Eugenio Ampudia

‘La inmovilidad del movimiento’ at the Spanish Cultural Center, Miami

Nov 15 - Dec 14, 2018

CCEMiami and Spain Arts & Culture present the exhibition by the Spanish artist, Eugenio Ampudia, The Immobility of Movement, curated by Blanca de la Torre.
Eugenio Ampudia is one of the most accomplished artists in Spain. His video work often re-creates real and imaginary spaces using visual imagery to explore our emotional connections to them. He won the Award AECA 2018 by ARCO to the best living artist in Spain. In 2008, Eugenio received the ARCO’s Critics Award for Best Spanish Artist.

In María Zambrano, the dream appears as a source of knowledge, as a force that unleashes a creative action which, at once, offers an awakening to freedom. The Spanish philosopher, in Los sueños y el tiempo, states that “the dream is the immobility of a movement” and expresses a curious equivalence between dreams and time, linked by the breath. Taking the relationship between dreams and time as a premise proposes an expository discourse that takes the act of sleeping as a gesture to challenge the order of things, and with it, dreams as a point of opening to other imaginaries that appropriate the history of the art to draw other possible readings, both of this and of the spaces assigned to art and culture.

For this, the exhibition is organized around the most iconic complete series of the artist, Donde dormir (2008-2018), which is set in dialogue with five more works: The dream of every artist (2000), Una corriente de aire (2015) , Museum and Space (2011), Dibujos encapsulados and 74 ideas. In the series “Donde dormir” by Eugenio Ampudia, behind the apparent simplicity of the gesture of sleeping in cultural spaces lies a position of resistance and rebellion against certain attitudes of “the artistic” that are taken for granted until they become conventions.

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The year this series was begun, 2008, ushered in an era of political upheaval. The urgency behind the emergence of movements like 15M, Occupy Wall Streetand Occupy the Museum, turned the act of sleeping into an act of resistance in itself and a declaration of intentions.

Over the course of the history of art, the act of sleeping has been viewed as a basic, subversive gesture when it comes to analysing our role as individuals in the construction of the social space. From the sleeping Eros that decorated Roman villas in the Hellenistic era one can draw a line that connects such seminal works as The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, by Goya (later reinterpreted so well by Yinka Shonibare), The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening by Salvador Dalí, just one of the most salient examples of a capital theme in the practice of the surrealists

Other examples, closer in time, 1963, bring us to Andy Warhol’s celebrated first film Sleep, where the whole action is confined to a shot of John Giorno sleeping soundly for over five hours. In 1978 Mladen Stilinović made his iconic performance Artist at Work, in which he slept in a gallery in Zagreb to express his nonconformity with the ideology of the time in Yugoslavia.

In The Maybe, by Cornelia Parker, the actress Tilda Swinton slept for eight hours every day in a glass vitrine at the Serpentine Gallery. Likewise, as part of their search for a new lover, the Israeli artists Gil and Moti slept in a New York art gallery in their work Sleeping with the Enemy. In The Sleepers, Sophie Calle, in turn, invites different people, mostly unknown, to sleep in her bed so that she can photograph them.

For the Chinese artist Zhou Jie, the act of sleeping was also central to her proposal to occupy the exhibition space. In 36 Days, she spent the duration of the title living inside the Beijing Art Now Gallery,sleeping on a bed of wires, including occasional visits from her partner.

The irruption of the act of sleeping in institutions consecrated to art reached the point that some of them lent themselves to the idea, offering themselves as hotels. This was the case of no less than the Guggenheim in New York a few years ago with Revolving Hotel Room, by the Belgian artist Carsten Höller, giving visitors a chance to sleep overnight in the museum for the “trifling” sum of three hundred dollars, tripled if you wanted to sleep overnight during a public holiday.

In his essay “The Need to Sleep”, Christopher Hamilton[1]criticises philosophers for not having lent sufficient attention to the act of sleeping. But, despite the acrimonious grievance, one can follow the traces of sleep in the history of philosophy and culture. In “The Philosophy of Sleep: Descartes, Locke and Leibniz”, James Hill recalls Descartes when he argues that we never stop thinking, even in our deepest sleep and despite the fact that we do not remember thoughts or memories.In the first of his Metaphysical Meditations, Descartes said that “there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep”, and that when we seek the truth, we cast in doubt first and foremost imaginary things not only because the senses are deceived but that “on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by illusions.”

The only systematic studies on sleep that have arrived down to us from antiquity come from Aristotle’s three treatises: “De Sommo et Vigilia”, “De Insomniis” and “De Divinatione per Somnum”. Similarly to what we saw with time, the peripatetic philosopher claims that sleep is an affectation that requires a soul.

Sleep has also provided material for analysis in phenomenology, as we can see in the work of Ortega y Gasset, Merleau-Ponty and, above all, in María Zambrano. For phenomenology, sleep is like a void of experience, a void that can only be perceived when becoming conscious of having been dreaming.

