Juan Muñoz Wasteland, 1987

Juan Muñoz
Wasteland 1987
Courtesy Collection of Elayne and Marvin Mordes, USA © The estate of Juan Muñoz

The Wasteland 1987 was Muñoz’s first large-scale installation, taking its title from the poem by T.S. Eliot. The patterned surface simultaneously invites the viewer into the space and elongates the distance between the spectator and the small bronze figure sitting demurely on a shelf, its feet dangling in the air. Muñoz’s optical floor recalls antique Roman architecture, but also suggests a stage onto which the viewer has unwittingly stepped. The floor distinguishes an area and builds an expectation for some kind of exchange between the figure and the viewer to occur.

Muñoz was fascinated by illusion and used simple devices to destabilise the viewer’s experience. Our movements and our relationship to the object are guided, not to direct our interpretation of the work, but to ensure that we appreciate the illusion without being distracted by the mechanism of the trick.