EINDHOVEN, THE NETHERLANDS.- On 26 January 2008, the exhibition trio Cuevas/Mik/Stilinović opens in the Van Abbemuseum, showing solo exhibitions by established artists Minerva Cuevas (Mexico, 1975), Aernout Mik (Amsterdam, 1962) and Mladen Stilinović (Zagreb, 1947) side by side. The Trio exhibition gives an overview of three artistic positions that we consider urgent to be seen today and sets these positions in dialogue with one another. Previous Trios have included Wilhelm Sasnal, Yael Bartana and Frances Stark amongst others. In this new Trio, each of the artists relates to the artistic traditions of realism, drawing on small everyday realities and histories to tell stories about our interconnected world. The solo exhibition by Cuevas shows the expanded series of new works including the projects Phenomena (2007), Social Entomology (2007) and Insect Concert (2007).
In her work Minerva Cuevas makes use of social issues and activism situated in the virtual space of the Internet, museums and the urban sphere. Her work exists of complex projects that expand in time, and whose dissemination transcends the space and duration of the museum rooms. Exhibitions are not solely a venue for presentation, but also a situation in which broader projects are developed and honed. Cuevas integrates images appropriated and reconfigured via social context studies through different media, employs techniques from the commercial publicity while transgressing their consuming persuasion purposes, uses public interventions and their documentation, makes use of video and mural paintings. In this exhibition, Cuevas plays out her interest in the civilisation properties of series and the museum, exploring the concepts of evolution and the opposition between wild and civilized.
The exhibition - The project Phenomena (2007) forms the core of this solo exhibition and specifically addresses appearances: how we perceive and understand things. The title refers to Immanuel Kants distinction between phenomena (beings of sense, appearances capable of being observed by one of the five human senses and understood by speculative reason) and noumena (things in themselves, transcendental objects), introduced in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Phenomena are, above all, raw data of striking and diverse qualities. Minerva Cuevas brings some of these data forth in her installation, using customized antique optical devices (projecting microscopes and slide projectors) combined with modern fiber glass light projectors. The projected images belong to the standard repertory of popular science of the 19th and early 20th century: an ape wearing a jacket hangs on a tree, a collection of unicellular algae which unravels, a series of four photographs which depict surfaces of meteorites from natural history museums in Mexico. They are juxtaposed with found film footage, presented on monitors, recording experiments in behavioural psychology meant to demonstrate the learning and adaptive skills of infants.
In her installation The Battle of Calliope (2004) Minerva Cuevas used the recording of the Vodun drummers from Ghana, who performed the curse on the current U.S. political administration. In one of the public spaces of the museum, Cuevas will also produce her well known mural Not Impressed by Civilisation.
The scientific specimens may become indistinguishable from curiosities, yet on the other hand these obsolete techniques may bring surprisingly productive results. By including the outmoded techniques of observation as parts of her exhibition, the artist enables us to see how the ways of seeing have been constituted as social phenomena. By recuperating a number of pre-industrial devices as mediums for representation, Cuevas remarks a decisive moment in human history, in which the understanding of the social sphere separated radically from the understanding of nature, and the concept of progress as the organization and distribution of the material and spiritual goods was supplanted by one of growth and expansion for their own sake, accompanied by their counterpart, extermination, which defines the violent relations of power and competition characteristic of our contemporary world.
Performance with public - Weather permitting, Cuevas will personally involve the audience during her performance Lanterns for Stanislaw Lem at the opening of the exhibition trio. The outdoor performance is a hommage to the recently deceased science fiction writer and philosopher. He was best known as the author of books such as The Star Diaries and Solaris.
Publication - In collaboration with Kunsthalle Basel the Van Abbemuseum will develop the first monograph on Minerva Cuevas work. This publication is due October 2008. Contributors to the publication will include among others Adam Szymzcyk, Charles Esche and Jean Fisher. The editor is Magdelana Ziołkowska. Curators: Annie Fletcher and Magdalena Ziołkowska. Cooperation: Exhibition in cooperation with Kunsthalle Basel.