Oscar Murillo

Patat con Salsa

Showroom MAMA’s curator Gerben Willers invited the performance interview duo SandWitz to interview a selection of MAMA’s artists of 2013. The series starts with Oscar Murillo (Colombia, 1986). Murillo creates with his installations and performances situations in which people, belonging to different social-cultural communities, are brought together. Murillo touches upon themes such as difference between class and people, by merging the symbols of these different groups and by playing with their hidden codes. His paintings capture the fluent moments of memory, such as his childhood in Colombia or the performative events he created, and their ever-changing connotations. Oscar Murillo has created for showroom MAMA Ossie’s Bingo Boutique, in which visitors can play bingo and win vintage t-shirts from charity shops that the artist upgraded to Comme des Garçons pieces.


Oscar’s answers to SandWitz’s starting questions of the interview: 


1. SandWitz: Choose or describe your ideal location for an interview.          

Oscar: Surprise me!

2. SandWitz: Decide on or illustrate what you want us as interviewers to look like.          

Oscar: Surprise me!


At 6 a.m. the SandWitz was ready to celebrate Oscar’s Kids’ Surprise Birthday Party. Changed into an ultimate Dutch Kids Birthday party dinner -  a French fries’ outfit- , matching yellow faces, and golden glistering high heels, they woke up artist Oscar Murillo in his hotel bedroom at 8 a.m., and invited him to his own fictive birthday party in the hotel’s lobby. After celebrating early that morning – with a decorative chair for the birthday boy, festive hats for everyone,  drinking chic champagne, eating cake and dancing, of course, some salsa, – the SandWitz and Oscar installed themselves in the hotel lobby for a conversation about family, bingo, hidden agenda’s and party-dictatorship.



Oscar: I never had a birthday like this! This is very special.

SandWitz: Didn’t you celebrate your birthdays when you were young?

O: Yeah but I don’t remember. Well it’s not really memories but mostly pictures, especially from when I was a kid in Colombia. On my fifth birthday for example, my parents came to my school with my friends. In Colombia we make gift bags and give them to kids that come to the birthday party and we do games in the classroom with clowns or magicians.

S: At what age did you move to London and how do you remember celebrating your birthday parties there? toet02

O: I was ten when I moved to London. It was different there. Because there weren’t that many friends, everything in Londonbecame about family. It was tough moving there. It was difficult to penetrate; there was a culture barrier and also this language barrier. And then obviously there is nobody else, so family became friends. That’s why family is so valuable.  

S: Talking about parties, this is a theme that comes back a lot in your work. Also, you very often incorporate your own family in the parties you organize as art projects. Why do you do so?

O: The party you guys organized for me this morning, is a great example of what a party does. Suddenly the people that work in the hotel are really engaging. dansenI once did a birthday party in a very bourgeois posh apartment in Paris. The whole idea of that party was creating a fictitious birthday of a friend with people, he and I did not know at all, or that my family wouldn’t know or even engage with. More than just bringing people together, the whole idea of this was like the title of the video at MAMA: Infiltrating Social Stratas. Even in this hotel, the social layers are so different.

S: Why is it so important to you, to bring these layers together?

O: I think because I belong to them now, to these different layers. You know, art is like tennis. Tennis is a game that is associated with a certain society. And art is the same. Art belongs to a kind of bourgeois elite society. I belong to this society and so I want to incorporate my family in it, to make them see this kind of society.

S: In an article about your work this was described as a clash. But do you actually consider this as a clash yourself?

O: I don’t think it’s a clash, it’s more an experiment.kaarsjesuitblazen

S: Like having fries with champagne?

O: Yeah. Initially there is a tension. Like from my parents’ point of view at this party in Paris, they find themselves in an environment where everything around them is über expensive. But through very small interventions, like music and food, this tension gets eroded. It erases itself very slowly. So for the birthday party in Paris, there was this situation where nobody knew each other, and people were asking themselves; what the fuck are we doing here? and who the fuck are these people? But as time goes on, everybody was just dancing and having a good time. Everybody becomes human again.

S: You mean you get more to the core of people?

O: yeah the pretensions of people go away, and everybody is having a good time, no matter what background.

S: So for the exhibition at Showroom MAMA, what’s the plan?

O: There’s a real situation, so I’m documenting real situations. This kind of BINGO situations…

S: Do we hear BINGO?


O: Yeah, you did hear bingo.




Oscar: Oh this is great.

Dieuwke: We would like to create now a Bingo community, which means you can turn the wheel and Jesse reads out the number.

bingo05J: Every number has a word connected to it, you have to react to a word that Dieuwke reads. Give your first associations and Dieuwke writes them down.

D: First thoughts, so no thinking.

J: No thinking – talking.

O: Okay.


Oscar turns the bingo wheel for the first number.      


J: Numero cinquenta y cinco!


D: Fifty five?

J: Yeah.

D: Champagne!

O: Uuuuh… Community.

J: Okay.

D: Please wait.

J: Make a note.

D while writing the word down saying out loud: C O M M U N I T Y.


Oscars turns again. 


J: Numero treinta y dos!

D: thirty-two! –  Carne!


O: Uuuhmmm..

J: Carne!

O: I can’t say community.

J: Sorry, I am pushing you away with my fry – CARNE!

O: Uuh uuuh, food.

D and J: Foood?!


Oscar turns again.


J: You can say more words than one if you like.

O: I know.

D: Okay.

J: Next one.

J: Okay – trece!

