Art, Nature and Degrowth

Tours around the work of Mario Merz

Monday, 28 October and Tuesday, 5, 12 and 19 November 2019 - 5pm
Complete capacity
Registration method: with prior registration via email at
Palacio de Velázquez, exhibitions rooms  
30 people / tour

1 hour

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía
Mario Merz. Iglú de Giap Installation, 1968. . Musée national d´art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle. Image courtesy of Fondazione Merz, Turin
Mario Merz. Iglú de Giap Installation, 1968. . Musée national d´art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle. Image courtesy of Fondazione Merz, Turin

This series of tours around the exhibition Mario Merz. Time is Mute takes a closer look at the relationship between the ideas underpinning the work of the Italian artist and contemporary thought on nature. The view of nature, from Romanticism to Arte Povera; the origins of architecture in nature and the meaning of dwelling linked to existence; contemporary eco-social philosophy; and the correspondence between object and language are the themes that make up these visits.

The point of departure of Mario Merz’s work, inscribed in the Arte Povera movement, is the re-affirmation of nature to criticise contemporary compulsive economic developmentalism. Some of his most idiosyncratic elements, such as igloos, natural materials (clay, wood, wax, coal) and allusions to energy, contrast with the neutral, orthogonal and manufactured forms of coetaneous American Minimalism. Arte Povera and Minimalism both draw on the employment of primary elements, a procedural conception of time and the imposing physical presence of the art object, yet, while Minimalism glorifies forms of late-industrial society, Arte Povera returns to an atavistic, ritualistic and primitive idea of nature. It is no coincidence that this movement surfaced around May ’68, in post-industrial Italy and the birth of post-Workerism philosophy, which studies the transformation of any form of experience into a commodity. Thus, nature becomes a plea for another possible society and a rejection of a new hypercapitalist world.

Based on the principles of the exhibition, the four tours converse from different viewpoints, seeking to frame the artist in a broader system of relationships. In the first, Javier Arnaldo analyses the view of nature as an outpouring of imagination and as the crisis of the subject, from the sublime of nineteenth-century Romanticism to the countercultural allusions of Arte Povera; the second sees María Teresa Muñoz explore the connections between Mario Merz’s pieces and the cabin, and the archaic origins of architecture, present in the primitivism of the architects who were the artist’s contemporaries — Aldo van Eyck, José Miguel de Prada Poole and Buckminster Füller — and in indigenous cultures; in the third tour Emilio Santiago posits answers to the question: In what way can contemporary ecological thought challenge a system based on endless accumulation?; the fourth and final visit is devised as an open letter from Julia Spínola to Mario Merz, two artists who, although separated by generations, share an interest in translating the verbal language of objects.        


Javier Arnaldo is a lecturer ofArt History at Madrid’s Complutense University. He has written about the aesthetics of Romantic idealism in Fragmentos para una teoría romántica del arte (Tecnos, 1987), Estilo y naturaleza. La obra de arte en el Romanticismo alemán (Visor, 1990), Goethe: Naturaleza, arte, verdad (Círculo de Bellas Artes, 2012) and Vemos lo que sabemos. La cultura de la visión en Goethe (Abada, 2019).  Furthermore, Arnaldo has explored the cultural history of art’s avant-garde movements in books and exhibitions like Las vanguardias históricas (Historia 16, 1993), Musical Analogies. Kandinsky and his Contemporaries (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2003), Brücke. The Birth of German Expressionism(Fundación Caja Madrid and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2005), and 1914! The Avant-garde and the Great War (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2008).He is director of the Complutense Research Group S U+M A [Universidad+Museo] and was senior researcher at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza from 2001 to 2011.

María Teresa Muñoz is an architect who holds a Doctorate in Architecture from Madrid’s School of Architecture and a Master of Architecture from the University of Toronto (Canada). She has worked as a professor of Architectural Projects at Madrid’s School of Architecture and is currently professor emeritus at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. She is the author of numerous essays on architecture and art criticism, and her most recent publications include Jaulas y Trampas. Escritos sobre arquitectura y arte 2000-2012 (Lampreave, Madrid 2013), Textos críticos (Ediciones Asimétricas, Madrid 2018) and Escritos sobre la invisibilidad (Abada Editores, Madrid 2018).

Emilio Santiago holds a PhD in Anthropology and is a member of the research group Transiciones Socioecológicas (Socio-ecological Transitions) at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Furthermore, he has taught in the UAM’s Department of Social Anthropology and is a faculty member of the Programme of Independent Studies at MACBA, Barcelona. His work combines political ecology with re-readings of Marxism, and his publications include No es una estafa, es una crisis de civilización (Enclave de libros, 2015), Rutas sin mapa. Horizontes de transición ecosocial (Catarata, 2016) and ¿Qué hacer en caso de incendio? Manifiesto por el Green New Deal (Capitán Swing, 2019).

Julia Spínola is an artist. She has exhibited her work in solo shows (Lubricán, 2018) and collective shows (Querer parecer noche, 2018, and Antes que todo, 2010-2011) at CA2M, and at Kunsthalle São Paulo (Âo túnel-cabo pelo braço, 2015) and Caixaforum Barcelona (Hablo, sabiendo que no se trata de eso, 2015). Furthermore, she has been a fellow of Artes Plásticas Marcelino Botín (2013) and received the Critical Eye in Visual Arts Award from Radio Nacional de España (2013) and the ARCO 2017 Community of Madrid Award. Her work is also part of the Museo Reina Sofía, Marcelino Botín Foundation, Community of Madrid/CA2M, Museo La Panera de Lleida and Montemadrid Foundation/La Casa Encendida collections


Monday, 28 October 2019 – 5pm
Javier Arnaldo. Everything is connected. Merz invokes Hölderlin

Tuesday, 5 November 2019 -  5pm
María Teresa Muñoz. The Natural Origins of Architecture and the Meaning of Dwelling Linked to Existence

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - 5pm
Emilio Santiago. Contemporary Eco-social Philosophy

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 - 5pm
Julia Spínola. Correspondence Between Object and Language. An Open Letter to Mario Merz