JUAN MUÑOZ'S WORKS FOR RADIO A Man in a Room, Gambling
Curated by Juan Muñoz
"A Man in a Room, Gambling"(1992) deals with card tricks, which are old favorites on magicians’ repertoires but also widely used on the streets. This work allowed Juan Muñoz to combine his interest in the figure of the “specialist” with popular culture around gambling. Backed by music composed by Gavin Bryars, the artist describes different strategies employed in card games in a deliberately technical way, with almost scientific precision. The explanations sound like rundowns of chemical formulas or cooking recipes; listeners hear a mellifluous voice reciting the instructions, but no matter how hard they concentrate, they will always come up against the impossibility of carrying them out.
The work is ensconced in the absurdity of attempting to reconstruct a visual experience without the use of images. Originally divided into short segments designed to be inserted in the midst of regular programming, each program begins with a "Good evening. Today we will teach you such and such a trick". Listening to the series now, compressed into a single sequence, the sense of irreality is heightened as though the program itself were a trick.
Juan Muñoz frequently turned to the figure of the magician or illusionist, and in particular the trickster. He saw himself as an illusionist of sensibility and thought. Magicians never disclose their tricks or reveal their secrets. The texts Muñoz reads were taken from various publications on the subject, so his aim wasn’t to reveal the tricks of the trade – he was interested in playing with publicly available information about things that must remain secret, as a metaphor of his own work. Storyteller, invisible master of ceremonies, absent events organiser… the tricks allowed Muñoz to describe himself while also commenting on the role of artists in his time.
This work for radio is a production of the Artangel Gallery, in London (James Lingwood), in collaboration with Gavin Byars Ensemble.