo, para detenerse, observar y reflexionar sobre lo que no quisiéramos o pudiéramos ver, como oculto por un bosque aunque estemos en medio del desierto; una cantera de la que rescatar nuevas vetas en cada lectura más aún al tomar en cuenta el misterio de su nombre como acertijo y señuelo. Si bien, seguramente encontraremos capítulos más o menos afines a nuestra expectativa hemos de recordar que la obra de más de mil páginas es en realidad 5 libros en uno. 2666, trabajo maduro, que se presta para lecturas y estudios, dónde el lenguaje es cosa seria, simbólica, poética, viva y por lo tanto múltiple. Dónde el tiempo es parte del ejercicio del enigma, la inteligencia y la especulación del acertijo que va y viene comenzando en el final pero volviéndose círculo que quizás hubiera llegado a cerrar más ajustadamente de haber tenido, Bolaño, el tiempo, y esto parece una ironía por su buen manejo del mismo dentro de la obra, pero hablo del tiempo personal, no del literario, para cerrarlo más (o no)

Tiempo que además se enrolla para prestarnos perspectivas interesantísimas desde las que podemos observar el producto en bruto, o la materia prima, con la que estarán luego escritas las páginas de esos otros libros que escribe aquel de quien escribe el narrador o alter ego de Bolaño. En este sentido, podríamos pensar en El Quijote y sus múltiples lectores, escritores y traductores; sin embargo en este mundo desencantado no hay ningún Quijote deseoso de salvar a la humanidad en esta historia, salvo el Quijote circunstancial, e individualista, como esta sociedad moderna, encarnado en el personaje de Fate, el afro norteamericano, cuyo nombre es además muy sugerente por su significado en inglés: Destino, quien rescata a una potencial víctima más del infierno de Santa Teresa.

El gran conocimiento cosmopolita del autor, pero por sobre todo su capacidad de traducir en palabras, formas e incluso actitudes psicológicas, sociales y culturales a cada uno de lo personaje y su entorno hace que veamos la realidad del libro como desde la perspectiva de un calidoscopio que cambia según cambien los personajes y su cultura. Ocurre con los críticos del primer libro: el francés, el español, el italiano y la inglesa; luego seguirá con personajes mejicanos, alemanes, judíos, afro norte americanos, etc. poniendo de manifiesto el profundo conocimiento del autor no sólo del ser humano a nivel intercultural y sus sutilezas al expresarse, pensar y actuar sino su capacidad de recrear un mundo literario tan similar al real. Bolaño irá incluso más allá no sólo nos presentará sujetos definidos dentro de una nacionalidad sino que también nos mostrará personajes esquizofrénicos o alterados en su estructura psicológica como el psicópata o psicópatas extremos de Santa Teresa, los locos o la locura de especialmente la de un pintor, un poeta, un profesor y una seguidora de la poesía (por nombrar a algunos) y la realidad o irrealidad a través de los sueños de varios de los personajes. Bolaño bucea como lo hace Hans Reiter en ese mar contaminado que es la sociedad, en ese mundo incomprensible que es el individuo y en esos entornos en los que sobreviven los personajes inmersos en su propio infierno o quizás purgatorio. La prosa madura de Bolaño se hace filosófica y a veces recuerda a Thomas Mann, otras se expresa como Nietzsche y sin embargo también toma giros totalmente inesperados como cuando del tono trágico pasa a narrar la historia con un sentido del humor a lo Jardiel Poncela como si el narrador, no siempre el alter ego de Bolaño, hubiera perdido contacto con la realidad o como si la realidad fuera tan absurda o tan increíble que hasta éste deja de ser él o dejamos de reconocerlo (tal vez nunca podemos conocer a nadie del todo, ni a nosotros mismos) ejemplo de esto aparece cuando el Sr. Bubis cuenta la historia de Sísifo y utiliza unos 16 adjetivos sinónimos  para describir el significado de broma o chanza, o como cuando Ingeborg no sabe si el teclear de la Sra. Dinothea “es algo verdaderamente bello o verdaderamente atroz”. Con Bolaño la literatura latinoamericana se hace sesuda, reflexiva y misteriosa: un espejo del tiempo, un universo paralelo muy parecido, lamentablemente muy parecido al mundo real que refleja un mundo lleno de violencia y realidades múltiples, y expresadas en una prosa poética, muchas veces, perversa que recuerda a autores como el alemán Patrik Süskind, y rica en símbolos que se repiten como machacándonos una adivinanza: “el bosque” “el bosque oscuro” muchas veces, el bosque imaginario aún en el desierto, figura que predomina a través de toda la trama, a través de descripciones a uno y otro lado del atlántico, en boca del narrador y de los personajes. ¿Qué significa?

Pero hay más mucho más, y me temo, y a la vez me alegro, que cualquier crítica respecto al libro se quede corta. Con Bolaño hay de que hablar, escribir, escudriñar y seguramente discutir para rato, así como con Benno Von Archimboldi y los críticos de este “archi” conocido autor fantasma. Respecto al título de la obra a cuya fascinación de acertijo es imposible sustraerse, a pesar de la explicación que podríamos rescatar de una obra anterior Amuleto, donde hay una alusión con a "un cementerio de 2666”, hablando del año. En “las acuciosidades desapasionadas de un ojo que por querer olvidar algo ha terminado por olvidarlo todo". Me inclino a pensar que Bolaño desea lograr todo lo contrario, que no olvidemos, y que el nombre de 2666, empezando a ser inolvidable por su enigma, bien puede representar lo que seamos capaces de interpretar de él ¿Por qué? Simplemente, y paradójicamente, porque Bolaño es poeta y sabe que ninguna palabra (o en este caso número) es plana, que todo lo representado en poesía es múltiple y entonces a mi, también como poeta y crítica, se me ocurre lo obvio y lo arriesgado. A mi entender 2666 bien puede ser 2 veces 666. O sea 2 veces el infierno o el símbolo de la bestia. Estas dos veces bien podrían ser 2 infiernos el de la segunda guerra mundial que experimentamos en La parte de Archimboldi y el otro, el de fondo, el que experimentamos en toda las otras parte del libro: el infierno de Santa Teresa que en la realidad es Cuidad Juárez, México cuyas tres palabras dan tres veces 6 o 666, que a su vez tal vez representa el infierno del mundo moderno y del que no sabemos el nombre de su anticristo o ¿sí? ¿Podría también ser que tanto Archimboldi como su sobrino Klaus Haas sean los anticristos que abrazan esta historia circular como su las tres últimas cifras del título? Pero lo cierto es que no tenemos pruebas contra Hans Reiter a excepción de su extraño comportamiento desde niño hasta adolescente, el que podría ser comparable al de un psicópata, o bien a la extraña impresión que recibimos de la mujer que mejor lo conoce: Ingeborg, quien que le dice que cuando están haciendo el amor ha pensado que él era un asesino de mujeres.