D: 13? – Mango!

O: Childhood!

J: Okay.


Oscar turns again.


J: Sesenta.

D: Seventy?!

O and J: Sixty!

D: Merde! – uuh Yoga!

O: Learning about people.



Oscar turns again.


oscar1O: The bingo is fantastic!

J: Yeah it is great – ochenta!

D: Pork!


O: Uuuh pork is… uhmmm… is… bad for you.

J: WHAT? (unfortunately, the costume was pretty soundproof)

D: Pork is party?!

O: Pork is bad for you!

D: Party?

O: Bad for you – pork is bad for you.

D: Oh I thought you said pork is party.

J: Pork is bad for you.

O: Uhm yes.

D: Okay. I shall sum up your answers, so we can make an analysis.


Jesse and Oscar suddenly starting to move around and feeling restless.


D: Excuse me guys, this is important.excuseme01

J and O: Oh sorry sorry.

J: Oscar, do you want some more champagne?

O: Oh no, no more champagne.

D: Yes please.

J: Ok – give me your glass.

D: I can’t see it, because there is a fry in my face!

J: There is a fry in your face! Oscar handing the glass to Jesse.

D: Thanks Oscar.


SandWitz: Okay, so what do we have: ‘childhood’, ‘community’, we have ‘learning about people’, and ‘bad for you’. As you probably know, the words we called are all words from your paintings. In these paintings, do you also capture first thoughts? Like you just said, your childhood, the food, certain memories?




O: Yeah!

S: Can you explain a little more how these paintings work?

O: Well for example like here, having this moment, is very performative, fictitious, at least it’s not my birthday today.

S: It is not?! It is your birthday!

O: Okay it is my birthday, lets pretend it is not my birthday.

S: Okay.

O: So today is not my birthday.

buitenlopen_overstekenS: I go home.

Oscar is wisely ignoring this comment.

O: For example, the idea of using the words carne, pork, and champagne in my paintings is that it connects people. Food and drinks bring people together, because we all eat. But there is also another layer when we talk about the Western hemisphere. Champagne, being this drink of luxury, has a hidden agenda and codes about class, but in different facets. If I was a “regular” person I would drink champagne maybe three times a year, to celebrate, or you drink on your birthday, or…

S:  On a special occasion.

O: Yeah! – or when I was a banker, or some kind of…

S: Every day is special.

O: Nods: You probably drink champagne every day. Or when I was New York or in America, I would probably drink champagne every week, because you have brunch you know, have champagne with brunch…

S: Maybe you don’t, maybe we just think they do all the time.patatje_samen

O: I’m just saying, they are cultural moments. Like for example this brunch, you have the option of drinking champagne. Champagne takes on different codes all the time. It means something different for everybody. For example, I was doing this performance in London that had to do with Bingo. The performance was for this group of people from Chelsea, this part of London is very exclusive. So they came and they brought caterers, two champagne caterers. I didn’t know about this until they arrived. So I was serving tamales, which is this South-American dish, and then they said “well we have two champagne caterers” and then I said “whoa that’s interesting”. When the waiters came and started serving champagne, I thought, “this is incredible”. Because it’s like – like being in this hotel now -  suddenly they are interesting components of this performance. They themselves are components of this performance, but for them it’s totally genuine, totally real.  I thought: “this is great!” They are really being who they are. That was really nice.

S: Yeah and also interesting how the guests are really mixing and digesting the different levels that you were talking about

O: Yeah, they are really being authentic. Really going through their own kind of modes of operation. Modes operandi.

bingo boutiqueS: And what about Showroom MAMA, is this also the kind of space where you are setting up something and where you want people to come in and then..?

O: Well, Showroom MAMA doesn’t look like a conventional gallery space. So with the project I’m trying to play on that more, by kind calling it “Ossie’s Bingo Boutique”. Like yesterday, I was finishing the whole thing and then a guy comes in and said in Dutch ‘ow when does the store open?’. So I wanted to play on that. The guy didn’t speak English, but I just really wanted to say ‘the store opens tomorrow, come and buy some t-shirts’. And then also at the same time, MAMA is a gallery space, an institution. So, I don’t want to erase that… I want to play with that.

S: Another question: I’ve read a quote somewhere, I think it is from Andy Warhol, it says that at the door there is a dictatorship, but inside, at the party, there is a democracy. Are you also a bit of a dictator by saying how the party should be? How would you position yourself in this dictatorship / democracy analysis of a party…?


O: Well, I agree with that comment. But I’m more interested in creating, in being a kind of orchestrator. I’m creating a kind of situation or context in which things can happen.


Jesse: Do you have any questions for us?

Oscar: This is great guys, thank you for celebrating my birthday today.

Dieuwke: Let’s have one more cheers.

O: One more cheers.

O: So do you guys do this, like, this is great!

J: Yeah this is our job.

D: This is our job. Cheers.

O: Great job! Salud.

J: Naah it isn’t really our job yet.

D: Yes it is!

J: Errm well now it is actually.

D and J: Workworkwork! (www.oscarmurillo.net)

O: Exactly. Mwahwhaw…

J. realizing: It is really early in the morning.

O. contemplating: Wow this is wonderful. You just made my day.

D: Good.




Ossie’s Bingo Boutique.

Friday January 25th 2013 until Sunday March 24th 2013.

Showroom MAMA, Witte de Withstraat 29-31, 3012 BL Rotterdam.

Curated by: Gerben Willers.

 fotoshoot shopped2


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