Longitudes

The story behind José Antonio Hernández-Díez's 'San Guinefort' (1991)

 Pages with the story behind Plaça dels Àngels.

When giving a presentation or tour of an exhibition or project we have worked on, we are often asked how the project emerged – if there was a particular trigger or point of origin. In the case of José Antonio Hernández-Díezs exhibition currently on view at MACBA (until June 26, 2016), our approach was a familiar one to us we started by both delving in-depth in researching the artists previous works while at the same time looking into the history of the venue where the exhibition was going to take place. 

We are very fond of a book that has been in our library for many years – 'Histories and legends of Barcelona' by Joan Amades (Edicions 62). This two-volume tome gathers some of the myths behind Barcelona place names and includes the tales behind both familiar and obscure buildings, streets and monuments in the city. The story that most captivated us concerned the chapel of the Convent dels Àngels, and it is recounted in the essay we wrote to accompany the exhibition (published as the Quaderns Portàtils #32 pdfs available in Spanish and English and epub in Spanish only). It goes as follows:

(...) "Outside the doorway of the deconsecrated sixteenth-century church that formed part of Barcelona’s Convent dels Àngels there once stood the stone figure of a dog, standing upright on its hind legs. Two separate legends account for its existence, as recorded by ethnologist and folklorist Joan Amades in the 1950s. A boorish man would routinely interrupt the services and torment the church congregation, it is said. He was punished by being turned into a dog. The other version states that the canine figure commemorates the thwarting of a robbery. The church once displayed an image of Saint Roch, the patron saint of dogs, accompanied by a hound. It is said that the prospective thieves were frightened away as the image miraculously began to bark. (The supernatural mythology of the chapel does not cease there – in 1627 an image of Christ began to sweat blood profusely.) 

Sculpture of a dog once stood in front of La Capella dels Àngels, church of the Convent dels Àngels.
 
Parallel to this, we started looking at Hernández-Díezs earliest works and investigating his pieces in MACBAs collection. We found that the museum had his 1991 work San Guinefort on long-term loan in their collection, but it had never been exhibited. As narrated in our essay: 

(...) "that José Antonio Hernández-Díez (Caracas, Venezuela, 1964) had already been dealing with Catholic belief and superstition in his art – and moreover, specifically addressing canine veneration – is much more than an uncanny coincidence for his exhibition at MACBA’s Convent dels Àngels in 2016."  

The legend behind Saint Guinefort is one of the more obscure intersections of Catholic history and folk tradition:

(...) "Writing around 1260, the Inquisitor and Dominican friar Étienne de Bourbon related his investigation into the veneration of Saint Guinefort in the Dombes region of France. He discovered that this supposed Saint was, in fact, a dog. The account he disclosed was that a knight and his wife had one day left their greyhound Guinefort to guard their baby. When they returned to the castle they found the cradle empty and Guinefort covered in blood. Assuming it had murdered the baby, the knight hastily killed the dog, only later realising his error. Guinefort had in fact fought off a snake in order to save the child, who was found unharmed. Guinefort was buried unceremoniously in the forest outside the castle walls. Hearing of the martyred dog, local people began to believe in its power to protect children and began to bring their sick infants to the grave. Étienne de Bourbon was horrified to discover the strength of the superstition that had taken root. Children were being left overnight by Guinefort’s grave in the belief that he would rid them of spirits, and several babies had died as a consequence. Defending the orthodoxy of the church, the friar had the heretical remains of the greyhound dug up and destroyed, razed the forest and outlawed the canine cult, yet there is evidence of its persistence into the nineteenth century. The episode is worth recounting in detail, as previous accounts of it in relation to Hernández-Díez’s work have been misleading."


Coinciding with our research period, in August 2014 we happened to be travelling near Lyon, France, and took the opportunity to visit to the Bois de Saint Guinefort in the Dombes region, where the story of Saint Guinefort emerged (and where the dog-saint may still be venerated every 22nd August, despite the regional tourism office assuring us the festival day was no longer celebrated). 