Una interpretación mas arriesgada, pero que no anula las anteriores, tiene que ver con la forma estructural de las partes del libro, en dos de las cuales, dos de los personajes principales: Liz Norton en el primero escapa a su propio infierno y en vez del suicidio o la locura se refugia en el amor, y en La parte de Fate, que rescata a  Rosa Amalfitano de su infierno personal y común a las mujeres en Santa Teresa. Finalmente, (y es con esta palabra que Bolaño introduce al cierre de la historia uniéndola, cociéndola si se quiere con el presente) Archimboldi volverá hacia el infierno, hacia un nuevo holocausto.

2 escapes y 3 círculos infernales o 3 veces 6 = 2666.

En resumen: “La parte de los críticos”, de ésta escapa Liz Norton. “La parte de Amalfitano”, aquí no hay escapatoria para el profesor Amalfitano, “La parte de Fate”, de aquí escapa Rosa Amalfitano “La parte de los crímenes” de aquí no escapa nadie, especialmente a nuestras sospechas, todos son o medianamente sospechosos, o altamente sospechosos, o víctimas reales o potenciales y La parte de Archimboldi quien primero escapa de ser un extraño personaje que al nacer se asemeja a un alga y quien hasta cuando era un joven es extraño y tiene una pésima dicción sin casi ninguna instrucción formal. Sin embargo irá saliendo de esa inhumana (seudo personalidad psicopática) conforme va dando muestras de sensibilidad, primero por su hermana Lotte (sus padre no le inspiraban ningún amor) y luego por la lectura de Ansky, el judío que inspira su creatividad porque lo conmueve y finalmente Ingeborg Bauer la mujer que él ama. Archimboldi escapa al infierno de la guerra, sobrevive, sale de esa extraña y sospechosa realidad que fue su vida antes de la guerra y huye a través de la literatura del infierno de la guerra y quizás el de su propia vida. Pero su vida nunca es la vida de un hombre común, normal, es como un lobo estepario del que no solamente saben muy poco sus críticos sino nosotros mismos y quien cerrará el círculo entre un infierno y otro yendo a Méjico supuestamente por pedido de quien más amó desde niño: Lotte Reiter, su hermana. Aquí también es curioso como funciona la temida cifra 666 que al poder ser leída de izquierda a derecha o de derecha a izquierda podríamos decir que es circular. Los capítulos, a la vez, aparecen ordenadamente intercalados.

Porque el dichoso título no me deja tranquila, este también se me representa en forma gráfica como una esvástica de tres patas, pero ésta no es la svástica nazi sino el trisquel o trinacria de los celtas que representa el equilibrio entre cuerpo, mente y espíritu, y para los druidas significaba la trinidad del pasado, presente y futuro, ¡y forma a la vez un círculo!

Con certeza aparecerán muchas otras interpretaciones, las compartidas acá son para quedar en paz conmigo misma, por un rato, y para despertar en los lectores otras interpretaciones o ninguna, según el interés de profundizar o interpretar de cada uno. Creo que todas las versiones con sentido común son válidas y además justamente lo que Bolaño ha deseado que sea, algo así como una lectura infinita al rededor de una historia que denuncia que los genocidios no son cosa del pasado sino quizás parte de ese lado oscuro, siniestro que aparece en cualquier lugar, en cualquier país o en cualquier época y tienen una horrorosa facilidad para pasar inadvertidas hasta que su cauce se desborda y compromete a muchos más de lo que la humanidad puede tolerar o pretende no ver. Hasta que los involucra.

Volviendo al título y al infierno o al mal que éste representa a mi entender: ambos infiernos tienen que ver con dos holocaustos: el de las mujeres y el de los judíos. Ambos tienen que ver con la muerte y sus ejecutantes, con los verdugos de carne y hueso y con esa malignidad colectiva que carece de rostro como un Hades que reina en la tierra cada que se desata el mal a través de la guerra o el crimen, que al fin de cuentas es lo mismo. Su lenguaje, su sentido del humor que lo hace parecer descolocado y por lo mismo sorprendente, su prosa poética llena de símbolos, muchas veces cuanto más aparentemente inocentes más perversos, especialmente citaría los de orden bucólico (quizás como una obra de Giuseppe Archimboldo) para llamarlos de alguna manera o aquello en lo que lo inanimado o lo negativo cobra connotaciones positivas como lo podemos ver fácilmente en las vendas que la Dra. Elvira Campos imagina como serpientes que la dejarían como nueva al liberarla de los rastros de su edad. También son llamativos y dignos de estudio los símbolos de los nombres, por citar un par de los más obvios: Florita Almada  ¿una flor con alma? y Olegario Cura o Lalo Cura uno de los pocos cuerdos de Santa Teresa (otro nombre interesante para Ciudad Juárez)

Muchos al terminar la lectura sienten el poder del tiempo circular que los atrae hacia el principio como si hubiera que dar vuelta al libro y seguir leyendo, esto es porque los tiempos van invertidos en la cronología del libro: El narrador o alter ego primero cuenta la historia más reciente: la de México; y luego cuenta la más antigua: la de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Al final la narración llegará a cerrar el círculo donde ambos tiempos se dan la mano, con la llegada de Archimboldi a México, lo que ha ocurrido al comienzo.

