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Oscar Muñoz: Dissolvency and phantasmagorias. Part 2

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[Breath] by Oscar        Muñoz

[Breath] by Oscar        Muñoz

[Smudges] by Oscar        Muñoz

[Smudges] by Oscar        Muñoz
Museo Municipal de Guayaquil,
May 10, 2006 - Jun 15, 2006
Guayaquil, Ecuador

Oscar Muñoz: Dissolvency and phantasmagorias. Part 2
by Lupe Alvarez

Aliento [Breath] also forms part of that being-happening, which is reiterated in several pieces. In this work appearances take on substance in a particular relationship with the observer. Here photo silk screening is stamped onto a metal mirror placed at a discreetly comfortable height to call attention to the reflective surface. Thus, when the onlooker exhales, the printed image becomes momentarily visible and is projected in a spectral exchange with the face that gazes at it.

The suggestion of contact -which incites one to produce a reality to avert the concealment--, gives this piece a special intensity. The image appears through the act of removing -both really and physically-- the distance between spectator and object.

Aliento conjures up, albeit in an inframince (thin present), the fragility of memory and reminds us, through the looks exchanged, of that force that establishes the relationship with the other. These pieces could not fail to make reference to the political context, since the disappearance of persons in the armed conflict - incommensurable and habitual- that the country is experiencing perhaps represents one of the ghosts that crosses the common conscience. Aliento in fact uses portraits of people who have been assassinated or have died under violent circumstances, making it possible for it to be interpreted as a protest against apathy or a statement against the feeling of alienation, of "someone else’s problem", used as a defense mechanism by those less affected by an everyday situation.

It is worth pointing out how art critics in Colombia have talked about an "escalation of visual tolerance"(5) stemming from the exploitation of violent images by the mass media, a circumstance that has led to a sort of immunity to images that are shown so often they lead to blindness and, above all, to resignation and a weakening of any form of resistance. On studying this phenomenon, José Ignacio Roca in his journalistic column Columna de Arena (Column of Sand), borrows a phrase coined by the critic Sylvere Lotringer: "simultaneously presenting violence and making it disappear".(6)

Oscar Muñoz therefore appeals to us to engage in another relationship with that "other", touching in its very anonymity, so near even in its intuited statistical density. That other "whichever" with which we could become confused.

Other reflections stemming from the rich, flexible materiality of these pieces also come to mind. I am referring to a certain worshipful value which, in Walter Benjamí­n’s words, occupies a final trench in a human face, in the worship of loved, faraway or disappeared ones, whose features capture that unmistakable melancholic aura.(7) Aliento, through its invocation of life-giving breath, brings to us the expression of those faces that make us vibrate fleetingly. Life, death and resurrection seem to come together in an almost mystical unity rescued through contact and closeness.

Tiznados [Smudges] also represents the vanishing of a delimited, specific vision. This series of pictures, made using a traditional format(8), reflect the experimental nature and that of writing in the media that is so characteristic of Muñoz’s work. Abstract in appearance and with skin-deep material, the pieces exemplify the way in which a supposed aesthetic decision can act as a crafty alibi for exposing high-density contents.

The process through which these pictures form part of Muñoz’s creative course of development reveal how an image, devoid of pretext in its consummate representation and with a strongly evocative material nature, can considerably broaden the scope of interpretation by imbuing it with suggestive anchorages, both in terms of a conceptual aesthetic plane and in a spectrum of public, socially opportune meanings.

Photographs taken from the tabloid press are the detonators of the series, but here Muñoz focuses on the moment in which the flash of the camera, manipulated by the reporter through the intensity of light, dissolves the contours of the victims and reduces the latter to a fuzzy, "invisibilized" image, an image that, as it appears, annuls its palpable, named evidence.

As in Aliento, Tiznados nourishes that lateral, aesthetically vigorous way of referring to the Colombian reality that is characteristic of Muñoz’s work. Even on referring to particular events, his work runs counter to the sociological and ethnographic trend in evidence in such an agitated milieu. His ambiguous abstraction causes concern due to its very evanescence and exhibits suspicion, demanding from the spectator a viewpoint that will discover the meanings that are subtly announced in its folds.

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