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Modernologies - MACBA'Window Blow-Out' (1976) by Gordon Matta-Clark
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Photo by: Katja Eydel
Youth and Sports Day/Atatürk Memorial Day (2005)One of 41 colour images in an extensive photo installation
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Photo by: Jan Bitter
Oil XI (2007)Oil installation by Isa Genzken. The picture above shows an image of the German Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale that took place in 2007, featuring suitcases, stuffed owls, plastic material, paper, lacquer and metal.
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Photo by: Armando Andrade Tudela Courtesy Carl Freedman Gallery, London
Camión (2003)This is an image from Tudela's 60-slide projection, which features photos taken by the artist between October and December 2003 of the Carretera Central, Panamericana Sur, Panamericana Norte, and Lima Metropolitana in Peru.© Armando Andrade Tudela, 2009
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By: Henrik Olesen
How do I make myself a body? (2008)Mixed media installation includes 16 digital prints of collages, various objects and spatial interventions. © Henrik Olesen, 2009
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By: John Knight
Logotype (project for documenta 7, 1982)Birch plywood and advertising poster
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By: Runa Islam
'Empty the pond to get the fish' (2008)An image from Runa Islam's 35 mm film installation
What does it mean to be ‘modern’? The ‘Modernologies’ exhibition reflects on the notion and the ideology of modernity, analysing its relationship to contemporary history, visual art, architecture and language. Displayed in one of Barcelona’s most ‘modern’ buildings, the exhibition calls into question the utopian promise of progress embodied in the quest for modernity. Does MACBA’s spectacular white, cubed building relate to its neighbourhood environs in the Raval? Does it improve the living conditions of its neighbours? These are the types of critical questions asked by the artists featured in the exhibition.
One of the show’s first works, ‘Window Blow-Out’ (1976), documents Gordon Matta-Clark’s act of shooting out the windows of a renowned New York architectural gallery, which exhibited models of a new Modernist building. In the emptied window cases, Matta-Clark mounted photographs of the façade of a Bronx housing project whose windows were broken. The performance critiqued modern architecture’s focus on the autonomy and aesthetics of form rather than the everyday reality of people’s housing needs.
In ‘Maison Tropicale’ (2007), Ângela Ferreira presents a study regarding the failed promises of modernism in relation to colonial Africa. She traces the history of pre-fabricated tropical houses designed by the French architect Jean Prouvé, which were shipped to and installed in the Republic of Congo in 1949. These housing prototypes exemplified the modern vision of bringing functional housing to far-flung Africa. The houses were later dismantled, auctioned and acquired by collectors who re-installed them back in France. Working as an artist-archaeologist unearthing the legacy of modernism in Africa, Ferreira photographed the empty house lots with their still visible dirt foundation, offering a silent testimony to how modernity is intrinsically tied to colonialism.
The other 28 artists in ‘Modernologies’ take on similar critical explorations in their works. For them, the role of artist is not so much as a creator of art objects but rather that of a scientific researcher of the contemporary world. Hence each photograph, document, installation and video in the exhibition has its own story behind it. These different stories make up an intricate web of references, and unfold as a new map of the conditions and constraints of modernity. While at times a confusing and dense map to follow, patience and effort in deciphering ‘Modernologies’ will surely yield some enlightening discoveries.
Alexander gave this show three stars out of five
MACBA, until January 17th, 2010, www.macba.cat