Joan Morey's "COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine" at Casal Solleric, Mallorca

Social Body. Anatomy Lesson, 2017 © Joan Morey | Courtesy of the artist
Social Body. Anatomy Lesson, 2017 © Joan Morey | Courtesy of the artist

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COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine is the exhibition by the Mallorcan artist Joan Morey, at Casal Solleric in Palma de Mallorca on view until 6 September. As part of the program and for those who are on the island, on July 23, and only with prior registration, the performance COLLAPSE. Possible Machine will take place in Can Balaguer, also in Palma.

Twelve majestic rooms on the 18th-century piano nobile and the columned courtyard of Casal Solleric in Palma de Mallorca host the first retrospective of Joan Morey in his native Mallorca. COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine presents a selection of six projects produced between 2007 and 2017, and a continuous program of eight audio works. The show is a collection of documents and materials, films, sounds, voices, and bodies which, with their collapse, offer a panorama of the last ten years of Morey’s artistic production.

The exhibition for Casal Solleric is an adaptation of COLAPSO, an expanded project that took place between 2018 and 2019 simultaneously in several locations in Barcelona.

Exhibition view COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine (2020) © Joan Morey. Photography: Roberto Ruiz | Courtesy of the artist and Casal Solleric

The display of this new chapter, COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine, resembles that of ethnographic museums: a series of vitrines show objects and documentation belonging to the six selected performative projects. Pedestals and video screens complete the installations.

Since the late 1990s, Joan Morey (Mallorca, 1972) has produced an expansive body of live events, videos, installations, sound, and graphic works, that has explored the intersection of theatre, fashion, cinema, philosophy, sexuality, and subjectivity. In 2017 Morey was awarded the Ciutat de Barcelona Award for Visual Arts given by Barcelona City Council in recognition of excellence in creativity, research, and artistic production.

After more than two decades of production, Joan Morey’s work brings together three fundamental genres in contemporary artistic practices: performance, presenting time-based live scenarios, usually involving human bodies and the public itself; appropriation, taking and reformulating existing texts, forms and styles, whether from literary, classical or subcultural sources; and institutional criticism, with which he examines and addresses the ideologies and power of our social, cultural, and political institutions.

Morey’s work both critiques and embodies one of the most spinous and far-reaching aspects of human consciousness and behaviour —how we relate ourselves to others, as the oppressed or the oppressor. This central preoccupation with the exercise of power and authority obviously accounts for the black path of his art.

Bachelor Machine, the subtitle of the exhibition refers to an enigmatic device that the artist Marcel Duchamp called the machine célibataire and which appears in his famous work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even/La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, most often called The Large Glass/Le grand verre (1915-1923) in the form of various mechanical components and schematic diagrams. Duchamp conceived the machine célibataire as an imaginary mechanism in an endless drama of conjugal eroticism and agony. Alluding to other fantastic devices and experiments imagined by writers like French Alfred Jarry, the machine célibataire produces a kind of eternal flow of desire. In 1986 the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychiatrist Felix Guattari espoused this concept in their study of Franz Kafka’s texts, in which they claimed that Kafka’s obsessive and solitary nature had nothing to do with neurosis, suffering or withdrawal and that his novels were not mirrors of the world. On the contrary, they stated that Kafka’s literature was a machine célibataire whose “assemblages” formed positive and markedly political social connections.

SOCIAL BODY. Anatomy Lesson

The video performance SOCIAL BODY. Anatomy Lesson takes a prominent place in the exhibition. The piece, a 50-minute film, corresponds to the performance of about three hours of duration without an audience that took place at the anatomical amphitheatre of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia in Barcelona. This audiovisual proposal is based on the aesthetics of a Baroque anatomy class and it was precisely filmed in the Baroque anatomical amphitheatre. The work examines the social construction of the body in contemporary Western culture through the effects of power and it refers to the representation of anatomy in Renaissance and Baroque painting as a metaphor for ‘looking’. The Mallorcan confronts the body of the performer with this solemn setting that functions as a kind of panopticon, and introduces the camera as the second protagonist, transferring this effect of observing to contemporary digital surveillance.

POSTMORTEN. Project in Seven Panels 

Joan Morey creates mise-en-scènes and specific interventions based on a script in which the performers and the audience are subjected to a series of rigid instructions. One of them is POSTMORTEM. A Project in Seven Panels (2006-2007). The performance took place in the cloister of the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica (Barcelona), which was built in 1636 and was a former convent of the mendicant Catholic religious Order of Augustinian. The actors, the artist, and the audience —who were cast previously— were enclosed in a coffin-shaped structure, with white floor and walls. Seven independent panels were held on different days and for different groups of spectators so that no one could judge the work in its entirety. The different actions were intended to determine the causes of a state of destruction or a terminal process. Inspired by the masochistic or confrontational approaches of previous performances, POSTMORTEM was a kind of obituary, symbolic dissection and burial.

