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Alejandra Riera's new project now on view at Museo Reina Sofía
Exhibition view Alejandra Riera. < Garden of Mixtures: Attempts to Make Place, 1995 -… >. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. May, 2022. Photo credit: Román Lores, Joaquín Cortés. Photographic Archive of Museo Reina Sofía.

MADRID.- Museo Reina Sofía presents < Garden of Mixtures: Attempts to Make Place, 1995 -… > by Alejandra Riera, a series of works that continue part of the project she created at the museum in 2013. The exhibition is conceived without beginning or end, as a set of singular places linked through an open narrative with freedom of movement, in which underlies the idea of interweaving, intertwining lines and ideas, images and texts, braiding poetics whose common thread is intuited through the rooms.

The project comprises different spaces of the museum: the vault rooms at the Sabatini building resume an action initiated in 2013 with poétique(s) de l'inachèvement [poetic(s) of incompletness], which included drilling a hole in a wall concealing a trapdoor in the old hospital where the museum is currently located, subsequently creating a passageway of natural air and light to the basement.

The action of opening continues on the ground floor in the garden of the former hospital where, since 2017, the Garden of Mixtures collective, comprised of an open-ended group of people from both the museum and beyond, seeks to make room for the coexistence of “the human and non-human presences”. The "attempts to make place" in the title alludes to the importance of creating a space that seeks to break with individualism and segregation of all kinds. Of race and gender, of course, but also of roles. Curators, watchmen, artists and people from the museum’s neighborhood, among others, have intervened at the garden of mixtures without hierarchies or distinction of functions.

This section reflects on the history of the building, via looking at other presences, not necessarily human: vegetation as presences and thoughts in movement. As the artist sates: “How to make room for living entities that undermine the imaginary separation between what is considered “human” and “non-human”? Between who has the right to speak and who is considered voiceless? How can these entities communicate and support each other? What do we learn when we pay attention to the space in which we find ourselves? How does it transform itself and how do we transform it?”

The third floor of Sabatini building includes, distributed throughout ten spaces, a group of works made by Riera where she once again revisits her previous projects. This section features works by other artists and non-artists with whom Alejandra Riera has carried out projects, presented as a collective painting, as an ensembled poetry.

In this "making place" there is no superior voice representing the other. Thus, in one of the works located at the end of the show, focused on an area of the French town of Valence, texts and images dialogue without one serving as an explanation for the other, nor vice versa. The photographs come from archives or have been taken by Riera herself, the texts are exchanges with the inhabitants of the area. Faced with the location’s conflictive and devastated image, these unfinished and imperfect stories are like the branch that Ceija Stojka ate when she was at the concentration camps, the hope that emerges from the bare minimum.

Rather than the discursive element, gesture is the key to this exhibition. The gesture of weaving and unweaving, reflected in the works of Lanceta and of Riera herself. But also the gesture of filming. This is why Alejandra has made various objects, distributed throughout the exhibition, which constitute film cameras, not so much because they record anything, but because with their wheels and movements they replicate the gesture of silent film cameras.

In Riera's work the reexamining of cinematographic forms is always present: The tree-camera that does not film, created collectively; the singularity of voices; making the cinematic form become mute as in the first shots in the history of cinema; veiling the film, matching and unmatching images and texts in order to question and doubt; the presence of the editing table as a metaphor for the observation and mixing of colors, the manual work with the images, the memory that opens up, what has been repressed, erased (the drawings of Kurdish children about the war, Ceija Stojka's experience at the concentration camps...).

Riera's artistic practice is always relational and collective. It is a process in which many people collaborate and in which the exchange is continuous. No one assumes the prerogative of representing the other, but rather the works emerge from dialogue, and the questioning of structures and language. There is, of course, a critical aspect in her work, but what is more important is the process of mutual learning, discovering what we do not know from what is apparently minor and fragile. Hence the importance of children's drawings, handicrafts, found objects or involuntary photographs, elements that speak to us because their mute or even untranslatable nature. The relationships between beings and things are subterranean and weave deep ties, like those root-shaped objects that the artist has made in recent years.

As on other occasions in recent years, Museo Reina Sofía presents the work of an artist whose oeuvre is inseparable from other’s contributions. This is neither a solo show in the usual sense, nor an artist who co-creates with the work of others, but a different way of understanding artistic practice, one in which learning by teaching is vital (some of the artists in the exhibition have been Riera’s students).

Alejandra Riera lives and works in Paris. The artist combines photographs with captions, texts and videos, or "models without properties", as she calls them. Her work has been exhibited at Documenta 11 and 12 in Kassel. In 2013, as part of the "fisuras" program, she presented the exhibition poétique(s) de l'inachèvement [poetic(s) of incompletness], at Museo Reina Sofía.

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