When I was invited to speak at Americas Society several months ago, I thought it was important that Juan de Nieves, who was the curator of Cantos Cívicos, come to speak today because Cantos Cívicos is the result of an artist-curator collaboration. In 2005 Juan de Nieves, then director of the Espai de Arte Contemporani of Castellón, commissioned me to create a project for the EACC; the project was “bought” by the MUAC, the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City where Juan remained the curator. I think it’s important that I underline the role of Juan’s work not only as a curator who invited me to work in Castellón, but also in terms of the 4 years that we worked together. Nowadays the word curator is used quite loosely in the art world and it brings to mind the tasks of a DJ, an administrator, a coordinator -a position at times disliked by many people, because of the power wielding position curators have these days. But I think that in Juan’s case, it was the first time that I really felt the importance of his work as a partner in an ongoing dialogue that was established between artist and curator. What became also very important was his role as a negotiator between the institution, meaning the museum, and the different parties involved in this project. And I won’t go into his invaluable contribution as a negotiator with the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City where the show was presented a year ago (I must add that if it hadn’t been for Juans intercession, the show in Mexico would never have happened).
The working relationship between artist and curator in the case of this exhibition, Cantos Civicos has been a very long and intense one. It’s been a relationship that has developed over time, because this entire process started four years ago, when I invited Miguel to put together a project for the EACC in Spain, (A contemporary art centre in a city on the coast, two hours south of Barcelona). Since then, it’s been a very interesting process with many different chapters and episodes, some of which we will be discussing this evening.
But before we consider any of these aspects, I would like, first of all, to outline a few points about Miguel’s career and his work so that anybody in the audience tonight who doesn’t know his work, may at least have a basic understanding of it.
1) The first thing that I have to mention with respect to Miguel’s work, is the question of authorship. As some of you already know “Cantos Civicos” is a Project that was conceived by NILC, which stands for New Interterritorial Language Committee.
This is a FIC-TI-TIOUS organisation created by Miguel in the mid nineties, and from which the artist has created a specific culture, which was based initially on a new language, and then applied to the fields of literature, music and architecture. This new language is the basis for an entire cryptic range of new graphisms and letters that Miguel has manufactured in large quantities and then used to literally cover the installations and constructions of his recent projects. This new language becomes a link connecting all the other elements of the Project, and all the other, MANY, layers of his work.
That’s exactly what happened in Cantos Civicos when it was conceived for the EACC, the first place where this Project was presented.
(We are looking at some images from a project that Miguel made for the Museo Carrillo Gil in Mexico City in 2002. The project was entitled “How Shall I Love You, My New Little One”, one of the first and most importants chapters for the NILC. The instalation consisted in a stage prepared for a crazy ritual between a child psychiatrist and an adult male patient. In an inversion of roles between both characters, the ingestion of “linguistic” shit cookies allows the male patient to turn into a new being with a changing sexuality: the male patient becomes a pregnant mother and ends up as a fertile alien creature)
2) The second thing I want to mention, that I think is of enormous importance when trying to understand Miguel’s work, is his biography. Miguel has a complex background that involves different countries, territories, cultures and languages. He was born in the States to military parents, and lived in this country for a while, but like many military families they moved around, in this case to Puerto Rico and to Europe, notably Germany.
So Miguel’s upbringing demonstrates a certain dislocation, a certain difficulty when we attempt to situate him within a particular geographical confine or territory.
A good part of his work is built up around the margins of a space that is “the other”, a no man’s land, or an area in the middle, which is often an uncomfortable place, but which contains the potential of new cultural options, and posibilities, in which the configuration of a new linguistic, social and cultural schizophrenia is made possible.
3) Another aspect which is of enormous importance is the way in which he questions the reductive policies of minimalism, which took hold in the sixties and through the whole of the seventies, and which were based on order, objectuality and neutrality. Miguel’s work questions those asceptic and controlled practices. Through a series of dynamics that are radically opposed to these reductive forms, Miguel’s work situates itself in a territory that is more in tune with his own emotional and cultural reality.
(These images belong to a project that Miguel made at Frontera de Corozal, a small town in Chiapas near the Guatemala border. Basically is a performance in which some of the elements and roles that would become relevant for future NILC projects (mostly Cantos Civicos) appears for the first time.
Once Miguel installs his constructions in the middle of the jungle, he and his assistant transform themselves into the members of a transnational army with a particular mission.
