Guillermo Kuitca’s installation Untitled has the character of a stage set. On the twenty child-sized beds that make up the installation, Kuitca has painted road maps of Europe. The mattresses are punctuated by irregularly placed buttons, serving as markers for major cities. While the place names can be read by the viewer, Kuitca is not interested in the specific locations the maps represent. In fact, they are chosen precisely because the places themselves had no particular personal significance for him. He has said of them: ‘from the beginning the places named in the maps didn’t represent anything I knew, had seen in films, nor read in books; no here or there, just names. The name and its sound and resonance.’ (Guillermo Kuitca: Burning Beds - A Survey 1982-1994, 1994, p. 17.)
In contrast, the ready-made mattresses that Kuitca used in his work bring with them vivid associations. Individually they suggest childhood, and the intimacy and security of the bedroom, but together they take on a grimly institutional quality. The sense of ‘isolation’ Kuitca has spoken of is heightened by the placement of the maps over the mattresses. Private and public spaces are conflated, the image of a restrictive, invasive culture imposed on personal life. Despite this fragmentary nature of the cartography, the possibility remains that it represents a dream landscape that might connect the individual occupants of the beds.
Although Kuitca’s work is not overtly political, and he does not explicitly address the culture of his country, the alienated mood and institutional anonymity of his work communicate something of the turbulent, sometimes repressive, recent history of Argentina, where he lives and works. Kuitca himself describes his themes as more universal. He has said that his series of map paintings, of which this installation is a part, works towards a definition of ‘trauma’, and the small beds, presented en masse, could suggest a frightening return of a traumatic childhood memory. The diminutive size of the beds contributes to this uncanny quality, for as Kuitca has commented, even when seen up close, the size of the mattresses can give the viewer the slightly disorienting impression of still being some distance from them. It is an exaggeration of the point of view that Kuitca locates in all of his work.
Guillermo Kuitca: Burning Beds – A Survey 1982-1994, exhibition catalogue, Contemporary Art Foundation, Amsterdam, 1994.
Olga Viso, ‘Guillermo Kuitca: Connection and Contradiction’ in Distemper: Dissonant Themes in the Art of the 1990s, exhibition catalogue, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, 1996, pp.66-77.
Guilermo Kuitca, exhibition catalogue, Hauser and Wirth, Zurich, 2001.
Revised August 2005