The exhibition aims to make you think about the way in which we occupy spaces. S. Salas
Town or country? Malaga's Pompidou breaks with clichés to explore how to inhabit a space
Art and culture

Town or country? Malaga's Pompidou breaks with clichés to explore how to inhabit a space

Place-Ness is the new semi-permanent exhibition and includes works by artists such as David Hockney, Marc Chagall, Daniel Spoerri, Gerhard Richter and Tony Cragg

Regina Sotorrío


Friday, 8 December 2023, 12:28


From the Pompidou's entrance hall, with a prime viewing point that overlooks the main gallery, you gain a sense of what awaits you inside. You can see a house made of cardboard tubes on beer boxes that Shigeru Ban designed to pay homage to the victims of humanitarian crises. Two gigantic chairs by Barthélémy Toguo stand out, even in the distance: on one are piled up dozens of bundles of belongings characteristic of those forced to emigrate; on the opposite chair are oversized wooden stamps representing the bureaucracy that renders any help as slow to come. On the wall an immense and colourful landscape painted by David Hockney jumps out at you. The Centre Pompidou Malaga has refreshed its semi-permanent exhibition with a hundred pieces that invite us to reflect on the way we occupy and inhabit places.

The exhibition Place-ness. Inhabiting a place, open until March 2025, is inspired by the here and now. After a time of introspection, of taking refuge indoors from the covid pandemic, the cultural centre now chooses to "look to the outside, at the way we inhabit the world, at our relationship with country life," says Julie Narbey, general director for the Centre Pompidou Málaga. This is based on the observation that there are two, seemingly contradictory, trends at play in 21st century France and Spain: while rural life is being abandoned, the growth in teleworking has motivated many professionals to flee their small city apartments for country houses, losing the noise of city life to peace and quiet in nature. "Questions and deep thoughts arise from this observation: what binds us to places, what keeps us in that one place, what makes us flee from it, what are we seeking, how do we relate to that place," says Valentina Miomas, curator for this collection.

Deconstructing clichés

Answers to those questions are proffered by 87 artists across six sections. 'Deconstructing the clichés' tries to break with the eternal rural-city living dichotomy and with the idealised and stereotyped image of both spaces. "One could start to picture the possibilities of regarding different spaces as being interdependent and complementary," explains Miomas.

The visitor is greeted by Richard Long's circular installation made with slate from a Cornish quarry. On the wall a river landscape, painted in a classical style, contrasts with the shower head attached to the painting as a 'trompe l'oeil' installed by Daniel Spoerri to make a statement about where our water comes from and also where it ends up. In the room itself, Marc Chagall's Maternité, a tender depiction of motherhood is joined by Two Yellow Butterflies on a Ladder by Fernand Léger, reflecting the tension between nature and modern life. Next are rural and urban scenes by Natalia Goncharova. Gerhard Richter's work gives us a blurry view of the French town of Chinon, turning it into a nebulous, non-specific place, while Marie Menken's work captures the vibe of New York, screened as an audiovisual work from the 1960s.

The collage by Yolande Fièvre, made with pieces of wood, known as Map of an Ancient City to Dream leads to the next section: Transforming Materials: Paying Tribute and Leaving Tracks. Here each artist has used what they found in their environment as a tool to create art, be that natural or artificial. Here is the work of sculptor Oscar Tuazon, a column of car tyres piled on a pedestal. Marlène Huissoud, daughter of a beekeeper, who designed a piece of furniture with silkworm cocoons and beeswax. Frans Krajcberg's work promotes ecological awareness with wooden sculptures that represent nature in a sick, helpless state.

Undefined spaces

Here photography takes centre stage with images by Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans and Ergy Landau showing the outskirts of cities without people or character. The enormous snapshot by Ahmed Mater that captures the radical transformation of Saudi Arabia in response to the growing numbers of travellers arriving is impressive. Michał Szlaga's photos of industrial environments, or the image by Wim Wenders of some place in Arizona that seems frozen in time, lead us to the next exhibition space: Rethinking Territorial Dynamics.

The artists here tackle the themes of overproduction, excessive consumerism, and resource exploitation in society. Jim Dine's large aluminium boot laid on a red velvet cushion is a representation of rest after hard work and Mika Tajima uses extracts from X ( formerly Twitter) to determine the overall mood of a Paris's inhabitants, then transforming those feelings into plastic sculptures emitting light, colour and smoke that change in size and density with the live feed. This work partly reflects the next topic of Existing in the Public Space - how we can be conditioned by strict social norms and marked by inequality.

Firenze Lai expresses this sentiment in powerful paintings with anonymous figures packed together in crowds. In the early 1970s, Gianni Pettena proposed another way to 'just be' in a public place: a dozen students with chairs on their backs toured Minneapolis, sometimes sitting down to rest. The film-maker Robert Filliou lies down and sleeps on the road for no apparent reason. Similarly Valie Export offers her breasts to passers-by through a box. "All of them challenge social codes," says Miomas.

The challenges

The exhibition culminates in Resetting Dreams and Realities. The artists placed here are suggesting alternative ways of thinking about our world today and its challenges. Tony Cragg returns to the land art (aka earth art) movement with a giant spiral formed, ironically, with building materials as opposed to natural materials. Barry Flanagan, for his part, builds the topography of the city of Lyon and its rivers with pieces of fabric, a nod to the flourishing past of the textile industry there. David Hockney and Joan Mitchell encounter each other's take on painting landscapes: the former artist's stylised version of a forest road comes face to face with a valley of lush vegetation that Mitchell painted with the help of a friend's memories. Then, in front of the emergency shelter designed by Shigeru Ban, we see again the plight of the homeless due to forced migration that Barthélémy Toguo addresses with his two large chairs.

An "exciting and engaging" collection of works is how Julie Narbey describes this exhibition, which runs until March 2025.

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