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Fantasy visions by Starewitch, Švankmajer and the Quay Brothers" on view at CCCB in Barcelona
The cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, 1984.

BARCELONA.- The exhibition “Metamorphosis”, curated by experimental film specialist Carolina López Caballero, presents the oeuvre of four key figures in animation cinema: the Russian resident in Paris, Ladislas Starewitch (1882-1965), a pioneer in the genre, the Czech master Jan Švankmajer (1934) and the unclassifiable Quay Brothers (1947), recently the subject of an exhibition at the New York MoMA. This exhibition is a coproduction of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and La Casa Encendida Fundación Caja Madrid, where it will continue after its run at the CCCB, from 2 October 2014 to 11 January 2015.

Though little known to the general public, these filmmakers are hugely influential in various fields of contemporary creation as references for, among others, filmmakers Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.

This is the first time that the work of these four artists has been presented in depth in Spain, but what makes it a real international event is the fact that it brings together the work of these four animators engaged in an explicit dialogue: the Quay Brothers are self-confessed admirers of Jan Švankmajer, and the three are accompanied by Starewitch.

The exhibition swings back and forth between the specific world of each of these artists and their shared universe, with the direct participation of Jan Švankmajer and the Quay Brothers, who are producing an installation specially for the show.

The leading thread is a presentation of their careers in cinema and the pieces they have used and constructed to make their films: sets, puppets, drawings and objects.

Alongside it, an array of literary, artistic and cinematographic references illustrate the influences recognised by the artists: fairytales, horror stories, the world of dreams, the cabinet of curiosities, pre-enlightenment science, alchemy, magic and illusionism come together in the exhibition galleries in the form of works by foremost creators like Francisco de Goya, James Ensor, Alfred Kubin, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Méliès and Luis Buñuel. This is an imaginary that ranges from dark romanticism, symbolism and surrealism to the present day, especially in genres regarded as marginal, which in the hands of these animators become the most radical modernity.

The exhibition sets out to rediscover and awaken curiosity in a brotherhood of artists who with their radicalness, imagination and their very stance are open to reinterpretation in the framework of culture today and a contextualization of their potential for subversion. The “Metamorphosis” experience (the exhibition plus its parallel activities of a film cycle and talks) begs a reflection on the curiosity/knowledge duality and the new role of the marginal in contemporary creation. At a time of oversaturation of information, it is important to redefine the concept of marginality.

Like the cabinets of curiosities of the 17th century, the exhibition breaks the logic of relations between objects and between sources of materials, juxtaposing different categories to create an eccentric landscape. A landscape between sleeping and waking, where innocence, cruelty, voluptuousness, magic and madness rub shoulders. A disturbing surrealist landscape that is poetic and lucid, sometimes grotesque, sometimes phantasmagorical, populated with fable insects that love and suffer, puppets that laugh at the world or refuse to give in to their obsessions, characters who play, who dream, and who love the unproductive and the futile.

The project reflects on the interest that many contemporary creators have in ways to generate meaning which, as in the Kunstkammer, organized and structure themselves regardless of strict hierarchy, like the avant-garde associative techniques of collage and assembly, prompting us to wonder whether the Internet is the new cabinet of curiosities of the 21st century.

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