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Artist-in-Residence Beatriz Santiago Muñoz at New Museum

Artist-in-Residence Beatriz Santiago Muñoz at New Museum

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

New Museum 235 Bowery , New York, NY 10002 – USA 

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign will mark the first New York museum solo exhibition of Puerto Rican artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (b. 1972, San Juan, Puerto Rico). In her recent film and video work, Santiago Muñoz documents the lives of individuals—political dissidents, teachers, and farmers—who are deeply invested in political transformation. The subjects of her films and videos reveal their close physical connections to their environments, sites marked by legacies of colonial trade and military occupation in the artist’s homeland of Puerto Rico and in neighboring Caribbean countries, by recounting stories and engaging natural materials as well as inherited or handmade objects. Her residency and exhibition at the New Museum will be presented in the Fifth Floor gallery as part of the Education and Public Engagement Department’s R&D Season: LEGACY and will explore the ways in which our connections to the past are actively produced, maintained, and refuted.

For her exhibition and residency at the New Museum, Santiago Muñoz will premiere the new three-channel video That which identifies them like the eye of the Cyclops (2016). The video’s three parts are titled as a sequence: One/Song, Two/Strategy, and Three/Signs. The footage emerged from years of contact between Santiago Muñoz and a group of women, and each video channel corresponds loosely to a different theme in Monique Wittig’s 1969 novel Les Guérillères, which describes a world where the patriarchy has fallen after a bloody war between the sexes. Like Les Guérillères, the video closely follows the sensorial and material worlds of the women and imagines a post-patriarchal future. Unlike the characters in Wittig’s novel, the women portrayed in Santiago Muñoz’s video are real, and the story is rooted in the specific place and time that they inhabit—including Caribbean cities, bankrupted states, and coastal towns. The video documents the injured farm animals that the women care for, a concert on a beach at night, a frenzied club, and a protest campsite in front of government buildings.

Santiago Muñoz’s presentation at the New Museum will also feature the new silent 16mm film Black Beach/Horse/Camp/The Dead/Forces (2016), which portrays subjects—people, places, and things—the artist has come to know through previous projects. The film was shot on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, which was the site of a bombing range used by the US Navy for 60 years and is still filled with unexploded bombs. The film weaves together images of a man who cares for horses that roam the old target range where the bombs lie, a black magnetite beach that is slowly eroding, an artist who has helped to resurrect a sacred tree that was once on the naval base and who has herself been resurrected from illness more than once, and a man who hopes his ritual movements will return the island of Vieques to a cosmic balance. Together, their stories tell interlacing accounts of land, toxic bombings, political work, celebration, and death.

The exhibition will also include a set of commissioned masks, which will be activated in a series of new films and videos made during the artist’s residency this spring. The masks will be featured in a performance by Macha Colón, one of the women in That which identifies them like the eye of the Cyclops, in the New Museum Theater on June 2, 2016.

Santiago Muñoz captures the aspirations and imagined futures of those who are deeply invested in alternative models of being, using the stories of farmers, activists, and artists working in Puerto Rico as allegories for larger political possibilities in the region. The film, three-channel video, and masks in Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign serve as testaments to the individuals who forge their own terms for how to live, remember, and advance their own evolving histories.

This presentation is co-curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement; Lauren Cornell, Curator and Associate Director, Technology Initiatives; and Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator.

In conjunction with Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign, the New Museum’s Resource Center will present Source Material: Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères, a selection of materials associated with Wittig’s 1969 novel, which Santiago Muñoz takes as inspiration for a feature-length film. The Resource Center exhibition will feature materials associated with Wittig’s writings and teaching materials to provide context for the writer’s thoughts around feminist and utopian communities and her attention to the relationships between word and image, and between literature and film—interests that are shared by Santiago Muñoz.

Organized by Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator, and Alicia Ritson, Research Fellow Public programs

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz in conversation with Patricia Gherovici

Thursday, April 21, 7pm

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz and psychoanalyst Patricia Gherovici will discuss feminist utopias, the possibility of developing new languages to describe ourselves, and psychoanalysis’s role in propelling and undermining strategies of resistance. 

Gherovici is the author of numerous books, including The Puerto Rican Syndrome (Other Press, 2003); Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism (Routledge, 2010); and Psychoanalysis Needs a Sex Change: Lacanian Approaches to Sexual and Social Difference (Routledge, forthcoming in 2016). She is Co-founder and Director of the Philadelphia Lacan Group.

Performance by Macha Colón

Thursday, June 2, 7pm

Macha Colón, a character created by artist Gisela Ramos and inspired by the iconic actor and drag queen Divine, is the exuberant front woman of the band Macha Colón y los Okapi. In Puerto Rico and beyond, Colón has gained a cult following among queer and feminist communities for whom her songs have become anthems for the possibility of joy. As defiantly stated on one of the band’s posters: “In this classist, racist, heterosexist, patriarchal country, trying to be happy is in itself revolutionary work.” Activating masks Santiago Muñoz has produced during her residency, the performance will be a collaboration between Santiago Muñoz and Colón, and will include readings of passages from Monique Wittig’s legendary feminist novel Les Guérillères (1969).

About the artist

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she currently lives and works. Her recent exhibitions include Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: A Universe of Fragile Mirrors, Pérez Art Museum Miami (2016); Ce qui ne sert pas s’oublie (What is not used is forgotten), CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2015); La Cabeza Mató a Todos, TEOR/éTica, San José, Costa Rica (2014); MATRULLA, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City (2014); Under the Same Sun: Art From Latin America Today, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014); Post-Military Cinema, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow International (2014); The Black Cave, Gasworks, London (2013); Beatriz Santiago Muñoz / Trinh T Minh-Ha / Gregorio Rocha, Tate Modern, London (2013); Ensayos de Geopoética, Mercosul Biennial VII, Brazil (2011); and Capp Street Project: Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2008).

Santiago Muñoz is also a cofounder of Beta-Local, an arts organization in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Director of Sessions, a series of intensive seminars anchored in the specific geography, emerging art practices, and sociopolitical conditions of Puerto Rico. Santiago Muñoz is a 2015 Creative Capital Visual Arts award grantee.