The Exhibition “The Beast and the Sovereign” That Should Have Opened Today at MACBA Has Been Censored (Barcelona, Spain)
Four days after the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA) decided to cancel the exhibition “The Beast and the Sovereign” (co-produced by the Wurttemberg Kunstverein and MACBA) on the day of the scheduled opening (March 18), on the morning of the 21st March, the exhibition was, surprisingly, opened: including the sculpture by artist Ines Doujak, which originally led to the closure of the exhibition when the curators refused to remove the work despite being pressured to do so.
Bartolomeo Marí, MACBA director stated: “The publicity given to the work and the views expressed by many different sectors of society, from the art world, culture, politics and the media, as well as international art professionals, have made me reconsider the initial decision. I never believed that my gesture was one of censorship: I perceived it as a disagreement with the inclusion of a particular work and the effects of its possible readings.”
Artists included in this exhibition: Efrén Álvarez, Angela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, Peggy Buth, Martin Dammann, Ines Doujak and John Barker, Juan Downey, Edgar Endress, Oier Etxeberria, León Ferrari, Eiko Grimberg, Masist Gül (presented by Banu Cennetoğlu and Philippine Hoegen), Ghasem Hajizadeh, Jan Peter Hammer, Geumhyung Jeong, Glenda León, Julia Montilla, Rabih Mroué, Ocaña, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Prabhakar Pachpute, Mary Reid Kelley, Jorge Ribalta, Hans Scheirl, Wu Tsang, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Viktor Vorobyev & Yelena Vorobyeva, and Sergio Zevallos.
Statement of the four curators of this exhibition: Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma
The Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA), Bartomeu Mari, has declared yesterday, March 18, 2015, that the exhibition ‘The Beast and the Sovereign’, co-produced by the MACBA and the Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart, has been cancelled.
Working on Jacques Derrida’s seminar ‘The Beast and the Sovereign’, the exhibition deals explicitly with the notion of “sovereignty”: the logics of power related to the sacred; to sexual and gender norms; to modern disciplinary institutions and to debt economy.
The four curators of this exhibition, Iris Dressler, Hans D. Christ, Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma, declare:
The “irresolvable disagreements” between the curatorial team and the director of the MACBA refer to Ines Doujak’s sculpture “Not Dressed for Conquering”, from her ongoing art and research project “Loomshuttles / Warpaths”, which was shown at the last Sao Paolo Biennale.
The MACBA’s director considered that Ines Doujak’s work “Not Dressed for Conquering” was not “appropriate” and could not be exhibited within the museum. The curatorial team thinks, on the contrary, that the work inscribed itself within the tradition of parody, carnival sculptures and iconoclast caricatures. The work was not meant to insult a private person, but to reformulate critically a collective representation of sovereign power.
The curators never hid any information about the exhibition to the director of the museum: he was informed by Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma of the concept and the full list of works of the exhibition. The director had validated the project and not only its text and description but also the list of artists were already published in the MACBA’s internet page months ago.
Each and every work of the exhibition calls into question, on their own means, different uses of sovereignty. In the case of Ines Doujak, first and foremost white male sovereignty in regard to colonial and sexual exploitation; in the case of the artists from Kazakhstan, Viktor & Yelena Vorobyeva, the exercise of totalitarian power; in the case of Sergio Zevallos, the use of sacred and military iconography as well as normative sexuality, to name just a few.
The removal of Ines Doujak’s piece would not only have irreparably compromise the exhibition concept as a whole but also puts into question our understanding of art, freedom of expression as well as of the role of the museum within contemporary society. Under this circumstances, the act of canceling the exhibition is an act of censorship.
We believe that the meaning of artworks is open to public interpretation and cannot be fixed in advance. The exhibition is meant to construct a public sphere where debate and critical practice can take place.
The present situation forces us to rethink the relationship between critical practice, art and the museum. The decision of the director of the MACBA jeopardizes not only this particular exhibition but also reveals a non-democratic functioning of public cultural institutions. The curatorial team understands and claims the museum of contemporary art as a public institution which limits should not be defined by private interests.
The curatorial team regrets MACBA’s institutional decision and expresses its gratitude to the different teams working at the MACBA for their excellent work during the preparation and the installation of the exhibition. The directors of the Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart have decided to continue the project and open the exhibition as it was planned for the MACBA in Stuttgart as soon as possible.
Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma
Read more: MACBA Cancels Exhibition a Day Before Opening (ArtSlant)