Rev., Oct 20, 2019.
Note: This is a thoughtpiece grounded in my POV and not that of the artist, based on far-sight of the exhibition on the internet, it is not a review. All pics from Cad.
But the best example of how Murillo worked out the wholeness or at least explored the intercessional space behind or within his paintings is found in his Turner Prize project for Margate this year. The interesting thing here is that at first I saw bad pictures of it and hated it, but, then, it began to grow on me; and, now, I am writing about it. The work actually consists of four elements on site, then a fifth in the prologue. On site, there is the entryway, with a Victorian painting in it, to mark the nexus of the issue, marking its permanence. Then, there are the paintings, here, however, rendered as a kind of curtaining, to create a special space; then, there are the benches with the New Year’s Old Year effigies on them, and, then, lastly, there is a window in front of them. It looks out onto the North Sea from Margate, but Murillo has blocked that window with mylar curtains, except for one small v-shaped chink, for them at least to yearn for the light. All in all, then, it represents a kind of chapel, but, worse, a waiting room, a limbo, where immigrants get stuck.
The breakdown of ritual space in the most general way is that there is an approach, an entry, a getting into it, then a departing. There is a pronaos, a cella, and an opistodomos space; out front in a cave set up the pronaos was also called the frontisterion. The presence of a full ritual space is more and more being seen in conceptual art that seeks to take the viewer somewhere. In this one, then, there is the nexus point in the pronaos, where, greeting us, there is a Victorian painting of immigrants by John Watson Nichols, Lochaber
Nichols did sentimental pictures of men of the old sod being forced to move, either from Ireland to Scotland, or from Scotland to America, because of poverty or noble abuses; but here as usual it is a genre painting where the man is the thinking-out-the-problem rock, while the woman is all collapsed in woe. He did genre pictures. In general, in spite of what an exhibit up in Germany says now, a genre picture on the wall of a home in the 19th century was there for the purpose of settling down daily worry and just telling people, in the manner of a daily prayer, don’t lose hope, keep it up, keep your nose to the grindstone. They preached the values of everyday survival, in a homely way. Nichols did all sorts of these, mostly it seems warning woman off scheming travelling salesmen. There may then be an element of irony implied, by an audience having come to see immigration as a heartbreaking thing, to be moped over in sentimental imagery, but for the grace of god……But, it is here, in the pronaos, it has a more pronounced situation, as a Way of the World painting, which you often see in movies at the front door, negotiating coming and going, so it signals in a more general way that this installation is going to be about immigration, and immigration is a very, very old problem, nothing new in it. Then, we step in.
The first thing to notice is that the painting is really a curtain. It was actually somewhat common for temples in ancient Greece to have curtains. But this is certainly, when you think of looking at it as a curtain, the most expansive gesture of his paintings Murillo has tried, it is a panorama. A panorama as a painting pictures trouble coming, so the Surge here is meant to activate at this point, with a sense of theatricality, entrance into the cella, the main space where the cult image was kept. A lot of it is left black. The painting is Murillo’s usual rough stroking, just to cover acreage, it is expansive. It takes up not only all the entoptic zone, as it is entoptic painting, but its scope, then it swinging round to the sides, signifies that it is also ambient, with, in the black, an echo of the sentient universe without it sounding its woe
we see here that it goes pretty much all across the side wall, but as it does it goes totally black, so it reverts to curtain.
there is some address to the immigrant issue in the facture of the painting, as indicated by this close-up. So, it is the theme
the whole view
to work it out, the painting is the centerpiece, but, here, it is formatted as an expanded canvas, a curtain made out of particular materials that he makes use of. It is of the Surge series, and painted in his usual standing, housepainter’s quick brushstroke style.
