The Posa... is the First House

By Juan Muñoz
In this extract, which preceded the realisation of The House Where It Always Rains, the artist evokes a ritual carried out by a small community in the Andes, during which it uses the broken wooden fragments of houses to build “the house of the forefathers”, after which the transparent and symbolic construction is set on fire. Muñoz’s erudite description evokes the sculpture that was erected in 1992 on the beach at Barcelona.
Maarten Van Den Driessche

The first grotto. The first cave, the first hut, the first house, the first place built for habitation. There are more versions of how and why the first house was constructed than historians who subscribe to each of these theories. For B. Fletcher, the house originated solely as protection against inclement weather. For Milizia, it comes from an imitation of nature. For Rykwert, it is determined by necessity. From Vitruvius’s rustic to Chamber’s primitive cabin (both indicate the conical form as easiest to build), arguments about the appearance of the first house are systematically and indistinctly according to the same classifications: climate, materials, shelter. For all of them, the origin is simple, humble, and above all, stems from the necessity of hiding from the outside.

In its transparency, the Posa offers itself disdainfully to climatic changes. Its materials are the result of partly forgotten parable rather than the material requirements of the surrounding reality. Its function as shelter is alien to its being a threshold. [...] In his essay ‘Der Stil’, Gottfried Semper (who revels in the glory of being Schinkel’s friend) speculates that ‘the beginnings of construction coincide with those of woven materials’. It would then be possible to affirm that, tied together with the rope, the sticks and the logs of the Posa are the image of this first division of space invited by man: ‘the enclosure made of woven and tied sticks’. Only the great French historian André Leroi-Gourhan tried to see another possibility. Leroi-Gourhan argued that the first constructions and their precise circumstances, which have survived to this day, were parallel to and contemporary with the appearance of the first rhythmic markings.

If successive points, alternations lines and symbolic signs were painted on cave walls – forms giving shape to mystery – then the same symbolic nature should have been carried from the cave into the first constructed dwelling.
Original Publication: Juan Muñoz, “Segment”, in Juan Munoz (Chicago, 1990); reprinted as The Posa”, in James Lingwood, Juan Muñoz: Monologues and Dialogues (Madrid, 1996), pp. 80–9; Other Literature: André Leroi- Gourhan, Le Geste et la Parole, 1: Technique et langage, 2: Mémoire et les Rythmes (Paris, 1964–5).