Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign will mark the first New York museum solo exhibition of Puerto Rican artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (b. 1972, San Juan, Puerto Rico).
In her recent film and video work, Santiago Muñoz documents the lives of individuals—political dissidents, teachers, and farmers—who are deeply invested in political transformation. The subjects of her films and videos reveal their close physical connections to their environments, sites marked by legacies of colonial trade and military occupation in the artist’s homeland of Puerto Rico and in neighboring Caribbean countries, by recounting stories and engaging natural materials as well as inherited or handmade objects. Her residency and exhibition at the New Museum will be presented in the Fifth Floor gallery as part of the Education and Public Engagement Department’s R&D Season: LEGACY and will explore the ways in which our connections to the past are actively produced, maintained, and refuted.
For her exhibition and residency at the New Museum, Santiago Muñoz will premiere the new three-channel video That which identifies them like the eye of the Cyclops (2016). The video’s three parts are titled as a sequence: One/Song, Two/Strategy, and Three/Signs. The footage emerged from years of contact between Santiago Muñoz and a group of women, and each video channel corresponds loosely to a different theme in Monique Wittig’s 1969 novel Les Guérillères, which describes a world where the patriarchy has fallen after a bloody war between the sexes. Like Les Guérillères, the video closely follows the sensorial and material worlds of the women and imagines a post-patriarchal future. Unlike the characters in Wittig’s novel, the women portrayed in Santiago Muñoz’s video are real, and the story is rooted in the specific place and time that they inhabit—including Caribbean cities, bankrupted states, and coastal towns. The video documents the injured farm animals that the women care for, a concert on a beach at night, a frenzied club, and a protest campsite in front of government buildings.
Santiago Muñoz’s presentation at the New Museum will also feature the new silent 16mm film Black Beach/Horse/Camp/The Dead/Forces (2016), which portrays subjects—people, places, and things—the artist has come to know through previous projects. The film was shot on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, which was the site of a bombing range used by the US Navy for 60 years and is still filled with unexploded bombs. The film weaves together images of a man who cares for horses that roam the old target range where the bombs lie, a black magnetite beach that is slowly eroding, an artist who has helped to resurrect a sacred tree that was once on the naval base and who has herself been resurrected from illness more than once, and a man who hopes his ritual movements will return the island of Vieques to a cosmic balance. Together, their stories tell interlacing accounts of land, toxic bombings, political work, celebration, and death.
The exhibition will also include a set of commissioned masks, which will be activated in a series of new films and videos made during the artist’s residency this spring. The masks will be featured in a performance by Macha Colón, one of the women in That which identifies them like the eye of the Cyclops, in the New Museum Theater on June 2, 2016.
Santiago Muñoz captures the aspirations and imagined futures of those who are deeply invested in alternative models of being, using the stories of farmers, activists, and artists working in Puerto Rico as allegories for larger political possibilities in the region. The film, three-channel video, and masks in Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign serve as testaments to the individuals who forge their own terms for how to live, remember, and advance their own evolving histories.
This presentation is co-curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement; Lauren Cornell, Curator and Associate Director, Technology Initiatives; and Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator.