La Capella, Barcelona, Spain
A Museum Of Gesture
27 November 2013 - 19 January 2014
From the press release
Artists: Erick Beltrán, Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, Mark Leckey, Jaume ‘Mal’ Ferrete Vazquez & R. Marcos Mota, Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, and Ultra-red.
Curated by Sabel Gavaldon.
Gesture remains beyond the grasp of historians. Elusive by nature, the domain of gesture is often overlooked as a minor subject. While everyone would probably agree that bodies ‘speak’ - and many will be quick to point out that some bodies ‘speak differently’ - little attention is paid to the political histories and cultural struggles that traverse the different languages of gesture, style and bodily attitudes. The artists in this exhibition excavate just a handful of these unseen histories, each of them proposing radically diverse genealogies of gesture. But one might say that their works are informed by at least one common, inalienable principle: that the meaning of gestures is, and should remain, always in dispute.
‘A Museum of Gesture’ brings together a constellation of works by artists and collectives who examine gesture as a space of resistance, engaging with the transformative grammars and the expressive codes invented by political minorities, subcultures and subordinate groups. The exhibition departs from an understanding of gesture as an enactment of cultural inscription in the body. Here, however, the accent is not on gesture as the visible expression of a given identity, but rather on the potential of minoritarian practices and emergent political subjects to invent new bodies and to produce unexpected orchestrations of gesture, capable of offending the silent majority and posing a challenge to the normative world.
The title of the exhibition refers to a project in the first decades of the 20th century, which sought to establish a Museum of Gesture in France. Halfway between science and propaganda, this now-forgotten museum (one of the first institutions ever devoted to collecting films and sound recordings) evolved into an ethnographic archive, taking part in the Colonial Exposition of 1931. In dialogue with the works of contemporary artists, ‘A Museum of Gesture’ presents a display of archival materials reflecting on the impact of the moving image on the scientific representation of gesture, as well as its relation to the colonial economies of the 19th century. This archival display revolves around the films and writings of Félix Regnault, a physiologist and pioneering ethnographer who is, arguably, a crucial figure in understanding the biopolitics of modernity, as it epitomises the incorporation of the human body into the scientific discourses that had developed over the course of a century.
Against this background, the artists in the exhibition present, as it were, their own museums of gesture, making space for bodies and practices that resist being delineated, that no longer fit in confined categories or established typologies. Beyond identity politics, these works encourage us to take control of those techniques used to produce sexual, racial and class difference that have been so central to power since the 19th century, and ask us to question the definitions of the body - both individual and collective - inherited from modernity.