GETTING READY FOR THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD... WITH ART

Halloween party has become an international celebration where pumpkins, witches and skulls are part of our daily lives. We all know that on this day the end of summer is commemorated and, since ancient times, it has been celebrated as the last night of excesses before giving way to the sobriety and severity of winter. This is so in the Celtic tradition, a pagan holiday that in Galicia was always known as Samaín and has been celebrated since time immemorial. The influence of Christianity came to redefine many of these festivals to give them meaning in line with Catholic postulates, and from there was born All Saints Day or Day of the Dead, widely celebrated throughout the world. In fact, the word Halloween itself is an evolution of “All Hallow’s Eve”, which means “Eve of All Dead” But, why is this date celebrated in so many places in the world for different cultural traditions?

Gustav Klimt, “Morte e Vita”, 1905 (vía wikipedia)

For many, certain days of the year give rise to an accumulation of energies that open portals to new dimensions. The night of October 31st is one of those dates, and in many beliefs, there is the conviction that there is a union between the world of the living and that of the dead. This connection would allow bidirectional circulation between these realities and coexistence through multisensory experiences. For this reason, death is so present on Halloween and there is said that the dead come back to life at midnight today. We want to prepare for this celebration by taking a tour of the references to death, skulls and the world of darkness that some artists have made throughout their career.

Marina Abramovic, “Nude with the Skeleton”, 2002/2013 (vía moma.org)

Beyond the more traditional and classical painting, which often represents death to capture some relevant historical event, usually related to armed confrontations or connected with mythological accounts, and also beyond the moralistic resource of medieval representations of death as the great social class equaliser, the truth is that the use of elements related to the end of life is used numerous times as a benchmark of contrast, as opposed to values ​​associated with joy, energy or youth. We can say that even today, the authors reflect on the fear that this vital moment can be, or ironise, as it was done in the fifteenth century, on an inevitable fact to which we are all committed regardless of our position or status. Others, on the other hand, deal with this issue as a way to approach a painful stage, a kind of mourning that, through art, becomes therapeutic.

Damien Hirst, “For the Love of God”, 2007 (vía wikipedia)

Among the authors who use these resources as an ingredient to ironise the excesses of our society, we must include Damien Hirst, with his famous "For the Love of God", a piece that represents a human skull covered with 8,601 diamonds. To do this, Hirst made a titanium cast of a real skull from the 18th century and left the original denture. This 2007 piece was a revolution for the art world and was finally sold for 50 million pounds.

Maurizio Cattelan, “Bidibidobidiboo”, 2012, cortesía de Collezione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (vía 20minutos.es).

Other artists like Cattelan propose works such as "Bidibidobidiboo", in which a suicide squirrel appears in a miniature stage, with a gun at his feet. According to the author, this piece represents the end of innocence and adolescent anguish that is lived in transitional stages, when it is difficult to adapt.

Okuda San Miguel

Grey Skull, 2018

17-ink hand-printed by Inkvisible Prints on 220 g pink fabriano paper

70 x 50cm

Death is also a reference to propose a contrast of elements with other positive values of our life. As a reminder and reflection on the resilience of the human being, some artists incorporate motifs such as skulls in their works in order to extol our spirit of overcoming and highlight the positive aspects that life can bring us, something that sometimes only comes to be appreciated taking awareness of the negative aspects. This is the case with Okuda, for example, who repeatedly uses his already iconic skull in many contexts.

Michael Zavros, “Phoebe is Dead/McQueen”, 2010 (vía skullsproject.wordpress.com)

We could put in this category some of the most famous pieces of Marina Abramovic, such as "Nude with skeleton", in which the artist proposes a serene dance with a skeleton in an open contrast between life and death.

In this same line, we find the work of other authors who dare to represent death as a way to face certain fears, such as the loss of a loved one, and this allows us to verify the fortune and happiness present.

Ron Mueck, “Dead Dad”, 1996 (vía qmayor.com)

Annie Leibovitz, “Susan Sontag”, 2004 (vía tembusu.nus.edu.sg)

Likewise, there are artists who address this issue from the desire to overcome some personal traumas and give way to a grieving process in which the pain is confronted directly instead of avoiding it. This is the case of Ron Mueck, who has come to represent his deceased father to face the sadness of his absence. This author's work always surprises with its great impact and the hyperrealism of its execution. For this particular piece, he came to use his father's real hair.

On the other hand, the photographer Annie Leibovitz made an extensive report of the death of her partner, Susan Sontag, something that helped her to go through this long and sentimental process.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.