Jordi Benito (Granollers, 1951 – Barcelona, 2008) was one of the most radical Catalan Conceptual artists. While his early works of the 1970s were installations made with ‘poor’ materials such as bed sheets or stones that showed an interest in space, he soon began to perform actions using his body. He was an active member of Grup de Treball (1973–75), a Catalan collective that pioneered the dematerialisation of art. Together with Robert Llimós, Francesc Abad and Muntadas, he took part in a series of actions for Documenta 5, Kassel, in 1972, thus contributing to the spread of Conceptual practices in Europe.
Benito’s early Actionism lasted from 1971 to 1974, with simple actions like throwing himself against a wall or covering his face with mud, in an attempt to put to the test the physical resistance of the body. In the mid-seventies, his work with the body became more radical with complex performances that went from pure body art to ritual actions, probably under the influence of the Viennese Actionist Hermann Nitsch, with whom he collaborated in the Lyon Performance Festival in 1979.
Benito began a line of work that lasted until the eighties and nineties with performances of great theatricality in which painting, music and ritual sacrifice strive to become a complete artwork. One of his most controversial actions was Barcelona Toro Performance at the Fundació Joan Miró in 1979, where he sacrificed a bull. In 1979, in another action at the Centre Pompidou, he used a dead body in a provocative performance that foreshadowed the work of Damien Hirst. In his rituals, Benito dismembered animals and used blood as an artistic element. Music was an essential component: he was particularly fond of Wagner and collaborated with musicians and composers such as Carles Santos and Agustí Fernández. After a period of artistic inactivity, in the early 2000s he began making installations with light, pianos and mathematical formulas. His last intervention took place in the concourse of the Provença station of the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, in a homage to Pompeu Fabra, the author of the normative reform of the Catalan language. Benito was one of the most significant representatives of body art in Spain. Art, for him, was intrinsically linked to life.
Jordi Benito performed his actions and held exhibitions at the Museu de Mataró (1976); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1978); Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (1979 and 1984); Museu de Granollers (1984, 1995 and 2003); MNAC, Barcelona (1995); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2005); Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (2006); and Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2007). He also exhibited in galleries and spaces in Catalan towns such as Cadaqués, Mataró, Terrassa and Reus, as well as in Spanish cities such as Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville and Valencia, and other European cities including Arles, Dijon, Nantes and Lisbon, among others. He participated in Documenta 5, Kassel (1972); Paris Biennale (1975); and the Lyon Performance Festival (1979). His work is included in the collections of MACBA, Museu de Granollers and Metronom-Fundació Rafael Tous d’Art Contemporani.
While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating.