Born in 1975 in Bogotá, Colombia / Lives in Amsterdam,The Netherlands
Adriano Pedrosa (AP): There seems to be an unresolved assessment of Karl Marx and his legacy in your works exhibited in Istanbul.
Milena Bonilla (MB): They are made in different ways, but there is something in common among them: a sense of emptiness. In Capital/Sinister Manuscript (Luxury Version) (2008) the exercise of writing has many implications, but above all the impossibility of actually reading the book, since a righthanded person wrote it with their left hand. This “sinister” exercise of writing plays off the old-school orthopedic proscription of the use of the left hand while learning to write. In my book, the erratic flux of gestures in writing is the result of a forced exercise of assimilation and copying. In a way, it points to a gap between learning and practice, making a fictional differentiation, and to the instrumentalization of knowledge itself as a commodity within political agendas. To make a version of Capital that is completely useless places it in a state of suspension. I made three versions of the book, and the one I will exhibit has a tension between its incomprehensible content and its ostentatiousness. It is a highly crafted piece of art “without content.”
AP: And the video Stone Deaf (2009)?
MB: It addresses this emptiness in a more direct way. I wanted to make an intervention on Marx’s grave, and I found out that his current burial site is not where he was originally buried in 1883. I went to the first plot, in Highgate London, which has a stone marker inscribed with an explanation that Marx is now in the front yard of Highgate cemetery, where a monument has been built. In my research some ironical elements appeared. In one document of the British Parliament from 1956, a woman claims that she could not visit her husband’s grave because of the unveiling of the new Marx monument and she says something like, “It is so that Marx’s last place to rest belongs to a private company?” Later I saw Alexander Kluge’s film documentary about Marx and Sergei Eisenstein in which there is speculation that Marx’s body was never moved, and that is why supposedly the grave is still kept clear and clean. All these anecdotes seem to mock common imperative notions of history and ideology. Yet above all the old plot is read as a disclaimer or an anti-monument of Marx. Finally, I undertook two exercises in the cemetery. One is a rubbing of the inscriptions in the stone marker in real scale, which veils its “realistic” physicality. It is a ghostly image of an emptied space. The second work, a video, shows the stone in fragments but never in its entirety. Since it is already a disclaimer, an anti-monument, I thought in this double annihilation of a sense of completeness when I saw the two exercises together. I see this work as an iconoclastic exercise and also a minor narration on Marx’s image—a comment on the ideological spectacularization of it.