Azure Neon Body

Vong Phaophanit
1994, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain and Cass Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood, UK
L 7m x W 0.5m x D 0.5mD
Clear blue neon Lao script
Commissioned for the exhibition 'Cocido y Crudo' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 1994 Madrid, and Cass Sculpture Foundation
Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Dan Cameron
Afrika (Sergei Bugaev), Janine Antoni, Stefano Arienti, Sadie Benning, Xu Bing, Pedro Cabrita ReisGeneviève Cadieux, Victoria Civera, Juan Dávila, Wim Delvoye, Mark Dion, Eugenio Dittborn, Willie Doherty, Lili Dujourie, Marlene Dumas, Jimmie Durham, Maria Eichhorn, Sylvie Fleury, Renée Green, Mona Hatoum, José Antonio Hernández-Diez, Gary Hill, Damien Hirst, David Horan, Narelle Jubelin, Kcho (Alexis Leyva Machado), Bodys Isek Kingelez, Martin Kippenberger, Igor Kopystiansky, Svetlana Kopystiansky, Mariusz Kruk, Eva Lofdahl, Rogelio López Cuenca, Petr Lysáček, Paul McCarthy, Marlene McCarty, Tatsuo Miyajima, Pedro Mora, Juan Luis Moraza, Yasumasa Morimura, Jean Baptiste Ngnetchopa, Marcel Odenbach, Gabriel Orozco, Vong Phaophanit, Pierre et Gilles (Pierre Commoy, Gilles Blanchard), Keith Piper, Rosângela Rennó, Faith Ringgold, Allen Ruppersberg, Doris Salcedo, Julia Scher, Kiki Smith, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Sue Williams, Fred Wilson

‘In his famous study The Raw and the Cooked (1964) the Belgian anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss develops an anthropological study about the confrontation between advanced and primitive societies through a summary of concepts of culinary culture – on the degree of the complexity in their food – the conclusions of which he extrapolates to a general plan that allows him to state the inevitable tendency of Western societies in the first world to define their identity by comparing themselves to the other, a phenomenon that is not reciprocal. The exhibition curator, Dan Cameron, intends to submit this idea to criticism, offering an alternative -he begins by inverting the terms in the title- and, through the work of fifty-four artists, he highlights how colonialism, in the field of artistic production and within the emerging trends of the Nineties, is based on the exchange of multiple cultural positions. That is, Cameron aims to include art in the debate on cultural identity, to do this, he brings together works in which dehierarchises the speaker’s viewpoint and breaks the theoretical and artistic bipolarity that is dominant in the U.S. and Europe.

One of the key ideas of the exhibition is the fact that artists think globally while they work with local materials and ideas (political and social or identity and race issues). In this way, the main themes in the projects presented are: anthropological resonances, (Victoria Civera, Doris Salcedo); cultural myths (Yasumasa Morimura, KCHO); the body as a landscape (Geneviève Cadieux), or as currency and transaction (Marlene Dumas, Marcel Odenbach, Keith Piper); the exploration and relevance of forbidden imagery (Afrika); money as a support of social values (Jean-Baptiste Ngnetchopa) or issues of exile and migration. The participation of artists with an African-American heritage is powerful, as well as those others whose origins lie in countries not traditionally considered first-ranking cultures: Congo, Zaire, Cameroon or Laos. In this case, we see that their work has a bearing on the construction of a “stylistic identity which in turn implies a process of fictionalising the version received from history,” according to Cameron, in which they are passive actors (Faith Ringgold, Fred Wilson).

The exhibition reveals the existence of a critical paradigm with history (violating the form or the agreement of the significant meanings, as noted by the work of Juan Luis Moraza) and also addressed to cultural institutions through the criticism of social meta-structures (as is the case with architects, urban planners and sculptors Mark Dion, Bodys Isek Kingelez and Tatsuo Miyajima). At other times, it is the exploration of art as a cultural artistic system (Igor y Svetlana Kopystiansky).

The concept of mapping – both in the geographical and bodily sense – is of special relevance to the extent that it refers literally and conceptually to actions on territories (real, symbolic or metaphoric), their modification, creation of myths, systematisation and configuration. Its purpose, therefore, is to vindicate the aesthetic minority and highlight problems of global nature developed in postcolonial culture.’ (From the Website of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía)