Double Bind: Juan Muñoz’s ultimate work is shown for the first time in Spain
Fundació Sorigué presents the artist’s greatest installation, created for the Tate Modern in 2001
BY SOFÍA PALACIOS
Juan Muñoz’s frenetic artistic career achieved international and definitive recognition in 2001. He was chosen to be the second artist to display his work at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall as part of the Unilever Series project. Months later, he tragically passed away in Ibiza nonetheless, his installation Double Bind had already reached unimaginable success. It was considered a fundamental piece towards the understanding of the contemporary art scene and was truly admired by world-known critics such as Richard Dorment.
The project was curated by James Lingwood and Susan May for the Turbine Hall, a huge space located on the central space at Tate Modern that was opened for the public in 2000 for the first time. Muñoz faced smartly the challenge of the Unilever Series and created a monumental sculpted installation with intriguing settings. Due to his unexpected death, this piece inevitably became the artist’s most emotive artistic legacy. The title of the exhibition stems from the anthropologic concept ‘double bind’ which makes reference to the confusing communicational situation where an individual receives two contradictory messages.
The piece is structured in several levels aiming to surprise the viewer with different aesthetic experiences all at once. From the balcony rail, the audience can observe how two elevators glide up and down unable to escape a perpetual motion. The floor seems to be pierced by black, wide holes however some of them are just optical illusions. Below, a gloomy atmosphere storms space. The sound of darkness is just fractured by the pools of light that plunge through the shafts. The presence of his famous human figures is clearly pre-meditated as they are carefully distributed in harmony with the architectural structure.
The complex nature of this masterpiece hides an imaginary world where all the elements Muñoz employed during his artistic career collide and work together. The synergies between them enable the establishment of a dialogue with space - both horizontal and vertical -, perspective, with illusion, and with what’s visible and invisible. Art critic Adrian Seattle described the aesthetic experience of the installation as a loop where he was able to understand why the artist considered himself an illusionist rather than a sculptor.
In March 2002, the exhibition was disassembled and the installation was taken to a warehouse in Madrid. It was kept there for 13 years. During that period, many institutions such as the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Reina Sofia Museum presented proposals to show at their venues the artist’s last installation. However, Vicente Todolí (Tate Modern former director) was the only capable of rescuing Double Bind to display the piece in 2015 at Hangar Bicocca in Milán. However, nowadays it’s possible to enjoy the installation again as for the first time it’s being exhibited in Spain.
Since 2017, Fundació Sorigué and Sorigué as part of their multidisciplinary project PLANTA have arranged Muñoz’s piece at an industrial unit that had been previously used for producing cement keystones. The industrial unit was specifically transformed following the same measurements and dimension of the Turbine Hall space used for the piece back in 2001.
The installation takes up 2000 square meters, more than 100 meters long by 20 meters wide and 18 meters in height. In addition, the Foundation decided to include to this ambitious reconstruction a 40-meter long ramp so that the viewers could enjoy all the different levels of experience. Just next to Sorigué’s industrial complex located in Balaguer (Lleida), Sorigué Foundation offers visitors the opportunity to access a documentation centre which includes all different kinds of resources such as catalogues, drawings, and pictures which help to illustrate both the Double Bind creative process and the installation of the piece at PLANTA.
Despite the challenge that this enormous installation meant for many cultural institutions, the Sorigué Foundation has been able not only to show Double Bind again but also, to bring back to life the work of an artist that has definitely shaped the international contemporary art sphere of the last decades.