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15 June 2023

Creative destruction explained by Enric Maurí

Notes on the exhibition "Tik Tak. The impact of the global economy on bodies"

In one of her latest books, entitled 15M. El tiempo de las plazas, Julia Ramírez-Blanco describes the precarious aesthetics as characteristic of the transnational activism of the 1990s and 2000s, and of the creative activism inspired by it. These creative manifestations, which take place both in the streets and in museums, can be summarized under the more general heading of aesthetics of social change, a social change that looks to the future, sometimes utopian and sometimes dystopian. According to the author from Madrid, these artivist practices establish a radical imagination that makes it possible to focus on the disastrous aspects of contemporaneity. Often, this kind of practices are nourished by irony and humor to offer, through them, moments of relief or relief from the different claims of transnational activism, such as media manipulation, the ecological crisis, housing problems, precariousness and the economic crisis.

In the exhibition Tik Tak. The impact of the global economy on bodies, curated by Teresa Blanch and installed at the Sala Observatori of Tecla Sala Art Centre until July 9, 2023, Enric Maurí addresses one of the issues that have long concerned him and that are intertwined with the uncovered nerves of neoliberalism mentioned above: precarious aesthetics . There is a serious error of perspective in interpreting precariousness as a collateral effect or a negative consequence of the cyclical crises of capitalism. Precarity is not a consequence of some historical error within capitalism, but one of its conditions of existence. Crises and precarity are constitutive for it. Consumer society and the market that sustains it need cycles of chaos and reconstruction to stay afloat. An example of this in the field of industrial objects, which are the protagonists here, is the programmed obsolescence that has accompanied them since their creation. This is a death foretold and a metaphor, in the artist’s words, “of the obsolescence of human happiness turning it into a victim of capitalist speculation and, therefore, totally vulnerable”. In addition to this, with the development of cognitive, relational and affective capitalism, not only objects, but also concepts, ideas and social movements are programmed to quickly become obsolete in today’s society, which needs constant change to maintain the market economy. Thus, the work of Enric Maurí stages the decadence to which everything is destined in the capitalist life cycle, a carousel of debris and waste.

In this exhibition, he does so through two metaphors: the programmed obsolescence of technological objects and the fragility of urban camps, from which he poses a reflection on dysfunctional social life in advanced capitalism.

The artist addresses issues such as the intoxication of bodies, which goes hand in hand with the pollution of the planet. This is due, among other causes, to the lack of recycling, the constant rejection of objects in the first world and the continuous substitution driven by capital. It also addresses the global problem of housing and the right to housing, symbolized by the reproduction of precarious settlements typical of urban and peri-urban areas in almost every city in the world, which also end up as waste. In addition, all this is accompanied by a virtual and parallel world on the Internet that proposes an alternative, fictitious and distorted reality that defies the human, both idealized and unattainable, and towards which the subjects strive to equate themselves in a continuous tension.

The exhibition consists of four parts, as explained by curator Teresa Blanch, which refer in different ways to the precarious situation in the world caused by a mistaken idea of progress that affects both the individual and nature. First, the series of photographs entitled Darrere els tanques o a tot arreu denounces the issue of real estate speculation and labor shortages. Then, the video Estrés: cossos i coses and the installation Desastres allude to how global problems have repercussions on specific people. In the central part of the room, a video is shown that records the inaugural action of the exhibition, a radical performance in which the artist hits and knocks down a column of rubble as an act of relief. And finally, the installation Sala d’espera reproduces the interior of a shack, inviting us to experience the experience of insecurity, uncertainty and oppression of those who live in these rooms on the street.

The four parts are accompanied by signs and banners also made with precarious materials, like those used during protest demonstrations, along with the reproduction of street graffiti and protest slogans taken from urban walls. However, with this, Enric Maurí poses a final joke, challenging our credulity and leaving us hopeless about the success of this protest: these short texts have not been written by any activist, but by ChatGPT, in an interaction during which the artist asked the bot: “Can you write a Brossa-style poetry about consumerism? About healthcare? About workers’ movements?”. This indicates how capitalism, and especially the most advanced capitalism, which is digital capitalism, absorbs and trivializes everything, even our struggles.

Enric Maurí in dialogue with ChatGPT:

E.M.: em pot escriure a mode de Joan Brossa una poesia sobre les grans corporacions que controlen nel món?
ChatGPT: Aquí tens una possible poesia al estil de Joan Brossa sobre les grans corporacions que controlen el món:

El món està en mans de poques grans corporacions,
que manegen el poder i les finances amb destresa.
Són els amos dels mercats i de les decisions,
i nosaltres els seus esclaus, sense cap esperança.

La globalització ha estat el seu gran triomf,
han aprofitat el nostre benestar per a la seva riquesa.
Són els qui decideixen què comprar i què menjar,
i nosaltres, com bèsties, seguim les seves directrius sense pensar.

Els lobbies i les multinacionals controlen les lleis i les normatives,
determinant el que és bo i el que no ho és.
Els seus interessos són els únics que importen,
i els nostres drets, les nostres vides, són meres mercaderies.

Però no tot està perdut, encara podem lluitar,
per recuperar el control del que és nostre i del que és just.
Hem de trencar les cadenes que ens mantenen atats,
i exigir un món més equitatiu, més sostenible i més humà.

Les grans corporacions no poden ser el nostre destí,
no podem ser meres xifres en les seves estadístiques.
Hem de fer-nos escoltar, hem de fer-nos valer,
i recuperar el poder que ens han robat al llarg dels anys.

La lluita serà llarga, però no hi ha altra opció,
si volem deixar als nostres fills un món millor.
Un món on la llibertat i la justícia siguin reals,
i les grans corporacions no siguin els amos dels nostres destins.

Federica Matelli navigates interdisciplinary waters between research and curating. She has published in different media, lectures at seminars and congresses in different institutions and universities, and conducts research for public and private organisations dedicated to art. “Laurea especialistica” in philosophy from the University of Pisa and Master in “Curating in Art and New Media” from Mecad/Esdi. PhD in theory and history of contemporary art from the University of Barcelona. His research focuses on the study of the concept of the everyday in contemporary art and society. She proposes the study of artistic practice linked to the everyday in connection with other disciplines, such as philosophy, sociology and cultural studies. She is an associate doctor of the research group Art, Globalisation and Interculturality (AGI) at the University of Barcelona. Since 2018 she also collaborates with the publishing house Materia Oscura (Segovia).

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