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Muntadas – On Translation: Das Museum

Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund | 05/24/2003 - 07/13/2003


From 24 May to 13 July the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund presents On Translation: Das Museum, a solo exhibition of the artist Antoni Muntadas, who was born in 1942 in Barcelona and has lived in New York since 1971.

With the exhibition "On Translation: Das Museum", Muntadas, whose cultural and media critical work has been shown in international exhibitions, documenta 6 and X as well as in numerous Biennales, will feature for the first time in a major solo exhibition in Germany.

The focus of the exhibition is his "On Translation" series begun in 1995 and which has grown to comprises 29 very different projects, supplemented by further works from the seventies to the nineties.

The "On Translation" series, whose individual projects were developed both for the public space and for art institutions in various cities in Europe, the USA and Latin America, deals with the mechanisms and effects of "translation" under the conditions of globalisation. The problem of translation from one language into another plays an equally important role as the social, political or economic contexts of transfer, transmission or transformation. The series negotiates culture – in the broadest sense – as a permanent process of translation.

The most recent project in the "On Translation" series took place in 2002/03 at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and is to be continued in a new interpretation in Dortmund: "On Translation: Museum" or "On Translation: Das Museum"– the slightly modified title for Dortmund – investigates the museum as a place and institution of mediation, of "translation" between artists, works and the audience.

Initiated by Muntadas the exhibition "On Translation: Das Museum" has been developed by media_art_net dortmund in co-operation with the MACBA.

In the framework of the exhibition a film and video programme curated by the film critic Eugeni Bonet (Barcelona) will be screened from 4 – 6 July.

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition (english/ german) with contributions from Reinhard Braun (Graz), Valentín Roma (Barcelona), Eugeni Bonet (Barcelona), Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ.

On Translation is a series of works exploring issues of transcription,
interpretation and translation.

From language to codes
From silence to technology
From subjectivity to objectivity
From agreement to wars
From private to public
From semiology to cryptography

The role of the translation/translators as a visible/ invisible fact.


Muntadas counts among the early generation of media artists. As early as 1974, he launched an independent, local television programme in Cadaqués that was broadcast for four days at various public places, offering an alternative to the only TV station under Franco’s regime. "The File Room" in 1994 was one of the first Internet art works: an open database of censorship cases that is still active on the Net.

However, to refer to Muntadas as a media artist would fall short of the mark, for the artist always chooses his material, his tools and procedures with reference to the particular occasion and specific context of the new production: the result can be a photo montage, a video installation, a workshop, a postcard edition, a book, a video conference, an Internet project or intervention in the public space. His "On Translation" series too is shaped by this variety of formats.

"On Translation: The Pavilion" (1995) the first project in the On Translation series, consisted of an installation/intervention in a public pavilion in Helsinki which Muntadas created in 1995. The artist was responding to a political event with large-scale media coverage which took place in the capital of Finland in 1975: the CSCE (Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Muntadas was interested in the role of the interpreters, whose activities frequently remain invisible, yet who play a key role in events with this kind of diplomatic significance. Additionally, Muntadas was concerned with the conference itself as a stage of "translation" and on the "languages of negotiation"which are used there.

"On Translation: The Games" too deals with the status of linguistic translation in the context of large international events – in this case, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The installation examines the format of the Olympics with reference to the cultural constructs of ideology and emotion, nationalism and internationalism, winners and losers, standards and identity. It is concerned with the universal "language" in which the different nations "translate" their cultural values – national anthems, flags, logos, television formats.

"On Translation: The Bank" (1997 – 2002) involves itself with the effects of international money transfer and ironically asks how long it would take for a thousand dollar note to disappear through the circulation from currency to currency.

According to the principle of the children’s game "Chinese whispers", in "On Translation: The Internet Project" Muntadas had a sentence translated into 23 languages through the global network of Goethe institutes. His aim was also to investigate the limits of compatibility of new communication technologies.

