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Fundación Proa: Labyrinths

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dates: 03 September – November 2022

Curator: Cecilia Jaime – Mayra Zolezzi

The labyrinths are real spaces, crossroads enclosures and mental dilemmas. “Places created by man to get lost” according to Borges and places to lock up mythological and literary monsters since ancient times. 

On Saturday, September 3, Fundación Proa inaugurates the exhibition “Labyrinths” that exhibits examples of history, literature, cinema and the plastic arts, taking a tour of its rooms organized into four thematic nuclei.

The first -as an introduction- with a 360º video installation, shows the origin of the labyrinth in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, later as a religious symbol, later -in the Renaissance- inside the human being, until reaching the contemporaneity that expands technically to the labyrinth of the internet, considered the largest in the world.

The second nucleus, the city as a labyrinth, exhibits engravings of the mythical Jericho present in manuscripts made by master scribes, going through the prisons of Giovanni Battista Piranesi and reaching works by contemporary artists with intricate cities, real or imaginary, such as the plans of León Ferrari, Xul Solar’s watercolors or Dan Graham’s pinwheel.

The labyrinth in literature is the third thematic axis that presents texts by Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, Julio Cortázar and Manuel Mujica Láinez.
Labyrinths are sacred and pagan, they represent the path to perdition or salvation and can provoke, as Borges points out in an interview, fear but also hope; fear because we are lost, hope because there is a center, a plane, an architecture. 

In the last room , the presence of the labyrinth in the body is exposed  ;  as Antonella Bussanich suggests in her video Of her,  which begins with the tracing of a labyrinth in the sand  in allusion to  the one in Chartres Cathedral, until it transforms into a human brain  through a juxtaposition and fusion of images  . This idea is  also found in the works of Yoan Capote  -who starts from the design of the brain to address it as a labyrinthine space- and  Michelangelo Pistoletto,  where the  viewer  becomes  part of  an installation going through its labyrinth until finally meeting the reflection of oneself, like a Narcissus in the water.

In this room we can find scientific illustrations dating from the 18th century of the labyrinth of the ear -which gives its name to the complex cavities of the inner ear-, confirming the presence of a constitutive labyrinthine space of our organism.

Each of these proposals is accompanied by room texts and activities during the exhibition that are intended to delve into the different meanings, uses and adaptations of the labyrinth that national and international artists of all times give it, highlighting the enigma that continues raising.


Interview with Adriana Rosenberg 

How did the exhibition “Labyrinths” come about?
The idea was born a few months ago when reflecting on the complex current problems, both nationally and internationally. We have always considered that cultural institutions should be in tune with events. It happens that holding international exhibitions requires a long time to seal agreements and, sometimes, it happens that reality goes one way and the exhibitions go the other. That is why we try to have a flexible calendar to be able to dialogue with the context.

What antecedents exist in Fundación Proa that evidence this reality-exhibition relationship?
The exhibition “Anxiety and Devotion. Images of the Present” (2003), curated by Rodrigo Alonso, showed the ability of art to glimpse reality. It originated in a conversation with him about how the cinema had known how to account for the events of 2001 and 2002 while we could not find a similar precedent in the visual arts. A few months later Alonso proposed the sample; Proa moved its calendar and it could be done. We value the gesture of being able to dialogue with reality.

Another recent example was the international exhibition “La Suite”, carried out with great ingenuity during the pandemic. For its part, “Arte en Juego” was a response to the exhaustion of the confinement due to the health crisis; we proposed a playful situation, of games, with a view to the future. Both exhibitions were the result of a reflection on reality.

In that sense, “ Labyrinths ” is also a response to the current uncertainty imagined by artists.

How is the labyrinth related to our reality?
It is a time of perplexity and at all times we wonder what will happen in the near future, both nationally and internationally. We are immersed in a world of complex images and news, in which everyday life becomes very unstable and in which, somehow, we do not see the way out. History shows us that this has already happened in the past and we try to find a name for this collective perception of great concern. Thus, the concept of “labyrinth” arose as a word that brings together a sensation, an emotion, a place.

What can art spaces do with the idea of ​​a labyrinth?
Cecilia Jaime and Mayra Zolezzi, the curators of the exhibition, enthusiastic about the proposal, began to investigate and upon confirming that the labyrinth was present in innumerable civilizations and cultures throughout time, they proposed the exhibition, whose result is seen in the exhibition from the hand of art. We know the labyrinth by familiarity with Borges and it is through him that the field is opened to many and diverse disciplines.