a number of people reported feeling claustrophobic in the set-up, if that is so that means that the blackness and the heaviness of the material closed in, sort of cancelling out the expansive intent of Surge. But, then, that would make of the space a temporary refuge from being “out there,” and by “out there” in an immigrant situation, I mean the travel itself, in peril, when one is in passage, and in danger; then, I imagine, there are moments when you are captured, or caught, or brought into the system, and, just for the warmth, or the survival, you momentarily feel safe; but, then, might also have got a case of phobia, so never want to go out there again. So, this sets up the tableaux of the people sitting on the benches.
these are, not, strictly speaking sculptures, though I suppose they were made by him, or for him, but there are folklore effigies. They represent the ills of the old year, and the word is that in Colombia, where Murillo lived til age 9, you light them up to purge all the ills of the old year, to start afresh. Thus, in their nature, they represent “the people” nicely, without any pretention (I would compare them in their blank face simplicity to the pinatas that Rachel Harrison used in her Trump piece at Greene in June, 2016, warning us). They are also generic, so talk of an anthroparion situation, their humanity has been worn away by the process, they are just a number at this point. They, as New Year’s Eve purging figures, represent as well all the shit they have gone through, with some hope that things will get better; but with, always, the fear that at some point they are just going to snap, or the process is going to kill them.
in pictures of the real thing, in rite
I see cardboard signage naming them, so maybe Murillo has negated that naming
the only art world reference I can make with regard to the pipe through the stomachs is Robert Gober’s Virgin with pipe through her, in the 90s
he also put the pipe through other objects
this is a general structure commenting on the nature of mechanical rational materialist life in today’s world, providing you gut wrenching life moments (a special Greek word signified this particular state, “splanchisma”, from stomach (splanchma the sacrificial meat shared after a sacrifice); the word is only used in the New Testament twice, most prominently to describe the emotions of a father when he saw his Prodigal Son returning); moments too of sick-of-it-ness at just the process of life, the throughputitness of life, the people then representing that in a way we are all reduced to piping in the system, nothing but cogs in the machine (an image which goes back in British horror to The Quatermass Experiment (1956)). It is the pipe symbolism that indicates a force being brought from the dark universe–in my terms, the Sentient zone beyond, where turbulent psallictive forces work to tear you apart. This can, indeed, happen in one’s own den chair (see “mother of god” video of James Brolin in The Amityville Horror (1979)). It is a pretty bleak symbol, the world is going to fuck you up, and with Murillo, by making the opening large as a pail, with rocks put in, it also signifies a gutting, that is, one literally having one’s guts disemboweled, by the process, by the experience, to the point of almost losing one’s humanity. While at first, then, looking upon them as sculptures, I thought these forms were weak; as effigies, brought in, then treated as they are, and part of an ongoing Collective Conscious (2015-2019) piece, meaning that they act like a chorus in a Greek play, tormenting us with call and response, they work much better.
but, then, they are not let to look out at the sea, the window with the beautiful view is blocked
this is quite the view, otherwise
artists have made use of it before, often in a “romantic “ way, that is, in the ballpark of what I imagine the normal visitor response is, great view, wow, as it would be, unless, that is, you were an immigrant that just got off that sea, and barely survived.
it is a major element of the museum, and kind of a symbol of where things are in Margate (run down for a long time, but, with support from Tracey Emin, making a comeback), Turner’s stomping grounds.
but Murillo will have none of it
an immigrant would not think the view romantic, and it is unlikely they would stop to look at it, if they were in the middle of it (I can find no image of the small chink he left open, for them to peek out, but if it relates to the wedge form I have found in old movies situated over people’s head then it might symbolize something bad, possession, madness, as well as a bit of hope left).
