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Teresa Margolles and Emanuel Licha at the MAC:
Traces left by reality

The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is proud to present the works of two artists whose insightful, relevant practices attest to highly topical social phenomena: one practice developed in a country where violence is endemic in some cities, and the other revealing little-known aspects of reporting in war zones. For her first major North American museum exhibition, the renowned Mexican artist Teresa Margolles presents Mundos, featuring works that focus particularly on marginal segments of the population. The installation Now Have A Look At This Machine by Montréal artist Emanuel Licha offers an eye-opening introduction to “war hotels” in the Middle East and Europe, examined close-up by the artist from various seldom explored points of view. From February 16 to May 14, 2017, the Musée d’art contemporain will become a place of reflection and experimentation in step with the realities of today’s world.

Teresa Margolles, Pista de baile del “Nightclub Irma’s” [Dance floor from “Nightclub Irma’s”], 2016
Colour print on cotton paper. Transgender sex worker standing on the ruins of the dance floor of a demolished nightclub in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
125 x 185 cm (framed). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich


For more than 20 years, Teresa Margolles, one of Mexico’s pre-eminent artists, has developed a socially engaged practice in response to the violence that ravages her country, and to the lives of voiceless victims. The exhibition at the Musée brings together some 15 works created mainly in the last decade⎯sculptural, photographic and sound installations, video projections⎯at the centre of which is La Promesa [The Promise], a striking sculpture in the form of a 16-metre-long wall on which performative actions take place. This site-specific piece, which is in the collection of Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, is produced from the ground-up remains of a house in the border town of Ciudad Juárez. A potent symbol of an ongoing transmutation and an allusion to the current debates on migration and borders, this wall will be gradually scraped by volunteers who, one at a time and for one hour a day during the exhibition, will spread the remains all over the gallery floor.

Teresa Margolles’s works are the result of an unflinching humanistic and artistic reflection on social strife, personal tragedy and marginalization.
– John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC

Ciudad Juárez is the setting for other works in the show, including Pesquisas [Inquiries], a wall installation of 30 large, rephotographed posters of missing women, and Sonidos de la muerte [Sounds of Death], an audio work using field recordings from places where the bodies of murdered women have been found⎯two pieces that speak directly of the violence done to women, the inaction or indifference of police and our own history of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Another compelling work, En el Aire [In the Air], is a disturbing blend of elegance and horror: soap bubbles produced with a mixture of water obtained from morgues after the cleaning of corpses create a gentle spray falling from the ceiling. “Every bubble bursting on contact is a body,” says Margolles, “reminding us that we are witnesses.”

Also on view will be 36 Cuerpos [36 Bodies], a string fraught with meaning that runs the length of a gallery; Mundos [Worlds], a humming neon sign salvaged from a former bar, which gives the exhibition its name; three video works; and a recent photographic series, Pistas de Baile [Dance Floors], showing transgender sex workers occupying the remains of what were once the dance floors of now-demolished discotheques and nightclubs, “as if reaffirming their resistance in the midst of violence and destruction,” adds Margolles.

Spare yet disarmingly and powerfully moving, Margolles’s work brings us into the world of people who until now remained invisible.

The exhibition was co-curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC, and Emeren García, Head of Travelling Exhibitions at the MAC.

Emanuel Licha, Hotel Machine, 2016 (still)
HD film, 67 min, sound. Courtesy of the artist and Les Contes Modernes


The exhibition Now Have A Look At This Machine, a reflection on what Québec artist Emanuel Licha terms the “war hotel,” examines the fabrication, analysis and dissemination of images of war. It includes an hour-long creative documentary titled Hotel Machine, which was filmed in hotels that housed war correspondents covering conflicts in Belgrade, Beirut, Gaza, Kiev and Sarajevo. Surrounding the central projection space of the film, five archival stations⎯containing texts, images, publications and moving images⎯provide contextualization for the five functions Licha attributes to the war hotel: proximity, vantage point, security, communication and hub.

Licha’s film also pays homage to the employees who staff the hotels, from chambermaids to managers, to whom he gives voice. It is through their experiences⎯and those of the “fixers” (the war correspondents’ local translators, interpreters and mediators) and the journalists⎯that the workings of the “hotel machine” are revealed. Licha looks at the roles played by the people, places and reporting methods as he probes the media’s portrayal of current conflicts. He writes, “the war hotel is an integral part of the conflict, conditioning the way it is seen and represented.”

A diversity of voices enters the space of the exhibition, and the viewer begins to question what is real and what is constructed in the film.
– Lesley Johnstone, Head of Exhibitions and Education at the MAC

The exhibition Emanuel Licha: Now Have A Look At This Machine will travel to a number of cities in Canada. It is produced and circulated by the MAC, with financial support from the Government of Canada.

The exhibition was curated by Lesley Johnstone, Head of Exhibitions and Education at the MAC.

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. The MAC thanks its partners Loto-Québec and Ubisoft Montréal. Our sincere gratitude goes as well to Lillian Mauer, Sarah McCutcheon Greiche, Phyllis Lambert and Erin Slater Battat for their support in our presentation of the exhibition Teresa Margolles: Mundos.


Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
185, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
Montréal (Québec) H2X 3X5
514 847-6226 /