Juan Andrés Milanes Benito
Microwave for one
January 12 – February 11, 2017, Oslo

J a milanesbenito galleririisoslo

Opening reception Thursday January 12 from 17 – 20

It used to be that I got home from work and the only thing I’d want to put in my mouth was the cold barrel of my grandfather’s shotgun. Then I discovered Sonia Allison’s Chicken Tetrazzini, and now there are two things… Reader review of “Microwave for one” by Sonia Allison (The Book Services Ltd.,1987).

Allison´s book, which has lent it´s title to the exhibition, was widely denounced as an example of contemporary decay, loss of cultural identity, misinterpretation and misuse of new technology. All topics of interest for Juan Andrés Milanes Benito.

This second exhibition in Galleri Riis comprises 3 new sculptures and installations, celebrating failure in creative processes, and the ruin as allegory for critical thinking. Comprising numerous references to recent art history, issues of displacement and identity, as well as the politics of the artist/institution/viewer exchange, the works aspire to reset awareness and rethink experience.

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito (b. 1978 Isla de la Juventud, Cuba) earned a MFA from The National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo 2009. He lives and works in Oslo. Recent one person exhibitions include «If Stones Could Talk», Neues Kunstforum, Cologne 2016, «Extraction of the Stone of Madness», De Fabriek, Eindhoven 2015.

His previous exhibition in Galleri Riis Oslo 2011, «Speed is directly proportional to forgetfulness», can be viewed here.

Microwave for one, 2013-2016

It used to be that I got home from work and the only thing I’d want to put in my mouth was the cold barrel of my grandfather’s shotgun. Then I discovered Sonia Allison’s Chicken Tetrazzini, and now there are two things… Reader review of “Microwave for one” by Sonia Allison. (The Book Services Ltd.,1987.)

This publication was a complete failure receiving numerous criticisms. Branded as an illustration of contemporary decay, loss of cultural identity and misinterpretation and misuse of new technology. All topics of interest to me as an artist.

The title and history of this cookbook is a metaphorical starting point for reflection on the question of success or failure. Galleries, museums and other exhibition-spaces usually present the success, but it is the failures of the artist and gallerist that feeds success and this process is lost or mostly hidden in the final result / presentation.

This sculpture celebrates and embraces failure. It tries to be more a fact than just an object. An experience that has been made physical, an experience which is not necessarily real, constantly questioning the definition of the real.

The sculpture is a replica in epoxy, fiberglass, f18 plastic, acrylic one, styrofoam, glue and pigment of an abandoned swimming pool from the fifties which was very popular in Cuba.

In 1959 with the Cuban revolution and the introduction of communism, the government classified all private swimming pools as symbols of the privileged upper class, and ordered them closed or dismantled. Many of the pools were buried or transformed into dwellings.

The sculpture is presented static, with no sign of life. Water, which would have been the only element of movement and life in the object, has been eliminated. Dried out to accentuate the absence of functionality / function. The death of the symbol.

The way we approaching the world is not natural, it is cultural. Killing the symbol is an act of defiance against predefined meaning of reality. As our senses are relative to the cultural construct of our surroundings, we should not take for granted that what we see is real.

In my work I use the technique of precise casting, a process that form part of the narrative of my work. The act of copying and imitation refers directly to the human behavior we pursue to be part of our social environment.

Many industries stimulate and exploit the streamlining of our social behavior. One example is the fashion industry who emblematize, categorize and give meaning and power to the object. A parallel emblematic case is the swimming pool, an object and symbol of affluence.

In the center of the pool, a collapse of the tiles forms an apparently abstract drawing of grey cement but in fact it is a specific image based on statistic numbers and graphs by The World Bank research on unemployment in Europe between the years 2013-2016. This is the period I worked on the developing of this piece. In a contrary way, I attach information to the sculpture by subtracting elements from its composition.

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito, 2017

The Treasure room, 2016

The piece is about the exchange between the artist, the institution and the viewer. Metaphorically the piece suggests the invisible body of meanings in contemporary artistic language.

The treasure room consists of a bronze replica security gate like the one we find in shops, positioned at the entrance / exit of a corridor leading into an empty space. The security gate’s alarm will be activated when a visitor exit the corridor after leaving the empty space, thus disturbing the visitor and causing him or her to think that they have taken something valuable from the empty space.

I want to reflect on the importance of the main task of an art institution, which is not the commercial experience but the exchange that happens between visitor and institution. The art institution is a place that welcomes everyone regardless of diversity of opinions. An idea that defines the democratization of art and its institutions by means of an invitation to speak a language we all know, thus including everybody.

But there are also risks. When an institution fails to sell an experience and starts selling a show and the artist as its maximum entertainment, the levels of language and meaning also change the artistic attitude. Because the museum is a place where meaning through the power of its own institution and its ability to legitimize this meaning are imposed. The effect may be that the institutions risk transforming viewers to spectators in the process of selling “the art experience” to their public.

With my piece I want the viewer exiting the exhibition to think if the institution has provided them with a democratic exchange or if it has been a commercial exchange. This work wants the viewer to have more questions than answers when leaving the art institution.

Was that experience real? Have I taken something “valuable” out of this?

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito, 2017

Chroma key, 2017

In November 2016, I travelled to Lomé, the capital of Togo.

I was surprised by the overflow of commercial billboards promoting cosmetic products for whitening the skin. One of the billboards that touched me the most was an image of a woman with a dark complexion of African origin with a sad, insecure face. Parallel on the right side of this picture it was an another picture of the same woman – now with a cheerful countenance and a very light complexion.

This type of propaganda contaminates the public space, contributing to create personal insecurity in the population, discrimination and obviously to encourage racism.

The piece I made touches topics such as post-colonization, mental poverty and the international cosmetic industry, which not only creates a product, but creates a subject for the object (product).

Skin bleaching treatments work by reducing the content of melanin in the skin. Many of the chemicals used in these products are toxic, and can result in significant short and long-term damage to the skin, as well as to the social and cultural fabric of the mostly poor and underdeveloped societies where they are promoted and sold.

The title of the piece is inspired by special effects techniques in photo and film post-production for compositing and layering, based on color hues or chromatic range. Its main purpose is to enable change of background from the subject.

Metaphorically, I use this method of removing the background of an image applied to the cosmetic function. As an act of amnesia the consumer tries to erase and replace its origin.

Juan Andrés Milanes Benito, 2017

Exhibited works

Installation views