Doy por concluida la crítica de 2666 por el momento ya que en ningún caso será posible (ni debe intentarse) una revisión completa de la obra en un solo artículo, mi propósito es compartir e incentivar la lectura y la interpretación de un escritor que merece ser leído y al que lamentablemente ya no podremos entrevistar (como a Archimboldi) Se me ocurre que un buen epitafio hubiera sido los conocidos versos de Santa Teresa de Ávila: Vivo sin vivir en mí,

y de tal manera espero,

que muero porque no muero. Como un clásico considero que Bolaño seguirá viviendo en su obra habiendo muerto sin morir. Linda Morales Caballero es poeta, escritora, periodista, profesora y crítica literaria. El retrato de Robeto Bolaño fue tomado de:

www.lashistorias.com.mx

AN INTERPRETATION/TRANSLATION OF MUNTADAS'S PROJECTS

AN INTERPRETATION/TRANSLATION

OF MUNTADAS'S PROJECTS

 

By Mary Anne Staniszewski

 

On Translation

 

To live is to consume {1} or so it seems since the consolidation of global capitalism and communication networks during the last half-century. But this focus on economics, can be expanded to the production of meaning. In what has been called a transnational, technological "networked society {2} to live is to translate.

Such an all-encompassing view of culture as translation marks Muntadas's On Translation -- an on-going series of installations, interventions, web sites, public projects, objects, video tapes, lectures, publications, exhibition materials, collaborations, and texts. This trans-media, transnational, site-specific enterprise exists in myriad languages, on the Net and in locations that have included New York, Madrid, Helsinki, Budapest, Santa Fe de Bogota, Paris, Turin, Sao Paolo, Arad, Rotterdam, Kassel, and Atlanta. Examining what the artist describes as "cultural translation as a contemporary phenomenon," {3} this project has not only dealt with the translation of languages, but of global treaties, political conferences, currencies, maps, knowledge categories, colors, telecommunications, computer technologies, and exhibitions. To see culture as a translation highlights the historical, interactive, dynamic, site-specific, and interpretative quality of meaning. {4} Such a perspective on art and everyday life characterizes Muntadas's entire oeuvre.

 

 

The Political Unconscious and Cultural Producers

 

 

For some thirty years, Muntadas has investigated a vast variety of subjects in order to reveal aesthetic, cultural, and social conditions that are marginalized, overlooked, or invisible -- what has been called the "political unconscious." {5} This type of investigation is the foundation of his extremely diverse oeuvre that includes a variety of strategies and media. By producing a spectrum of enterprises to engage their related issues and to transform their particular contexts, Muntadas is one of a number of artists who clarifies and defines what could be called a "cultural producer." {6} Artists, writers, intellectuals, and really anyone in any field who works with a critical awareness of the institutional and ideological limits of their endeavors functions as a cultural producer. In this case, Muntadas's exploration of translation crystallizes the inter-related issues of identity, culture, language, nationalism, internationalism, the mass media, and information and communication technologies. Very particular versions of these phenomena distinguish the modern era {7} and, in some instances, they have gained predominance since the mid-twentieth century.

 

Modernity and Its Frameworks

 

The late 18th century and early 19th century demark a shift in "the order of things" in Western culture. The well-known phrase is a translation of the original French title of Michel Foucault's book examining these modern reconfigurations. {8} Consciousness of modern nationalism and its counterpoint, internationalism, developed in the late 18th century with the liberal, democratic revolutions. Cultural identity and nationhood then became linked to a common language, as was the case in France. {9} After the revolution in the United States, there was even an attempt to create a different version of English to secure the new national identity. {10} Not unrelatedly, inventions that have enhanced internationalism -- the development of information and communication technologies -- share this historical berth. One of the foundations of global communications networks can be traced to the optical telegraph, which was devised for use during the French Revolution.\footnote{11} By 1844 Samuel Morse had perfected the electric telegraph and created the universal language of dots and dashes, Morse code.

 

Fig. 26 Muntadas,  CEE Project, c. 1988

 

Among the specifically modern manifestations investigated by Muntadas are fine art, the museum, the mass media, nationalism, and internationalism. In his CEE Project (fig. 26), which was begun in 1988, the artist addresses the latter two issues by re-presenting symbols of the European Union. {12} Muntadas produced a four-by-six meter carpet with the image of the European flag: twelve golden stars on a blue ground. The carpet/flag has been placed on the floor of twelve public spaces in the EU, including a design museum in Ghent, an opera house in Thessaloniki, a library in Copenhagen, a city hall in Calais, a school in Frankfurt. {13} Revealingly, there was no controversial reaction to putting this flag on the floor, as most likely would be the case if the woven image had been, for instance, a French, Spanish, or USA flag. In the art museum, the public walked around it as if it were an artifact, at library they walked on it as if a rug. Muntadas has remarked these different "readings" of this flag/carpet taught him much about cultural translation and the power of a context to transform an audience's interpretation. These responses also confirmed the artist's perception that Europeans are detached from the EU, see it primarily as a "commercial" entity, and have no nationalistic identification with such a symbol. {14} A visual allusion to this was the one detail where Muntadas departed from the official flag: In the center of each star was embroidered an image of one of the then twelve EU nations' coins.

