Group exhibition           

IN PRAISE OF MISUNDERSTANDING
(Elogi del malentès)
Curated by Joana Hurtado Matheu
Touring exhibition 2019 - 2022.
Catalunya.

Catalog Here
Video of the exhibition

Artistes: Mar Arza, Cabello/Carceller, Lúa Coderch, Kajsa Dahlberg, Anna Dot, Dora García, Andrea Gómez, Núria Güell, Alexandra Leykauf, Mariona Moncunill, Mireia Sallarès, Batia Suter i Pilvi Takala


I live in fear of not being misunderstood
Oscar Wilde


Day in day out we talk with scores of people without actually paying attention to the exact meaning of the words we use. However, there will inevitably come a time when someone asks us what we mean. One day, it may even provoke annoyance. That day we’ll realise that the same word may mean something else, that the limits of our reality may be different. And on that day, everything will change, or indeed, we will change.

Misunderstanding eschews the efficiency that we attribute to language as a communication system, and with language come images. Each representation is determined by the cultural, social and emotional perspective of each individual. We don’t know how things work, we only know how we perceive and interpret them. When translating our ideas into words, from our mouths to our listener’s ears, we can sometimes generalise or omit necessary information. More often than not, due to the speed at which we speak, we succumb to poor descriptions; on other occasions, our thoughts and tongues become tied, leading to confusing interpretations. Thus, we are aware that many things are hard to express with the words we have at our disposal, and that underlying, unbridled imprecision is everpresent. So, the real obstacle is not coming up against the vagueness of words but having trusted in their accuracy.

Nevertheless, for many centuries we have been convinced that it is possible to know and understand everything. Believing that, with language and reason, with the right words and suitable classifications, we can explain away the world – both ours and that of others. And that is exactly what we have done. However, if we’re capable of defining it, we’re also capable of changing it. In this sense, the conflict that reveals the misunderstanding is, in turn, an advantage, an opportunity to discover an alternative point of view, whether it be excluded, forgotten or squarely unrecognised, or inconceivable. Until that day. That day on which initial surprise gives way to possibility, imagination. That day, the exact meaning of a word, interpretations of the same event or everything that surrounds us becomes blurred, which effectively means that they are also augmented. At that precise moment in which we lose all understanding, the world that we share becomes vaguer, but also greater. As the poet Jacint Verdaguer said: ‘Where you see desert, swarms of words teem.’

With misunderstanding comes difference, and this difference forces us to critically explore the conventions that govern our relationship with our surroundings. The capitalist, patriarchal system in which we live is established on a dichotomy that divides the world in terms of truth or lies, fantasy or reality, nature or culture, men or women, us or them. According to this dualist, hierarchical and exclusive logic, he who establishes the difference is always the other, conveniently positioned at opposite poles in regard to the norm. In this framework of differentiation, the only possible nexus is a symbiosis of dissuasive force.

The best example is the discourse of love, a cultural construction that we have invented in order to connect despite our differences, whose model of romance, as dictated by our Western culture, equates to a union of two complementary parts. From finding your Prince Charming to your other half, the message is always the same: you must find someone who fits, who understands you, in order to join together in a blissful union that will last forever. Faced with relationships of power that impart this system based on subordination and denial, misunderstanding fuels an active and affirmative vision of difference, which is not predefined in opposition to anything but is the beginning of an open process.

For the philosopher Jacques Rancière, disagreement is the origin of politics, stemming from the discovery that, within the same community, we do not see things or understand the world in the same way. The philosopher and political scientist Chantal Mouffe goes further still and maintains that conflict is inherent to democracy and consensus is an illusion. Recognising the plurality of our society is based on accepting differences and assimilating them while maintaining their multiplicity instead of trying to dismantle them, which means accepting that disputes will always remain. This is the challenge of politics: to facilitate constant negotiation, to be a forum where divergence, so irreducible as it is, coexists in its effort to determine the common good. Limits must be set and pacts must be sought, but always while appreciating that they shall be pragmatic, conceivable and changeable. Impartial prescriptions do not exist, nor do definitive agreements that please everyone.

