In recent works, Luis Camnitzer has refined his interest in the associative potential of text and image. Continuing the trajectory he established in the 1980s with works like the Uruguayan Torture Series (1983—1984) and his installation at the Venice Biennale, many of these pieces reflect on political events and violence. For example, for Documenta 11 in 2002, he expanded on previous installations, constructing an evocative space that communicated, in his words, “the ambiguity of prison.” Speaking about the work, he stated, “On the one hand, I refer to the physical prison, especially that of the political prisoner who dreams in order to escape and fails. On the other hand, it is an allusion to the imprisonment of the artist who wants to break out of conventions, stereotypes, cultural constraints, who tries to be original, to break the rules.”
Similarly, in Last Words (2008) Camnitzer prints death row prisoners’ final statements, and in Memorial (2009) he creates a version of the Montevideo phonebook that includes the names of the still missing individuals who disappeared during the Uruguayan Dictatorship. Building on these works, the installation Please Look Away (2015) consists of overlapping sentences written by the artist that incorporate terms from an article about the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners during the Iraq War. Allowing these texts to run up and down the floors and walls, Camnitzer constructs a cage-like, visually cacophonous space that traps viewers.
Other works from this decade recontextualize familiar tools and objects. For example, Compass (2003) alludes to the history of colonialism, while Notes to Myself (2008) challenges conventions of note-taking by distorting lined paper. Continuing this graphic play, Timelanguage (2016) reflects Camnitzer’s longstanding commitment to expanding the possibilities of printmaking by using visual markers of accumulation and addition to signify both the passage of time and information. Ultimately, as Camnitzer states, “I see the ideal lasting work of art (one I’ve never made) as the best and most elegant—in terms of its economy—solution to an interesting problem, to the point that it establishes a new paradigm or causes a paradigm shift. … I don’t believe in absolute and eternal values. I believe in this interpretative dialogue that keeps changing over time.”