In some of the works by Maria Zambrano, her writing leaves an unconclused space similar to that always left by the works of Eugenio Ampudia.

El sueño de todo artista, a work predating the Where to Sleepseries by a long time, is a good example of those open endings in Eugenio Ampudia.

For Ampudia, the act of sleeping also evinces the tensions that arise between the subjectivity of the individual-spectator and that of the institution or cultural platform, thus dissociating culture and power. The places where he sleeps are not chosen randomly, they are not the result of chance. They are all carefully thought of and chosen for their political connotations and the series is only added to when a new place can add a new layer of meaning. For this reason, the series begins with the Prado museum under Goya’s The Third of May 1808. In this opening work one could note how the sleeping bag had the same red colour as Goya’s painting, the red of paint and of blood. Ampudia slept underneath, on the same side as the men facing the firing squad. He also sleeps in La Alhambra in Granada, in the Hall of the Kings, the place where political decisions were taken and which, years later, housed courts of justice. In another leap in time we can see the artist sleeping in one of the bare halls at the Ifema exhibition centre, before the preparations for ARCO, the contemporary art fair in Madrid, the place where the art market in Spain is played out.

On this critical tour, in his act of resistance of sleeping, Ampudia opens up a chapter in postcolonial revision when he sleeps inside the library at the Palace of Ajuda, in Lisbon, a place containing the vast majority of maps and dossiers documenting the division of the Portuguese colonies.

The significance of some of these spaces used by the artist for sleeping is even further accentuated today. This is the case of Palau de la Música in Barcelona, a focal point of political and judicial attention for cases of embezzlement and corruption by its managers.

In Mexico, the choice of Anahuacalli —the pyramid-shaped museum built by Diego Rivera to house his collection of pre-Hispanic art—shifts the focus onto the artist as collector, fulfilling in this case a specific role at a moment when a large part of Mexico’s pre-Columbian legacy was being plundered by foreigners. The final scene in the series is the Tempiettoby Bramante in San Pietro in Montorio —which we have seen earlier on the spine of one of the books—in the convent that houses the Academy of Spain in Rome. Built under orders from the Catholic Monarchs, theTempietto, considered a masterpiece of renaissance classicism, now allows the artist to critique the configuration of officially-sanctioned taste and the construction of the idea of public heritage.

Lying latent beneath all these cases is the idea of sleep as an element of confrontation with late-capitalism, to the degree that it can be viewed as a strategy of resistance analogous to that broached by Jonathan Crary in 24/7 Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. In his book the professor at Columbia defends sleep as a powerful tool of resistance and of collective rejection of patterns of growth and accumulation.

Crary ultimately proposes recovering sleep in order to open the door to imagining “a world without billionaires, which has a future other than barbarism or the post-human, and in which history can take on other forms than reified nightmares of catastrophe.”

Many years before this series, Eugenio Ampudia had already engaged with the discursive power of sleep. The oldest installation in the exhibition, El sueño de todo artista, once again plays with the spectator by showing him a bed in which the sheets show the signs of an intangible body, absent yet at once present.

In María Zambrano: los caminos del sueño, Armando López Castro argued that the Zambranian phenomenology of sleep seems like “the beginning that unfolds towards the new” and furthermore “the state of sleep, free from the will to rationalise, is not a conclusive form but an open one, the emergence of something towards its own manifestation.”

And it is here where Ampudia grants a leading role to the public and where the will of the “other” is mixed with that of the artist. In the case of the encapsulated drawings, the artist delivers – to the public, to the collector who acquires the work or to the curator who presents it – an ink ball that will be thrown against the walls of the room, playing with both the psychic automatism of the pitcher as with chance itself. In this line, the installation 80 ideas, consists of 80 drawings the size of a polaroid that will be replaced by the Polaroid portrait of the collector who acquires each of them. In the course of phenomenology, it was not only Zambrano who was interested in the non-conventional meaning inhabiting dreams and sleep. Merleau-Ponty also pointed in the same direction, arguing that the space of sleep is depth and that it can help us to visualise the most secret act by which we produce our surroundings.[7] And so, in sleep everything has an effect at the same time as it takes place. The philosopher also placed himself in an intermediary position between Sartre and Freud when he claimed that sleep frees a way of thinking in which “there is no construction of meaning”, but a slippage of meaning over materials.And it is at this point where the other works that are proposed in dialogue can be placed, such as the video “Una corriente de aire” (2015) where the National Library of Madrid is crossed by clouds or in “Museum and Space” ( 2011), where Frank Gerry’s Guggenheim building is propelled like a spaceship into the void.  In Eugenio Ampudia´s body of work, sleep operates as tool for resistance against normativity and hegemony and a medium to put forward possible futures and, following Sartre´s words “sleeping is the consciousness of sleep, it is to leave the present world and enter into the inconsistency of the imaginary”.