Image: Aliento (Breath)
(Papayán, Colombia, 1951 - )

Aliento (Breath) , 1999

Silicone screenprint on polished stainless steel
62 in. x 152 in. (157.48 cm x 386.08 cm)
Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media
installed in galleries
installed in galleries
Aliento (Spanish for “breath”) is not a traditional photographic print.  It consists of steel disks, polished to a mirror-like sheen, hanging on a wall.  To understand it, you must interact with it.  Approach the disks and you see yourself.  Breathe on one and faces appear in the fog of your breath, but just for a moment.  “In this instant,” says Muñoz, “which the spectator cannot retain for very long, his reflection is lost in order for the image of the other to appear, activating a dialogue which includes him.”

Who are the subjects of these portraits?  These images, “borrowed” by Muñoz from obituaries in Colombian newspapers, may be the faces of victims of political violence or kidnapping, or may not.  The photographs preserve the sitters’ visages but cannot tell us what they or their lives were like.  Muñoz reminds us that life, memory and the photographic image are all ephemeral.

Loss and memory are central themes in the art of both Colombian artists in the museum’s collection: Muñoz and Doris Salcedo, whose sculptural installation is in the Haslinger Galleries.  This is no coincidence.  For over fifty years, the country has been wracked by continual political and drug-related violence.  How does one cope when violence and tragedy are daily affairs?  One can ignore or try to forget.  For Salcedo and Muñoz, the answer is to try to remember.
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