Throughout his career, Muntadas has examined "archetypes" of modernity by creating complex and often on-going projects that are re-presented in myriad sites. In addition to On Translation and The CEE Project, which were begun in 1995 and 1988 respectively, Exposicíon (fig. 28), installed in 1985 and in 1987, are such an examples, as are, Between the Frames (fig. 27), initiated in 1983, and The File Room (fig. 30), started in 1994. These projects have been constructed to make visible social conventions and frameworks within which meaning and value are created. The artist's working method is characterized by selecting a very generalized social structure, and then investigating permutations of the idea in meticulous detail. Muntadas then reinterprets -- or translates -- these projects at a variety of international sites. In the past several years, the artist has featured this process by actually challenging curators to reinterpret his installations, as is the case for the presentation of On Translation at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. For this exhibition, which includes all the components of On Translation to date, Muntadas has asked the museum director, curator and coordinator to address the previous installations and situations of On Translation. He has requested that they install "not a recreation," "not a documentation," but "an interpretation" in order to "maximize the consequences of the idea of translation." {15}

After the first installations of Between the Frames: The Forum, Muntadas began selecting individuals to act as curatorial "translators" of the piece. At the Witte de Witte in Rotterdam, Muntadas invited an Art History Professor, Wouter de Nooy, to interpret and create the installation for the exhibition.{16} At the Musée d'art contemporain in Montreal, he invited a sociologist, Guy Bellavance. For the Berkeley Museum of Art, he asked a Philosopher, John Rapko, to do this; for the Forum d'art Contemporain in Luxembourg, he chose an Economist, Robert Frankle. In keeping with Muntadas's working methods, this strategy magnifies what would otherwise be an overlooked feature of a social convention. By directing diverse professionals to be curatorial interpreters, Muntadas renders visible the fact that each presentation and installation modifies the work, which is something most visitors to an exhibition -- and too many curators -- ignore.

 

Between the Frames

 

Between the Frames -- a video and installation project which includes four-and-one-half hours of video interviews of individuals who work within or contribute to the art world -- is a representation of the art system. But this project is something more than a mere portrait of the people and institutions of the art world. Between the Frames makes visible the institutional, theoretical, and ideological configurations within which aesthetic meaning and value are produced: what could be called the contemporary art apparatus.

 

Fig. 27  Muntadas, Between the Frames: The Forum, capcMuseé d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 1994

 

The videotapes, which were edited from some 160 hours of tape recorded from 1983 to 1991,{17} are divided into eight chapters: The Dealers, The Collectors, The Gallery, The Museum, The Docents, The Critics, The Media, and Epilogue (composed of artist interviews). These chapters can be shown individually or together as screenings, on television or in one of the many installations, such as those at the Rotterdam, Berkeley, Montreal and Luxembourg sites. To distinguish the videos and screenings from the exhibitions, Muntadas titles the latter, Between the Frames: The Forum, the first of which was held at the Musée d'art contemporain in Bordeaux where the chapters were installed throughout the museum (fig. 27). Each chapter consisted of a video monitor and chairs placed with an area lit by a trapezoid of colored light. And each was placed within a different area of the museum corresponding to its subject. The Critics, for example, were in the library; The Docents, in the education department. For the second installation of the piece at the Wexner Center in 1994, a circular pavilion was built, with a central circular area that was empty and with the chapters forming galleries radiating from this center. Muntadas self-consciously conceived Between the Frames at the Wexner Center as a contained structure within the "deconstructed building" designed by Peter Eisenman. Whereas at Bordeaux's "very constructed building" with traditional galleries, library and bookstore, he chose to "explode the piece" and "scatter" it throughout the institution. {18}

 

Key to understanding Muntadas's formulation of Between the Frames is the fact that the individuals interviewed in the tapes -- with the exception of the Germans and Japanese who speak in English -- use their native languages: Catalan, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Text translations were offered in exhibition publications in the languages of the site. If Muntadas had treated the tapes in the conventional manner and had them translated or had added subtitles to match the language of the location's population, this would have made the issues of cultural and linguistic differences inaudible. It would have produced what the artist has described in another context as a "decaffeinated experience." {19} This multiple language soundscape and installation which mirrors such diversity, allows the visitor to circulate "between the frames" to metaphorically hear and glimpse parameters of a social system, the art world.

Another essential aspect of this piece is the focus on the periphery, the marginal, the frames that engender the discourses within which art is produced. Missing from this portrait of the art world is what might traditionally be the centerpiece of an exhibition and the entire aesthetic enterprise: the work of art.

 

 

Exposición/Exhibition

 

 

#Fig. 28 Muntadas, Exposicíon, Galería Fernando Vijande, Madrid, 1985

 

Muntadas's concern for the boundaries that define and limit a social territory took its most literal form in his installation, Exposicíon (fig. 28), presented in Madrid in 1985, and translated as Exhibition in New York in 1987.{20} Similar to Between the Frames where the centerpiece -- the work of art is missing -- in Exhibition there were no paintings, no sculptures, no videotapes, just frames, three video monitors, a slide projector, a film projector in Madrid, and a light box in New York. There were no ambient lights. Nine "tableaux" comprised the show: The Print Series, The Drawing Series, The Photo Series, The Triptych, The 19th-Century Frame, The Slide Projection, The Video Installation, The Billboard, The Film Projection in Madrid, and The Light Box Display in New York. Each was lit according to standard practices associated with the type of work usually presented within each kind of frame, or in the case of the video monitor, for example, the screen was blank and just tuned on. The Photo Series frames had a low intensity illumination used to protect light-sensitive photographs. The triptych, which could be perceived as evoking the scale and grander of "heroic abstraction," was displayed centrally signifying a higher rank in the hierarchy of value and power when compared with the smaller The Drawing Series, which were mounted on the wall near the desk area. By accentuating light -- traditionally associated with idealist and metaphysical aspects of fine art -- Muntadas paradoxically rendered the historical and material conditions of the modern gallery. Illuminated in this installation was what the viewer does not ordinarily "see": the social conventions that shape aesthetic worth, the "political unconscious" of an art exhibition. This is what Marcel Duchamp did with that other framing device, the pedestal. By placing an object of everyday life, a urinal, on a pedestal, Duchamp revealed in this gesture the cultural contingency of aesthetic -- and by implication -- all meaning and value.

 

 

Installations as Ideology

 

 

The boundaries and frames of any social entity is the realm where ideological limitations reside. Often overlooked is the fact that these ideological dimensions of exhibitions, galleries, and museums are manifest in another framing device: installations. {21} What has become the standard method -- hanging works of art isolated on neutral-colored walls at a height for an ideal viewer -- is a recent convention and a representation in it own right. Most viewers to an exhibition do not see this framework that emphasizes not only the autonomy of the artwork, but that of the spectator. Not unrelatedly, these types of displays can enhance a viewer's sense of an idealized, ahistorical independence and even free will -- characteristics associated with the mythology of the modern humanist subject.

