Tadashi Kawamata’s solo exhibition Over Flow at MAAT’s Oval Gallery is centered around questions of global ecology and tourism. The immersive installation invites the viewer to experience a seascape of remains which follows an ecological catastrophe, where debris transported by the world’s seas are imagined to engulf civilisation.
The Japanese artist, who is known worldwide for his large scale sustainable architectural environments, developed this project during one year of research and field work in Portugal, culminating in a workshop with artists and architects led by architectural collective Os Espacialistas. The large-scale commission at MAAT integrates both plastic residues and abandoned boats collected on Portugal’s shores during beach cleaning campaigns by volunteer organisation Brigada do Mar, Almada City Hall and the Fishing Port of Nazaré.These elements come together in a sculptural form that evokes the polluting elements aggregated by the perpetual movements of the ocean, as well as global tourism and its fatal consumption of natural resources.
Partners Brigada do Mar Câmara Municipal de Almada
The Spanish provocateur, who once filled a former synagogue with lethal gas, has gone to the ends of the Earth to liberate humankind
‘I travel a lot,” says Santiago Sierra. “But entering a country is like going to jail. Borders disgust me – as an idea and as a personal experience. This work denies all of that.”
It’s a typically forthright remark from the Spanish artist, who once caused uproar by pumping carbon monoxide into a former synagogue in Germany, then inviting visitors to don gas masks to enter this simulated death chamber.
Sierra is talking about his latest installation, which has just opened at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Called Black Flag, it documents his attempts to have the symbol of anarchism planted at the north and south poles. What was the reason for the project? “To occupy the world, I suppose. I’ve always loved Piero Manzoni’s The World Pedestal, in which the whole world was inside the work of art.” Manzoni created a pedestal on which the world purportedly rested, making the whole planet a work of art. He also once made tins of Merda d’Artista which, as the name suggests, purportedly contained the Italian’s excrement.
Sierra’s attempt at world occupation started three years ago when he sent an expedition to the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard. From there, his minions travelled to the Russian base of Barneo which, because it sits on a drifting ice floe, has to be rebuilt every year in order to serve incoming tourists. From there, Sierra’s team ventured to the nearby north pole and, on 14 April 2015, planted a black flag, as well as capturing the landscape in sound and video.
Eight months later on 14 December – precisely 104 years after Norwegian Roald Amundsen beat Britain’s Captain Robert Falcon Scott to become the first person to reach the south pole – Sierra’s minions planted another at the geographic south pole. The two black flags were both left in place, partly as a rebuke to, as Sierra sees it, nationalists who have befouled Earth’s otherwise pristine extremities with their misplaced national symbols.
The project sounds like a logistical nightmare, but Sierra demurs. “There were no setbacks of any kind ,” says Sierra, speaking by phone from Madrid, where he’s based. “It is relatively simple since there is a helicopter service for elite tourism. If you can pay your way, you can go to either pole.” Sierra didn’t take part, choosing to organise the project from his studio. “My presence could only cause problems and duplicate costs,” he says.
Warming to his theme, he adds: “Planting a national flag in a hitherto unvisited place has never been an innocent gesture. This is how colonial processes always begin.” Good point, particularly as President Trump is now seeking to dominate space by ordering the US military to establish a sixth branch – the so-called space force – tasked, you’d think, with putting stars and stripes flags over every bit of the solar system and beyond.
It’s no coincidence that the Tayside city is playing host to Sierra’s latest provocation. “Dundee is no stranger to the subject,” says Sierra, now 52. “Its geographical position and its shipyards have led it to form part of the conquest of both poles.”
Sierra played with similar nationalist themes when he was chosen to represent Spain at the Venice Biennale in 2003. Inside the Spanish pavilion, he created an installation. But only visitors holding Spanish identity cards were allowed in to see it. Given that the installation consisted of an elderly lady sitting silently on a chair for an hour, those art lovers without Spanish ID may have counted their blessings.
The point was to show how the leading art world shindig was premised on nationalist pride rather than aesthetic merit. “You can’t forget that the countries that participate in the biennale are the most powerful ones in the world,” he says. “I mean, there’s no pavilion for Ethiopia.”