This peculiar couple of “soldiers” has chosen this natural spot to punish the father of reductionism in contemporary art…
The ritual that is going to be performed here, uses chocolate as an alchemical substance in what seems to be a magical and religious process. The chocolate arrives in the shape of tablets with the NILC anagrama, and is deposited in a large pot, as if it were some comical cannibal ritual. Once the potion has been prepared, a minimalist looking chair is immersed in the pot. The author of the chair is of course Donald Judd, who represent some sort of dominating father figure, the maximum expression of masculinity, and the simbolic objetc against wich Ventura manifest his alienation from an environment where reductive artistic practices prevail)
4) The final aspect that is important to bear in mind with regard to his work is his way of understanding the museum space, from an architectural, practical and ideological point of view. In the projects that Miguel has undertaken in the last few years, the museum or the gallery is converted into a space where its limits as an institution are put to the test.
Also the spectator has to adopt new strategies when approaching a work that is not comfortable, undertaking unusual routes and animal-like postures, in order to make his or her way through the space, which feels more like a warren than a museum, and also adopting new ways of seeing and interpreting. More than any other of Miguel’s work before, Cantos Civicos is conceived as a battle more than a dialogue with the space. We could say that, it is the opposite of the white cube to which we have become used to.
When I first started thinking about the project it was right after I participated in several shows throughout Madrid in 2005, which was the year when Mexico was the honored country at ARCO, Madrid’s yearly contemporary art fair. I was quite repulsed by the endless shows, cocktails and more importantly, by the rhetorical exploitation of a national art and art in general, basically for mercantilistic reasons. The fair and peripheral shows in Madrid only confirmed my lack of faith and my growing disgruntlement with contemporary art activities particularly after the events of September 11; since then, the art world has mimicked the gluttonous and predatory behaviour of the Neoliberal financial strategies of our economic institutions. It would be naïve to completely reject the commercial aspects of the art world, but since September 11th, the growth of art fairs, international biennials, excessive art consumerism, etc. have taken place and pace at the same time as the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, the frenzied financial conquests and now, crises.
The legitimacy of our governments and the notion of democracy feel somewhat hollowed out by the ongoing military economy and financial machines and art seems more like the superfluous icing decorating a rotten and foul smelling cake. And before I continue I must talk a little about NILC or the New Interterritorial Language Committee. NILC is based on an earlier real life Interterritorial Language Committee, which was established in African territories by their English colonizers with the purpose of disseminating Swahili as lingua franca. In my work, NILC is an umbrella organization I have created that mimics corporate strategies and uses fascist and neo-colonial ploys to get its message across. On that note, I began to think about rats and how they’ve been our loyal companions for thousands of years. Rats are loathed by humans and at the same time they are made adorable by cartoons and literature.
Having this in mind, after my first trip to Castellón I became interested in the recent Rumanian immigration to the city. Castellón houses the largest number of Rumanian immigrants in Spain who are attracted to come and work in the city’s prosperous industries. We tend to forget that Spain had been closed to immigration for hundreds of years since they expelled their Jews and Moors and it is a country that just emerged from a 40 year long fascist dictatorship legitimated by western powers. So it was interesting to think about this immigration phenomenon, which is being lived throughout all of Europe; in the case of Spain though, the host country desperately needs cheap labor but culturally and socially it has a hard time accepting these guest workers resulting in prejudice and racism. So after deciding that I would use rats for this piece it was necessary to define their role.
Another interest of mine is music so I thought of choruses. As a child on a military base where my father was a U.S. army officer, I fantasized about putting on productions of Broadway musicals. I know this piece would not be a musical in that sense, but I wanted singers in choruses: an army of singers. These actors are the basic elements of Cantos Cívicos. Inverting the usual human-rat relationship, in Cantos Cívicos, the rats act as a brain deciding which songs are sung as well as the movements of the human singers; in other words: a veritable rat juke box. This became possible by placing the rats in a labyrinth of plastic tubes that were especially designed and produced by an industrial designer, Diego Alatorre. Each tube represents a pre-determined song. By a series of motion detectors and lights, the human choruses would know which songs to sing on movable tiered benches pushed by helpers.
