Artes Mundi 5: Tania Bruguera, Teresa Margolles, Apolonija Šušteršič and Phil Collins

By Ben Borthwick | 30 October 2012
Artes Mundi 5: Curator Ben Borthwick tells us about the four artists in the upstairs section of this year's exhibition...

Tania Bruguera (Cuba)

A photo of a young woman standing up in front of placards encouraging immigrant respect
Tania Bruguera, Immigrant Respect Campaign (2012). Posters, enamel pins, light monument, moral contract© Courtesy Tania Bruguera. Photo: Wales News Picture
"Tania has chosen not to present work in the galleries. She’s a performance artist, a social activist, and for her the institution is not necessarily the most productive space for her to work or show in.

Instead, she’s more interested in using some of the processes of the institution – rather than the human spaces – to build relationships with different social groups.

Her contribution is the Immigrant Respect campaign. There are a number of different elements: one is a moral contract that all visitors are invited to sign.

All visitors can sign, stating that they will support and defend the rights of migrants in the workplace and in public spaces. All participants get a pin to support it."

Apolonija Šušteršič (Slovenia)

A photo of a female artist sitting on a fold up chair on synthetic grass inside a gallery
Apolonija Šušteršič, Politics In Space / Tiger Bay Project (2012). Platform, teo video monitors, artificial grass, billboard, video projection, camping chains, newspaper© Courtesy Apolonija Šušteršič. Photo: Wales News Picture
"Apolonija looks at the development of the Cardiff Bay area through a film with interviews.

What do we do with these remnants of an industrial past that don’t seem to have any future? This project is a kind of excavation of some of the issues around the democratic process, whether it’s observed or bypassed compared to the social and cultural concerns of the people who live in the area.

The square where we watch the film from is made of grass. She’s made a newspaper which relates this to a number of her other projects.

She’s generally worked with developing projects over a few years. It’s really like a proposal. These are major decisions that will completely transform the lives of people in the city."

Teresa Margolles (Mexico)

A photo of a large section of white tiling lit up inside an otherwise darkened art gallery
Teresa Margolles, 32 anos Levantamiento y traslado donde cayo el cuerpo asesinado del artista Luis Miguel Suro (2006). Concrete and ceramic© Courtesy Teresa Margolles / Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich. Photo: Wales News Picture
"Beneath each metal plate there’s a hot plate that heats up the metal. Water drops down onto them creating a hiss which evaporates the water into little bits of steam.

Over in the corner there’s a set of headphones with what sounds like an abstract electronic visceral piece of music. And then there’s this piece of tiling.

We have 105 tiles – generic, industrial, this is the site where a very close friend of Teresa was found murdered in their studio. She’s excavated this square.

It was first presented at a small show in Mexico in 2006. It’s not a piece that she’s very public about, because it’s too intimate, but through our discussions we realised it would be a very good piece to present in dialogue with the other pieces.

The idea is that each work will hold the attention for about a minute. Her friend was a ceramicist. Teresa’s background was in forensics. She worked in a morgue for a long time.

As drug farming in Mexico increased after the late 1990s, the morgue suddenly became a kind of social space within Mexican society where people would gather. Suddenly, bodies had names and families.

All that we have is an unsolved crime.  All that we can do is look at it and try to understand it.

The water that drops onto the plates has been used to wash bodies in a morgue. It would be very easy to try and sensationalise and make this a gruesome, gory work, and that is something that follows Teresa around, but the more you look and learn about Teresa, the more you learn it’s intimate, and about respect for the dead and the way violence circulates through the media.

That’s where the story is. To me, there’s something really magical and alchemical about this work. It brings out the coldness of minimalism."

Phil Collins (England)

A photo of a man in a colourful checked coat outside a gallery flanked by two caravans
Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us (2011). Performance in two parts broadcast live on German public television© Courtesy Shady Lane Productions. Photo: Wales News Picture
"When Phil came on a site visit we spent quite a lot of time exploring the architecture of the galleries and working out which space would be helpful for his presentation.

Phil often works with musicians, and a lot of his works arise from collaboration. I used to be a music journalist and I thought ‘Phil – great, we’re gonna get to do a really cool music project.’ We decided that just wouldn’t work actually, but this is one of Phil’s strongest pieces.

It’s the result of a series of community projects he’s done in cities around the world. He builds a relationship with a  high street photo lab who will promote a project where anyone can bring their 35mm films in, get them developed for free, but they have to sign a waiver that Phil can use any of the images he chooses.

This carousel of 80 slides is drawn from five iterations of the project. We end up with a picture of the times in which we live.

Phil is using his position as an artist to communicate big moments in the lives of people. It’s about memory – when we look back at this image, what does it unlock? What are the connections for us individually and for those who don’t know the back story?

The beauty of the piece is you can’t make a narrative, we can’t really understand the world in which we live in any complete sense. That’s a recurring theme of the whole exhibition.

Phil’s other contribution is at Chapter, where he’s made This Unfortunate Thing Between Us."

Artes Mundi 5 is at National Museum Cardiff until January 13 2013. Follow the prize on Twitter @ArtesMundi. See our Preview and Ben Borthwick's views on the three accompanying finalists.
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