Sierra declines to be drawn on what Scottish nationalists might think of his work, but he is used to controversy. His 2006 gas chamber work infuriated Jewish groups and at least one Holocaust survivor. Called 245 Cubic Metres, the installation in Pulheim near Cologne created lethal levels of carbon monoxide by attaching hoses to the exhausts of six cars. Visitors were admitted for five minutes, one at a time, wearing breathing apparatus and accompanied by a firefighter. It was intended as an attack on “the trivialisation of the Holocaust”.
While Pulheim officials defended Sierra’s right to make an artistic statement without censorship, Germany’s Central Council of Jews condemned his installation, arguing Sierra was hurting not just the dignity of the victims but also that of the Jewish community. “This,” they said, “has absolutely nothing to do with a culture of remembrance.”
As for Sierra, he said: “It is meant to be a work about the industrialised and institutionalised death from which the European peoples of the world have lived and continue to live.”
Sierra’s most successful art has focused on political questions that humans in general and the art world in particular prefer not to acknowledge. He started off making sculpture and installations, later introducing live human beings into his work. In a piece called P.S.1, he put a brick wall diagonally across a gallery floor. Behind the wall was a person who had been hired to live there for 15 days. Food was slid under a narrow opening.
Sierra is drawn to those who are most exploited and yet who remain least “visible” in official terms: illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, prostitutes, drug addicts and the urban poor, unemployed and homeless. In 2004, he did a piece for the Lisson Gallery in London called Polyurethane Sprayed on the Backs of Ten Workers. He paid 10 Iraqis to take part. “They were provided with protective chemical clothing,” a statement explained, “and with thick industrial plastic sheeting. Afterwards they were placed in order in different positions and sprayed on their backs with polyurethane until the material accumulated into large free-standing forms. All the elements used in this action have been left abandoned in the space.” The polyurethane casts remained, but the Iraqis disappeared.
Sometimes, this theme of exploitation has chimed with his other abiding concern: the exclusivity of the art industry. In South Korea, he paid 68 people to block the main entrance to the inauguration of Pusan’s international contemporary art festival. Each wore a sign saying: “I am being paid 3,000 wons per hour to undertake this job.” That’s the equivalent of £1.90, twice the country’s minimum wage.
“What I do,” he told one interviewer, “is refuse to deny the principles that underlie the creation of an object of luxury: from the watchman who sits next to a Monet for eight hours a day, to the doorman who controls who comes in, to the source of the funds used to buy the collection. I try to include all this, and therein lies the little commotion about remuneration that my pieces have caused.”
He does not consider himself immune: rather, his sense is that we all get corrupted. As he put it when I first interviewed him 16 years ago: “Joseph Beuys once claimed that there was clean money and dirty money. We should only take the former. I don’t believe that: there’s only dirty money. And as an artist, I take dirty money. I’m paid to create luxury goods for art collectors.”
Fair point. Even the conceptual artists who so inspired him couldn’t escape such a degrading system. For instance, one of Piero Manzoni’s cans of excrement was bought by the Tate for £22,350 a decade ago (even though concerns were expressed at the time about the work’s, as it were, authenticity – some thought the tin didn’t contain the artist’s shit at all). That sense of being corrupted by the very system he indicts is, I suspect, what lies behind Sierra’s answer to my question: “Are you, or have you ever been, an anarchist?”
“I regard anarchism as a political and behavioural philosophy with which I identify fully,” he replies. “However, anarchism is, above all, morality and implies a way of life without concessions. In this sense, I would not be so much because my life is far from that of any anarchist militant.”
His work is militant, though, and shows no signs of mellowing. His next project, he tells me cryptically, will involve “a reading in Tel Aviv about those killed by violence since 2014”. Which doesn’t sound at all controversial.
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Invitación a ˝Sincronías˝ Inauguración sábado, 6 de octubre 2018 De 12,00 a 20,30 h. Acceso Libre. Visitas con cita previa hasta el 30 de noviembre El día 6 de octubre de 2018 inauguramos ˝Sincronías˝, un proyecto del Centro de Holografía y Artes Dados Negros en el que participan Ignasi Aballí, Anna Gimein, Isabel León, Laura Lio y Javier Arnaldo, La Gran Trazada, Said Messari, Juan Luis Moraza, Jaume Pitarch, Víctor Ripoll y Jaime Vallaure.