Unfortunately, psychologists of the University of Castellón weren’t able to help us train the rats to go through the labyrinths for the project, so I went to consult with psychologists at the University of Mexico. With their guidance, I became aware of the implications of working with rats and training them to travel through a maze. It took several weeks of conversations with Profs. Hugo Sanchez Castillo and Ivan Trujillo to fully grasp the complex task I was embarking on. If rats are left by themselves in a labyrinth or any unknown space, they are overcome with fear and panic and express their fear by pissing and shitting. So the rats must be trained and acclimatized to their new environment and this process entails months of care and training. For nine months, my studio and later when I installed the piece in Mexico’s University Museum of Contemporary Art, became sound proof labs and spaces where the temperature was controlled; washing the cages, feeding, monitoring their diet, bathing and weighing the rats became a daily activity for several months. Obviously access to the animal facility inside the installation in the museum was restricted to the veterinarian and to the 4 psychologists caring for the rats 3-4 hours every day. Visual contact could be made between visitors to the show and the lab technicians who were caring for the 80 Wistar lab rats; this was possible through large windows lined with red filters so that the whole animal facility and the psychologists caring and training the rats became also part of the show; like live elements of the spectacle.
As I already mentioned, the other important protagonists of Cantos Cívicos are the singers and the music. I chose a repertoire of 12 songs. Some of these songs I knew from my childhood, hits such as Que será será, Edelweiss, Bless the Beasts and the Children, Live is Life, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, Ben, other popular hits like Omochano Cha Cha Cha from Japan, No controles from Mexico, 2 Nazi songs: Die Fahne Hoch-the Nazi Party hymn and Es zittern die morschen knochen (The rotten bones are trembling)-a song of the Hitler Jugend, and 2 Spanish Falangist hymns-Falangista soy and Juventud. A chorus of 30 children sang the songs in their more or less original versions, which were arranged by the Mexican composer Alejandra Hernandez. 20 adults sang NILC versions of the same songs, which consisted of arrangements made of inverted and missing notes so that at times the compositions have nothing to do with their original versions and resemble dodecaphonic compositions. So a total of 24 original arrangements and compositions were carried out by Alejandra Hernandez under my supervision and played by a 25-instrument orchestra. These 24 versions were in turn accompanied or illustrated by 12 large video projections across the walls of the museum space with diverse images showing the rats traveling through the different tubes, dubious NILC collaborators dressed in Nazi uniforms, children in Lederhosen crawling through a different labyrinth, the rats being dyed different colors, etc. which added to the disco environment of the piece.
One of my main interests was to dearticulate the traditional relationship between orchestra and choruses since they are physically and visually out of contact with each other. Proposing a new spatial and physical arrangement really freaked out the 3 directors at first, who couldn’t shrug off a conventional sense of control and synchronicity over their small armies. The orchestra remained in a fixed position while the choruses moved on benches on wheels along parallel tracks across the length of the space, stopping at the 12 different positions of the 12 songs represented by logo lamps which are activated by movements of the rats through the tunnels. For the real performances in Castellón, since the rats were absent from the museum, a pre-programmed set of movements of the benches with the choruses on them was set in motion.
Once the relationship between the different protagonists was established, it was imperative to design an architectural setting for Cantos Cívicos. Using as point of departure the image and idea of a tumor growing inside the museum space, I developed together with the architect Edmundo Morales a relatively cheap solution for a membrane structure enveloping the animal facility. The structure encompassed as well the other components of Cantos Cívicos, which in both museums were a series of narrow maze-like hallways and spaces containing paintings, taxidermized animals, nazi paraphernalia etc (but I’ll get to that later). Different structures using modular units of aluminum strips and bubble wrap were designed for the EACC and the University Museum of Contemporary Art. I wanted to reference Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao with this cheap structure and at the same time, to comment on the spectacular and industrial proliferation of museum spaces. I wanted to put into doubt their function, other than being by-products and tax-write offs of transnational corporations and medals of achievement for local governments and bureaucrats; I also questioned their commitment to the advancement of culture. For the installation in Castellón the chrysalid, which allowed entrance from the outside of the museum through a tunnel, was a continuous membrane with openings surrounding a permanent central structure. The entrance tunnel was not allowed to extend into the main plaza in the Mexico City version of the piece, which I think says a lot about the institutional mentality in Mexico: lets try to keep everything where it belongs, in its little closed off space so that the ramifications of the project don’t get out of hand. In Mexico, Edmundo and I devised a larger free-standing structure inside the exhibition space resembling a disembowelled rodent. Entering the body through its tail, the spectator is welcomed by an introductory video of a Nazi soldier singing silently in front of the museum. He is accompanied by a small person dressed in Lederhosen listening to his muted song and by a large rat whom at the end of his song penetrates the museum. From there the spectator can view the vast collection of objects and images that cover 120 lineal meters of wall space, the home of the 80 rats and a space that contains their labyrinth, which is like a playground.
