Oscar Murillo: Estructuras resonantes


Making use of its immediate environment, the work of Oscar Murillo (born in 1986) indexes the quotidian moments of life. Unfolding inside and outside the artist’s studio, the work is formed through the direct actions of drawing, painting, filming and writing. Working across media, Murillo’s practice is often composed of the raw materials of personal experiences, drawn from family photographs, travel documents, banknotes, food packaging and found objects. The final work always remains open to reconstruction, changing and transforming itself from one place to another. In this sense, concepts are free to be transferred, distributed and repackaged through the gestures of exchange, collaboration and, most importantly, production. Influenced by non-Western practices of cultural consumption, the work encourages us to challenge forms of hegemony, while pointing towards alternative ways of being and living together. 

In the exhibition Estructuras resonantes [Resonant Structures], Murillo combines a series of works made in collaboration with friends, family, and other agencies to form a poetic framework shaped by the experiences of the both familiar yet unknowable lives of other people. Centred on the architecture of memory as an integral part of how languages are built and invented, the project proposes a multi-layered experience. At the same time, it refers directly to the social structures under which we live, and the need for a deeper, more sensorial engagement with the world around us. Tracing and documenting a journey through Europe, Asia, North Africa and Latin America, the project reflects on the importance of cultural production in relation to our sense of place, community and belonging, wherever we find ourselves. 

In his video works, Murillo adopts the informality of amateur film-making, capturing the inherently performative character of community environments. Informed by his personal connection to the Colombina factory, located in his home town of La Paila, Colombia, and which employed both family members and schoolfriends, Murillo created an ambitious project entitled A Mercantile Novel. It was staged in New York, where the artist created a confectionery factory inside a gallery space for two months, staffing the factory with the company’s employees going about their daily work as usual. In the video Untitled, produced for the Satellite programme, a group of North African Bedouin Arab musicians appear to be absorbed in a moment of improvisation, in a motion that loops energetically. Both videos play off one another, the quiet rhythm of the factory mimicking that of the musicians’ laboured performance. In effect, we can observe parallels between artistic production and forms of mass-production less often associated with social and personal identities, even if they are integral to the character of national culture. 

Estructuras resonantes is centred on the artist’s past and his memories, as the son of a migrant who left Colombia in an effort to secure a better life for his family. Drawn from a collection of family photographs dating from the 1970s to the early 2000s, the artist’s book THEM presents images of his family’s experiences – from his father’s activism as a young union worker in La Cabaña, a large sugarcane plantation in southwest Colombia, to the family’s early years living in East London. This personal history comes to life in My Name is Belisario, an audio work in which Murillo’s father recounts his life story. His original account in Spanish is also narrated in French, English, German, Hebrew and Arabic by anonymous speakers of different ages, nationalities and genders. These resonant layers unveil these individual bodies of work as actors and reactors. Together, the works echo the encounters we find in the struggles of contemporary life, revealing the voices of discontent. 

Press Release, Jeu de Paume, July 2017 © Osei Bonsu, 2017.


Installation views, Oscar Murillo: Estructuras resonantes © Jeu de Paume, Photographe Raphaël Chipault