The work of Marwan Rechmaoui (Beirut, 1964) is strongly tied to concerns, which surfaced among artists of his generation, with archiving and documenting the contemporary history of his country after the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). His work, primarily sculpture, is the product of experimentation with materials from the urban environment — concrete, plastic, rubber — and stems from long processes of research, whereby the artist vindicates maps as a tool for deconstructing meanings.
In this interview, Rechmaoui brings to light the importance of configuring urban space, symbolically, socially and politically, in our interpretation of the past. He plots a journey around pieces inspired by Beirut’s complex urbanism, such as Blue Building (2015), which is part of the Museo Reina Sofía Collection and which examines rampant urban development in a city carrying the memory of successive earthquakes, fires and wars. His installations, moreover, record the history of a city permanently being reconstructed and subjected to constant tensions, such as those resulting from the revolution which, in response to neoliberal policies over the past few decades, occupy Lebanon’s squares today.
Now! We Are All Black
Santiago Álvarez, NOW!, Cuba, 1965, original version with Spanish subtitles, b/n, 35mm, 6’
We wholeheartedly condemn all forms of racism and we hope that, in the aftermath sparked by the tragic death of George Floyd, this implacable wave of protests and demonstrations can produce irrevocable change towards a more just and equal society.
In modern and contemporary art museums we experience art and its ideas as agents of social transformation, as actively being part of a framework of relationships on multiple scales. We do not want to stay on the margins. We want to be spheres that resonate and take a stance, which is why we stand with all people affected by politics underpinned by racism and discrimination across the world.
We join the myriad voices which, from streets and institutions, demand that black lives matter, now and always. With that in mind, we wish to share the work NOW! by Cuban director Santiago Álvarez (Havana, Cuba, 1919–1998). Conceived as a news broadcast to be screened in cinemas in 1965, the film constitutes one of the most emphatic condemnations of US police brutality against African Americans. Álvarez, one of the inventors of montage documentary — “give me two photos, a song, a novel and a moviola and I’ll give you a film”, he claimed — shows a series of photographs of anti-racism protests and their brutal suppression in the 1960s. Sadly, these images could have been taken on the streets of any American city this week. The backdrop to the film is the voice of jazz singer, actress and activist Lena Horne (New York, USA, 1917–2010), in a song with words we make our own: “Now is the moment / Now is the moment / Come on, we’ve put it off long enough / Now, no more waiting / No hesitating / Now, now”.
We associate the overwhelming and current uprising in this short film with the graphic art campaign Argentinian artist Juan Carlos Romero (1931–2017) propelled with the Southern Conceptualisms Network in 2009. “We Are All Black” was the slogan that confronted the fatuous celebration of the bicentenary of independence in Mexico, Argentina and other Latin American countries, and which ignored the memory of an earlier anti-colonial uprising: the Haitian Revolution. That campaign recovered a passage from the first constitution of Haiti written by Toussaint L'Ouverture, a black liberator, which proclaimed that: “all Haitian citizens, hereinafter, shall be known under the generic name of blacks”, explicitly including white women, Germans and Polish, and excluding those who were or would be slave owners. At the beginning of the 19th century, the status of “black” was put forward as a political and cultural denomination, thus disobeying racial or biological categorisation.
Related project: Red de Conceptualismos del Sur and Museo Reina Sofía
Juan Carlos Romero. Ahora todos somos negros [Now! We Are All Black]. Intervention, 2007-2011
There Is Nothing to Understand Here
A documentary on Elena Asins
The Museo Reina Sofía premieres an internally produced online documentary on the artist Elena Asins, resulting from research into the artist’s archive conducted over a two-year period, and assembling unpublished documents and unprecedented interpretations around one of the key figures in geometric abstraction and art as research since 1960.
Directed by Javi Álvarez and Olga Sevillano, the piece also features the participation of Gorka Alda, José Luis Alexanco, Sofía Barroso, Manuel Borja-Villel, Capi Corrales, Ignacio Gómez de Liaño, Luis Gordillo, Juan José Lasarte, Javier Maderuelo, Soledad Sevilla and Ian Triay.
