|Written by Lauren Heinz|
|07 Jun 2008|
His work, at the Reina Sofia, was displayed as a slide-show with his voice-from-beyond-the-grave as spoken captions. Hotel Palenque was clearly absolutely compelling, driven, brilliant work, but unfortunately, the laconic voiceover was delivered or recorded at a pitch difficult to discern coherently. We could make out bits and pieces but we were straining so hard to hear it tarnished our experience. (Just read in the catalogue that it was a lecture given in Utah and Smithson was believed to be ‘a little drunk on whiskey’ at the time!) Essentially, in 1969, Smithson and his wife and a friend travelled to ancient Mayan sites, and in photographing a derelict hotel, parallels grew in relation to historical processes of renewal and destruction then as now, and the work transformed into the meditation on place and its cultural significance that we observed. Maybe headphones would work better.
Like lambs to the slaughter, we made our way to the city’s former abattoir, Matadero Madrid. Here our own ruminations on ‘place’ began. This stunning building – now an arts centre – was utterly deserted. We were the sole viewers of Marcellvs L’s video works. Two large screens at either end of a sandy-floored space showed two different but connected films, in which, it must be said, not a lot happens. This is of course the point. I will confess to being slightly seduced by the uncanny play on the concept of watching and being watched. We also we oddly thrilled to witness the blood of the slaughtered animals on the ground outside.