POSTMORTEN. Project in Seven Panels, 2006-2007. © Joan Morey | Courtesy of the artist

Vitrine content in exhibition COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine (2020) © Joan Morey. Photography: Roberto Ruiz | Courtesy of the artist and Casal Solleric

OBEY. Humiliated & Offended

It is usual in Morey’s happenings the lack of audience —as it is the case in Anatomy Lesson. Despite this, the performers are always submitted to a rigorous script. Under this typology is the work: OBEY. Humiliated & Offended (2007-2009). This durational performance covered 24 hours in which every stay of the museum, the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC), in Santiago de Compostela, functioned as an immense minimalist stage. Three acts of eight uninterrupted hours each took place in the halls, corridors, terraces, and “dead zones”. For each of the three parts, the performers —alone or in groups of two or three— dressed in clothes and elements designed to restrict movement —such as leather harnesses— whilst executed simultaneous readings and choreographed actions in repetitive cycles. Another lead performer, dressed in Victorian-style mourning, made circuits around the building connecting the three performances. This lady’s movements determined the direction of the cameras. All was documented in video and photography. As said previously, there was no audience, and in contrast to the welcoming tone that characterizes museums, the invitations for the exhibition explicitly asked the audience not to attend.

OBEY, 2007-2009 © Joan Morey | Courtesy of the artist


On the other hand, IL LINGUAGGIO DEL CORPO/THE BODY LANGUAGE (2015) are three performances in which not only there were no audience, but also the artist was absent on each occasion. This piece was conceived in and around the Tempietto del Bramante (1510) in San Pietro in Montorio, which currently houses the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome and which instituted the architectural ideals of the Renaissance architecture. For these performances, both the performers and the filming crew documenting each action followed the artist’s instructions, adhering to a guideline in the form of a list inspired by the No Manifesto (1965) by dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer.

The Body Language, 2015 © Joan Morey | Courtesy of the artist

THE BODY LANGUAGE focuses on the representation of the human body in classical sculpture and its transfer to the live performance. It has three parts. In the first one, a performer executed different positions based on three female marble sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a Baroque artist famous for his ability to express exacerbated emotions. In the second part, seven naked male performers placed on platforms adopted positions inspired by marine and river gods from three famous Roman fountains. In between positions and breaks, each performer drank water from bottles placed within their reach. When necessary, they urinated in the sculptural position and thus were transformed into human fountains. In the third part, in turns, five naked male performers had to pose on a stool, like statues on a pedestal. The respective poses were inspired by the famous fragmented marble statue Torso del Belvedere (1st century BC). A group of women then carefully lifted and moved each human sculpture and placed it horizontally on the ground on a rubber surface.

COLLAPSE. Possible Machine

Last but not least, the performance COLLAPSE. Possible Machine will take place next Thursday 23rd July within the framework of the exhibition in Can Balaguer, also Palma de Mallorca. The performance can only be accessed with prior registration and strict dress code. COLLAPSE. Possible Machine consists of a reactivation, adaptation, and update of the 2017 performance TOUR DE FORCE. The original work traced in a poetic way several routes through the brief history of AIDS, from the beginning of the disease until it became a pandemic at the end of the last century and the paraphilias generated around the transmission of the HIV, the virus that causes. Unfortunately, the current recreation establishes a direct correspondence between HIV and SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the coronavirus epidemic. Possible Machine, is based on thematic axes such as the pandemic, the impenetrable, the imprisonment, the protection and exposure of bodies, or the human fragility. The performance configures a “dramatic” machinery of choreographed movement, music, and voice that takes the interior of Can Balaguer as a space of transmission and memory.

Vitrine content in exhibition COLLAPSE. Bachelor Machine (2020) © Joan Morey. Photography: Roberto Ruiz | Courtesy of the artist and Casal Solleric

And to conclude, this also “tour” by Morey’s corpus of work, one needs to mention that his projects critically expose the relations, the authority, and the exercise of power as a reflection of universal history, full of episodes, past and to come, in these times of pandemic and planetary crisis that accentuate exploitation and inequalities. However, his work suggests through binomials that ‘collapse’ into each other the possibility, in certain circumstances, of extracting light from deep darkness.


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