And talking about the advancement of culture, in the last 8 years we have seen a great advancement of culture in the destruction of cultural institutions in Iraq. We passively witnessed the destruction of the museum of antiquities in Baghdad, the burning of its library and film archive. Meanwhile, we keep on building new museums to fill them with precious objects of dubious worth. In crude terms, the West’s dick has penetrated the Middle Eastern pussy and ravaged its interior searching for the black liquid we greedily need to keep our vast world going. So, on that note, I think I could talk about the contents of this vast labyrinth like structure; which is also the home of the rats and their training facility. I was particularly interested in the notion of what museums mean nowadays, and I wanted to fill this chrysalid-like structure with the remains of an extinct civilization which is kept alive by the activities of the rats inside –an Indiana Jones like grotto–housing Nazi paraphernalia. The grotto contained hundreds of original photographs of Nazi soldiers, photo albums of Hitler Jugend and Nazi soldiers, hundreds of portraits of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq, countless photographs of vaginas, penises, fist fuckers, many shits, original paintings and drawings of Nazi soldiers and landscapes, a fine collection of Austrian deer antlers and stuffed rodents of all kinds as well as a stuffed puma, wild boars, a collection of stuffed birds, a vulture, custom-made chocolates with NILC logos, a facsimile of a Nazi era primer, printed and blown up texts of the pro-Nazi editorials written by Jose Vasconcelos, who was a renowned Mexican educator and the founder of the University of Mexico. His texts appeared in El Timón, his Nazi financed magazine. The grotto also housed a vast collection of antique and semi-antique German, Native American and Black American dolls, a superb collection of hand made 19th-20th century North American quilts where the swastika is the predominant graphic motif, self-censored gay male photographs, sheet music of Cantos Cívicos’ repertoire of songs, photos of Mexican socialites, and invitations to exhibitions of the work of Gottfried Ohms, who is the official NILC artist. I also included works by him made out of foami. Finally, there are countless pieces and fragments of foami swastikas forming endless decorative surfaces, and framed pseudo minimalist and constructivist paintings.
What I found interesting and extremely practical about the structure of Cantos Cívicos was that I could keep adding new material so that the installation was not only the training ground for 80 rats but also a growing archive of decorative material; in a way, it mimics the ravenous hunger of our collector and museum mentality with their never ending need to fill their museum bellies with stuff. In this sense, art consumerism expresses and parallels capitalism’s voraciousness for profit and expansion –a sort of uncontrolled metastasis– which becomes the backbone of our globalized societies. The minimalist and reductive tendencies of many artistic strategies today express this ongoing blanket effect creating continuous surfaces of effaced meaning and codified rationalizations of what we should feel instead of what we feel. In Latin America, where we relish a colonial model, we are specially prone to employing the lingua franca –the universal language inspired by minimalist and reductive straregies– of the art world as a tool for belonging to the greater community; in the same way we subscribe to the international financial recommendations of the World Bank and of the International Monetary Fund to improve our economies. In that sense, unfortunately the art world today particularly here in the United States through its system of commercial galleries, art fairs museums and critics, and in the west and its satellites is a coherent and logical expression of the political and economic system we belong to; even though we tend to rationalize this reality as actually being the opposite of its role as a decorative surface mimicking the superficialities of the fashion world and the predatory behaviour of the financial markets. And in the same way we tend to always rationalize our passivity as subjects and continue believing in a notion of freedom which we really don’t really have.
