Antoni Muntadas — Activating Artifacts: About Academia

Visual Art
Antoni Muntadas — Activating Artifacts: About Academia
February 2 – March 17
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture

An opening reception will be held on Thursday, February 2, from 5 to 7 p.m., and the gallery will open for its regular viewing hours on Friday, February 3.

Organized by Niels Van Tomme, director of de Appel Art Center in Amsterdam, Antoni Muntadas — Activating Artifacts: About Academia presents a site-specific exhibition project produced in close collaboration with world-renowned multimedia artist Antoni Muntadas (Spain, 1942). Through his work, Muntadas addresses social, political and communication issues, often investigating channels of information and the ways in which they may be used to censor or promulgate ideas.

This particular exhibition project addresses a gradual but steady shift in academia, from the initial American ideal of mass public education, which developed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, towards an increasingly privatized and corporatized form of knowledge production as we know it today. 

Commissioning a major new artwork by Muntadas, Antoni Muntadas — Activating Artifacts: About Academia launches the newly produced second installment of the artist’s internationally acclaimed About Academia video installation (2009–17). In this project, which presents a critical inquiry into the structure and function of the university system, Muntadas investigates the complex and often conflicting relationship between the production of knowledge and the economic interests it generates, which increasingly entwines scholarly activities with the commodification of knowledge. Whereas About Academia installs a critique from the perspective of professors and faculty-affiliated scholars, the newly commissioned second installment further elaborates on its themes exclusively from the viewpoint of the student. To facilitate this latter process, Muntadas has initiated and is currently supervising a special educational program leading up to the exhibition, organized in partnership with UMBC’s Department of Visual Arts, in which he collaborates with students to conduct a series of filmed interviews with undergraduates and graduates from universities across the East Coast. As the overall aim of About Academia serves to create a platform for independent critical thinking about university contexts, the second installment specifically facilitates the forging of alternative models of academic education that can potentially be implemented in the future.

Antoni Muntadas — Activating Artifacts: About Academia presents for the first time the complete version of About Academia in one large, multi-channel video installation.

Antoni Muntadas was born in Barcelona in 1942 and has lived in New York since 1971. Through his work, he addresses social, political, and communication issues such as the relationship between public and private space within social frameworks, as well as investigates channels of information and the ways they may be used to censor or promulgate ideas. His projects are presented in different media such as photography, video, publications, the Internet, installations, and urban interventions.

Muntadas has taught and directed seminars at diverse institutions throughout Europe and the United States, including the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, the Fine Arts Schools in Bordeaux and Grenoble, the University of California in San Diego, the San Francisco Art Institute, the Cooper Union in New York, the University of São Paulo, and the University of Buenos Aires. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Visual Arts Program in the School of Architecture at MIT in Cambridge and the Instituto Universitario de Arquitectura del Veneto in Venice.

His work has been exhibited in numerous museums across the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Berkeley Art Museum in California, the Musée Contemporain de Montreal, the Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, while other international events in which he has participated are two editions of the Documenta in Kassel (1977 and 1997), the Whitney Biennial of American Art (1991), the 51st Venice Biennial (2005), as well as biennials in São Paulo, Lyon, Taipei, Gwangju, and Havana.

Niels Van Tomme (Belgium, 1977) is a curator, researcher, and critic working on the intersections of contemporary culture, politics, and aesthetics. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies from the University of Leuven, Belgium. Associated with the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at UMBC as a visiting curator, he merges academic research with accessible, and often confrontational exhibition making. He is the curator of the 7th Bucharest Biennale and was recently appointed as the Director of de Appel Art Center in Amsterdam.

His exhibitions and public programs have been presented at The Kitchen (New York), Värmlands Museum (Karlstad), National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans), Gallery 400 (Chicago), and Akademie der Künste (Berlin). His recent exhibition project Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen opened at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in late 2013 and is currently touring internationally, while an edited volume is available through D.A.P., Distributed Art Publishers. His curatorial endeavors have received grant awards from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Lambent Foundation, and The Nathan Cummings Foundation, as well as critical press in publications such as Afterall, Artforum, Art in America, Afterimage, and The Wall Street Journal.

Van Tomme is a Contributing Editor at Art Papers magazine, while his writings in a wide variety of publications explore contemporary art, literature, and music in relationship to broader societal and cultural developments. His latest book, Aesthetic Justice, Intersecting Artistic and Moral Perspectives, co-edited with Pascal Gielen, is forthcoming as part of the Antennae Series, Arts in Society by Valiz, Amsterdam.

Admission to the exhibition is free.

The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and is located in the Fine Arts Building. For more information call 410-455-3188.

Click here for directions and parking information.

Image: Muntadas, About Academia (production image), 2011. Courtesy of Irina Rozosvky.

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