Somewhere on the road between Villars-les-Dombes and Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne one can, with the help of a tagged flickr photo and GPS, find a sign, as seen below, which briefly narrates these peculiar events from the 13th Century



Related Content:

Public programmes related to the exhibition 'José Antonio Hernández-Díez. I Will Fear No Evil' at MACBA, Barcelona, on view until 26 June 2016

View of José Antonio Hernández-Díez's 'El resplandor de la Santa Conjunción aleja a los demonios" (1991). Installation. Lightbox, sampler, timer, flash, tripod and speakers. Collection Leonora and Jimmy Belilty. Photo: Miquel Coll, MACBA.


The exhibition I will fear no evil presents works from the beginning of José Antonio Hernández-Díez’s career in the late 1980s and early nineties – several of which have not been seen since they were first exhibited in 1991 – in dialogue with a new series produced especially for the occasion. 

The following series of events have been programmed to accompany the exhibition:

Thursday, 31 March, 7pm:
Visit with the artist and Latitudes. Exclusive to the Amic card. Limited places.

#MACBAAmic

Saturday 2 April, 7pm:
Experience MACBA, The secrets of conservation in ‘I will fear no evil’ by José Antonio Hernández-Díez. Visit with the artist, Latitudes and Lluís Roqué
Museum galleries.
5 €. No booking required. Limited places. 

#MACBAesviu


View of Hernández-Díez's exhibition "I will fear no evil". Photo: Miquel Coll, MACBA.

Film programme: 
Shadows and silences or the ghosts that return as if for the first time”. Curated by Andrés Duque.
Meier Auditorium. 
Admission: 5 €/session. Free with MACBA Amics card. Limited places.

Wednesday 4 May, 7pm
‘Schastye (Happiness)’, Aleksandr Medvedkin, 1935, Russia, 95 min, b/w, silent.
Despite being released in 1935, this is a silent movie. It narrates the hapless misadventures of a peasant unable to reap a good harvest. It takes a courageous act to reconcile himself with himself and other people.

Wednesday 18 May, 7pm
‘Finis Terrae’, Jean Epstein, 1929, France, 80 min, b/w, silent.
Four labourers leave for the island of Bannec to collect the harvest. One loses his hand and the wound becomes infected, so cannot work anymore.

Wednesday 15 June, 7pm
‘He Who Gets Slapped’, Victor Sjöström, 1924, USA, 83 min, b/w, silent.
After many years of research, Paul Beaumont, a scientist and humanist, discovers a revolutionary theory, but his patron (Marc McDermott) seduces his wife (Ruth King) and takes credit for his discoveries. To add insult to injury, he slaps Beaumont before the assembled scientific community, compounding his humiliation. Ashamed, Beaumont flees and takes refuge in a circus, where he becomes a famous clown known as ‘he who gets slapped’. As fate would have it, one night his perfidious patron appears in the audience, having abandoned Beaumont’s wife and intent on marrying the beautiful Consuelo (Norma Shearer).

Wednesday 22 June, 7pm
‘Kurutta Ippēji (A Page of Madness)’, Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926, Japan, 70 min, b/w, silent.
Kurutta Ippēji tells the story of a worker in a psychiatric hospital who begins to feel a strange affection for a patient, who was allegedly committed after murdering her own baby. But he only wants to release her, to escape with her and start a new family. The film went missing for over fifty years and was barely seen after its release. It was the director himself who discovered the negative and a copy in his archive store in 1971.

Saturday 25 June, 7pm:
Nieve Fuga: music around 'I will fear no evil'
Exhibition galleries.
5 €. Free with museum ticket and with MACBA Amics cards. Limited places. Ticket includes free admission to current exhibitions until 9 pm.

#MACBAesviu

View of Hernández-Díez's exhibition "I will fear no evil". Photo: Miquel Coll, MACBA.


 Related Content:

A report from the symposium 'How Institutions Think' organised by the LUMA Foundation and CCS Bard College, Arles, 24–27 February 2016

All photographs: Latitudes.

[The following text was originally published on Frieze Blog on 9 March 2016].