Displaying works isolated and in neutral-colored interiors became a convention from the 1920s to the late 1960s, and by 1970 much of the diversity of institutional display practices that had characterized the early years of modern art museums diminished. {22} During the late 1960s and early 1970s was also when artists' relation to installation practices -- and the political dimensions of the institutions and locations where they situated their work -- changed. Although the avant-gardes had developed a variety of display practices throughout the first half of the twentieth century,{23} the late 1960s and early 1970s marked the years when artists' installations became commonplace. This was when conceptual, site-specific, inter-media and installation-based art proliferated. With landmark exhibitions such as the 1969 Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form 1969 at the Berne Kunsthalle {24} and the 1970  Information at the Museum of Modern Art, {25} curators did not so much select specific pieces, but invited artists to create works for that particular exhibition. Each time such work was presented, it would be re-interpreted to suit the particular site and audiences. These were the years when Muntadas began exhibiting.

 

Early Projects

 

 

Fig. 29 Muntadas, Collective Experience no. 3 (Smell, Taste, Touch, Villanova de la Roca, July 1972

 

In the 1960s, Muntadas was producing primarily paintings. In 1971, however, he wrote a "declaration of intention" to do work that was less passive and more participatory and he stopped painting. {26} This was the beginning of Muntadas's interest in having viewers interact with his work. The "declaration" can also be understood as the origins of his current use of the statement "Warning: Perception Requires Involvement" for the posters and public projects of the {On Translation} series. In 1971, Muntadas also began doing actions -- what he described as "sensorial experiences" -- exploring smell, touch and taste that were documented first in super 8 film and then videotape. These actions were events where the artist, individuals he selected to participate, as well as gallery visitors manipulated constructions; tasted, smelled, and touched food; rubbed things on their bodies; and, in general, interacted with objects, substances, and sensory  situations. {27} Many of these actions were done in private and then the documentation became a public manifestation. Muntadas often conceives of this private and public dynamic as "the micro" and "the macro," which is a polarity found in much of his work. {28} In Collective Experience no. 3 (Smell, Taste, Touch(fig. 29), which took place near Barcelona in 1971, Muntadas invited thirteen people, with eyes and ears covered, to touch, taste, and smell assorted materials (such as leaves, plastic, fruit, vegetables, wood, metal, grease), the walls, and each other, if they chose to do so. {29} An important aspect of the piece was that the thirteen people were of different nationalities, ages, professions and each was videotaped for their reactions to the experience.{30} Muntadas's careful selection of socially diverse collaborators in this early action/installation serves as evidence of the artist's persistent concern for issues of cultural translation.

Recalling some of these events thirty years later, Muntadas stated that conceptual practices were new to Spain in the early 1970s and he reviewed the way the Spanish artist community did not have "first-hand" experience of the international shows during the final years of the authoritarian Franco regime.  {31} "My generation was totally isolated. The last international thing was pop and with a strong emphasis on abstract painting...There was no tradition for this type of work." When gallery visitors were invited to interact with these materials and environments, "they practically destroyed part of the exhibition....For some of the things to be manipulated -- structures made of wood and a series plastic bags hanging with different textures inside of them -- a kind of vandalism occurred... I created a box-like room on a patio of Galería Vandres covered with foam on the inside walls and the floor. But some visitors became confused...there were strange violent reactions. Some of the work was destroyed. I think this is related to the repressive situation".... In Spain, at that time, "everything was very directed. It was not a participatory situation, which was related to it not being a democratic situation....All of these were proposals for the visitors and there was no tradition to participate in a country where you couldn't vote." A super-8 film Muntadas produced in 1972 is an eloquent reaction to the Spanish political and cultural context. In the film, Muntadas floats the newspaper La Vanguardia's front-page close-up of Francisco Franco in the beautiful aqua water of a pool, and then the image "drowns." {32}

From 1973 to 1975, Muntadas was a member of Grup de Treball (Work Group), an interdisciplinary collective of artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers formed to address political and social issues by making use of the public forum -- what the artist describes as "an open window"  -- the art context could offer in an otherwise "closed" society. {33} "A lot of this work had to do with the end of Franco period: solidarity with prisoners, manifestos with workers, photo-text pieces, activism." {34} The last presentation by Grup de Treball was at the Biennale de Paris in 1975, the year of Franco's death.

It was within this personal and political context of the sometimes aggressive public reactions to his actions/-installations and the collaborations with Grup de Treball that Muntadas shifted in 1973 from video taping himself and individuals interacting with substances and sensorial situations to a broader conceptual framework of the individual interacting with social environments. His Markets, Streets, and Stations was a series of tapes recording people in public places in Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. That same year, he produced another project that foregrounded issues of cultural translation that were implicit in Markets, Streets, and Stations}. For TV/27 Feb/1 PM, he asked eight artists to videotape one hour of commercial television broadcast in his or her country on February 27th, at 1 PM. Exhibited at the Automation House in New York City, the installation consisted of eight monitors playing the one-hour broadcasts from Canada, England, France, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Venezuela simultaneously. 

By 1975, Muntadas had expanded his thematic interest in international and cultural site-specificity to include such concerns on a structural level by actually presenting a work in different locations. HOY: Proyecto a través de Latinoamerica was an action/installation that took place in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Caracas, and Mexico City from November 1975 to February 1976. {35} Muntadas stood on one side of a darkened room with only his chest illuminated and with the sound of his breathing magnified by a microphone. On the opposite wall was large publication rack displaying local newspapers. The only thing that changed in each site was the publications and the type of gallery -- in Mexico the event took place in a university gallery for example, and in Caracas at a modern art museum.

What Muntadas witnessed as he stood there in the dark could be interpreted as a tutorial in cultural translation. He remembers extremely different audience reactions. {36}  In Buenos Aires, the visitors treated it as a "performance piece," and seemed to just "try to understand the work." In Sao Paulo, the viewers were "very attracted to the person, they put their hands on my chest, tried to breath at the same time as me," and they ignored the newspapers. In Caracas, "they reacted as if it were a cocktail party or an opening. People kept talking and socializing and didn't pay much attention to the work." In Mexico, they "were attracted to the media. Someone lit it on fire. I saw newspaper burning, then another person grabbed a fire extinguisher, it wasn't working, and then someone got a bucket of water and threw it on the fire... It was amazing. They were reacting totally to the media and this was very, very different from the other audiences' reactions to the same thing.  ... Of course, all of this is a reduced, subjective interpretation... My interpretation."