Sincronía, concordancia, coincidencia, simultaneidad, coexistencia… Como señalaba Benjamin ˝los media pueden imponer modas, unificar costumbres, modificar nuestra forma de percibir˝. Por ello, actualmente, nos podríamos preguntar si sería posible recuperar la espontaneidad del individuo.
˝Sincronías˝ es una recreación donde interactúan la coincidencia en el tiempo y la simultaneidad en torno al proceso de creación que se expande como forma de conocimiento, mostrando una visión diferente de nuestro día a día, buscando esa espontaneidad para observar, darse cuenta, conocer, dudar… La duda en continua transformación para modificar la mirada convirtiendo la simultaneidad en algo diferente, quizá en un continuo cuestionamiento de las cosas.
La Fundación Pepe Buitrago facilita el transporte desde Madrid a Infantes poniendo a vuestra disposición un autobús que realizará el mismo día de la inauguración, la ruta de ida y vuelta Madrid-Centro Dados Negros-Madrid. Ya puedes reservar tu plaza en el autobús.
El Ministerio de Cultura concede este galardón dotado con 30.000 euros
Las obras del autor están muy conectadas con su labor como docente en la Facultad de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
El escultor navarro Ángel Bados Iparaguirre (1945) ha sido galardonado con el premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas 2018, dotado con 30.000 euros y que concede el Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte.
El jurado del premio que ha fallado este miércoles el galardón ha estado formado por la artista ganadora de la pasada edición, Ángela de la Cruz, la catedrática de Arte Contemporáneo Estrella de Diego, la comisaria de exposiciones Blanca de la Torre y la directora de actividades de Laboral, Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Karin Ohlenschlager, entre otros.
El trabajo escultórico de Bados ha estado siempre muy conectado con su vocación docente desarrollada en la Facultad de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, un campo el que ha destacado como figura esencial para varias generaciones de artistas.
Estuvo al frente, junto a Txomin Badiola, de los cursos de escultura de Arteleku (1994-1998) en los que lograron dirigir y potenciar la obra de muchos artistas del País Vasco como Itziar Okariz, Jon Mikel Euba, Ana Laura Aláez o Sergio Prego entre otros.
Su trabajo, según explica su galería, Moisés Pérez de Albéniz, está enmarcado dentro del grupo de la "nueva escultura vasca" y sus referentes artísticos se encuentran en el pensamiento y la obra de Joseph Beuys y Jorge Oteiza.
Tras estudiar en Madrid y su paso como profesor por Pamplona, donde realizó, en 1975, su primera exposición individual, a su llegada a Bilbao, donde reside, conectó con Txomin Badiola, Juan Luis Moraza, Marisa Fernández y Pello Irazu con las que ha compartido conceptos ligados, por ejemplo, a aspectos tradicionales locales.
El arte como "cuestión de fe"
Para el premiado, el arte es "una cuestión de fe, de algo que transciende, que construye, útil para la sociedad y a la vez con presencia real y perdurable", según su galería.
Su obra forma parte de las colecciones de la Fundación la Caixa, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona (MACBA), Fundación Juan March, Fundación ICO, Comunidad de Madrid, Museo de Navarra, Fundación ARCO, Museo Reina Sofía o Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.
Entre sus últimas exposiciones, figuran Para ambos lados de la frontera, en la Galería Carreras Mugica de Bilbao (2017) y Robando piezas, en la Moisés Pérez de Albéniz de Madrid (2013).
El jurado ha estado presidido por Román Fernández-Baca, director general de Bellas Artes y Patrimonio Cultural, y como vicepresidenta ha actuado Begoña Torres, subdirectora general de Promoción de las Bellas Artes.
Los vocales han sido Ángela de la Cruz, Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas 2017; Estrella de Diego, catedrática de Arte Contemporáneo; Blanca de la Torre, comisaria de exposiciones, escritora e historiadora; Javier García, escritor, crítico de arte y comisario; Ferrán Barenblit, director del MACBA; Karin Ohlenschläger, directora de actividades de Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial y Ángel Calvo, comisario y Crítico de arte.