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Magazine

05 May 2013
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Madrid’s burning

Paloma Checa


Announce, indicate, underline, mark, draw attention, accentuate, emphasize and insist. This is what illuminated signage does. It’s the logic of neon lighting, the raison d’être of visual interjections. It’s how political propaganda works, exalting the dignitaries. With casinos, indicating the obligatory stop on the motorway. They don’t create new messages they are merely the gesture that reinforces what is implicit in the context. They direct the focus of attention and define the meaning of the conversation.

Candela (Candle)(2013) is the intervention by Los carpinteros that can be seen until 30 June in the space Abierto x Obras of the Matadero in Madrid. The space is the old meat refrigerator that was ravaged by fire in the nineties, the walls of which haven’t been restored since being reopened as an exhibition space by the city council. The work is made up of hundreds of LEDs, placed behind bits of wood that describe the flames of a bonfire. The room is dark, illuminated only by the electric fire that projects a warm light on the sooty, black walls. It still smells burnt. On entering, one sees fire.

The intention of Los carpinteros is to talk about how ideology can turn into a monster. Not just that one, the red one, had to be perverted in order to be put into practice. The one here, that of the welfare state, has also reached a most uncomfortable deformation. With so much tension it has burst into flames, burning not just stories but also institutions. Madrilenians, one of the rooms of the city council is burning.

As we already know, there is generalised discontent in the sector. Along these lines, while I write this article the platform Acampada Sol has called for a sit-in on 10 May at the Museo Reina Sofía . An invitation to workers and ex-workers in culture and communication, as well as the population at large, to protest about the policies of budget cuts and closure of cultural centres across the whole country. A very different call than the one made by Los carpinteros, but one that in some way shares the same dissatisfaction with public power. How will the occupation of the museum go? What type of enunciation mechanism will be activated in this case? And what will the message be?

Paloma Checa-Gismero is Assistant Professor at San Diego State University and Candidate to Ph.D. in Art History, Criticism and Theory at the University of California San Diego. A historian of universal and Latin American contemporary art, she studies the encounters between local aesthetics and global standards. Recent academic publications include ‘Realism in the Work of Maria Thereza Alves’, Afterall, autumn/winter 2017, and 'Global Contemporary Art Tourism: Engaging with Cuban Authenticity Through the Bienal de La Habana', in Tourism Planning & Development, vol. 15, 3, 2017. Since 2014 Paloma is a member of the editorial collective of FIELD journal.

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