MARTIN&MUÑOZ SNOW GLOBES
Martin&Muñoz snow globes. Take a look at Travelers , “microworlds” in snow globes that show us the society in which we live, through scenes that will not leave you indifferent!!!
“ Few things are more gratifying to the eyes and the imagination than a good snow globe. ”. I must confess that I fully identify myself with this phrase with which Ken johnson , critic of the Art Review section of the New York Times , opened his chronicle on the series Travelers in which Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz began to work in 2001 and whose last pieces, hopefully for the moment, were made in 2019.
Martin&Muñoz snow globes
Walter Martin, an American from Virginia and Paloma Muñoz, a Spanish from Madrid, are a couple of artists who have been working as a team since 1993, focused on different disciplines from sculpture to public installations to photography. They are recognized worldwide, and “Travelers” have contributed to this in a very significant way.A serie of snow globes that far from showing us with Christmas scenes or souvenirs that are the quintessence of the “kitch” present us disturbing scenes, tremendously human, evocative of sensations that almost always have to do with restlessness, loneliness, fear … And whose attractiveness is based, at least for me, on its cleanliness and apparent simplicity.
Why snow globes?
It is not very often that snow globes are chosen as scenic territory. Walter Martin explains to us the reason for this choice in an interview with The Penleaf (2008). “I think we saw in the format of these commonplace kitsch objects a latent potential to express and explore aspects of the human condition that we were, and are still, trying to come to terms with. The globe is an encapsulator. When all is said and done it is essentially a novel framing device particularly well suited for the kinds of scenes we imagined. The sense of isolation and helplessness that permeates our narrative scenes is partly due to the intrinsic power of the snow globe format to encapsulate, miniaturize, and distort its subject matter. Also being glass and water, the thing itself is quite fragile. This is especially clear when one is handling it.”
The characters of Travelers are located in a frozen, polar environment, which makes us feel the cold on our skin even though it is thirty degrees. They are perfectly recognizable types of our day to day: housewives, executives, old women, couples in love, working people …, who sometimes star in everyday situations. Snow globes created by Martin and Muñoz enclose “microworlds” dominated by the isolation, loneliness or the lack of communication between their protagonists. Time is stopped and we can hardly ever be sure if the scene is explained by the past, what we see is a consequence of something, or if, on the contrary, we are contemplating the preceding moment what is going to happen. The dramatic force is unquestionable and in it nostalgia, comedy, restlessness are mixed …
Travelers is made up of more than three hundred creations, the first of which was produced in 2001. Beginning this post my intention was to present my favourites Travelers but I must to say I haven’t succeeded. I have come to realize that all Martin&Muñoz snow globes appeal to me equally, so I have opted for a small sample of contrasting scenes.
Traveler 290 was one of the first Martin&Muñoz snow globes that I knew and, of course, I was amazed. I was struck by the contrast between such a domestic scene and the bleak surroundings. The woman seems to be admiring how well the clothes have been laid out, though she may be wondering if they will ever dry out in that snowy world. That she has taken advantage of the animal’s antlers tells us about his ingenuity to find resources, but is it a matter of a harmonious domestic coexistence or abuse? My first reaction was a smile, now I am no longer sure that I find it funny.
Traveler 302 is one of the Martin&Muñoz snow globes that makes me most uneasy. A man’s head is sticking out of the snow that seems to be starting to melt. Has he been buried by the woman looking down on him, or will he be saved by her? Is the shovel leaning against the tree really a murder weapon? They seem to be talking as if on a date, her attire is appropriate to such an occasion. What are they saying to each other? Is the man asking for help? Is she reproaching him for something? … Many questions to which everyone who looks at Traveler 302 will have their own answers.
The Travelers Pictures
Along with the snowballs themselves, Travelers also integrates a photographic work that has undoubtedly contributed to the worldwide recognition of Martin & Muñoz work. All the photographs are magnificent and generate the same contradictory emotions and feelings. Here I have brought one of my favorites: Traveler 208.
In this case, the leafy trees make the scene somewhat more welcoming until we realize that each of its protagonists, three old women, is carrying a weapon. Are they defending themselves or are they going to attack? They look to the right, are they seeing their enemy approaching, or are they seeing him fleeing from their fragile violence? Whatever it is that explains the fact that they are armed, has it already happened or is it about to happen? What drives these three conventional-looking women to carry weapons? What do they arouse in us most: solidarity or fear?… Again questions whose answers, the answers of each person, will culminate the creation of Martin&Muñoz.
If the micro-worlds enclosed in Travelers have not left you indifferent, you’ll surely love this report made in 2016 by The Weather Channel in which Martin & Muñoz present their work and how it is conditioned by their own personal circumstances and the environment in which they live.
Travelers has been exhibited in different museums around the world such as the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki or the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art from Kansas. In Spain, the Tomás y Valiente Art Center of Fuenlabrada (Madrid) organized in 2018 an exhibition of snow globes and photographs. From December 2019 to April 2020 the Museum der Moderne Salzburg presents a selection of the work of Martin & Muñoz under the title “Winter mind”.
If you feel like it …
In this blog you can meet other creators who have used snow globes as creative territory.
The background of the title image has been created from an image of Freepik