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Antoni Muntadas

(Barcelona, 1942)

 

In an interview for Sites magazine (New York) in 1982, Ronald Christ commenced by asking Antoni Muntadas if he should call him Antonio or Antoni. ‘Well, Antonio is Spanish but Antoni is Catalan,’ the artist replied, going on to admit that he had resorted to using ‘just Muntadas as a practical solution.’

Christ then sketched a relation between the Antonio/Antoni duality and the similarly dualistic utterances with which the artist was entitling many of his projects at the time, such as Emissió/Recepció(1975), Personal/Public (1979-1981), Watching the Press/Reading Television (1981) and even an early version of Media Sites/Media Monuments, on which Muntadas was then working and which was the reason for this get-together with the art and literature theorist Christ. ‘So,’ Christ asked him, ‘the dialectic in your titles is a resonance of you background?’

Muntadas replied in the affirmative – ‘yes, this division is a little schizophrenic,’ – and, on the subject of the Catalan/Spanish duality, added: ‘But, you know, in the language of my native city there is another peculiarity. In Catalan you can make a distinction between mitjà, which means “tool”, and medi, which means “context”, whereas medium or media refer to both.’ This duly prompted Muntadas to formulate a maxim about his work that can be deduced from that differential feature: ‘I work with the mitjà on the medi.’

The comment was equally enlightening for Christ, who attributed to the artist an expanded conception of the notion of mitjà/tool, as distinct from the reductionist approach that had come to hold sway in most of North America as a result of Clement Greenberg’s formalism and Marshall McLuhan’s technological determinism. In contrast, Muntadas’s perspective appeared to be a particularly genuine way of understanding the medi and the mitjà as distinct yet related entities, as entities in tension: since the mid 1970s, Muntadas has been focusing on how social mediaare naturalized as a result of the action of the tools. Hence, too, the artist’s coining in 1976 of the concept of media landscape, which has served him through the years as a way to refer to the object of analysis of his work.

Oriol Fontdevila


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