Press Release of the Exhibition
Oct 22nd > Nov 21st
Inside Matt Mullican’s Cave
“The world is a good term (…)
If it’s not in my mind, then where is it?” 1
Strange Prisoners is how Plato defines the men who are in the cave described in Book VII of the Republic. Strange prisoners looking at a strange painting, is often what we feel like when we look at Matt Mullican’s work. The setting of this strange painting, the wall of a cave, is the place for the projecting of the images of the world, offering the possibility of entering a virtual world. The cave wall is thus a place where magic happens and the projector-constructor of the images (the artist) is the magician. Back in pre-history the painter who took on the role of the Shaman or witch-doctor of the tribe, in a trance, would put his hands on the painted wall as if on the one hand he attributed authorship (signature) to that image and on the other hand tried to enter it in order to capture within the symbol the animal one wished to hunt in real life. In this way the witch-doctor makes the abstract of the imaginary real, granting it form.
The state of trance is not strange to Matt Mullican. He has incorporated it within his modus operandi since the beginning, through performances in which he subjects himself to the risk of losing consciousness. Or, rather, of abdicating it in order to offer (himself and the spectator) a unique and magic event. In this aspect all art is simultaneously a form of sacrifice and an offering of a gift.
The pictures that this artist/shaman creates are archetypes, figures between the general and the particular, which come close to the idea of the object and not the object itself. They are not mere appearances, but are close to an essence, within a conceptual understanding of art. As they are archetypes, they are communicant and can be shared, allowing Matt Mullican to appropriate them and allow the spectator to do the same. This process of appropriation, of choice of the images from the enormous book which is the world, is the way the artist finds to construct a universe very much his own (like Plato with the Republic which becomes the model for an ideal city and society). This world of Matt Mullican’s (The Mullican World, which is the title of a poster made by Mullican in the seventies) is made up of an architecture and specific furniture (Untitled (Database), 1994), of maps or charts that owe much to a psycho-geography (Untitled (City Chart: Elements around World Unframed), 1992 and Untitled (City Chart with Paris Opera House), 1992), of images from the (real or fictional) past Untitled (Bulletin Board A), 1974-2007), of a cosmology (Cosmology Studies) and also of a writing that accompanies it. It even has an inhabitant, Glen, who although he is not here in this exhibition, is always present. It is his alter-ego in a sort of Second Life.
When one looks at his works we immediately think of the surrealists, who like Mullican abdicated from a state of consciousness in order to penetrate into a universe that they transposed into fragments and which combined an automatic writing, coming from the subconscious, with images that oscillated between the real and the fictional. Our imaginary works like that, free from the formal constraints that the real attempts to impose on us.
So Mullican’s true mission seems to be that of subjectivising the world, personifying it and making it real. In a very contemporary strategy of mapping, he makes us realise that the world is not Unitarian and indivisible, but rather made up of fragments that we can re-combine as we wish, giving the greatest importance to details or little touches (Details from an Imaginary Universe or Details from a Fictional Reality – as is the case of the titles of two works from his nineteen seventies series).
At the beginning of the XX century the theory of uncertainty in physics, cubism in painting, flânerie in Baudelaire’s poetry, and situationist driftings throughout the city (among several ex,amples) show how the fragmented and de-centred subject finally understands that instead of being an a priori fact he is a creating being – creating himself and his surrounding reality. A nomad, a vagabond of the real, who plays with the immense puzzle of infinite combinations. The subject thus becomes an archaeologist who excavates the reality of the images of the world, an archivist who files them according to a personal order, a collector who reinvents them and a curator who exhibits them. Or even, like Dedalus, the architect, who builds the labyrinth and proposes to fly over it. Between the micro- and the macro-cosmos.
All reading is an individual personification of the text available to us, (perhaps this is why the book is the first virtual world we have). In his cave, Mullican, the strange prisoner like us, builds an architecture of the world and makes a text out of it, appropriating the wonderful shadows that are cast on the wall. Nietzsche states that, unlike what Plato intended, there is no way out of the cave except into another cave, meaning by this that we are always in the world of illusion, as if we had, according to the Orientals, a veil of Maya in front of our eyes. If this were removed we would lose the capacity for fantasy and art would become merely descriptive of the surrounding world. Mullican teaches us, at a moment when art has lost that transcendence that characterised it, that it is possible to rescue its positive bastion in this all-embracing simulacrum illusion in which we find ourselves. As Shakespeare states, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”, and this is the final truth of the world invented by Matt Mullican. We are not prisoners of the cave; we simply do not wish to get out.
From Matt Mullican’s career one should highlight the exhibition at The Drawing Centre, New York City, the “Matt Mullican Under Hypnosis” performance at the Tate Museum, London and His participation at the XXVIII Sao Paulo Biennial and the Kassel Documentas 7, 9 and X.
Carla de Utra Mendes
1Mullican, Matt in AAVV, Matt Mullican – Model Architecture, Gemany: Hatje Cantz, 2006, p.19
Press Release of the Exhibition
'Room Number 4'
a continuation of works by Matt Mullican
May 3rd > Jun 3rd 2006
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art is pleased to announce that Matt Mullican will be showing ROOM NUMBER 4, one of the chambers from his installation ‘Learning from That Person’s Work’, initially conceived for the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. In his introduction to the Ludwig catalogue, Kaspar König describes the exhibition as a “locus of emergence” with “hundreds of drawings and collages via a multi-layered complex”. Made with numerous bed sheets that function as supports for the works on paper, this fragile, labyrinthine architecture, designed by Mullican, replaces the gallery with “that person’s” world.
