What these Ithacas mean: at home with Darboven’s Odyssey and in Fischli & Weiss’ World

I am writing this from Madrid, in our tiny flat in Calle Olivar, our new home for the next year. As you would expect, I have spent the first week here exploring the wonders of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. In my three visits so far, two were centered on Picasso’s Guernica.

Pablo Picasso Guernica, 1937
Each time I joined the crowd and stood before the epic work, my eyes slowly wandered to parts of the painting I had not yet seen in the many reproductions I’d previously encountered. For example, I saw the terrifying light-bulb, competing with the candle at the centre (below), as well as the black bird (a dove?) lost between the horse and the bull (this one you must see for yourselves, as I couldn’t find any detail online that shows this ghostly creature).
Pablo Picasso Guernica, 1937 (detail)

While transfixed, my partner Rebeka played a game, during our first visit with my son, Eneko, and on the second visit, with both Eneko and his cousin, Uxue, of finding all the sculptures and paintings (including Guernica) in the replica model of the Spanish Pavilion of 1937 in the rest of the museum,

Luis Lacasa and Josep Lluís Sert Spanish Pavilion Model for the Paris International Exhibition of 1937

On the one occasion so far that I have visited the museum by myself, I had two hours to try to take in as much  as I could. I dashed through the massice visiting Richard Hamilton exhibition as well as two floors of the permanent collection, but, as with the Guernica during those earlier visits, I did managed to slow down, specifically at two distinct points. The first was in two rooms of the visiting exhibition The order of time and things. The home studio of Hanne Darboven devoted to her work: Homer. Odyssey (1971). As with the other rooms in the exhibition, these rooms juxtaposed the working spaces and bricàbrac of her home in Am Burgberg with her signature serial, numerical works she had been creating since the late 1960s after her life and work changing visit to New York. In the first room, I was greeted by this desk, covered in pictures (mainly of goats) and a monkey statue and a jacket left on the chair seemingly awaiting the immanent return of its wearer.

Exhibition view. Time and Things. The Home Studio of Hanne Darboven, 2014

But on the walls surrounding this cluttered working-living space was part of the Odyssey series. (I forgot my camera, so I am grateful to the blog Tocho T8 for the photos of the installation). 

Hanne Darboven Homer. Odyssey, 1971 (detail)

When I looked closer, these pages seems to have transformed what appeared to be the first five books of the poem into a series of scribbled lines annotated with a kind of numerical sequence.

Hanne Darboven Homer. Odyssey, 1971

On entering the next room, there was again a muddle of strange objects – this time with some general focus on travel.

Exhibition view. Time and Things. The Home Studio of Hanne Darboven, 2014

And, to my surprise, the Odyssey series continued.

Hanne Darboven Homer. Odyssey, 1971

 But instead of the scribbled lines, I found Homer’s poem (again the first five books) in a German translation, carefully copied-out by Darboven.

Hanne Darboven Homer. Odyssey, 1971
(It is only at this moment, writing this up, that I suspect I had possibly walked the wrong way through the exhibition and that I was meant to encounter the carefully transcribed poem before its abstraction into a numerical code and scribbled lines).
With Darboven’s cluttered studio and Homeric calculations still occupying my thoughts, I stumbled through the sprawling and provocative Playgrounds: reinventing the square exhibition. On entering one darkened room, I experienced a delicious sense of recognition as I came across a work I had read about, but had never seen for myself: Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ Visible World
Peter Fischli and David Weiss Visible World, 1997-2014.
I carefully took in the beautiful sequence of world-wide snapshots, catching the Coliseum amid jungles, the Parthenon following deserts. 
Peter Fischli and David Weiss Visible World, 1997-2014 (detail)
Here I recalled the travel-pictures of Darboven’s studio and the way in which travelers bring their adventures and wanderings home with them.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss Visible World, 1997-2014 (detail)

Satisfied and buzzing from these two rooms amid the expanse of the Reina Sofia, I returned home to our tiny flat in Calle Olivar and, later that evening, continued to read Eneko his current favourite bed-time story.

Eneko y su libro favorito

 To have your own adventure in the Reina Sofia, you can virtually start here.

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