Muntadas is part of a generation of artists that made the transition from a predominance of image and object making to a more expanded spectrum of options that includes performative, interactive, multimedia, site-specific, "time-specific" {37} creations that would morph and transform with each presentation. Considering Muntadas's career -- comprising scores of projects, installed in sometimes a dozen sites -- it is not coincidental that he has now chosen to foreground "translation," which could be said to be a foundation of his entire body of work.

 

 

TVE: Primer Intento

 

However much Muntadas's work may seem to be characterized by social rather than the personal concerns, any creative endeavor is, in a sense, a self-portrait of its maker. The origins of another major piece of his, The File Room, lay in the artist's personal experience, and it actually contains an autobiographical reference. {38} For several years Muntadas worked on a videotape dealing with the history of Spanish television. He was given access to the archives of Spain's only network, TVE. Entitled TVE: Primer Intento, Muntadas described this video as a "memory piece"... "I remembered Spanish television from when I was a kid. It was part of my past and my native countries' background... It was a work dealing with forty years of Spanish history...It was made for a specific context and audience, the Spanish audience." {39} But when completed in 1989, the TVE would not broadcast the tape and would not explain why they would not show it. As is the case for many such broadcasts, Muntadas had initially signed a contract that gave TVE broadcast rights and the artist rights for cultural presentations and screenings. But this contractual situation prevented the tape from ever being broadcast. It was at this point that Muntadas began thinking about doing a piece about censorship.

 

The File Room    

 

Fig. 30  Muntadas, The File Room, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, 1994

The File Room installed in 1994 at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago {40} and simultaneously on the World Wide Web, {41} is a public, open-ended, sociological venture that was conceived due to the artist's personal experience with censorship (fig. 30). Now considered one the classic early works created for the Internet, The File Room is an archive for cases of censorship to which anyone can contribute. Muntadas's  TVE: Primer Intento was one of the first cases posted on the site. {42} TVE: Primer Intento is an especially appropriate point of origin for The File Room due to the fact that it was compiled from the archives of the Spanish television network. Similar to so much of Muntadas work, The File Room functions on "micro" and "macro" levels. The artist admitted that producing The File Room was "an exorcism" of his frustrating experience with censorship. Muntadas also described it as a reaction to the political and cultural controversies in the United States, with such cases as those of Robert Mapplethorpe and Andrea Serrano, in addition to the public debate about the Internet and freedom of speech in the public domain. {43}

The initial physical installation consisted of a gallery filled with 138 black metal file cabinets, holding 522 drawers. Seven computer monitors were installed in the file cabinets and in the center of the room was a desk with another computer where visitors could view the site and add censorship cases. All the terminals were linked to The File Room web site, which is now at www.thefileroom.org/ (fig. 5). A significant aspect of the initial installation was the visitors' access to the Internet at a time when a relatively small percentage of the U.S. population was on line. The gallery, with black-metal-file-cabinet walls and lit by the light of computer monitors, can be seen to evoke associations with oppressive institutional memory and authority. Muntadas's interest in censorship is related to an essential aspect of his work. Censorship is a crude, blatant realization of social restraints. Such repression when public, forced, and obvious is censorship, when internal, automatic, and unconscious, it is ideology. And as the artist also commented, censorship is a "negative form of translation." {44}

Although arranged according to four categories -- dates, locations, grounds for censorship, and medium -- not all the listings in the categories are alphabetized. Entering the web site, there is a statement that "the project does not presume the role of a library, an encyclopedia, or even a copy editor, in the traditional sense...but instead proposes alternative methods for information collection, processing and distribution, to stimulate dialogue and debate around issues of censorship and archiving." This type of database for  The File Room's is apt, for it mirrors the simultaneously organized yet chaotic, public yet personal character of the Internet. This is one of the elements that makes The File Room such an effective piece. That it's theme is censorship is appropriate considering the mythologies and realities of the Net, which has been seen both as a vehicle for individual freedom of expression and an instrument for commercial and governmental control.  The File Room serves as a lens, clarifying issues related to paradigms of the modern era, such as individual liberty, freedom of speech, internationalism, the mass media, and information and communication technologies.

 

 The Translator

 

The peripheral or invisible element, which has characterizes so much of Muntadas's work, took human form in 1994. At a month-long workshop proposed by Muntadas in San Sebastian, twenty-five artists, writers, activists, art historians, anthropologists, and sociologists from different countries gathered to investigate urban interventions. {45} Muntadas followed the discussion in the three languages of the workshop: Spanish, French and English. Many of the participants were, on the other hand, not fluent in all three languages and used headphones to hear translations. During the discussions Muntadas began to notice that the participants were smiling at odd moments and there seemed to be "some misunderstanding." {46} When he put on the headphones, he realized that the translator, Juan Mari Mendizabal, "was doing an interpretation," adding commentary to aid in his work. This small moment -- when Muntadas saw the potential power of this marginalized activity -- was what lead him to begin to directly and self-consciously investigate an issue that had been implicit in all of his work. And with this description of the origins of On Translation, this essay will end.

 

 

 

To give one obvious example, this is one way to interpret Guy Debord's assessment of post-WW II culture, see Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983). A book I know only in an English translation of the original French: Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle (Paris, Buchet/Chastel, 1967).

 

See Manuel Castells's, The Rise of the Network Society (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1996).  , as I was writing this essay and making reference to Castells's work in relation to Muntadas's, the two were having a public discussion in Spain on issues of translation, globalization and the Internet. I was informed of the following discussion after I had written this text: Antoni Muntadas and Manuel Castells, "Cultura i societat del coneixement: present i prespectives de future," Cultura XXI: Nova Economia? Nova Societat?, Institut de Cultura: Debats Culturals Palau de La Virreina}, Barcelona, April 10, 2002.