"On Translation" is also Muntadas’ collection, begun in the seventies, of safety regulations of world wide airlines, defining different corporate graphic interpretations of international conventions and regulations. " On Translation: Warning", in turn, consisted in an open statement that circulated in different forms and languages in the public space: “Warning: Perception Requires Involvement”.

On Translation: Das Museum

"On Translation" negotiates culture in the broadest sense as a permanent process of translation. The series also – not least in the "On Translation: Das Museum" exhibition – examines the museum as a canonised place of mediation and "translation" between artists, works of art and the audience.

In a way, On Translation: Das Museum is a "commissioned work" that is not delegated by the museum to the artist but rather, vice-versa, by the artist to the museum. The commission is to negotiate the presentation of the entire On Translation series not as a documentation nor as a reconstruction, but rather as an "interpretation".

"On Translation: Das Museum" is centred around three corresponding levels: the exhibition at the Museum am Ostwall curated by Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ, a new work by Muntadas, "On Translation: Die Sammlung" (the collection) and a film programme curated by the film scientist and expert of Muntadas’ work Eugeni Bonet.

The exhibition interprets the "On Translation" series based on ten theme zones which focus on certain aspects of "translation" the curators considerd to be relevant to Muntadas and his project:

· Lobby · De/Coding · Adaptation · Forming the private · Transforming the city

· Adressee · Media · Information · Archive · Museum

Additionally, these sections also include – not claiming to be exhausive – several earlier works by Muntadas which are related to the "On Translation" series.


The catalogue of "On Translation: Das Museum" comprises texts by Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Eugeni Bonet, Valentín Roma and Reinhard Braun. Besides essays and texts relating to the exhibition and the project it presents, the contribution of Braun and Roma both refer to the "On Translation: Museum" exhibition in Barcelona, reflecting on this event from different perspectives: the Spanish curator Valentín Roma as someone who, along with José Lebrero Stals and Enric Franch, was directly involved in the interpretation of the On Translation series in Barcelona, and the curator, critic and author Reinhard Braun as someone viewing this exhibition from the detached vantage point of the "external" expert.

Film and video programme

The film and video programme curated by Eugeni Bonet revolves around the issue of "translation" on the level of film history, and is, at the same time, to be seen as another interpretation of the On Translation series. The programm includes videos by Muntadas as well as early films by directors as Jeanne C. Finley, Joyce Wieland, Raúl Ruiz or Hollis Frampton.     

A project by
medien_kunst_netz dortmund
> hartware medien kunst verein
> Museum am Ostwall
> Kulturbüro Stadt Dortmund
> Universität Dortmund

in co-operation with
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, MACBA


Eugeni Bonet, Barcelona (film program)
Reinhard Braun, Graz (catalogue)
Valentín Roma, Barcelona (catalogue)
and many others
curated by     Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler
Marianne Wendzinski, Mayor to the City of Dortmund
supported by
City of Dortmund
Kunststiftung NRW
Ministerium für Städtebau und Wohnen, Kultur und Sport des Landes NRW
Sparkasse Dortmund

AON Artscope Kunstversicherungsmakler,
D'Art - Art Handling Spedition GmbH
Siebdruckatelier Haubner
Oktober Kommunikation
On Translation: Das Museum (available in May)
with contributions from Eugeni Bonet, Reinhard Braun, Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Valentín Roma and others

MUNTADAS. On Translation
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (ed), 2002
300 pages, english, 36 EUR
ACTAR, ISBN: 84-95951-27-4

MUNTADAS. Media, Architecture, Installations.
CD ROM (anarchive no. 1, Ed. by Anne-Marie Duguet), Paris 1999 MacOS/Window
MACBA, Barcelona
Galeria Moises Pérez de Albeniz, Pamplona
Alain Buyse, Édition/Sérigraphie, Lille
Galerie Brigitte March, Stuttgart
Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack, Hannover
Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/TBA, Amsterdam Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg
(Joseph Beuys, Filzanzug)
Museum Kurhaus Kleve
(Ewald Mataré, Die große liegende Kuh)


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