Close

Santiago Sierra

3 cubes of 100 cm on each side moved 700 cm, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, Switzerland, Spain, April 2002

Video, 54 min.

One of the more controversial artists of our time, Santiego Sierra, exhibits an existential reality reduced ad absurdum. At the hub of his work, the Spanish artist preoccupies himself with the degree of the exploitation exercised upon migrants and illegal workers drawn from the more vulnerable social classes. Sierra takes the persons he engages in his provocative works, and subjects them to painfully humiliating experiences, simultaneously pointing the finger of blame at society which embroiled them in this hopeless reality.

The participants in this performance art are six Albanian refugees lacking work permits, whom the artist hires to carry out useless tasks entailing considerable physical effort, in return for meager pay.

He attempts to stress their dismal situation as they face the fallback option to which they are exposed by their consent to carry out the tasks he has imposed upon them.

Sierra transforms the gallery space into an experimental laboratory where he displays the disparity between our position as spectators of an artistic work, and the Sisyphean efforts of his actors – the unemployed refugees; in this way, he condemns society for its immorality and irresponsibility towards its subjects. His principal objection is that society produces, at its margins, a class of refugees, helpless and without means of livelihood, who are willing to accept a pittance in return for any job offered.

“ … Capital is not racist, sexist, or does not possess class awareness", says the artist, " It just seizes upon every pretext to generate greater profit, whatever the consequences. The political and cultural outcomes are identical but not unimportant when we consider that their function is to provide an alibi. But they are incidental nevertheless. On the other hand, my works do maintain a close relationship with the specific context wherein I work.

The countries we call rich do not operate solely within the territories they formally own, because they require far larger territories than those they administer under their own flags, if they are to maintain their level of production and consumption.  Thus, when I work in countries able to pay for art, I always do so in the same world and the same territory …”