We are grateful to Sonia Becce, from the artist's studio, for her assistance cataloguing this work.
“I like to imagine that there is a person who takes this map in his back pocket,” Kuitca once remarked. “It could be a psychological map—that we are always in the same place even when we are somewhere else.” Maps first appeared in his work around 1988, in the form of paintings hung on walls, but by the following year they had migrated to mattresses, eliding conceptual terrain—a geography beyond borders—with the private intimacy of the bed and body. In these conjunctions of painting and cartography, Kuitca has dwelled on the intersections of public and private worlds, ruminating on the ways in which we position ourselves across space and time. Based in Buenos Aires and an international presence since the 1980s, he continues to plumb the placelessness of the postmodern landscape in works that have gone on to countenance architecture and theater. Kuitca came into international prominence in 1989 at the São Paulo Bienal, where he represented Argentina with the present triptych; he was included in the Argentine Pavilion and the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Major retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (2003), four U.S. institutions led by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (2009-11), and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2014).
Kuitca’s now-familiar themes of emotional dislocation and spatial disintegration took root during the 1980s, aided by travel to Germany and his encounter with dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch’s experimental Tanztheater. Bausch’s surreal dance-theater commingled the language of the body and the raw violence of sexual relationships, and Kuitca has acknowledged the influence of her unconventional sets, multiple spatial perspectives, and agonistic characters. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he brought his epistemological questions to bear on cartography, mapping the spaces and pathos of the body through the leitmotif of the bed, ever present in his work since Nadie olvida nada (1982). “The bed became a refuge—a territory,” he explained of this evolution in his work. “The bed is now a stage. On the surface of the bed you can trace a line. The bed becomes an apartment. The bed is land. The bed is a city. Ultimately the bed is theatre. . . . The bed becomes a way of setting the space.”
“Beyond its value as the place for sleeping and dreaming, for sex, for dying, and so forth, I think that the bed also appears as an everyday object that precedes any experience and any event,” Kuitca observed. “The bed and the map were for me images of two extreme forms of space—the bed the most private, the map the most public space possible. And I think that, when I painted the maps on mattresses, those two extremes—the bed and the map—were joining together. In the map painted on the mattress, as in a circular figure, this distancing project came to a close.” This vertigo of space and time, from the block-by-block city maps to the better-known road maps, dissolves geography, leaving in its place only the isolation and the existential homelessness of the solitary traveler. “The main strategies of imaginary estrangement in the road maps are two,” Andreas Huyssen notes: “first, the use of brilliant, luminous color to indicate the roads, combined with textured and darkly colored backgrounds that seem to threaten the maps with erasure or disappearance; and, second, major cities with their confluence of roads are often signaled by the indentation of the mattress buttons, creating an effect of constriction and pressure.”
In the present work, Deng Haag - Praha, Kuitca meditates on the conceptual landscape of western Europe, from The Hague to an ashen grey Prague, in the year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the symbolic end to the Cold War. The maps are discontinuous, each charting spaces along Germany’s (unmarked) borders from Cologne to Verdun, Mannheim to Zurich, Munich to Salzburg. “What interested me was that uniform, homogeneous panning,” Kuitca explained, “and acknowledging borders would have destroyed the idea.” Faded red arteries trace a winding network of roads that connect a litany of names as important in their sound as in their location, according to the artist: “I probably never evoked a place, but just the name of the place. . . . The charm resides only in letting the name lead the journey. The name of a place says it all, not about the place, but about the name itself.” The journey is ultimately one of losing, rather than finding oneself, and in these mattresses Kuitca probes the conundrums of place and placelessness, of being everywhere and nowhere at once.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1 Guillermo Kuitca, quoted in Edith Newhall, “A Map of the World,” New York (September 30, 1991): 24.
2 Kuitca, quoted in Karen Wright, “Mapping Kuitca,” in Guillermo Kuitca: Theater Collages (New York: Prestel, 2005), n.p.
3 Kuitca, quoted in Graciela Speranza, “Conversations with Guillermo Kuitca,” in Guillermo Kuitca: Everything (New York: D.A.P., 2009), 77-9.
4 Andreas Huyssen, “Guillermo Kuitca: Painter of Space,” in Guillermo Kuitca: Everything, 27.
5 Kuitca, quoted in Speranza, “Conversations with Guillermo Kuitca,” 79.