Maps and beds are important motifs in the work of Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca, bringing together ideas of landscape and private space.
Kuitca has incorporated maps into his work since the late 1980s. While maps are usually made in order to capture, rationalise and navigate public space, Kuitca is interested in exploring personal or human landscapes rather than any particular geographical location.
"Untitled" (1992) belongs a group of works in which Kuitca painted maps onto mattresses, which are mounted on the wall or laid on the floor. In this installation, road maps sprawl across twenty child-sized beds that have been arranged to suggest a kind of abstract or painterly landscape. Irregularly placed buttons serve as markers for major cities, though the artist is less interested in the specific locations on the maps than in their ability to suggest a bizarre dream landscape when painted onto the beds. The places named in the maps didnt represent anything I knew, had seen in films, nor read in books; not here or there, just names, he has said.
Although Kuitca does not explicitly address the culture of his country, preferring to describe his themes and interests as universal, the mood of his work has been linked to the turbulent, sometimes repressive recent history of Argentina. He began to use beds in his work around 1982, the time of the Falklands War and the collapse of the Argentine dictatorship, and has associated them with his feelings of depression at the time. Kuitca has referred to the trauma of the small beds, suggesting that they may relate to troubled childhood memories.
Guillermo Kuitca was born in 1961 in Buenos Aires, where he lives and works.
Guillermo Kuitcas installation "Untitled" has the character of a stage set. On the twenty child-sized beds that make up the installation, Kuitca has painted road maps of Europe. The mattresses are punctuated by irregularly placed buttons, serving as markers for major cities. While the place names can be read by the viewer, Kuitca is not interested in the specific locations the maps represent. In fact, they are chosen precisely because the places themselves had no particular personal significance for him. He has said of them: from the beginning the places named in the maps didnt represent anything I knew, had seen in films, nor read in books; not here or there, just names. The name and its sound and resonance. (Guillermo Kuitca: Burning Beds - A Survey 1982-1994, 1994, p. 17.)
In contrast, the ready-made mattresses that Kuitca used in his work bring with them vivid associations. Individually they suggest childhood, and the intimacy and security of the bedroom, but together they take on a grimly institutional quality. The sense of isolation Kuitca has spoken of is heightened by the placement of the maps over the mattresses. Private and public spaces are conflated, the image of a restrictive, invasive culture imposed on personal life. Despite this fragmentary nature of the cartography, the possibility remains that it represents a dream landscape that might connect the individual occupants of the beds.
Although Kuitcas work is not overtly political, and he does not explicitly address the culture of his country, the alienated mood and institutional anonymity of his work communicate something of the turbulent, sometimes repressive, recent history of Argentina, where he lives and works. Kuitca himself describes his themes as more universal. He has said that his series of map paintings, of which this installation is a part, works towards a definition of trauma, and the small beds, presented en masse, could suggest a frightening return of a traumatic childhood memory. The diminutive size of the beds contributes to this uncanny quality, for as Kuitca has commented, even when seen up close, the size of the mattresses can give the viewer the slightly disorienting impression of still being some distance from them. It is an exaggeration of the point of view that Kuitca locates in all of his work.
- Tate Modern (www.tate.org.uk)