One of the most salient characteristics of the work of Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona, 1942) is the use of mass media content for art purposes. The broad vision of his work, as well as the diversity of visible interests and mediums, is portrayed in this Muntadas exhibition in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Four works spanning from 1978 to 1987 are reconstructed in the exhibition halls in addition to five video pieces and two compositions created solely within the context of the exhibition: the installation Situación and the catalogue piece Híbridos.
Given that Muntadas' artistic output is realised outside of Spain, his work has been exhibited very little in his native country, despite his relatively widespread recognition as an artist. Without endeavouring to represent a retrospective exhibition, Híbridos recovers past works, displayed together with some of his recent projects that revolve around the reception of different messages broadcast by the media and the power relations that surround them.
Antoni Muntadas' works are difficult to pin down within one sole discipline, as is the case with On Subjectivity (About TV) from 1978, comprising a book and video tape. In the first, photographs from The Best of Life Magazine are reproduced together with the interpretations of an audience from different places who receive a nameless image from the artist. In the video, the speculative subjectivity of the participants is related to the subjectivity of the artist.
The materials provided by Advertising to Muntadas' creations are boundless; examples are the works Media Ecology Ads (1982) and This is not an Advertisement (1985), projected in Times Square in New York. Muntadas formulates anti-adverts with standard advertising mechanisms to contradict the status of commercials in his work. Slogans (1986) is one piece that fits within this line of reflection as it isolates key slogans from adverts to pay heed to the ultimate aim of the advertising message. Slogans like “Play To Win” “Choose Your Weapon”, or “Talk is Cheap” are dissected on a semantic level and digitally decomposed, only leaving behind their geometric pattern and chromatism.
As a display of the re-appropriation and creation of new poetic art, there is Credits (1984), where the final material from diverse TV programmes is gathered together on one tape and redefined. In La televisión (1981), Muntadas places the switched-off TV set on top of a ledge in the corner of the room, with its power at the centre of the piece superseded by the projection of enlarged media images that the device absorbs and recycles with its presence.
The same interest in the dialogue between print media and television can be seen in Watching the Press/Reading TV (1981), in which the artists invites the viewer to look at the press and read the TV in such a way that as they interchange the means of access to each medium the manner in which they consume the messages are put to the test.
Lastly, in Situación, a site-specific installation for the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Muntadas contrasts the interior and exterior space of the building whilst also recovering the cultural and architectural context of the space, as a Provincial Hospital, through the emptiness of the rooms and the lights and sounds of the Plaza de Atocha (Glorieta de Carlos V) that penetrate the eight open windows.