Then, surprising me, because I did not see it until later (and this tying in to the ongoing nature of the Conscience project, which I have not paid enough attention to to detail), there was an item that Murillo had one more scenario up his sleeve to situate these figures entirely in a predicament of agency push-pull on every side. In London, he had staff and volunteers take a figure each, and then take it on the train down to Margate. It occasioned a number of fun pictures of mannequins being helped
on the train
I guess they were heavy, this also brings age into the picture
the ha ha photographic aspect of these shots, and of this performance, which I get some people might think trivializes things, is that the effigies are cumbersome, and troublesome; but, then, you can get them into situations where they fade right in and it feels like they are just part of the crowd like everyone else, so why do you feel so special for not being one of them, it could be you. There, but for the grace of god. Fine, I do, however, find the sitting a bit with the effigies aspect of this project to be a tad sentimental, as if this will teach you to be a better human being
I don’t think this is, in fact, the point. In fact, what the journey aspect of things does to the installation is to provide a prologue wind up to give further spin and speed to the splat of arriving at the destination, which turns out, in the maze of waiting rooms in which they are trapped, to be another waiting room, another interminable camp out, like at ER, or in an airport in a snowstorm; it is pure, awful, horrible, systemic life, the boredom and tedium of the system, with only a glimmer of hope, but it is very slow in coming. So, the people that the effigies represent might well have thought they were finally getting somewhere, but, then, it only ends up that they are put into another waiting room, and they end up waiting again, again reduced to effigies (and we saw that in the bureaucratization of holding immigrants entering the US from Mexico in the past 18 months that this maze of places might well involve separation from family, being shipped off to who knows where, to sit in “cages” or fenced in places), it is horrible. Thus, the installation in the end IS, I think, a nightmare scenario.
that is, one comes in, on the journey, one feels part of the crowd, and, since the crowd is part of the new country, you are part of a new country; one is not so very different, is one. But, then, one comes to the site of the next processing. A sentimental Victorian picture reinforces that you are in England (I do love all this old Victorian genre works, my phase was with Landseer), it is about immigration, it reassures you, there will be a humane reception. But, then, while the curtains appear, imagistically, to have a sympathetic theme, recalling the ocean crossing, being about what you have been through, the material, and the blanks, then the presence of that all over curtain begins to close in on you. You are shown benches, that makes you all but faint, NOT AGAIN! no more waiting; but, now, once again, you are committed to hours waiting, waiting, and waiting some more; this drains you of your humanity all over again, it is gut wrenching, it is as if a pipe pierces you and you are being poured away. Then, even the view of promise, the sea, the tourist shot of Margate, is deprived you, you are stuck with only a faint glimmer of hope. So, at last, you can’t take it, you bottom out, go splat, as evoked by the fate of these effigies, and that propels you into a bounce out black out space past nightmare in which you are entirely lost and have given up hope.
This theme was, of course, reinforced in the past week by news that 39 Vietnamese were found dead in a trafficker’s semi truck, being carted from here to there in an under ground trade in humans. Is this not the pipe, is this not the waiting room, is this not the black out, is this not the nightmare? the constant fear, it is
these are people, yet for profit, some other people traffick them in a life-threatening way
this is England, land washed over eternally by an endless movement of peoples, of history. The forms, the shapes, note the tent here, it is all Murilloesque.
and the barrier
and all the support, the cops and robbers business that ruins so many horror movies
but I did watch again this week Moxey’s Circus of Fear (1961), and found that it had a good sense of the cops and robbers and the sleazy open-ended but also secret spaces of modern England. Nor is it entirely irrelevant to Murillo’s attempting to envision where space goes, outside of painting, in the psychogeography of the world. The movie not only has good Thames River wild spaces, but also underscores that with every generation the space is changing, here, easy access of the Thames, busy with trade, not the same today.
