press release

As curator of his own collection, Rafael Tous brings together two different forms of looking, of creating a representation and of turning reality into fiction. This is not so much a case of confrontation as of revealing an extra element: as the anthropologist Levi-Strauss wrote: “Any culture remains authentic precisely in the enrichment of its contact with other cultures.” Crossing can refer to a meeting of roads or trajectories; but it is also a pairing off, an act that culminates in conception. The act of provoking a relationship, stimulating readings and references, is linked to the contemplation with which the collector creates a collection in his or own private surroundings, establishing intellectual and emotional relationships between the pieces in a collection. But the relationship between the two types of cultural artefact is not just the random result of a chance encounter but one that is linked through the concepts of rite and fiction.

Modernity, in de-sanctifying life and embracing a secular model of society, has retained certain residual elements in the form of various degraded rites which have become profane but which, nevertheless, are still celebrated. In ancient societies, rites fulfilled a basic role in the life of the individual, by maintaining cohesion within the community and giving meaning to relationships between that community and the unpredictable forces of nature. What anthropologists call rites of passage reduced the traumatic impact of the transition from one stage of existence to another, including the passage into death; transitions that now, in our cultures, often grow, become diffuse, are filled with anguish.

African sculpture is the memory of a ritual: it has a magical, religious role to play. Its function is related to initiation ceremonies, rites of passage from adolescence to maturity. These are objects of power, with the capacity to transform the human individual: putting on a mask, for example, involves adopting the identity of what is being represented. Its purpose, in abstract, is to conjure, to ensure the immediate security of life.

Conceptual art, on the other hand, is itself a transferral, a movement that generates meaning in its exchange with the viewer. These photographs are theoretical objects that reflect on narrative through the way in which an image speaks about what is real. Conceptual strategy involves a discontinuity in discourse: meaning is truncated, significance opens up and is never fully revealed. In fact, it is the viewer who, in his or her exchange with the pieces, participates actively in the creation of their contents.

A collection is never completed: its meaning is a potentiality that is multiplied with each new incorporation. The exhibition Crossing Cultures: Fictions and Rites is reversible; the viewer can look at both conceptual art and African art. But it is also reversible thematically: the viewer is confronted with the other in art and the other in culture. This encounter with the other creates a situation of transformation, of passage. This duality, which combines suggestions and meanings, reclaims both rite and action on the part of the viewer. Today, in the face of the crisis in interest in contemporary art, what is important is to support the critical function of representation in art, the active viewer who constructs his or her own fictions in the face of representation in today's society.


Crossing Cultures: Fiction and Rites
Conceptual Photography and African Art in the Rafael Tous Collection
Kurator: Rafael Tous

mit Sophie Calle, Samuel Fosso, Tacita Dean, Magdalena Jetelová, Robert Longo, Rogelio Lopez Cuenca, Duane Michals, Tracey Moffatt, Julie Moos, Joao Penalva, Miguel Rio Branco, Inigo Royo, Vibeke Tandberg, Javier Vallhonrat, Zhang Huan, Edwin Zwakman