Numbers > Number 16 > Art and politics in Mateo Maté: a case study
ISSN: 1885-365X
FERNÁNDEZ BARBUDO, Carlos Contact 0000-0003-0508-8032

Art and politics in Mateo Maté: a case study

20 de diciembre de 2018
22 de enero de 2019


The relations between arts and politics, or, more specifically, the use of art as a political claim have been studied by different academic disciplines. This paper analyses the work of Mateo Maté, Área restringida, as an example of this interrelation. In this work, the visitor walks around a map of Europe, designed with catenaries, commonly used to regulate people’s traffic in airports, museums and other public buildings. This research studies this work from the angle of political philosophy, with the aim of understanding its message and its possible difficulties in the modern world, making use of the theories of Foucault, Agamben or Mouffe, among others, and also of the author’s own declarations.


1. Introduction

In her analysis of the political in Doris Salcedo’s art, Mieke Bal points out some of the ways in which the idea of ​​“political art” has been tackled and which, according to her, have a meaning that can be discarded. In the first place, the idea of ​​an art that deals with politics. Second, an art sponsored or censored by the State. Third, art that acts as a one-off protest. To these three meanings, of which he considers that they cannot contain the idea of ​​”political art”, Bal adds another that arises not from the opposition between aesthetics and politics but between art and life. The first of these meanings, and which Bal deals with, is the aestheticization of real-world policies, especially violence (Bal, 2010: 52-53).

This work will analyze the work Restricted area by the artist Mateo Maté, born in Madrid in 1964, from the perspective of “political art”, that is, from the relations that the work of art has with politics and with politics . In Restricted Area, exhibited for the first time in 2007 at the CAB Burgos Art Center, in the context of a project by the same artist entitled Uniformed Landscapes, Maté presents a map made up of catenaries designed, normally, to regulate the traffic of people in airports, museums and other mass places. In addition, a series of video cameras permanently focus on the different parts of the map, reflecting the image captured by these on three monitors, in front of which stands a chair and, presumably, a uniformed sworn guard. The following phrase by Yves Michaud is part of the exhibition’s catalog, which can guide the subsequent analysis of the installation: “Security is both an obsession and a fiction.”

Although the first time this work was exhibited was in 2007, in Burgos, the catenaries forming the map of Europe from Portugal to the Peloponnese, including Italy and the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, France and central Europe (Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium …) and in the north, Ireland and the United Kingdom, Maté has held similar exhibitions in other parts of the globe. In total, Restricted Area has been exposed four times:

  • 2015: Miró Foundation of Barcelona, ​​with Inma Prieto being the curator and repeating the theme of Europe;
  • 2012: Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv (Israel), focusing this time on the Mediterranean and including the map, therefore, the northern border of Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and Cyprus;
  • 2011: in the Siqueiros Art Room, in Mexico City, where the catenaries drew the map of the American geographic continent, not including the islands.

The objective of this work is, then, to study the work Restricted Area from political philosophy, so that the theoretical analysis allows us to understand the work presented and, in turn, that the analysis of the work helps to understand and project some concepts of political theory and philosophy. To do this, this work will cover the Restricted Area showing the current relationships between power and politics, with special emphasis on the role of exclusion and the subjects in liberal societies, as well as the relationships between technique and politics.

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