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Muntadas at Kent
The Spanish-born New York conceptualist Antoni Muntadas has had a big year. Two recent shows in Brazil (a retrospective at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio, titled "Proyectos/Projects," and a gallery exhibition at Luisa Strina in Sao Paolo) were followed by exhibitions at three New York venues. At Kent, the Spanish-born, New York artist presented Meetings; The Nap/La Siesta/Dutje, a video-projection installation along with works on paper. A multiscreen video-projection piece, On Translation: El Aplauso, appeared around the corner at Kent's Crosby Street annex, while an interactive project opened at the Tribeca alternative space Art in General.
Each of Muntadas' works involves some form of sociopolitical dialogue, commentary or discourse. The Nap/La Siesta/Dutje features an armchair covered with white canvas upon which is projected a video montage of old film footage. Distorted by the chair's contours, the scenes often show moving figures, machines, industrial images and factory workers. There would be no rest for one seated here; he or she would be shrouded in images of labor and production. Hung around the walls of an adjoining room, large, schematic drawings on black and dark blueprint paper read like Pop icons. They depict boardrooms and the powerbrokers who make the decisions that affect all workers. While these pieces deliver a powerful graphic charge, the images of secret meetings are rather ominous representations of the hollowed think-tanks whose aim is to generate capital.
In Muntadas's On Translation: El Aplauso, a three-screen projection work, unnamed audiences burst into applause. Over and over again they voice their approval wildly -- and loudly. As mesmerizing as it is maddening, the work pinpoints the end of a program of some kind, a theater or music piece, or a political speech. The work shows the end of a process, a successful conclusion to a transaction, such as an exchange of capital or communication. Perhaps Muntadas warns of the blind embrace of certain misinformation that is endemic to our time.
In his Art in General project, On Translation: The Adapter, Muntadas in collaboration with the German group The Department For Public Appearances asks his audience to ponder the meaning of the word "adapter," write it down and post it on the gallery walls. Perhaps a part of the ever-changing lexicon of Internet terms, "adapter" might emerge from Muntadas's study as a new word on the order of "neen," the Web word recently introduced by artist Miltos Manetas. Or, it might relate to "adaption," an invented term that Fashion Moda founder Stefan Eins uses in a recent work to suggest a random process whose direction and meaning have yet to be determined. Whatever its outcome, one can count on Muntadas's project to have far-reaching implications.
Antoni Muntadas, Meetings; The Nap/La Siesta/Dutje and On Translation: El Aplauso, April 22-May 27, 2000, at Kent, 67 Prince Street and 113 Crosby Street, New York, N.Y. 10012; and On Translation: The Adapter, through July 8 at Art in General, 79 Walker Street, New York, N.Y. 10013.