Then, some spaces stay the same, the brazen part here is that they rob the truck, then offload by rope pully right on the Tower Bridge, in daylight, on the Thames
but then between the brazen front space of the culture at large, and the wild or wilderness spaces of urban life (a theme much on the mind of Brit movie makers at the time), there are all these in-between transitional stages, warehouses, and the like, more or less the crawlspaces of urban life, wherein there are no rules, and, protected by the anonymity of the space, and its multiplicity, one can get away with things
the fun thing about the movie is that the criminal decides to hide out in a local circus, which has been moving about the country on the roads, settling into the crawlspace, but, then, when it unpacks, it makes for itself a counterspace inside that, where everything gives the appearance of being front and center and the scene of the action, but it is a dream, an illusion, thus the curtains, nicely done here
then that crawlspace which has dropped down into a kind of hypnagogic dream space, has its glass onion, in contact with the public, on the edge, where dangerous things happen, and in fact everything in every act is a “figure of speech” of the strange space the circus had taken up in the cubbyholes of modern industrial life
even better for us, circuses then also imply all the backstage antics and intrigue too, it is subdivided, the backstage is, which would be an ambient glass onion form, by caravans, all this is Utrillo space, a village of dreams, but more structured, a camp past it, but its all about sex and clown painings (symbolizing the double-removed involuted nature of this space).
these caravans vis-à-vis the glass onion space, where you see the women in their spangles, is where you imagine them naked, so there is also the mirror of your mind gazing into it (more clown paintings, then, weirdly, pinups, of her I think, at her boudoir mirror, I suppose for moral support)
this movie twists the knife of intrigue of space in even deeper because it’s not just about the circus on the road but the investigator catches them just as they retire to their winter camp which seems to be on the grounds of the country house of the owner, so things circle back into a classic venue of British horror, the English country house, but in a very roundabout way. I would place this in the lattice, but then adjunct.
but this never gets clear of the winter camp spaces where, because there are wild animals, can always be wild (here a lion gets out, the tamer (Christopher Lee!) must get him back in his cage).
this is all open to the ambient space beyond, the open, runaway woods, the places that need to be searched, always, in the modern world, always conducting searches for missing persons, the endless quest of the too open-spaced universe of modern industrial life.
thus Circus of Fear (1967) has all the spaces that were exploited for horror purposes in movies of the time, in Britain, but still remain, though things are always shifting, entirely appropriate today. Beyond each thing, in modern life, is a world. However many doors in the labyrinth of modern space, it is not so different in a movie from what Murillo is trying to do in a gallery, but then taken to an existential-mind level
the sleazy awful world that is so dehumanizing to all not in power, it is so imposing, it has been an object of horror in horror movies for at least 75 years. It is to be pointed out that all these are real world spaces, which sculptors and public sculpture have had to deal with for some, though it is surprising how poorly most sculpture grasps the psychogeography of space, the difference with Murillo is that he has taken an internalizing move, or a pivot to interiority, to seek to get at these places as they are reflected, as in the above graph, in the mind.
in a weird way, Murillo’s piece also counterparts the shock-the-rich strategy of Maurizio Cattellan tossing soft balls at Blenheim Palace, which exists in the country house or woods part of the scenario, a lattice place of great stability, making art which tweaks it about as controversial as afternoon tea
though there are a few horses hanging about, this can hardly be counted as anything more than a gentle ribbing of those securely in power, for whom critique tolls not.
though it does amuse me that the golden toilet, one of the inane-est meme works of art in recent times, was actually stolen by some blokes and still I get to imagine it in scenarios from de Richeleaux novels, driving all over the country roads, the Priestly novels were all about zooming roundabout on country roads, this, however, all a village of dreams, a reverie in the ambient space, creating an escapist intrigue, if still pockmarked with all sorts of luor kill spaces too (here, Tanis in The devil Rides Out (1967))
like in Circus of Fear, but searching for the missing golden toilet.