I worked on a preliminary installation of the rat habitat in my studio in 2006. I used whatever decorative foami elements I had left over from previous installations and the first Nazi portraits, paintings, horns etc. until every square centimeter of my studio was decorated. But a more focused decorative scheme –characterized by the use of yellow, black and red– was conceived for the installation of Cantos Cívicos at the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City. As I have mentioned before, the swastika, which is a predominant decorative element, appears fused with the dollar sign in Cantos Cívicos –a symbol of contemporary capitalism. Nazism with its swastikas will not happen again but another form of fascism is taking place in our current hyper capitalist mode, in the form of transnational corporate governments. In that sense, it was important to show all these physical testimonies of the Nazi period to try to understand Nazism as a powerful ideological and social system which gave rise to the events we already know. While developing Cantos Cívicos, I added many other elements to this basic equation throughout the installation. What first came to mind were the American soldiers who have died in Iraq: perishable, cheap and dispensable pawns in this ongoing war. Then Nazi soldiers (in Mexico some considered them to be more handsome than the American soldiers) as incarnations of evil. The images of dicks, vaginas and assholes came into the picture with the notion of creating penetrable spaces like the plastic tubes the rats run through. Thinking of Baghdad as a penetrated city, as a vagina and the male U.S. forces as the dick. The dollar sign as the dick. The swastika as the dick. In juxtaposing these motifs to the cheap versions of minimal and constructivist works made of styrofoam and cardboard, the notion of Contemporary Art gets hollowed out and resignified as the swastika-dollar and becomes a decorative façade signifiying freedom of expression and democracy. It also becomes the impotent vehicle of criticism of a system that inevitably gets swallowed up again and again by the Neoliberal cultural machine and rendered devoid of meaning. Shit is a decorative element as well, spread out in continuous surfaces of three dimensional tape and cardboard constructions. The main strategist of neo-liberal economics –Milton Friedman– appears surrounded by a swirl of shit that emanates from an infants’ silver spoon engraved with NILC’s logo. The date 1929 is important, because it is the year that NILC is established, the year of the Great Stock Market Crash and the year when the Museum of Modern Art, New York was founded. The date 2008 refers to the year of the inauguration of Cantos Cívicos and of the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.
In another section of the installation you can also see countless logos of American Museums that appear in one of the panels surrounding the name of] the officially sanctioned NILC artist-Gottfried Ohms. The fictional Ohms shares initials and his work resembles that of Gabriel Orozco. In the narrative, NILC has just finalized its conquest of the North American territories and consolidated all of its museums into one cultural NILC consortium where its official artist reigns supreme. Photographs of Mexican Nazi collaborators such as Maximino Avila Camacho, Jose Vasconcelos, General Francisco Aguilar Gonzalez, Juan Almazán, Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta and Miguel Aleman who was the lover of Hilde Kruger, the glamorous Nazi spy in Mexico, become decorative elements along with the Gabriel Orozco-inspired compositions in which his tight modernist compositions are now replaced by circles with swastikas and dollar signs. NILC represents a dysfunctional notion of revolutionary utopia and fascist totalitarianism which needs an army of followers and collaborators. Inspired by the photos of the Norwegian anthropologist Carl Lumholtz, I made a series of portraits of NILC collaborators whose monetary and fascist value are being measured by NILC’s general director. In these photographs, I wanted to underline the colonial mental aspects that are prevalent in modern day Mexican society, highlighting the presence of a polarized social model, which is made up of a white-European racial type minority in power, and the proletarian-peasant indigenous component; this polarization is still present even though mestizo or mixed race makes up most of Mexico today. To further emphasize the racial aspects in Cantos Cívicos I personally embodied the Indian, dressing up as a stereotypical male and female Native American. This also illustrates the integrative strategies of the NILC emporium, which is now free of racism and exploitation. I also appear in a video where I act out being a Nazi officer who is supervising a rat training session with a veterinarian and a psychologist (in my studio); in another video, I put into practice a NILC training session with my Nazi colleague; the ritual consists of a dyslexic chocolate eating frenzy accompanied by pigs, geese and chickens. Another important element of the show was a photograph by Annie Liebowitz that I appropriated from Vanity Fair portraying distinguished members of the art world. Brought together to raise funds for the Tate Museum, they were photographed against a sunset landscape on the Chelsea piers. The original Tate-a-Tête is replaced by the new NILC title: MILK ME NILC and the entire photograph is superimposed by an elegant Gottfried Ohms composition made up of swastikas, vaginas, penises and shits as well as the use of several NILC slogans and logos such as: Reduce Me Gottfried, New Reductive Masters, and Reduce Me-appropriate slogans for the day and age we live in.
The reaction in Mexico to Cantos Civicos was particularly interesting because the show inaugurated the University Museum of Contemporary Art. This event attracted all different kinds of people, a public not necessarily interested in contemporary art. The reactions were quite diverse. I was accused of exalting Nazism, of denying the Holocaust and to a lesser degree of being a pedophile. My refusal to dictate a conventional moralist condemnation of Nazism and turn the show into a politically correct didactic history lesson was a disappointment to many zionists and civic minded members of Mexican society. Juan will continue from here.
The reactions to the project in Spain and Mexico were very different. I have to say that the principles of the project were the same in both countries; but Miguel introduced different elements in each museum with the intention of contextualizing the piece.
