How do you relate dance to such diverse themes as origin, finiteness, power and elegance, metaphysics, gender and ecstasy? That is what Hangar does in the exhibition Trance’n’dance, and once again it delivers an initiative that cannot be ignored – for its content, for its form and for its originality.
The exhibition is a reflection on the work of Isabel Muñoz (1951) over the last 10 years. We do not really need to introduce the photographer. Born in Barcelona, trained at the Photocentro Madrid, she held her first exhibition in 1986, the first of a long series as you can also see in the archives of l’Oeil de la Photographie. Recently she was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (Madrid), where once Francisco Goya was director, and which counts names like Picasso, Dali & Botero among its alumni. She is a fixed value in the international photographic community, which always links an idiosyncratic approach to social themes.
Trance’n’dance is an exhibition and almost a philosophical reflection, that leads us from our origin (Immanencia), from which we are slowly detaching (Agua) and what we transcend by love and passion (the transcendence in and through ecstasy).
“I try to photograph feelings, what is invisible to our eyes. Photographing the body is a pretext to talk about everything else, and for that I need to return to primitive origins.”
In Immanencia, the photographer seeks our connection with the past and the instinctive – our origins in the series “Primates” or portraits of great apes, in “Mitologias” how we translate our connection with nature into rites and customs, in “Hijiras” how gender and sexual identity were already being questioned everywhere and always, “Espanoles” about our connection with the riding animal, and finally in “Buto” a theatrical form that emerged from the ruins of post-World War II Japan, with the aim of channelling the suffering of war. Buto is a political dance, and therefore underground. Muñoz argues that there are many ties between Japan and Spain, her native country: both have a fascination for clair obscur, for death, for visual culture, for suffering – both have a sense of the baroque and of passion. The presentation is varied – the photographer confronts us with a still video of 00’56” that is activated by the proximity of the viewer.
“we come from water. Water is an essential part of us. This work under water is both a reference to our origins and to what humans have done with it. But it also implies how we are evolving: that is why I introduce a fifth element, art.”
Muñoz was born near the sea, and this profoundly influenced her work. It is the primal element, it carries us before birth – but it is also the element that most clearly shows the impact of pollution.
For the underwater images, Muñoz learned to dive, and was assisted by an experienced Japanese diver. She describes how, during her shoots, a strange connection develops between her subject, a manta ray, and the divers. She feels that the animals connect with us, that they dialogue with us.
Agua is therefore also a committed part of the exhibition: it confronts us to climate change and the role of man.
“What you see in the picture is pain. Pain is an act of love. I look for love everywhere, that’s what makes me live. »
In this section, Muñoz examines the relationship between pain and ecstasy, or how we make the invisible (e.g. love and poetry) visible through the depiction of the body. Metamorphosis talks about suspension, Dos Tres Cuatro about shibari and Nueve Diosis about the practices of self-mutilation in a Taoist community in Thailand.
Shibari or the knowledge of pressure points reached Europe after the World War, where it became especially popular in BDSM circles, Muñoz says, but in Japan the original knowledge was preserved. Just like with suspension under water (see Agua), the subject loses his/her sense of orientation, and through pain one reaches ecstasy, trance – for Muñoz an act of love.
Muñoz has a preference for large formats and special printing techniques. All prints were made by the photographer herself in her studio. In the exhibition, you will find many barite prints, but also platinum and colour platinum prints or glass over gold foil prints. She expresses her ecological commitment through research into new printing techniques: with the “Coralotype” she makes prints with coral powder, where relief is created through successive passages of the printing press.
For the photographer, the exhibition is also an ode to life.
“What we have had to go through in the last two years has shown us that when you love nature a little, it revives like a chrysalis”
The word “love” should be seen in a broader sense than this exhibition; it is the leitmotiv in her work – love for people, for nature. And she gives shape to this love in a subtle and inimitable way with respect for diversity.
An exhibition really worth to visit while you can still can, or why not programme the exhibition elsewhere – the address.
(I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lise De Ganck, who was in charge of communication at Hangar for 5 years and who is taking up other challenges)
A catalogue in 4-languages was published on the occasion of this exhibition. With 21 colour images, you get an impression of each of the sections of the current exhibition. In the final part of the publication, you will find the miniatures of the 90 exhibited works on 4 pages. Available through Hangar and your bookshop.
Isabel Muñoz / Catalogue Trance’n’dance
23 x 20 cm, 37 pages
21 colour illustrations
French, Dutch, English and Spanish
Isabel Muñoz in the Eye of Photography
An artist such as Isabel Muñoz obviously already has an extensive bibliography in L’Oeil de la Photographie / The Eye of Photography – over 4 pages – so we will limit ourselves to a selection:
Galerie Daltra (2022)
Centre de la Photographie de Mougins: 1001 (2021)
Best Of 2018 – Isabel Muñoz : « Apes are just like us ! »
Kyotophotographie 2017 Begins !
Regardez Voir : Isabel Muñoz, Vu d’Espagne au festival Images Singulières (2016)
Asturias : Isabel Muñoz (2014)
Isabel Muñoz :–20 Platinum prints (2012)
Phnom Penh Photo 2012 –Isabel Muñoz
Shanghai: Isabel Muñoz (2012)