I had a dream last night. Or a hypnagogic experience, it was a typical glass onion stichomythia, that is, I saw the enclosure of Murillo’s formal art, in a graph, then I saw that by taking over the sides as well he had created a hypnagogic space, and then that those sides open out to others, and others, so, by a scirpograph of it
this is more or less what I dreamt, Interestingly, I think the point of the stichomythia, the back and forth of it was to prove to the narrating eye that the work represented a pure break with 40 years of conceptual-neoconceptual orthodoxy, wherein expanding the field of the nonetheless secure medium was the rule; and that this breaks out in a way that can only be understood by the fact that to get to these spaces Murillo had to go to new places, mapped out by me in hypnagogy, and from there, keep going. Indeed, I remember saying in a talk I gave at UNL in 2017, showing a picture of an early Cady Noland, that I was at the time (1990) working with a postformalist model, and then this showed up, and I had no tools to explain why that was art. Thus, my search for agency theory was started and has taken all this time. Interestingly enough, there is a Noland in an exhibition at the Watergate now, an early piece.
Again, this can only be explained by a dream or nightmare logic, as belonging to some element of the phthchth (from artnet) .
And, indeed, this seems to be where, more and more Murillo is going.
In a current show (Carlos/Ishikawa), he makes a point of reminding us that everything you see here is through the stretcher/looking glass
but now people, like the people under the stairs, are living in the space beyond, this I would say is still the black out space, my term is the Chthon, it is ambient
then, too, it heads out into sentient space, outside, through assemblages that seem to build from the figures or entomes or anthroparion under the bleachers, now found to have a life outside it, bounced out from nightmare into the Chthon, maybe even then by habiting out there to wander into the sentient, all of this in a dream state I call the phthchth
we seem to circle back to the in-between space, but, I think now, we are on the other side
here too, in this prototype space, similar to the space inhabited by other artists I have written about, we have the gnashing of the teeth, the breaking of rocks, the assemblages of protection
this is where I think we are, in the Chthon
then we veer out, in fact, into the sentient space of the far universe, birds pick at a plastic bag which seems, by the fact that it now and then moves to scare the birds, to be an entome of a depleted, psallicted human being
there is another video outside in the dark, where Murillo not only preps his own passage, in a vessel that is extracted within the redoubt of canvas surface and paintstroke, a kind of sleeping bag or under the canvas space
in which, in the sentient space, almost like a crime scene
he then crawls into it, to become, in fact, not unlike Patricia in Suspiria (2018), an entome, a fragment, even as the narration is a charming letter from America, telling a loved one, I’m ok, except I’m not
for these onlookers, it’s just a random encounter in the world, in rational, conscious, cultural life; they just have to walk from the corner, or the bar, it’s part of the opening, a night out. But for the figure in the canvas extension, it is more. In the psychogeography of Murillo’s art he exists after the journey, after the entry, after the inside expanded field of formalist painting space; he exists through the mediation, by ostension reborn into a dream world, unfamiliar; he comes through the forest or the sea of the ambient, across the terrible waste of the Luor, he plunges in a nightmare of acclimation into a new life, the trafficking is hard, then he is helped, taken to a receiving station, it turns out to be an art museum, but it is still the kind smile at the entry; but, then, the waiting room, another waiting room, he hits splat in the nightmare; then, out of the blackness, he bounces out to get caught in the adjunct ambient twilight zone of the Black Out, or the Chthon, and there, in that limbo, to stay, except, of course, if he wants to bolt; but then, beyond that, in the harsher spinning of the Sentient world of darkness beyond even the phthchth, there awaits Psallictus, the god of carnage who will tear you to pieces. For them, it’s just an evening out, for him, symbolically, and GPSwise in Murillo’s expansive meaning system, it is life and death (this too a classic trope, the haunted person desolate to have been wrenched out of normal life).
for now, this will have to do with me and Murillo. I believe that, though unlike others, he has maintained a connection to mainstream painting, and has up to now struggled a bit to make sense of how his impulse at performance connects with his painting; he has now figured it out, and in the process he has expanded into a prototype agency space preexistent to the formalist redoubt of the expanded field (which might not even really exist except in artists’ minds); and, for that, he has come to create art with a lineage of extraction from his painting, through the looking glass of nightmare, he has at least reached a prototype space, which I term the phthchth, which everyone recognizes as, unfortunately, a place we have created in our contemporary hypercivilized, but savage, world.