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Magazine

08 May 2012
How to maintain active the machinery of dissent?

Diana Padrón Alonso

La Capella has presented different projects developed over the last few years in relation to the ACVIC centre, in an endeavour to map out the current panorama of dissident art. The proposition wasn´t off track, but it has highlighted the need to reflect upon the changes in artistic production and the urgency of opening up to other possible “ways of doing” things, so as not to end up doing the same, with the same people.


That the capitalist system has been the death of craftsmanship, in favour of mass production, is an accepted fact. On the other hand, the art of the elite, with its worrying capacity to accommodate the establishment, has managed to insert itself into the global market, reinventing itself as the product of a Factory, so as not to lose cachet in the process. Thus we have the large multinational brands DamienHirst – JeffKoons – OlafurEliasson supplying vast (and extremely costly) quantities of merchandise to the global art system. In an endeavour to trace a line of flight, the proposal that La Capella has exhibited for the last few weeks vindicated art as craft, as a sort of contrary device centred on a contextualised reality, where it was possible to discern diverse working processes that reverberated with some critiques of art today. Artistic projects that have arisen from more or less approximate fields that have now come together under the shared idea of the workshop for self-production.

“Artesans. Construcions col·lectives de l’espai social” (Craftspeople, Collective Constructions of the Social Space), has been articulated according to five working methodologies (Art & Education, Useful design, Public space and mobile devices, Collaborative maps and Social critique), accounting for the plurality of strategies proposed by contemporary art in relation to politics of space and collective knowledge. However, the suggestion runs the risk of bordering on the superficial, for the stagnant manner in which the different artistic processes were presented, as independent chapels within the same church. Processes that seemed to be reduced to typological objects, for the insistence on showing the result of craftsmanship, that left aside the critical potential of artistic investigation: the development of the construction of a machinery of dissent, which is where the true interest for us within craft lies.

What concerns us about craftsmanship stretches way beyond simply reclaiming the value of manufacture, of manual skill, the mechanisms by which a series of things are constructed as opposed to mass-produced. What is interesting about these projects is their capacity to propose a ‘do it yourself’, the possibility of emancipation and empowerment that they lend to social collectives by way of self-production, enabling them to apply different solutions in accord with a specific context. But what is more, as Richard Sennett indicates (in the work that, in fact, provides the title for the exhibition), the contemporary craftsman is the one who is capable of generating ‘artefacts’, devices in the most mechanistically Guattarian sense, in the sense of not simply fabricating objects, but also critical mechanisms, that know how to conciliate theory and praxis and that are activated in accord with their insertion into real scenarios and issues (there is where social critique, design, architecture, pedagogy and the practice of mapping can coincide).

The contemporary urban space, in its progressive impoverishment of experience, urgently clamours for production of a new reality. This is what explains why the work of contemporary craftspeople has much more to do with the production of knowledge, than strictly speaking, the production of objects. The letters of “Aplicación legal desplazada#3: F.I.E.S.” (Displaced Legal Application: F.I.E.S) by Nuria Güell, the urban prescriptions by Santiago Cirugeda, the “Wikitankers” by Straddle3 and Todo por la Praxis, the construction of “made-up” artefacts, and the construction game of the project “Al portal de casa_ Els constructors” by Jordi Canudas should not be understood as isolated pieces that evidence laborious craftsmanship, but as inscribed within diverse working processes that are driven by a shared need; to explore local districts, to propose possible formulae for a certain kind of quotidian activism in cities and to facilitate an understanding of an “imprisoned” reality. Nor does the practice of mapping interest us as such, for the art of delimiting a territory has always existed tied to a hegemonic strategy. The novelty, in any case, would be to explain how the works of Iconoclasistas, Torolab, Stalker/Primavera Romana, Efraín Foglia, Mona Fawaz, Ahmad Gharbieh and Mona Harb use maps as a counter-methodology, as a tactic within a critical investigation to make visible the complexity and contradictions of the territory: to generate new terrains.

It is in this sense that craftsmanship could have fitted into the context of the exhibition of La Capella, however, the limited documentation evidencing the different phases of the projects and their contextualised application, along with the lack of any theoretical support that situates them, led to a space converted into a warehouse, a large warehouse of artefacts separated from their scenario for action, that (let’s not forget) is none other than the public space. In this way, the different proposals could well have been read as the imposition of a de-territorialising model, as standardised prototypes that have been generalised through a series of endogamic events.

The work that ACVIC and IDENSITAT have developed over the last few years under the direction of Ramón Parramón, merits applause for the social responsibility with which each one of the projects is generated, for their espousal of specific artistic practices dedicated to socio-critical-pedagogical investigation, the networking developed with other centres and associations, and the setting in motion of a whole series of collective workshops, where the most cutting edge local art is formed. However, to perpetuate synonymous models, to comply with paradigms originated solely around the network of Arquitecturas Colectivas (Collective Architecture), would mean placing at risk the plurality of the current artistic proposals, neutralising the dissident discourse and favouring an artistic panorama of consensus.

Diana Padrón Alonso
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