In Castellon for instance we did a little research about the Spanish Civil War, and Miguel found some local plans for underground shelters, which were included in some of the images used for the installation. He also found a lot of photographic material about an orphanage located in the place where the museum stands today…
All of this material was very important when conceiving and putting together this exhibition.
Castellón is a small and quite conservative city on the mediterranean coast of Spain.
The Spanish Civil War however, is not a tabu subject. Though I must say that at the moment there is some controversy because the government has given the legal go-ahead to dig up and catalogue the mass graves created during the war. For instance there is a debate about whether the family of the poet Garcia Lorca wants his remains to be dug up and given a proper burial.
There is increasingly a sort of mythical vision surrounding the war because of the many depictions of the war in literature and cinema. So, when Miguel introduced those images, plans and other things like ration books, that didn’t really shock anybody. Though I must admit, I was surprised myself by how little reaction there was on that level.
In Spain, the use of nazi paraphernalia was basically seen as a mockery of the whole system, (the Nazi and Phalangist songs included) in the same way perhaps as “The Producers” by Mel Brooks is understood as a comedy. Having said that, in Spain there is no Jewish community which could have taken offence at the use of these materials, so that is something to bear in mind.
The contextualisation in Mexico was a lot more complete, partly because Miguel had a lot more time to work on many other areas that were close to him.
I’m not going to list all the elements that were introduced, which Miguel has just related, instead I will list those that were considered problematic for the institution.
- Photographs of people in the society pages of the Mexican press, including this image taken by Annie Liebovitz, which Miguel took from Vanity Fair.
- Images of a pornographic nature
- Motifs that Miguel “borrowed” from other artists, (notably Gabriel Orozco) which covered these other images, until saturation point.
Despite the fact that the decision to use these images made the Mexican Institutions somewhat nervous, and those fears were manifested on many occasions, the big surprise was that what really caused controversy had nothing to do with these images, but with the use of material related to the Nazi regime, and mostly for the absence of certain chapters of this period, fundamentally explicit images related to the holocaust, which Miguel did not include in this installation. No one expected this, not the museum, the artist or myself.
The criticism from the Jewish community and other Mexican intellectuals was so harsh that we decided to set up a blog about the exhibition in order to answer all those articles published in the Mexican press, and all the many comments made about it.
It would take forever to refer all the comments that were published regarding the question of the use of Nazi paraphernalia, though many of them were similar in their argument. Though I would say that those comments have a right to be expressed, just as the artist has a right to express himself.
It is obvious that the Project “Cantos Civicos” by Miguel Ventura does not constitute any sort of apology for the Nazi regime and their crimes, or any other regime. But neither does this project focus explicitly on denouncing these regimes. This is not its purpose. And I say this without trying to take importance away from the texts and images that are quite clear in their critical and revisionist nature, such as the texts written by Vasconcelos in the 40s.
Despite this, and bearing in mind the obvious parodical tone of certain German portraits of the period, or the childlike use of the swastika that appears on tapestries hung on some of the walls of the exhibition – I do want to insist that this project was not designed to be an explicit criticism of Nacional Socialism, so there was no sense in including other, more dramatic or harrowing images of the regime, such as the concentration camps or the Holocaust. That would have been another project, a very worthy one but not Miguel Ventura’s project.
I fully understand the pain that this may have caused to some members of the Jewish Community, and other people, entering into a museum space and coming face to face with images from such a barbaric episode in history. But part of the project was precisely to reflect on tabus that still have control over us, and that make us less free.
Cantos Civicos is a fiction. It is a complex and uninnocent fiction that is the creation of one person with a biography and other vital circumstances that have contributed to his professional life and his creation. He has as much right as anyone to freely express his philosophy and position on the world in which we live. Cantos Civicos, as I have said is a fiction which allows itself to borrow from certain episodes in our history but also from our current situation, and it is for that reason that it uses photographs of the soldiers who have lost their lives in the war in Iraq, many of them oblivious perhaps to the dark nature of the reasons why they were sent there in the first place. Ignorant also of the horrors of Guantanamo, images of which also do not appear in this exhibition.
Cantos Civicos represents a strange world in which, for once, those small animals that we call rats dictate the way forward. They lived there for some months, observing that gallery of paintings and portraits of the past and the present, a Vanity Fair in which everyone is represented, the German and American soldiers, the impeccable personalities of the Art World, and the happy young faces of high society.