Saturday, January 12, 2008

Juan Munoz

There's a terrific two page spread in today's Guardian by James Hall on Juan Munoz. There is going to be a major retrospective of his work at Tate Modern starting later this month.

I still think his Double-bind installation at Tate Modern in 2001 is the finest art exhibition I've ever attended. I saw it a couple of times and I found it breathtaking. James Hall's description of it is excellent:

By inserting two false floors, the far end of the Turbine Hall was divided into three levels. This tripartite structure, with two empty lifts passing continuously through the floors, suggested the work was eschatological, though there was no clear indication of which level might be hell, purgatory or heaven. The top level, consisting of a floor marked out like a minimalist cemetery awaiting the resurrection of the dead, could be viewed from the Turbine Hall's central bridge, but only the ground floor was physically accessible. This area became a basement illuminated by square apertures cut into the ceiling. These opened upwards into austere, white-walled compartments with louvred windows, like storerooms in a large building. The walls of these compartments were set back slightly, leaving a ledge on which a series of all-white male life-casts in a variety of busy-looking poses could be glimpsed.

Munoz died in August 2001, not long after Double-bind opened, and this, inevitably, added to the poignancy of the exhibition. The second time I went was after his death, and it undoubtedly had an effect on my viewing of it. But that's not to say that it's sentimentalism that makes me talk of it so fondly. It was a deeply thought provoking piece. There was an element of voyeurism about it, I suppose, but it didn't feel in any way seedy: rather, we were being presented with a series of different realities which we could view but not interact with. These, one felt, were other worlds. The figures in it felt real and you almost wanted to know them, to talk to them, to learn from them.

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