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From around 1994, Durham uses his work to protest against architecture and monuments that radiate too much (political) power. It is a theme that often comes up in his work. Architecture says, “No, you’re not the city; the state’s project is the city. The state owns the city and you can build in that architectural space. And what I want – as a deliberate foreigner – I want to challenge that, to say, “No, we are the city; the architecture is something that we just have to move around – no matter how good or old it is.” - Jimmie Durham, 1999
I want to think about art. I want to be part of humanity’s thinking process, not humanity’s “feeling” process. We already have enough emotions, enough feelings, but we don’t have enough thoughts. - Jimmie Durham, 1996
Cortez and Malinche
Durham made the sculptures La Malinche (first exhibited as Pocahontas in 1988; reworked and renamed in 1991) and Cortez (1991) when he was living in Mexico. Malinche was an important character in the story of the Spanish colonization of Mexico. Just like Pocahontas in the U.S., Malinche was an Indian woman who married the colonizer. In the sculpture elements of an “Indian Identity” are combined with “western” references, such as the bikini. “It’s a true historical fact, about Cortez, the Spanish conquistador, and Malinche, the Indian woman,” says Durham. “But it’s also such a story that it becomes myth as soon as it’s there. The mythical part that is important for us, for me, is about what sort of self we have and what sort of other is the other.”
JIMMIE DURHAM A Matter of Life and Death and Singing features more than 120 works from all his creative periods. Many of his ideas and images recur in different forms at different stages of his career, so the exhibition presents ‘ensembles’ of works that are not always chronologically organised.
Our project starts from Durham’s relevance in Europe, which he prefers to think of as Eurasia and where he situates himself as ‘a homeless orphan.’ His recent work is often understood as a fundamental critique of architecture. This approach allows us to look back, with open eyes and minds, at what he actually proposed years ago. It also allows us to re-evaluate the appreciation of his work formulated in the late eighties, when the art world first started to become multipolar and culturally diverse.
A M HKA production for ARTtube
Coordination: Ghislaine Peeters & Jos Van den Bergh
Camera, editing, subtitles: Mario De Munck
Interview: Kathleen Weyts & Sofie Vermeiren