At a time such as the present, in which disagreement makes itself evident on the streets and countless social conflicts find no political response (from the refugee crisis to Catalan independence or the feminist struggle), contemporary art offers a genuine space for debate, an abundance of critical voices for questioning the status quo. Embracing misunderstanding is akin to establishing a new place of contact in which art and politics converge, not to find a solution but to rethink lessons learnt and to enable an encounter with this other world that will change our world forever. Rescuing vagueness by means of suspicion and discrepancy means placing ourselves in the middle of the dichotomy entrenched in a constant offence and defence in order to decide how to articulate it from within based on uncertainty.

In Praise of Misunderstanding takes advantage of this rift in order to heighten indefinition and to subvert what has been predetermined. The artists participating in this exhibition seek to demonstrate this tension based on confrontations, errors and distortion, trickery and pretences, interruptions and accumulations, stories with no order or without an ending, and things read between the lines or out of context. Each one invents their own strategies to challenge both our imagination and our relationships. Without announcing its arrival, misunderstanding bursts forth to destroy our points of reference.

As a result, the exhibition begins by creating a space for dissent and reflection on each piece (Mariona Moncunill); in other words, by opening itself up to misunderstanding and inviting viewers to interpret it in their own way. Henceforth, like an eye that adapts to darkness, we must gradually adjust our perception of each misunderstanding, whether that is in the form of error (Anna Dot), metaphor (Mar Arza), semiotic illusion (Andrea Gómez) or perspective (Alexandra Leykauf). A critique of the representation that challenges the privileged outlook through which we have given meaning to the world. Accepting that this outlook is active and conflictive, like thinking, implies acknowledging our responsibility. And this is precisely what has been done by the artists who decide to enter the picture and partake, to expose themselves in order to expose us to the limits of what is ordinary and to put new ways of approaching reality to the test.

Their work reveals the misunderstandings that are behind what unites us, be it dreams, love, sex or friendship (Pilvi Takala, Núria Güell, Mireia Sallarès, Lúa Coderch). We’ve gone from identifying the flaws to plunging headfirst into them, from a feeling of emptiness to an unexpected encounter with others, among other things (Cabello/Carceller). The discovery of diversity (Batia Suter) also has to do with our inability to say (Dora García) or to determine anything (Lúa Coderch) – all that remains is experiencing it and sharing it (Kajsa Dahlberg).

At a time of wild over-simplification and minimal effort, entrusting the plurality and complexity of misunderstanding in order to contradict what has already been said and determined, means creating a space of shared resistance that has nothing to do with the necessity of the result. It could be a small change, a seemingly simple gesture, that sparks a process of reflection so profound that there is no going back; or on the contrary, a shift in our frame of reference so substantial that it throws everything into disarray. Misunderstanding and the questions it gives rise to make us aware of the fact we can see reality in a different way, or they implicate us in new experiences in which new connections are possible.

Joana Hurtado Matheu


























Illusion brings together a selection of drawings based on the type of human be - haviour that is associated with language and commu - nication, failed attempts, invisible walls and chains of meaning. The loose and at once delicate brush strokes of Andrea Gómez speak to us of love and power, of tremors and distortion, either unconscious or voluntary, which minimise or broaden the scope of what we seek to explain. Through simple but incomplete gestures, a series of words and sentences and symbols and codes appear like fragmentary signs. Graphic representations that intertwine and thwart one another to the point that we no longer know if we are deciphering or distorting a statement. In opposition to the solipsist exercise of granting meaning, the artist creates and appeals for an articulated and brokered compo - sition of meaning. Through the combination of words and images, the contrast be - tween black and white, and a mixture of references that encompass everything from science to philosophy through to art (from Epicurus to Ursula K. Le Guin, and from Desmond Morris to Angus Fairhurst), the work of Andrea Gómez is akin to countercultural comic strips. Her underground language of voices and hands emerges as parts of a whole, a body that becomes lost in the void of the page or in the ellipsis of sequential narrative in order to avoid closed messages. Critical of the reduc - tionism of advertising, Gómez distributes misunderstanding throughout the room, beyond pages and walls, onto the street, where decontextualisation transforms her drawings into a series of posters with no aspirations other than that of the exhibition: disseminating misunderstanding.