Work, Power and Control
Critical Episodes (1957-2011). MACBA Collection
As part of the exhibition Critical Episodes (1957-2011). MACBA Collection, Level 2 of the Museum presents two new episodes of the MACBA Collection. One of these episodes is Work, Power and Control, related to the second globalisation of the 1980s that resulted in a deep transformation of labour and its associated values. The dismantling of the traditional chains of production had direct consequences on individual lives. Societies and their relational systems endured radical changes, while a global scenario of control was gradually being put into place.
Works by: Sergi Aguilar, Ángel Bados, Sandra Balsells, Nestor Basterretxea, Eduardo Chillida, Marcelo Expósito, Pello Irazu, Maurizio Lazzarato, Angela Melitopoulos, Juan Luis Moraza, Jorge Oteiza, Marc Pataut, Falke Pisano, Jaume Plensa, Allan Sekula, Richard Serra, Andreas Siekmann, Susana Solano, Francesc Tosquelles i Krzysztof Wodiczko.
Andreas Siekmann reflects on the effects on the public space of the relations that have been eroding any kind of ideological dissent since the eighties and nineties. His installation Aus: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (From: Company of Limited Liability), 1996–2002, is a powerful display of urban drawings that, while they can be read individually as a denunciation of the control mechanisms in contemporary cities, when shown together they become a topographic vision of the layout of the streets in a city. The resulting image evokes the worst counter-utopias in the literary imaginary. In this disciplinarian society, Sandra Balsells questions the system of education for the ruling classes and the principles that guide future executives. The result is a photographic work on the formation of students at the IESE Business School. The work is exhibited next to photographs by Marc Pataut documenting the industrial chains of production in the twenty-first century, such as the SEAT factory in Martorell, an industrial city near Barcelona. The images by Balsells and Pataut were part of the project 2007. Metropolitan Images of the New Barcelona, a photographic study of Barcelona produced by MACBA and presented in the context of the exhibition Universal Archive. The Condition of the Document and the Modern Photographic Utopia.
The idea of work occupies a central space on this floor. This old human activity is portrayed by the North-American Allan Sekula in a large photographic installation, donated by the artist to MACBA. Shipwreck and Workers (Version 3 for Kassel), 2005–7, was shown at Documenta 12, Kassel, in 2007. There it was conceived as an outdoor installation. At MACBA, it is shown for the first time both in the public space outside the museum and in the exhibition galleries. Sekula's scenes are a prelude to today's global crisis. These are images that show the effects of the economic changes on people and the way people relate to the systems of production. Often working with images of the sea, Sekula uses here the image of a shipwreck as the starting point for the portrayal of jobs in danger of extinction throughout the world, such as sailor and blacksmith, or those that represent the most basic forms of human work, such as wine harvesting, breastfeeding or being an undertaker. For the artist the work is a 'monument to labour', in reference to a sculpture by Constantin Meunier from 1890. A monument to labour that establishes a dialogue with the materiality of works by Sergi Aguilar, Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra and Susana Solano, among others. Sekula's images confront the old tradition of modern sculpture, associated with an already defunct model of heavy industry. Sculptural work questions the narrative of matter and the conditions behind it. A similar reflection can be found in the work of the Dutch artist Falke Pisano, who presents a video performance of her personal reactions to a series of Chillida sculptures reproduced in a book by the photographer David Finn.
Cinematic language portrays the forms of industrial production. This is the line followed by the films of Nestor Basterretxea and Marcelo Expósito. In 1963, the businessman Juan Huarte Beaumont, a patron of the arts and founder of the production company X Films, asked Basterretxea to make a film promoting his industries. The result was Operación H (Operation H), 1963, a film of great creative freedom, albeit within the film industry's parameters. Paradoxically, the reason why the film was commissioned does not correspond to the aesthetic end result. Belonging to the so-called structural cinema, the work explores the materiality of film, using it as a sculptural tool and a metaphor of the systems of production. On the other hand, Expósito's video Octubre en el Norte: temporal del Noroeste (October in the North: Storm from the Northwest), 1995, uses a 1920 film on the ria in Bilbao to show the alliance between metallurgy, class enrichment and landscape. Expósito reconstructs the film Puerto de Bilbao (Bilbao Harbour), attributed to the Azkona brothers and kept at the Basque film library. The original film traces a journey along the ria to the ria mouth. Expósito, on the other hand, fragments the journey at various points and shows the transformation of the physical spaces of the old industrial city and the dissolution of the workers' conflict.
Finally, Krzysztof Wodiczko's installation If You See Something..., 2005, shows the constitution of a generalised police state as a result of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. A model of civilian control that, thanks to the complicity of practically the whole world, has been exported to other cities as a unique and irreversible model. Here the artist, born in Poland and living in the US, continues with his ongoing concern about marginalisation and the fear of the other. The title of the installation refers to the campaign by the New York authorities: 'If You See Something, Say Something.' A message to remind people that we live in a post-9/11 world where the public space has become a suspicious, threatening place.