Teresa Margolles and Emanuel Licha at the MAC
Traces left by reality
Montréal, February 14, 2017 – The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is proud to present the works of two artists whose insightful, relevant practices attest to highly topical social phenomena: one practice developed in a country where violence is endemic in some cities, and the other revealing little-known aspects of reporting in war zones. For her first major North American museum exhibition, the renowned Mexican artist Teresa Margolles presents Mundos, featuring works that focus particularly on marginal segments of the population. The installation Now Have a Look at This Machine by Montréal artist Emanuel Licha offers an eye-opening introduction to “war hotels” in the Middle East and Europe, examined close-up by the artist from various seldom explored points of view. From February 16 to May 14, 2017, the MAC will become a place of reflection and experimentation in step with the realities of today’s world.
Teresa Margolles: Making invisible lives visible
For more than 20 years, Teresa Margolles, one of Mexico’s pre-eminent artists, has developed a socially engaged practice in response to the violence that ravages her country, and to the lives of voiceless victims. The exhibition at the Musée brings together some 15 works created mainly in the last decade¾sculptural, photographic and sound installations, video projections¾at the centre of which is La Promesa [The Promise], a striking sculpture in the form of a 16-metre-long wall on which performative actions take place. This site-specific piece, which is in the collection of Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, is produced from the ground-up remains of a house in the border town of Ciudad Juárez. A potent symbol of an ongoing transmutation and an allusion to the current debates on migration and borders, this wall will be gradually scraped by volunteers who, one at a time and for one hour a day during the exhibition, will spread the remains all over the gallery floor.
Teresa Margolles’s works are the result of an unflinching humanistic and artistic reflection on social strife, personal tragedy and marginalization.
̶ John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC
Ciudad Juárez is the setting for other works in the show, including Pesquisas [Inquiries], a wall installation of 30 large, rephotographed posters of missing women, and Sonidos de la muerte [Sounds of Death], an audio work using field recordings from places where the bodies of murdered women have been found¾two pieces that speak directly of the violence done to women, the inaction or indifference of police and our own history of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Another compelling work, En el Aire [In the Air], is a disturbing blend of elegance and horror: soap bubbles produced with a mixture of water obtained from morgues after the cleaning of corpses create a gentle spray falling from the ceiling. “Every bubble bursting on contact is a body,” says Margolles, “reminding us that we are witnesses.”
Also on view will be 36 Cuerpos [36 Bodies], a string fraught with meaning that runs the length of a gallery; Mundos [Worlds], a humming neon sign salvaged from a former bar, which gives the exhibition its name; three video works; and a recent photographic series, Pistas de Baile [Dance Floors], showing transgender sex workers occupying the remains of what were once the dance floors of now-demolished discotheques and nightclubs, “as if reaffirming their resistance in the midst of violence and destruction,” adds Margolles.
Spare yet disarmingly and powerfully moving, Margolles’s work brings us into the world of people who until now remained invisible.
Teresa Margolles was born in 1963 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico. She studied art, communications and forensic medicine. In the early 1990s, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, she helped found the performance collective SEMEFO; later, she worked independently. In 2009, she represented Mexico at the 53rd Venice Biennale and she has participated in many other biennials and international exhibitions, with numerous solo and group shows, mainly in Mexico, the United States and other countries throughout Latin America and Europe. Margolles is the recipient of many awards, including the 2012 Prince Claus Award, from the Netherlands, “for creating powerful artworks that demand attention to violence, poverty and the alienation of society,” and the Artes Mundi prize, in Cardiff, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious award for artists who engage with “the human condition, social reality and lived experience.”
The exhibition was co-curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC, and Emeren García, Head of Travelling Exhibitions at the MAC.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue, with essays by John Zeppetelli, Thérèse St-Gelais, Jean-Philippe Uzel and Lulu Morales Mendoza. The extensively illustrated publication will also include installation views of the presentation at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. The catalogue will be available as of April 2017.
Emanuel Licha: The real and the constructed
The exhibition Now Have A Look At This Machine, a reflection on what Québec artist Emanuel Licha terms the “war hotel,” examines the fabrication, analysis and dissemination of images of war. It includes an hour-long creative documentary titled Hotel Machine, which was filmed in hotels that housed war correspondents covering conflicts in Belgrade, Beirut, Gaza, Kiev and Sarajevo. Surrounding the central projection space of the film, five archival stations¾containing texts, images, publications and moving images¾provide contextualization for the five functions Licha attributes to the war hotel: proximity, vantage point, security, communication and hub.
Licha’s film also pays homage to the employees who staff the hotels, from chambermaids to managers, to whom he gives voice. It is through their experiences¾and those of the “fixers” (the war correspondents’ local translators, interpreters and mediators) and the journalists¾that the workings of the “hotel machine” are revealed. Licha looks at the roles played by the people, places and reporting methods as he probes the media’s portrayal of current conflicts. He writes, “the war hotel is an integral part of the conflict, conditioning the way it is seen and represented.”
A diversity of voices enters the space of the exhibition, and the viewer begins to question what is real and what is constructed in the film.
̶ Lesley Johnstone, Head of Exhibitions and Education at the MAC
The exhibition Emanuel Licha: Now Have A Look At This Machine will travel to a number of cities in Canada. It is produced and circulated by the MAC, with financial support from the Government of Canada.
Artist and filmmaker Emanuel Licha started out studying urban geography, which continues to influence his work in the visual arts. He focuses on the role of objects in the representation and understanding of geopolitical events, leading to a reading of the features of the urban landscape as so many social, historical and political signs. Licha holds a PhD in visual cultures from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London, and is Associate Professor in film and visual arts at the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-La Villette and Visiting Professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (2015-2017). His recent projects investigate the means by which traumatic and violent events are being witnessed and observed. His work has been shown at the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris; Careof, Milan; NGBK, Berlin; MACBA, Barcelona; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Parsons The New School for Design, New York; Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon; and Ex Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico City, among other venues. Recent solo exhibitions in Québec have been held at the Musée régional de Rimouski, as well as SBC Gallery and Galerie B-312 in Montréal. His films have been presented in a number of international festivals, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, IndieLisboa and Cinéma du réel.
The exhibition was curated by Lesley Johnstone, Head of Exhibitions and Education at the MAC.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual, 148-page catalogue, abundantly illustrated, with essays by John Zeppetelli, Lesley Johnstone, Volker Pantenburg, Susan Schuppli and the artist. The catalogue may be purchased at the Musée Boutique for $29.95.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. The MAC thanks its partners Loto-Québec and Ubisoft Montréal. The Museum is also thankful to Phyllis Lambert, Lillian Mauer, Sarah McCutcheon Greiche and Erin Slater Battat for their support in the presentation of the exhibition Teresa Margolles: Mundos.
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal makes today’s art a vital part of Montréal and Québec life. For more than fifty years, this vibrant museum has brought together local and international artists, their works and an ever growing public. It is a also place of discovery, offering visitors experiences that are continually changing and new, and often unexpected and stirring. The MAC presents temporary exhibitions devoted to outstanding and relevant current artists who provide their own, particular insight into our society, as well as exhibitions of works drawn from the museum’s extensive Permanent Collection. They may feature every form of expression: digital and sound works, installations, paintings, sculptures, ephemeral pieces, and more. In addition to its wide range of educational activities familiarizing the general public with contemporary art, the Musée organizes unique artistic performances and festive events. It is a window onto a myriad of avant-garde expressions that extend the reach of art throughout the city and beyond.
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