Udlot, Udlot, by José Maceda
In March 2019, the Museo opened a call to participate in the performance of the piece Udlot Udlot (1975), by Philippine composer José Maceda, whose work combined his interest in traditional music from Southeast Asia and Europe. The performance of the piece required no prior musical knowledge, simply attendance at a workshop organised by the Museo, in collaboration with the Escuela Municipal de Música y Danza del Distrito Centro María Dolores Pradera. Some one hundred people learnt the score together and kept in time with its rhythms. During the current pandemic, the experience reminds us of something essential: the power of union and respectful co-existence, not only between humans but with all other living organisms on the planet.
Interview with Eszter Salamon
About MONUMENT 0.7: M/OTHERSChoreographer Eszter Salamon explores in depth the creative process of the piece MONUMENT 0.7: M/OTHERS (2019), made with Erzsébet Gyarmati, surveying the mother-daughter binomial from a commitment to producing intersubjective temporalities.
The artistic production of Miriam Cahn (Basel, Switzerland, 1949) materialises with a strong influence from 1960s feminist and pacifist movements. For the artist, her work with drawing and painting is a bodily act with a performative quality, and since the start of her career in the 1970s the centrality of the body has been related to a growing awareness of feminism. For Cahn, art is politics and the imprint of issues related to contemporary society can be discerned in her oeuvre. Each gesture, movement and thought is “just as important” as the rest. The breadth of her work is traversed by her interest in important issues: feminist defence, war, violence, sexuality, family and death.
Moreover, the artist alludes to intersections and connections with the work Pablo Picasso produced during the Spanish Civil War. During the Yugoslav Wars, the media showed images of concentration camps, torture, and the rape of women and girls… their faces expressing the pain that made her think of the weeping women in Picasso’s work. Works that recount ethnic clashes between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia or the media’s use of contemporary armed conflicts as a spectacle.Inside the framework of:
Since the start of her career, Natalia Iguiñiz (b. Lima, 1973) has worked in close connection with different women’s collectives and feminist movements in her country. In this interview, she analyses issues that include how her projects approach the way in which the containment of women’s sexual and reproductive rights creates major tensions in the cultural and social context of Peru. Both in her solo work and as part of different artists’ collectives — with Sandro Venturo in La Perrera (The Kennel), or alongside Claudia Coca, and others, in Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Collective) — her practice as a poster artist has evolved towards a more direct, first-person intervention in the city’s public space as she reflects on themes such as gender identity, violence against women, political denunciation during Alberto Fujimori’s term of office and inequality in civil society.Inside the framework of:
For the third year running, the programme Archipelago encourages an understanding of the complexity of the contemporary world through listening, exploring what is understood by experimental music and the relation it bears to popular culture by way of different narratives and geographies.
The present edition explores the concept of tradition: a term predominantly associated with conservatism and regression in the face of change, but with a meaning that implies the transfer of knowledge from one person to another and from one generation to the next.
The Task of the Painter
This retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of Jörg Immendorff (Bleckede, Germany, 1945 –Düsseldorf, Germany, 2007) surveys a career spanning more than four decades, setting forth the key stages and transformations in the artist’s work: from the sociopolitical and political upheaval works he conceived between the 1960s and early 1980s, to the encoded paintings in the latter stages of his output.
Time Is Mute
This retrospective on the work of Mario Merz (Milan, Italy, 1925 – Milan, Italy, 2003) surveys the provenance of a body of work suspended in a kind of pre-historic time, at odds with the discourse of modern-era history. This anachronistic perspective, apparent in the choice of materials and iconography, stems from the ideological and committed stance of an artist and his relation to the political and intellectual climate in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, in addition to his rejection of pervasive capitalism and the American way of life after the Second World War.
The search for mythology distinguished Merz’s work from his kindred contemporaries, for his archaism bore no relation to a melancholic yearning for the past, but instead was related to a razor-sharp critique of industrial and consumerist modernity.