Artes Mundi 2012
I paid a visit to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, to check out the contenders for the 2012 Artes Mundi Prize – or at least those whose work is actually exhibited there (Tania Bruguera’s “Immigrant Respect Campaign” consists of a number of non-gallery events; and Apolonija Šušteršič’s “Politics ‘In Space’/ Tiger Bay Project”, an examination of the Cardiff Bay Redevelopment, is represented only by a big-screen documentary and a newspaper).
The first piece to be encountered is Miriam Bäckström’s “Smile As If We Have Already Won” a huge, iridescent tapestry, striking in its beauty. Darius Mikšys’ “The Code” is a kind of artistic self-examination taking the form of a mini-museum compiled from objects in the host institution’s collection. Sheela Gowdi’s “Kagabangara” is an installation consisting of artfully arranged steel drums and sheets of tarpaulin (clever, but it left me cold); this is being shown alongside her “Heartland” - an affecting, politically-slanted painting derived from an altered news photograph. Phil Collins’ “Free Fotolab” is a strangely hypnotic slideshow featuring snapshots taken from strangers’ rolls of film. Most subtly impressive, in my view, is Teresa Margolles’ exhibit, consisting of a number of subtle meditations on death – a sound recording from an autopsy; part of a floor on which a friend died; hot metal plates on which drip water from a morgue.
As always, an inspirational, low-key show which gives even the casual, inexpert viewer much to think about.