Co-presented by the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College with the LUMA Foundation, the four-day symposium ‘How Institutions Think’ [pdf of the programme] met to reconsider the habits and rhetorics of contemporary art institutions and curatorial practice. The event, held at the Parc des Ateliers, Arles, from 24–27 February, was developed in partnership with a long list of collaborators (Valand Academy of Arts, Gothenburg, Sweden; Afterall Books and the Exhibition Histories programme at Saint Martins, London, UK; Goldsmiths, London; the V-A-C Foundation, Moscow; and de Appel art centre, Amsterdam).

Taking its title from the 1986 book by British anthropologist Mary Douglas, the symposium played out on the site of the future LUMA Arles, a 20-acre former railway yard that includes a new building designed by Frank Gehry scheduled to open in summer 2018 as exhibitions spaces, archives, residency and study facilities, as well as a restaurant, hotel and park. Introduced by CCS Bard’s Paul O’Neill and LUMA founder Maja Hoffmann, the presentations were hosted in the recently-restored L’Atelier des Forges spaces in the middle of this construction site. O’Neill took the work-in-progress status outside as an invitation for the more than 30 speakers and around 150 delegates to debate not only what the future of art institutions in general might be, but more immediately, how new ways of operating could underpin this nascent institution in the south of France. 

LUMA Arles is located in the former railway yards of Arles and includes a new building designed by Frank Gehry and the renovation of the industrial buildings on the Parc des Ateliers by Selldorf Architects.

Yet what transpired was something far more pervasive. An amplification of the noun ‘institution’ and the verb ‘instituting’ soon engulfed not only a discussion of art and academic establishments, but law, governance, and the psyche of the French state, post-November 2015 Paris attacks. The grim predicament of a Europe in the depths of the refugee crisis – as the symposium took place, at the other end of the country, Calais’s ‘Jungle’ camp was being dismantled – became the lens for considering nothing less than the spectral institution that is Western European colonial imperialism. In the first evening’s fragmented keynote by Zahia Rahmani, the writer and historian gave an account of the ‘Made in Algeria’ exhibition of colonial cartography she has curated for the MuCEM museum in Marseilles. She argued that we cannot plausibly think about the future of any institution without confronting the terrible failures and opprobrious injustices of the past, most glaringly what she characterised as the ‘toxicity’ of Western Europe’s colonial system. 


Céline Condorelli's 'All our tomorrows' (2015) hanging curtain.

‘Is institution building still desirable?’ wondered artist Céline Condorelli in her presentation the following day as she evoked All our tomorrows (2015), her installation that humbly corralled the symposium’s setting, comprised a large hanging curtain inspired by the ‘poor architecture’ of Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompéia, the social and cultural centre established in São Paulo. 

Reflecting on his own transformative experiences made while directing the 2014 edition of the São Paulo Biennial, Charles Esche – Director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands – astutely articulated both the decisiveness of Western Imperialism’s poisonous effect on the rest of the world, and the nervousness about whether anyone can even venture to be hopeful about the future. Esche persuasively argued that Western museums must make decolonialisation fundamental to their missions and no longer a marginal issue by analysing the entrails of neoliberalism’s ‘dogged persistence’ and, soothsayer-like, intuitively sensing the ‘weak signals’ of a more just politics.
 
 Question from Mick Wilson, artist, educator and Head of the Valand Academy of Arts, University of Gothernburg, Sweden, and moderatior of one of the sessions.  

Attendees gather outside the symposium venue at the Parc des Ateliers.

Sociologists Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre spoke of France’s deep investment in what they termed the ‘economy of enrichment’ in observations that were particularly prickly given the art-destination place-making unfolding on the very site of the symposium. They submitted that the luxury brands that dominate the image of the country abroad enjoy a close but officially-unacknowledged complicity with heritage and culture. They argue that this compound myth of the French art de vivre accounts for the country consistently being the globe’s most visited tourist destination, yet also that, less innocuously, France’s defiance of normative economic rules about price and value make it both a haven for inequality as well as unusually susceptible to instability. Put candidly, the presence of refugee and terrorists is not conducive to tourism and handbag sales. Later, speaking about ‘turbo-fascism’ and a transition to ‘necropolitics’ (a term coined by philosopher Achille Mbembe regarding the politics of sovereignty over life and death), philosopher Marina Gržinić contended that we are living in a time of war in which our institutions battle to preserve this ‘good life’ at any cost. 

