Raphael Montañez Ortíz: Laser/Disc/Scratch/Destruction (2011)

25 March 2014, dusan

An edition of documents and facsimiles of the artist published to accompany his exhibition at LABOR in México City.

In 1957 Raphael Montañez Ortíz (New York, 1934) began exhibiting sculptures and experimental films. From the start of his career he incorporated destruction and deconstruction as elements of his work, converting them into key figures for understanding the development of avant-gardes during the post-war period. In addition to producing film, music, sculpture, performance and video, Montañez Ortíz pioneered practices such as working with food, computers, and founding portable museums. His works often operate as a counter-anthropology, and he has taken ethnographic methods used to study tribal behavior and applied them to contemporary society.

The LABOR exhibition focused on two aspects of his diverse oeuvre: the first is comprised of documentation surrounding his destruction of pianos and his production of written manifestos; the second is his video work, which he began in the 1980s.

When he participated in the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) held in London in 1966, Montañez Ortíz already had a reputation in the art world for destroying pianos. In the documents it is interesting to observe the contrast between the primal brutality of his actions and the elaborateness of his thoughts as recorded in his manifestos from the same era. The shock of these actions was not directed exclusively at a group of initiates, but at a larger audience that was reflected in the stupor of the mass media.

The Laser Disc Scratch Videos were the result of an interface designed especially by the artist, which allowed him, through the use of a joystick and little knobs, to control a laser disc player in real time. This instantaneous manipulation of video allowed him to work without having to cut or paste, inaugurating a totally new way of working with images without resorting to conventional processes of editing. The result is a zoom though time. Three seconds of footage are stretched out in a spastic movement that ceaselessly deconstructs and reconstructs the narrative. The effect is hypnotizing, and one might say that these videos function like a psychotropic substance absorbed through the eyes and ears. Nevertheless, the physiological effects of these pieces are just the first level among many. At the center of the vortex there is a deconstruction of cultural roles and conventions, an exorcism of the ghosts of contemporary society. (adapted from a press release for the exhibition

The volume contains an interview with Raphael Montañez Ortíz by Pedro Reyes, selections from his archive: “Destructivism: A Manifesto” (1962, handwritten manuscript + transcript, 4 pp), “Destruction Art: Survival Kit” (1968, typed manuscript, 3 pp), “D.I.A.S. Destruction in Art Symposium” (1966), “Diary of a Ritual” (1969, typed manuscript, 9 pp), and a number of photographs.

Edited by Pedro Reyes
Publisher LABOR, México City, 2011
37 pages
via L_A_B_O_R

1988 print of the Destructivism Manifesto (via ICAA Docs)
2013 Tate exhibition of the 1966 “DIAS” piano

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