Viewers who immerse in the room, who climb under the covers, discover a rich world of everyday experiences and visual information that describes “that person”, an experimental framework of otherness. The drawings do not outline the beliefs and daily rituals of a specific individual or fictitious character, but rather a situation or place which the artist picks up on in his unconsciousness and expounds. This vague person emerges with hypnosis, a free-forming state of reception, where the artist looks for ways of being, rather than individuals. “When I am in the trance, it’s like you’re a radio, an AM radio. I’m receiving different kinds of information”.
Matt Mullican, in conversation with Ulrich Wilmes, explains “it’s like trying to create connections after the person has died. So it was a biography before it is a person (…) Usually, what happens is that the biography is written after the person has died, in this case, however, we try to create a person from his biography or from the beginning”. Mullican patches this symbolic character together on the sheets: the things he does, the things he likes to do, the songs he loves… in order to create a context that becomes the biography of an anonymous, ageless, genderless person.
In addition to the installation, a video of Mullican under hypnosis and a selection of photographs of the artist’s default atmospheres, dream-like skies and artificial seas of down that suggest flight, will be on view.
Now living in New York, Matt Mullican was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1951. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, where he studied with John Baldessari. He has exhibited his work widely in the US and abroad since the mid-1970s.
Press Release of the Exhibition
Cristina Guerra- Contemporary Art presents “Recent works”, a one man show by Matt Mullican.
Opening May 23 2003, by 10pm
May 23 to June 28 2003
“Everything I do has to do with the interpretative world. It is, really, a very constructed world. I am very interested not in what we see but in what we think we see, in how we feel what we think we see, in what it is”, said Matt Mullican (b. 1951, Santa Monica, California, USA) in an interview with Michael Tarantino (see the catalogue for the one man show at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art - MACS, 2000).
Like some of the 60s’ and 70s’ most innovating artists, Matt Mullican has chosen, as the starting point for his work, an area of research to which the traditional aesthetic criteria were clearly no longer being applied. His work has been developed in an undefined area placed between aesthetic opposite fields, between subjectivity and objectivity, between sign and meaning and, especially, between the culturally demarcated spheres of art and architecture. In this sense, his production - from performance art to digitally produced images - is, in fact, a function that connects the material sign (the significant) to ideas and facts. Mullican thus neglects the connection between signs and the exterior reality, circumscribing them to the meanings’ abstract level of sense. For him, reality is always something you perceive, a construction of the imagination, and the world is an experience alienated by symbols. Because of that, objects are, for Mullican, ideas, in a clearly conceptual perspective.
The traditional separation between idea and object is eliminated in his productions, stimulating the experience of private, intimate objects - which form the basis of all his performances, wether or not they’re conducted under hypnosis - and of public objects, revealed by digital means, produced by works with an architectural basis that permanently force the spectator to critically question his or her position towards the work and the world.
In this sense, the “Recent works” exhibition, opening May the 23rd 2003 at the Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art gallery, presents the most recent developments in the investigation of this personal ‘cosmology’, bringing together works from the past two years.
Being so, what is now being brought to exhibition is this confrontation between the interpretative and the digital worlds, between the experience (World) and the reading (information) - the relation between the representation of a space in relation to the interpretative emotion of “reading” that same space -, between the artificial logic of the mathematical codification of digital software and the reading of its data.
In this way, the two digitally produced animations - one of them being presented in a projection of minimal graphical appearance that is related to the previous one, developed around geographical charts, and the second consisting of a digital representation of a landscape presented on a loop in a plasma screen, evoking some of the previous production in the experienced relation between a character and the surrounding environment as well as in the attention to detail and in reducing the special effects, favouring its graphical and reality-mediating aspect - he brings forward the mistakes of a language of the signs in evaluating artificiality.
These two animations are directly connected with the two three-dimensional glass-made models presented as a “three-dimensional formatting” of language, the first one operating as a linguistic three-dimensional model of the projected image, and the second one working as a metaphor for a religious epiphany , introduced as an operating model for the author’s 'cosmology' by the means of conventional representation codes for space and structure.
The landscape extent of this 'cosmology' is shown in twelve light boxes that present digitally created images of landscapes, oriented towards natural concepts such as sky/water or landscape, as opposed to the artificiality of their means of support and production, showing in what way and how much our reality is mediated by interfaces and information simulations.
In another video now being presenting and dating from 2002, we see the record of one of Mullican’s performances, conducted under hypnosis (a therapeutic technique that the author has been applying to his artistic production since 1978), working for the revelation of a simulation experience and the demonstration of that same experience in a character in an altered state of conscience who is confronted with an architectural space and with the world.
Finally, some of Mullican’s graphic and pictorial production (drawing and painting) will be shown: a painting and some enlargements from his notebook as extensions of the problematics that build the axis of production within the representation of his ‘cosmology’, in here through a more basic and less technologically sophisticated media, whose constituent elements are reduced to pictorial forms that later on find their places in a holistic chart.
Besides that, in store you can see works by the artist dating from the 70s and 80s, from where much of his more recent production picks its vitality and the strength for legitimating the signification for the (highly codified by signs) mapping of a world were the individual walks. H.M.