Art proposes and history teaches. That is why the exhibition includes engravings and stories of myths and fables. We rescue the doing and the word of the artists. The voices of writers, film directors and visual artists emerged and, with videos, documents, photographs, images of nature, we traced an extraordinary panorama about the labyrinths that, as Borges said in his book “Manual of fantastic zoology” : “they are a house made for people to get lost”.

Many of these creators try to get to the center of the labyrinth and offer answers to find the way out. They call for patience, because the problem is not staying in the labyrinth but finding the way out; And you never know how long it will take.

How is the labyrinth idea transformed into an exhibition?
The labyrinth is a concept found in all disciplines. Proa is an institution dedicated to art and that is why we decided to limit the exhibition to the artistic world in all its languages ​​and exhibit the various artistic practices, from engraving to the most contemporary technology, such as the 360-degree surround room.

What is the curatorial narrative of the show like?
We focused our gaze on the artists and creators and decided to divide the rooms thematically.

Room 1 opens the exhibition with an immersive 360-degree video-installation. “LABIRINTH. Storia di un segno” presents the story of the labyrinth in six minutes. It is an exceptional document on the importance of the myth and its historical evolution, produced for the FMR [Franco Maria Ricci] Foundation in Parma.

Room 2 presents “The City as a labyrinth”. We start from the first images of Jericho, the oldest city, and from there we go through the prisons of Giovanni Battista Piranesi in dialogue with the Argentine artists Pablo Siquier, Jorge Miño, Xul Solar, Edgardo Giménez and the outstanding Brazilian artist Regina Silveira. In the central part is the Dan Graham labyrinth designed especially for Proa. This room brings together generations of very diverse artists and techniques and, in the manner of the new curatorial concepts, the images are organized to form a great story.

Room 3 Dedicated to the “Labyrinth in literature and cinema”. The extraordinary surrealist magazine “Minotaure” founded in 1932 by Albert Skira and edited by André Breton, Pierre Mabille and E. Tériade, is the antecedent that we chose due to the extension of the Minotaur’s meanings and to account for the importance of the avant-garde and how they reinterpreted the concept of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Each of the 13 copies is designed by the great artists of the time: Picasso, Duchamp, Dalí, Magritte, among many others. Published articles provide a comprehensive overview of prevailing ideas in both the arts and sciences.

In May 1939, a curious coincidence occurred that reunited Paris with Buenos Aires. In volume 12-13 of “Minotaure” the real Dr. Pierre Menard published Analyze de l’Écriture de Lautréamont  (Analysis of Lautréamont’s writing) while in the same month and year Jorge L. Borges published “Pierre Menard, Autor del Quijote” (No. 56, magazine “Sur”).

The presence of Argentine writers in this room translates into the voices and images of Borges, Mujica Láinez and Cortázar, with different meanings of the “labyrinth”. The scene is completed by documentary photos of the labyrinths made in honor of Borges in Mendoza and Venice, along with the one created in Parma.

In the specially built auditorium, a tribute to cinema is paid with an audiovisual piece made in Proa with the sequences of the “Labyrinth in the cinema”. It is a 35-minute video that covers fragments of films, with images from Orson Wells to David Bowie, from 1920 to the present day.

Room 4 closes the exhibition by proposing a reflection on the labyrinth as an inner state, with the works of Michelangelo Pistoletto who takes up the myth of Narcissus and confronts us with the dilemma of asking ourselves who Theseus is and who the Minotaur is. Horacio Zabala with his “I’m in a Labyrinth”, and Javier Bilatz with his new technologies invite us to think about the inner labyrinth. The recreation of Yoan Capote’s work on the cerebral lobes and the anatomical drawings of the auditory labyrinth allow us to ask ourselves if the labyrinth is in our thoughts and in the various paths of life itself.

What is the conclusion of the sample?
In a year of profound upheaval at the global level, where life itself has become a labyrinth, it is important to remember that all labyrinths have an exit, some, even two. We try to provide tools from art, which always proposes creativity, new ideas and ways to see how to find the way out, it is simply necessary to stay. Stay in thoughts, reflections, anchor in the present.

One of the great symptoms of the crisis and the contemporary maelstrom is the anxiety caused by uncertainty in relation to the future, to the way out, to the resolution of problems. With this exhibition, we intend to formulate questions through works that examine these themes, to invite viewers to participate in another time, different from that of the street. The time of art, which invites reflection and sometimes offers a way out.


Fundación PROA

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