Curator & Art

Revising History through institutional criticism: Colonia apócrifa. Imágenes de la colonialidad en España at MUSAC in León

The democratic transition came accompanied by economic prosperity during the eighties and the nineties, a fact that brought into the country the idea of a modern Spain which suffered, as a result, from an overpopulation of art centers and museums of modern art. Many of them were erected thinking about the container and not the contents, which meant that it was only wanted an emblematic building which turned a lethargic city into a cultural model and, to be honest, also a touristic and achieved electoral promises example. The lines of action of these institutions remained blurred and that is part of why, after 2008 crisis, many are drifting, fading or simply vanished.


View of the square and facade of MUSAC . Photography by Ángel Marcos.

MUSAC (León) is a late but paradigmatic example. It was opened in 2005 in a building designed by architects Emilio Tuñón (Madrid, 1958) and Luis Moreno Mansilla (Madrid, 1959 – Barcelona, 2012), which won the 2007 Mies van der Rohe Award for UE Contemporary Architecture. During its construction it wasn’t clear what the edifice was supposed to contain. It wouldn’t be until later when its team and conceptual basis were formed. From a “museum of the present” to a “space for thinking and reflection” with a collection whose start point is Berlin Wall falling in 1989, currently the institution is going through scandals that point to political forces trying to interfere in MUSAC’s responsibilities. In this strained context, the museum is holding an exhibition programme which seems to address these issues: two shows about Concha Jerez’s and Carolee Schnemann’s work and a big exhibit around colonization and Spain from critic and revisionist premises.


WORKS OF HISTORY. Carolee Schneemann . View of the exhibition . Courtesy MUSAC .

2B MUSAC - Concha Jerez Jardín de ausentes_MUSAC_julio14 (3)

Concha Jerez, Jardín de ausentes, 2002. Installation . Photo: Miguel Quintas .

These two artists, the first one born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the second one in Pennsylvania, are known for their conceptual activities around gender, body, repression and History criticism. Colonia apócrifa. Imágenes de la colonialidad en España is an idea from curator Juan Guardiola in which, through concepts as conquest, History, Gospel, violence, anthropology and orientalism, works from the Modern Age to the Spanish Civil War are confronted to contemporary artists, from Spain and around the world.


View apocryphal Cologne. Images of coloniality in Spain : ANTHROPOLOGY . Courtesy MUSAC .

The assembly, which opts for open and ambiguous spaces in which the connections are made by the visitor as a discovery, impedes, in our opinion, the correct understanding of the message. This problem is aggravated by the lack of explanatory boards which are barely alleviated with a monumental guidebook (88 pages) that can only be found as a single item in the show.


View apocryphal Cologne. Images of coloniality in Spain : Orientalism . Courtesy MUSAC .

In any case, the exhibit allows reflecting on historic manipulation and construction in order to justify chapters of the Spanish history which no longer can be hidden underneath a silence carpet: the Christian Reconquest, the “discovering” of America and its following colonization, the African, Rif and Manila wars in 19th century and the most recent and still traumatic Spanish Civil War. Contemporary artists give us the key to free ourselves from blindness and to question the reality we’ve been and we’re being told. This way we are able to return each event to its true form and to avoid the sleepiness which poisons the citizen because of the massive information society.


View apocryphal Cologne. Images of coloniality in Spain : VIOLENCE . courtesy MUSAC.

Concha Jerez: Interferencias en los medios: 19th July, 2014 – 6th January, 2015

Carolee Schneemann: Obras de historia: 19th July, 2014 – 7th December, 2014

Colonia apócrifa. Imágenes de la colonialidad en España: 21th June, 2014 – 6th January, 2015

Diego Fraile



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