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Julia Montilla brings the collective imaginary of Marian apparitions to the Joan Miró Foundation
Following the apparition of the Virgin Mary to four local children, the village of Garabandal became a pilgrimage site and a space for the construction of a religious imaginary.

BARCELONA.- Julia Montilla’s El «cuadro» de la «calleja» is the third exhibition in the Perplexity series curated by David Armengol at Espai 13, Joan Miró Foundation. The exhibition opened on 21 February and runs until 21 April 2013.

For the Perplexity series, Julia Montilla presents a project that revolves around the sightings of the Virgin Mary that took place in the village of San Sebastián de Garabandal, in northern Spain, between 1961 and 1965. Based on an intensive research project, the narrative of the exhibition deals with the concept of visionary experience beyond the framework of religious faith, and explores the dramaturgy and codes of representation linked to the phenomenon of divine ecstasy.

Following the apparition of the Virgin Mary to four local children, the village of Garabandal became a pilgrimage site and a space for the construction of a religious imaginary. Forty years later, Julia Montilla uses this setting as the starting point for an artistic project that focuses on the visual representation of religious identity and on the mythification of the phenomenon of apparitions. Her research into the visual and written records of the apparitions allows Montilla to cut across issues of gender, tradition and the popular imagination.

As part of this process, the artist analyses the various elements that make up the phenomenon – the characters, the settings and the rituals – by studying the representations that were generated around the case of San Sebastián de Garabandal, including press photographs, family albums and holy cards as well as amateur footage filmed during the apparitions. In this sense, the project falls within Julia Montilla’s long-term interest in the contrived, instrumental construction of images in our society by means of formal and ideological manipulation, a subject that she has approached in her work from many angles including film, television and, more recently, religious contexts.

In the exhibition, three formats come together to recreate this collective imaginary: audiovisuals, photographs projected as slides, and a compilation of images and texts linked to the object of study. Visitors to the exhibition are able to witness the direct link between one of the earliest apparitions in 1961 and recent video footage filmed by the artist.

The space in which the slides are projected, along with an audio narrative, emphasises the performative, theatrical nature of the phenomenon by presenting archival images of the four visionaries from Garabandal. The exhibition also includes four display cabinets that allow visitors to discover abundance of written and graphic material stemming from the myth, and read the media accounts of the controversial apparitions that the phenomenon has generated over the years.

Visitors to the exhibition are able to take home a previously unpublished text by Julia Montilla, and in addition, a publication along the same line as the others in the Perplexity series has been published. It includes images from the exhibition and two texts by Julia Montilla and the series curator David Armengol, and will be launched on 4 April in the framework of the exhibition.

Julia Montilla focuses her work on research into the iconic configurations of our culture, through concepts such as gender, affect and faith. She uses an anthropological, conceptual approach that leads her to analyse existing models of popular culture and to destabilise the codes through which we read collective identity constructions, in order to reveal their artificial and arbitrary nature. Her work has been exhibited at Spanish and international museums and art centres, including MUSAC, León (2005), the International Video-Art Biennial, Tel Aviv (2006), CGAC, Santiago de Compostela (2006), La Panera, Lleida (2009 and 2011), and La Capella, Barcelona (2011) Julia Montilla was recently a recipient of the Botín Foundation Visual Arts Grant (2011-2012).

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