Céline Condorelli, Artist, Professor at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milan, and Founding Co-Director Eastside Projects, in conversation with Helena Reckitt, Senior Lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London.  
 Clémentine Deliss, Independent Curator and Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg).

Turning more specifically to art’s institutions, independent curator and editor Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez argued that they are so often so deeply implicated in an economy of precarity that they spawn new toothless art forms of ‘safe participation’ and ‘soft interactivity’. ‘Stubborn’ institutions thus appeared to be both the problem and the solution. Accordingly, Clémentine Deliss – recently dismissed as the Director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt – delivered a scorching critique of the racism and intransigence persisting in ethnographic museums founded in the 19th century, particularly in Germany and France. She characterised how the hundreds of thousands of objects ‘salvaged’ from the frontline of the colonial project are now trapped in a legislative embargo, reduced to little more than dormant entries on databases. Access to these hoards of material culture and their restitution is critical she asserted, yet young curators are too afraid to deal with them – contemporary art offers an easier ride. 

In the context her work directing the SBG Gallery in Montréal, Canada, curator Pip Day discussed Canada’s settler-colonialist legacy, the evasions allowed by conceiving of decolonization as merely a metaphor, and her advocacy of the work of First Nation artists such as Maria Hupfield. Bassam El Baroni, an independent curator based in Alexandria, Egypt, later presented a paper that threaded a bewilderingly dense route through a tangle of cognitive philosophy and ‘prometheanism’. Yet Day’s case studies, as well as those discussed by Mélaine Bouteloup, curator of Paris’s Bétonsalon, regarding the recently opened Villa Vassilieff which is now the second site of that institution, helped to link such abstraction to more practical curatorial and artistic thinking-in-action that addresses the past while creating new knowledge. 

Gehry’s LUMA building will comprise presentation and exhibition spaces, archive, library, offices, seminar rooms, artist-in-residence facilities, café-restaurant and hotel and is due to open in summer 2018.

Yet it was through the presentations by writer Dave Beech and especially architect Keller Easterling that the symposium actually approached something resembling a strategy to address what had been almost uniformly painted as the shameful, broken state of the contemporary institution. According to both Beech and Easterling, we should be paying keener attention to infrastructure rather than institution per se. Following her book Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (2014) Easterling’s bruising and exhilarating contention was that an enveloping urban medium (including preposterous towers, mall sprawl, special-trade-zone legal lacunae) defies consideration as a thing and is better thought of as a global operating system, a ‘disposition’ that thrives on saying one thing and doing quite another. 

Ljublijanan philosopher, theoretician and artist Marina Gržinić; writer and professor Dave Beech and curator and theorist Simon Sheikh.

At the start of the symposium artist Liam Gillick – one of LUMA’s luminary consultants alongside Tom Eccles, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno and Beatrix Ruf – had asked somewhat rhetorically, ‘can an institution be thought collectively on this scale?’ It was clearly not only Charles Esche who looked out at the spine of what will be a 24,000 square metre Frank Gehry-designed tower and noticed that the institution’s die was cast already – and thanks to an architect long synonymous with the art museum as an importunate form of trophy. Following Keller’s strategic spatial repertoire of ‘counterbalances’, ‘interplays’, ‘toggles’, ‘incentives’ and ‘ratchets’, as well as her talk of heeding the dynamics of joke-telling or dough-tending, she implied that if we are going to formulate a resilient future for art institutions, we had better start feeling our way – and get a whole lot more canny. 


Max Andrews is a contributing editor of frieze and, with Mariana Cánepa Luna, runs Latitudes, an independent curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain.
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 LUMA Foundation spaces under construction.

Related content:

Mariana Cánepa Luna review on Francesc Ruiz's 'Correos' exhibition for art-agenda

View of Francesc Ruiz, “Correos,” garcía galería, Madrid, 2016. All images courtesy of garcía galería, Madrid. Photos by Roberto Ruiz.

