Mediamatic Magazine vol 3#3 Lidewijde Desmet 1 Jan 1989

Hibridos, Muntadas



Hibridos, Muntadas -

The exhibition and catalogue Hibridos on the work of antonio muntadas are in many ways remarkable. The curators, Guadalupe echevarrIa and vicente tolodI, did not want to organize a retrospective. They showed reconstructions of four works from the period ’78-’87, and five video-tapes from ’81-’86. muntadas’ new work Hibridos supplied the title of both the exhibition and the catalogue which by itself is a work of art. With its publication the editors draw on an old tradition in Muntadas’ work: when the video work On subjectivity, on TV was published in 1987, a book was published as well. This coinciding of book and video is related to the so-called cross-over issue in muntadas’ work: watching printed work, and reading television. This theme forms the basis of muntadas’ work, and at the same time it is a decisive factor with regard to the degree of difficulty of his work. The problems are only increased by the fact that the artist does not use traditional media of expression, and - inconvenient for the Spanish - because development and presentation of his works have partly taken place outside Spain, especially in the us.

Apparently these obstacles do not exist for art critic EUGENI BONET. By working chronologically, by describing numerous works, and by analysing ideas, he converts MUNTADAS’ work into an exciting quest for the how and why of present-day art. In this way BONET rises above the personal retrospective; he makes MUNTADAS’ work accessible and outlines the development of contemporary art since the late sixties, MUNTADAS is depicted as an artist whose continued participation in many innovations did not result in loss of his own identity, BONET divides his work in the following periods:

1963-1970. MUNTADAS regards painting as a reflection on society, and frequently works with images from the mass media. Within the Catalan avant- garde, he focuses on conceptual trends and new media.

1971-1973. Because in his view art is too often used as merchandise and induces a passive attitude in the public, Muntadas concentrates on participation of the spectator. He does so in a very literal way: participation of all the senses: of ears and eyes, taste, feeling and smell. The works consist of objects / environment / action documents. Here can be found the first indications of the above-mentioned cross-over issue: immaterial action art and sensory experiences are recorded, visually, audio-visually and lexi-visually (printed work). The action by itself becomes less and less relevant, while the reproduced action increases in importance, MUNTADAS claims that in this way he can inform his public in a more direct manner. This process also allows him to extend sensory perception to the sub-sensory: what do blind people see? From this individual perception, MUNTADAS directs his view at the mass media and the audio-visual pollution in post-industrial society. His fascination is shared by other members of the Catalan conceptual group GRUP DE TREBALL, including ANTONI MERCADER and FRANCESC TORRESC, well-known figures in the media art landscape.

1974-1977. MUNTADAS translates his insights in personal perception into ’personal television’. As the user of the first portable TV in Spain, he organizes TV projects featuring regional broadcasts, even in the Costa Brava casino. However, in this respect it is important to realize that in Spain people often watch TV in public places, while in the Netherlands this is confined to football finals. Video as personal television quite soon develops into alternative TV, into criticism and analysis of TV. Since that time, the contrast between public and private has been a constant factor in MUNTADAS’ work.

1978-1982. MUNTADAS has entered the field of new media and technologies. The public-private contrast develops into the contrast between objective and subjective, a contrast MUNTADAS thinks he can eliminate in the collective work of art. Being an artist, however, he is subjective. In a work of art, he gives his own interpretation and puts it side by side with the interpretations of the other subjects inside the work. The obsession with different interpretations, views, or readings leads MUNTADAS towards a philosophy of perception, especially the dialectic between the visible and the invisible. In some ways this brings him back to the theme in his older works, (sub-)sensory perception.

1983-1987. MUNTADAS’ work developed in the period of conceptual art. Perception as a central concept has a topical and timeless value, and is not bound to this particular period, MUNTADAS transfers these concepts from conceptual and action art to his perception of the mass media, to the perception of art. Some of his more recent projects question contemporary art. He shows frames without contents, white rooms, a spotlight on the ceiling, etcetera. He is so fascinated by the artistic production and the context, that his Quarto do Fundo (Back Room) from 1987, uses a closed video circuit, only to show the image of an empty gallery the spectator has just entered: ...this refers to everything that is behind art: wealth and repositories, losses and failures, minor works or imitations, capital that is attentive to potential changes in taste and the value of change...

Hibridos 1988. As a provisional climax, in this work many different roads come together: private-public, subject-object, closed-open, senses-media.

In his contribution to the catalogue, ANTONI MERCADER, MUNTADAS’ partner in many projects, adds even more aspects to the crossroads: the contrasts entropy-energy and noise-signal. I found the expression of the latter contrast particularly powerful; it is, however, very difficult to paraphrase. Noise includes concepts such as distortion, transgression, expansion. The connotations of signal, on the other hand include distinction, reference, characteristics/ marking, MERCADER says that opposites cannot do without each other (as an example he mentions the mutual dependence of software and hardware). The one is contained in the other. Hibridos is not a post-modernist pastiche or remake, but a mutation of the one into the other, because the one is dissolved in the other. A closing quotation in the catalogue refers to the cross-over between art and art criticism.

That part of the catalogue for which MUNTADAS is responsible consists of photographs taken from media-land, in which the above-mentioned crossroads are given expression: exterior-interior, private-public, open-closed, subjective-objective, senses-mass media, and probably many others as Well.(LlDEWl]DE DESMET)