Antoni Muntadas

Antonio Gamoneda

Image © Antoni Muntadas, Roma 4 décembre 2017
Photography: Oficina de disseny

Antonio Gamoneda

Farce and Elegy

For José Luis Gómez, creator and master of stage realities, with gratitude

I still remember. The whole population had turned out…
They went up onto the roofs, they climbed the trees.
They waved pieces of cloth, ribbons, palm leaves.

Then came the fear.

Alejo Carpentier, The Apprentice Witch


Come closer. Drink with me. There will be a wine that procures the true drunkenness; we have wandered in false drunkennesses.

We will sink gently into slumber. With the glass still in our hands, we will note the moment when memories desert us.

Then, free and tired, we will sleep; I in your drunkenness and you in mine. We will know one another when we wake.

The sun is coming up. I have slept a dreamless sleep and the glass is empty. Can I have drunk for nothing? And you: who are you?

I don’t know.

Yes, I have woken again only to not know, to remember the uncertain and to wait without hope.

What abundance of vertigo.

I remember we were young and we dined by the light of the knives. Its radiance rested on those girls who were looking for us. We scorned them and we failed. They, too, failed. They disappeared, smiling, but the contempt hung from their lips. We lived in omens.

I also remember Jorge smoking at noon. I saw his eyes motionless among steel tunics and his mother dying in his eyes. Drunk with tears, he looked at me once and left the burnt courtyard. He stepped aside to crush the head of the blind snake that slithered among pottery.

He went to the storerooms to write with acids and to be in himself. He came back at nightfall and did not go into his house. He stood in front of the embankment watching the snow tremble on the briars. His children went out to look for him and he told them no, not yet, he was listening to the siskin.

It was not like that. Memory confuses the causes before hiding in the saddest holes; it was not like that. The girls were happy and slender and Jorge was as clear and deep as calm water; he was whistling the siskin’s song, creating serenity, listening to the dawn bells ringing out over the meadows of Huelva.

It has been a long time since I have embraced dying causes or those others that have been snuffed out. I rarely think of the death rattles of Laurín in my arms; the agony of Laurín unknown to her sons, the convicted commanders.

But someone speaks to me of old men who wet themselves and simultaneously snore or consult calendars. Some hold in yellow retching; others stare at what they do not see; others again, the most avid, think the possibility of not thinking.

And the old women. They also speak to me of old women smiling in arteriosclerosis, distracted by lace and concubinages. Some play with rings and shadows. One day they feel strange to themselves and refuse food.

A livid circumstance, in general. There are warnings that the farce is spreading. As far as I’m concerned, I dissent from life and from death; I dissent from urinating there, nothing in front of me, waiting without knowing what I’m waiting for.

I realise too that I neither know what it is to live nor know what it is to die, and likewise comprehend that I don’t know if I care.

Others, possibly happier or more imbecile, decorate the unknown; the foul unknown, usually: bells, oils, perfumes, Mozart, even; Mozart discreetly passing over the remains of the liver.

I perform the natural and empirical farce: there is nothing to remember or forget: nothing to understand or solve. The farce is not a problem and there are too many solutions. Some farces are sorted out with barbiturates.

I say the sufficient barbiturates and the surplus; those taken away by the paralegals, forcing open hard cold hands.

Give up your perhaps excessively beautiful hands. Nothing can be offered or desired. And erase the symbols that you find in your path. All the symbols are empty.

Erase, too, if possible, the grammar, so dubious, of the epitaphs. Only the agony is proven. From death one can only suspect a vague equality with life; merely suspect.

Remember, then, that the best course is to not know: erase the epitaphs.

What is more, ignorance is relatively beautiful. Few things can be beautiful before or after innocence. Even so, ignorance is beautiful only relatively. On account of its uselessness, I suppose.

In another order, even knowing that it is natural in the farce, it disturbs me, as you know, that there are so many (not counting the imbeciles) who comfort themselves by decorating it (death, I mean). They squander money and tears.

I recommend you not to not get into their habits. As for me, and simply out of courtesy,

let them call Mozart.

Or some flowers, not finding Mozart (Mozart may never have been in himself; if he was living, it would be in music).

The flowers, white, obviously; similar to flowers that exist only thought or to spirits that hide in their petals. Perhaps oleanders.

They are not décor, strictly speaking, the oleanders; they are simply beautiful. Digitalic, they say. But no, transcendent horticulture, no.

Paradoxically, better the disgust, with or without petals. The disgust remains. It would legitimize the boredom. Oleanders, true oleanders, are unlikely.


You will have observed, I suppose, that nothing is of any use. This is a here without there.

And without here.

And yet, strangely enough, I survive in my own farce; I survive what I have not been.

But do I survive? Is it proven that I survive?

It makes no difference.

Nothing makes any difference, not even the agonies. What are we to say, for example, of the old men, diabetic or not, or of the useless old women? All the same: what does not exist and what seems to; none of it makes any difference.


But I’m afraid.


Although, in reality, thinking about it, it is not possible. Perhaps I’m not afraid.


If at least one remained, just one recognizable appearance; a useless passion, for example.

No. Useless passions are unlikely.

But the fruity delirium of the tongue, the exact hallucination of the names, the frenzy of the dithyrambs…

They are unlikely.

But is it known at least if it sings, if it has ever sung, if it is going to sing, the siskin?


Antoni Muntadas

Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona, 1942) is a visual artist who has resided in New York since 1971. His pioneering work in video art and the use of new media has been developed at the intersection between the visual arts, the social sciences and communication. He presents his work in various media, including photography, video, publications, Internet, installations and interventions in the public space. He has been a professor at MIT (1990–2014) and in various prestigious schools and universities, such as the École de Beaux Arts de Paris, the University of California at San Diego, the San Francisco Art Institute, Cooper Union in New York, the University of São Paolo, the University of Buenos Aires and the University Institute of Architecture Venice. His work has been seen since the 1970s in the world’s most important museums, including MoMA in New York, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, MNCARS in Madrid, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona’s MACBA, amongst many others. He has been awarded a number of prizes, including the National Visual Arts Award of the Generalitat de Catalunya, in 1996, the National Visual Arts Award of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, in 2005, and the Velázquez Visual Arts Prize, in 2009.

Antonio Gamoneda

Antonio Gamoneda (Oviedo, 1931) has lived in León, Spain, since 1934, where at the age of 14 he began to work in a bank. A self-taught writer, he was director of the foundations Cultura Provincial and Sierra Pampley (related to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza). From 1949 to 1976, with the beginning of the democratic transition, he participated in the labour movement and the resistance against the Franco regime. He is the author of more than 48 books of poetry, which have been translated into 18 languages, as well as a dozen books of essays and prose. In 2004 his complete poetry was published as Esta luz. Poesía reunida (1947–2004). Since then he has published Canción errónea (2012), Lapidario incompleto (2014) and La prisión transparente (2016). He has been named Doctor Honoris Causa at several universities. In 1987 he was awarded the Spanish National Poetry Prize. In 2006 he received the Prix Européen de Littérature, the Reina Sofía Prize and the Cervantes Prize.
Photography: Oficina de disseny