Francesc Ruiz’s “Correos”
garcía galería, Madrid   
January 16–March 5, 2016


by Mariana Cánepa Luna

Francesc Ruiz’s second solo show at Madrid’s garcía galería delves into the visual communication of one of Spain’s most iconic institutions, the Sociedad Estatal Correos y Telégrafos—the national postal service, commonly known as Correos—whose graphic identity was created in 1977 by Spanish designer and artist José María Cruz Novillo (b. 1936). Ruiz’s interest is not limited to Cruz Novillo’s pervasive design, but more broadly includes Correos as an agent of distribution as well as the various commercial guises that come into play in this public service. Ruiz’s choice to focus this exhibition on the postal system, the pre-eminent pre-internet network, is not casual: through his characteristic strategy of “expanded comics” he has long been concerned with the potential of distribution and official versus alternative forms of circulation.

—> Continue reading...

Originally published on art-agenda.com on 25 February 2016.


 View of Francesc Ruiz, “Correos,” garcía galería, Madrid, 2016.
  View of Francesc Ruiz, “Correos,” garcía galería, Madrid, 2016.
 Francesc Ruiz, Correos IV (Carton), 2015.
 Francesc Ruiz, Correos IV (Carton), 2015.
 Francesc Ruiz, Correos I (Bufanda), 2015.
 Francesc Ruiz, THE MIDAS TOUCH, 2015.
 Francesc Ruiz, MARCAR (6549/6567/6574/6547), 2015.
  Francesc Ruiz, Correos III (Caja), 2015.

RELATED CONTENT:


Cover Story, March 2016: José Antonio Hernández-Díez: The sacred heart of the matter

March 2016 cover story. This and previous stories are archived here.

The March 2016 cover story marks the twelve of the series. This section published monthly on our home page, focuses on an artwork or moment related to our past, current or future practice – "close ups" of what we do, see and are thinking about. (When the next Cover Story is published, the March one will be archived here.)

'José Antonio Hernández-Díez. I will fear no evil' opens at MACBA’s Convent dels Àngels on 18 March 2016 (and runs until 26 June). Guest curated by Latitudes, the exhibition focuses on the Barcelona-based Venezuelan artist’s first experimental works from the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

The presence of ghosts and bodily organs in this phase of José Antonio’s out-of-joint art – videographic spectres, disembodied voices, preserved creatures, hearts and skin – is only enhanced by the somewhat necromantic aspect of the fact that several of his works are being reconstructed. Dealing with the symbology and spiritual practices of Catholicism, 'Sagrado Corazón Activo' (Active Sacred Heart, 1991) is one of the pieces which will be brought back to life. In a workshop in Barcelona’s Gràcia, sculptor Fernando Romeo is making its heart. Continue reading...


Related Content:

Curators: 'I Will Fear No Evil', José Antonio Hernández-Díez, Convent dels Àngels del Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), 18 March–26 June 2016

José Antonio Hernández-Díez, "La Hermandad", 1994. Video installation. ”la Caixa” / MACBA Collection.

Latitudes is curating the solo exhibition 'I will fear no evil' of Venezuelan-born Barcelona-based artist José Antonio Hernández-Díez (Caracas, 1964), which will open at the Convent dels Àngels del Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), on March 17.
 
'I will fear no evil' presents works from the beginning of Hernández-Díez’s career in the late 1980s and early nineties – several of which have not been seen since they were first exhibited – in dialogue with Filamentos (2016), a new series developed especially for the occasion.

José Antonio Hernández-Díez, "La Hermandad", 1994. Video installation. ”la Caixa” / MACBA Collection.

The present exhibition looks back to Hernández-Díez’s first experimental works with video alongside early iconic screen- and vitrine-based works, including three of those presented at the time of his landmark first monographic exhibition 'San Guinefort y otras devociones', held in 1991 at Sala RG in Caracas. This exhibition heralded what the artist termed as a ‘New Christian Iconography’, offering – as artist-colleague Meyer Vaisman described – ‘a techno-pop view of Catholicism’s most beloved symbols’. 

An newly text by Latitudes will be published in Spanish as No. 32 of the Quaderns portàtils (Portable Notebooks) series. This MACBA-produced collection is freely distributed and downloadable from the museum website in PDF and ePUB format. An English translation will also be available as a separate PDF.

Exhibition runs between 18 March–26 June 2016 and is organised and produced by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).

Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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2005—2019