For the second biannual edition of Proyecto de Arte Contemporáneo Murcia (PAC), curator Cuauhtémoc Medina has eschewed the often-dreary biennial format of scattered group shows and site-specific commissions – favoured by the inaugural edition, ‘Estratos’ (Strata), curated by Nicolas Bourriaud in 2008 – for a year-long series of seven overlapping solo shows. Titled ‘Dominó Caníbal’ (Cannibal Dominoes), the rules of the game are that each participant works from their predecessor’s presentation, either removing or developing on the earlier exhibition. At this early stage, though, what will be left by the end of the year in PAC Murcia’s single venue – Sala Verónicas, a deconsecrated church in the city centre – is anyone’s guess.
Medina intends – laudably, I think – for this counter-model to encourage the artists to engage with one another in a way he claims isn’t allowed by the standard biennial set-up. But, conversely, ‘Dominó Caníbal’ could entail a desultory series of Oedipal trashings, the concluding presentation (by Francis Alÿs, scheduled for mid-December) bearing not a trace of its immediate predecessor, let alone of Jimmie Durham’s opening gambit, which was unveiled in January. In the intervening months, the order of play runs from the young (Cristina Lucas and the Bruce High Quality Foundation), to the brash (Kendell Geers), through to the socially engaged, sometimes participatory work of Tania Bruguera, with Rivane Neuenschwander assigned the penultimate spot. Conversely, and equally disappointingly, this year’s PAC Murcia could be an exercise in politesse, no participant wishing to alter or remove what came before, and the Sala Verónicas becoming piled high with battling contributions.
Medina, I suspect, would be happy with either outcome, though he is predicting something quite different. ‘Dominó’, the first half of his title, makes a claim for a ludic process dependent on move and countermove. But is this idea of observation and interaction, whereby a single dialogue is sustained by a series of matched responses, too optimistic? After all, there are not two players (or opponents) here, but seven (a precisely balanced and geographically varied selection of three women, three men and one collective) – and no one is required to match anything. The second half of the title, with its implication of violence and its allusion to the Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 ‘Manifesto Antropófago’ (Cannibal Manifesto), which argued for a roaming, omnivorous approach to foreign influence, could end up being closer to the mark.
I visited the Sala Verónicas at the end of January, when Jimmie Durham’s contribution had just opened (Lucas’ exhibition has since taken over). Durham, who is almost 70, has been the recent subject of various major surveys. The Cherokee artist and essayist returns to found materials – such as bone, wood and feathers – that have been used historically to make tools, most often incorporating stone, which he has called an ‘anti-architecture, anti-monument tool’. Durham’s untitled contribution to ‘Dominó Caníbal’ was the result of a month’s worth of walking around the Murcia region, bringing odds and ends – tyres, oil barrels and, of course, lots of rocks – into the church. He copied graffiti and cave paintings that he had seen in the city and in the hills onto the white walls, while the high windows around the tower were uncovered to allow in natural light. (When I asked Durham what would happen if the next artist wanted to show video, he smiled and replied that it wasn’t his problem.) As with much of his work, Durham’s presentation involved a kind of nomadic archaeology. As the first move in a year-long game of Exquisite Corpse (or dominoes, or artistic cannibalism), this itinerant search for origins was an affecting way to begin.