 

Interview with Muntadas, 23 2002.

 

Examining the etymology of "translation" reveals its earliest documented meanings from the 14th century include: "transference; removal, or conveyance from one person, place or condition to another," and "to change in form, appearance or substance, to transmute," as well as the meaning "...turning from one language into another." See The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, prepared by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, Volume 18 (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1989), 109-110. etymological origins evoke the historical, interactive, transformational, and broad cultural associations that are in keeping with Muntadas's project.

 

Fredric Jameson's The Political Unconscious:  Narrative as a socially symbolic art} (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1981) influenced my concept of this term. When reviewing Jameson's description of "political unconscious" for these notes, I discovered that he not only defines this in terms of "the repressed" and "the ideological" (which is what I chose to remember) but he also states on the first page that "texts come before us as the always-already-read; we apprehend them through sedimented layers of previous interpretations," see pages 20, 12, and 9 respectively. I had forgotten that Jameson's definition of "political unconscious" also includes an emphasis on interpretation, or what Muntadas would describe as translation.

 

"Cultural producer" is the term I choose to use to describe an engaged contributor to society, which is similar to many other such terms, such as cultural worker. Cornel West refers to "cultural worker" in his essay "The New Cultural Politics of Difference" in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture}, editors, Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever, Tinh T. Mihn-ha, and Cornel West (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press and the New Museum, 1990), 19-36.

 

By modernity, I am referring to the past 200 years, and the period when the modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist state consolidated. Other configurations of the modern era include art for art sake and the museum.

 

The original phrase in French is "Les mots et les choses," See Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses; une archéologie des sciences humaines(Paris: Gallimard, 1966) and Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences}, The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences}, translated from the French, Mots et les choses (London: Tavistock Publications, 1970) (first U.S. publication, New York: Pantheon Books, 1971).

 

Jill Lepore, for example, discussed the way a single French dialect came to be favored by printers and that became the national standard in France in her lecture based on her book A is for American on 26 February 2002 at the U.S. Library of Congress, which was broadcast on the U.S. television channel, C-span 2. See Jill Lepore, A is for American: letters and other characters in the newly United States (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).

 

After the revolution, many desired the development of a U.S. language. Among such proponents was Noah Webster who was supported by such figures as Benjamin Franklin. Webster became a proponent of a U.S. version of English, with spellings different from the mother tongue. Such an attempt failed and only a small number of Webster's U.S spellings survive, such as "favor" instead of the British "favour." Despite this failure he did leave a linguistic legacy, "Webster's," the standard U.S. dictionary.  See Lepore lecture, Ibid. may contribute to a sense of nationhood, but the U.S. exemplifies the fact that there are, of course, other elements the engender cultural differences and defined cultural identities. This is the complex and potentially infinite terrain that Muntadas explores in On Translation.

 

"A Short History of Telecommunications," www.francetelecom.com/vanglais/apropos/grp-histt.htm (10 May 2002).

 

Constituted in 1950, The EU has gained prominence during the past decade, with such enhancements as the adoption to the Euro as the standard currency: "The process of European integration was launched on 9 May 1950 when France officially proposed to create 'the first concrete foundation of a European federation.' Six countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) joined from the very beginning. Today, after four waves of accessions (1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom; 1981: Greece; 1986: Spain and Portugal; 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden) the EU has 15 Member States and is preparing for the accession of 13 eastern and southern European countries." See Europa, the official EU web site, http://europa.eu.int/abc-en.htm (12 May 2002). of Euro was completed and national banknotes and coins were withdrawn from use on 28 February 2002, see http://europa.eu.int/euro/html/rubrique-cadre5.html?pag=calendrier5.html|lang=5|chap=10

 

The sites were as follows: Museum voor Sierkunst, Ghent, Belgium; Theatro Etairejas Makedonikon Spoudon, Thessaloniki, Greece; Kobenhaus Hovenbildiothek, Copenhagen, Denmark; Mairie de Calais, Calais, France; and Staaliche Hochschule Für Bildende Kunst, Franfurt, Germany.  a survey of the installations to 1999, see "Work" in Muntadas: Media, Architecture, Installations, a CD ROM, or Interom (CD with link to Internet) directed by Ann Marie Duguet and Muntadas, an archive series (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou) number 1, 1999 www.univ-paris.fr/aharchive.

 

Interview with Muntadas, 11 May 2002.

 

Ibid.

 

Muntadas asked each of his "translators" to display their notes for their process next to Muntadas's original notes, so that the viewers to the exhibition could compare and better understand these interpretations.

 

The entire video archive will eventually be available for viewing at a public cultural institution.

 

Interview with Muntadas, 29 April 2002.

 

Joseph Bosma "A De-cafinated Experience (of Net.Art): Interview with Antonio Muntadas,"  Telepolis: magazin de netzkultur, 12 July 1999, www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt//6552/1.html (27 April 2002).

 

Exposicíon was installed at the Galería Fernando Vijande, Madrid, from 23 September to 19 October 1985. Exhibition was installed at Exit Art, New York, from 1-31 May 1987.

 

This is the argument of my book, The Power of Display:  A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1998).

 

See The Power of Display for this history, Ibid.

 

For texts that deal with this history see, for example, The Power of Display}, Ibid., as well as Bruce Altshuler's The Avant-garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century(New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), and Lewis Kacher's Displaying the Marvelous: Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, and Surrealist Exhibition Installations} (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2001).

 

The exhibition was held from 26 March 26 to 27 April 1969. See Harald Szeeman,  Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information; When Attituden Form Werden: Werke-Koncept-Processe-Situationen-Information; Quand Les Attitudes Deviennent Forme: Oeuvres-Concepts-Processus-situations-Information; Quande Attitudini Diventano Forma: Opere-Concetti-Processi-Situarioni-Infomacione} ex. cat. Kunsthalle, Berne (London, 1969).

 

Information was held from 2 July to 10 September 1970. See Kynaston L. McShine, Information ex. cat. Museum of Modern Art, (New York, 1970).

