Óscar Muñoz



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Not on display
Óscar Muñoz born 1951
Video, 3 projections with colour and sound, 3 wooden tables, paper
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2012
On long term loan


Sedimentaciones (in English ‘Sedimentations’) consists of three tables onto which filmed images are projected from overhead projectors. Two of them have the same arrangement, with some variations, while the third is different. They are shown together as a group in a darkened room. The projection covers the entire surface of each table, which effectively acts as a horizontal screen. The first two films show two plastic photographic developing trays sitting in opposite corners of the respective tables. Each tray is filled with water and has a sink-hole or drain towards one end. Organized on the table in the space between them are many photographs and blank pieces of paper in several rows. A hand appears, takes one of the photographs and dips it in water; the image dissolves and goes down the drain. The hand takes the blank paper out of the tray and puts it randomly within the row of images. In the opposite corner, another hand takes a blank paper from one of the rows, dips it in the other tray, and an image (not the same one that has just disappeared) forms itself as if by magic on the paper (in reality, the video image of the first action is played in reverse). The process repeats itself ad infinitum, in an ongoing process of the life and death of the image.

On the third table (which has the subtitle Editor Solitario, meaning ‘Solitary Editor’) there are also several rows of photographs and blank papers, but no trays. At the exact point where there is an image in the projection, there is a small stack of actual pieces of paper on the table, which adds to the realistic effect (the projected photograph lands on an actual piece of paper of the same size). In the film a hand takes one image and places it somewhere else, beside or on top of another one, as if in a game of solitaire – hence the subtitle – but it is a game whose rules are not familiar. There seems to be some sort of logic, sometimes thematic (as when the image of an unknown black boy is placed on top of an image of Michael Jackson as a child), sometimes formal (several bearded men placed one after another, or a well-known image of a girl trapped by a ledge in a natural disaster in Colombia placed alongside Nick Ut’s iconic 1972 photograph of a Vietnamese girl wounded by napalm). The video has an unobtrusive soundtrack of the dealing of cards, as if someone was playing solitaire.

Speaking specifically of this work, Muñoz has stated:

[Sedimentaciones] is a way to unravel a history, not from a temporal standpoint but rather a spatial one. I was interested in presenting a kind of anachronic set of relations on a black background, like Aby Warburg’s Atlas Mnemosyne, or like in old family albums, with relationships between images of different moments in time, and thus establish the vicinity that can exist between two images apparently so far from each other … [But these] are not static images which remain, they are ever-changing relations, in construction with those images that we consume every day. Some are added and others are displaced.
(Oscar Muñoz in conversation with María Wills, in Banco de la República 2011, p.159.)

Sedimentaciones is a work that summarises much of Muñoz’s practice to date. Over several decades he has made works and installations that address the relationship between photography, representation and memory, often with a political subtext which references his native country, Colombia. However, his work has resonance beyond this specific context, as it touches upon universal issues around the nature of photography, the workings of memory, the recording of history and the role of images in the public realm.

Further reading
José Roca, Óscar Muñoz: Protografías, exhibition catalogue, Banco de la República, Bogotá 2011, p.159.

José Roca
May 2012

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