 

 This statement did not have a title, and Muntadas refers to it as a "declaration of intention." The following is an excerpt: "Situation on April 1st, 1971, The painting itself achieves its end. Particular and general reasons make me firmly believe so....The passiveness of the painting as object -- the necessity of participation on the part of the public...Painting as a consumption element (after the ice box, TV set, car..).....Necessity of art to accomplish education labor -- active...." Antonio Muntadas, Galería Vandres, 1971, n.p.

 

These "Experiencias Subsensoriales," took place primarily in Galería Vandres, Madrid in 1971. Muntadas  also began working in the United States in 1971 as well and commented in regard to his producing actions and documenting them in super 8 film and video: "When I arrived in New York, I was surprise to see so many people working in the same direction." Interview with Muntadas, 11 May 2002.

 

Interview with Muntadas, 20 May 2002.

 

Muntadas: Media, Architecture, Installations} (note 13).

 

A forty minute video was produced, Collective Experience no. 3 (Smell, Taste, Touch)}, 1971.

 

The statements by the artist cited in this paragraph are taken from interview, 20 May 2002. Franco ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975.

 

For a clip of this, see Muntadas: Media, Architecture, Installations} (note 13).

 

The statements by the artist cited in this paragraph are taken from 11 May and 20 May 2002 interviews.

some documentation of this group's activities, see Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s}, project directors, Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachael Weiss (New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999), 174 and 248.

 

Most of the members continued creating individual work in addition to the Grup de Treball projects, as was the case with Muntadas. Interview with Muntadas 11 May 2002.

 

HOY: Proyecto a través de Latinoamerica -- the artist always publishes this title in Spanish, it should not be translated into other languages -- was presented at the following sites: CAYC Centro e Arte y Communicacíon, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 14 November 1975; Museu de Arte Contemporãnea da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13 December 1975; Museo de arte Contemporánneo, Caracas, Venezuela, 25 January 1976; and Museo de Artes y Ciencias de la  Universidad, México City, Mexico, 27 February 1976. 

consciously tries to use titles that are in different languages to contextualize the work, interview with the artist, 20 May 2002.

 

The statements by the artist cited in this paragraph are taken from an interview on 11 May 2002.

 

"Time-specific" is Muntadas's term, which he described as work produced as "a time-specific reaction," often related to "activist and political work," where there is an "urgency" in terms of issues that people need to address. He considers the Grup de Treball projects time-specific work. Interview with Muntadas, 20 May 2002.

 

Although this autobiographical aspect has been present throughout Muntadas's work, it was only in 1996 with his video installation The Nap/La Siesta/Dutje produced for the Filmuseum in Amsterdam that he addressed this issue directly. In the tape the subtitles state: "all works of art are always autobiographical."

work which is discussed in this section and is "autobiographically" referenced in The File Room, TVE: Primo Intento}, foreshadows Muntadas's explicit acknowledgement of the autobiographical element of his working process in 1996.

 

Interview with the artist, 23 February 2002.

 

The Installation at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago ran from 21 May to 4 September 1994. The gallery was in Chicago's Cultural Center, which was the city's public library before it became a municipal exhibition facility.

File Room has since been installed in other venues.

 

See www.thefileroom.org

 

The case of TVE: Primo Intento can be found in the following areas of The File Room}: Date: 1985-1995; Location: Europe; Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion; Medium: Television, Film/Video, see The File Room (note 40).

 

Interview with artist, 20 May 2002.

 

Confirmation of previous discussion, email to author, May 13, 2002.

 

The workshop was titled "Urban Interventions" and was held at Arteleku: Forum de las Artes, San Sebastian in July 1994, see Hiri-Interbentzioak: Projektuak eta Hitzaldiak; Intervenciones Urbanas: Proyectos y Comuniciacaciones; Urban Interventions: Project and Lectures

"11\'09\'01 La Película"

Mientras se nos empuja a ver (vía buenos canales de publicidad) en la pantalla de los cines un muy interesante documental sobre una película que nunca se llegó a acabar -"Lost in La Mancha"-, apenas si nos hemos enterado de la existencia de una excelente película, ésta perfectamente acabada: 11'09'01 . Oxímoron donde los haya. Para mas inri, la película a la que nos referimos esta nada menos que compuesta de ortometrajes dirigidos por cineastas de primera fila provenientes de diferentes latitudes y nacionalidades.

"Spanish Painting From El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History"

Bajo el título El Greco to Picasso. Time, Truth and History (Del Greco a Picasso. Tiempo, Verdad e Historia), se presenta en el Museo Guggenheim de Nueva York, la primera revisión histórica del arte español en Estados Unidos. Cerca de ciento cuarenta pinturas de artistas desde Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo, Zurbarán, Goya, Mirò, Juan Gris a Dalí y Picasso, por citar algunos nombres, todos de primer orden, distribuidas tan magistralmente, a pesar de la dificultad de la disposición de la rotonda ideada por Frank Lloyd Wright, que parece que siempre estuvieron allí, y en las salas adyacentes.

Los Young Males en el barrio

La poesía en América Latina con su gran capacidad transformadora, se mueve en capullos de grandes verdades. Esa cosmología, que además de consistir de palabra, ritmo, melodía y verso, ha sido conductora de profundas realidades históricas. Temas como la paz, la guerra, la injusticia y el terror se expanden dentro de este universo dando cabida a un acordeón de posibilidades cotidianas tales como la denuncia, la protesta, la indignación y el coraje.

Comentario Literario periodístico

La más reciente novela de Mario Vargas Llosa, el laureado escritor hispano-peruano, es un “page-turner”, o sea uno de esos libros que se empiezan y no se pueden soltar. Gran parte de ese logro es gracias una historia de amor insólita que nos hace recorrer seductoras ciudades del mundo como: Paris, Londres, Madrid y Tokio durante cuatro décadas, ilustradas con modas, colores, música y sabores. Añádale el trasfondo social de los años 50, 60, 70 y 80 vistos desde Europa hacia el Perú y la sensación, la remembranza, que es como está narrado el libro lo hará identificarse con la historia colectiva de las épocas.