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Economies of wear and tear

economies desgast webAn exhibition by Toni Giró and Jordi Mitjà, curated by Magdala Perpinyà

25.09.2015 - 31.12.2015

Opening, Friday September 25th at 19:00

[view the program]


n the documentary Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, filmmaker Agnes Varda exemplified, categorically and perhaps emotionally, the senselessness of  consumer society, and all the perversity which hides behind it. In the film, we see thousands of heart-shaped potatoes discarded in the rubbish heap because they have little commercial value. Shoppers prefer to buy round ones which are attractive and easier to peel, even if they are of lower quality. Yet there are always people who, driven by necessity, will give them a second life. Varda's story puts a face upon the immorality of a society constrained by the dynamics of the disposable. We know the characters and situations described, because unfortunately in recent times, they have become part of the experience of everyday life and the pulse of ordinary cities.

What Agnès Varda says is that "socialisation" inevitably occurs in order that individuals adjust to certain dynamics of behaviour required to fulfil their obligations as consumers. Obviously, anyone who wishes to remain separate from the daily operations of consumer society becomes an outsider, an outcast who loses their right to join in the social system and, indirectly, loses their rights as citizen which, ultimately, are based on their competence and ability as a consumer. In this scenario, individuals have no other choice but to fight against the current in an attempt to endure in an environment which is hostile to them. Obviously, a difficult balance must be achieved between not exiting from the system which has been imposed, and not being simultaneously absorbed by that which one wants to escape. It is an asymmetric struggle, so that the subject is confronted by a difficult challenge. On the one hand, there is the desire for emancipation, and on the other, the pressure exerted by the system, forcing the subject to adopt behaviour contrary to their interests.

As Varda has aptly described, many outsiders find, in the recovery of traditional methods such as gleaning, alternative ways of life. But we must not fool ourselves: these practices are now seen as a threat and a challenge to the existing order. Certainly, it seems that it is impossible to construct either democratic prosperity or democratic freedoms separately from the financial market.

So, although consumption may seem like the only legitimate means to attain a braver new world, it conceals a well-studied strategy for the oppression and control of human beings. For Toni Giró and Jordi MItjà, the unstoppable consumerism and hedonism which have left their marks upon patterns of social behaviour have not gone unnoticed. Indeed, the uniqueness and value of the proposals in Economies of wear and tear, lie in raising critical points within a collective imaginary associated with excess and sterile abundance.

jordi mitja tallerFrom this perspective, Jordi Mitjà is moved by a kind of archaeological necessity which leads him to search for traces within everyday objects which have been thrown away as rubbish. In the appropriation of abandoned elements and materials,  a process of seduction enters into play through the poetics of the objet trouvé, which is not reduced to an ill-considered recycling for recycling's sake, but which is achieved with subtlety, without any intention to raise propaganda or strike a badgering tone, respecting the discovered object, aims to expose the fetishist compulsion hidden behind the alleged emancipatory and liberating power of consumption. Hence, his current critical vision on current affairs does not focus on the big events; rather, his gaze is fixed upon the very opposite. A brick, a rusted piece of iron or an old paper may be a sign of something else. In this way, he searches, discloses and decodes, so as to restore meaning to what has become scrap. He delves into everything hidden and discarded, in order to identify within them a lost spiritual and social significance. All humble objects, disregarded as lacking utility, interest him. Simple, everyday, domestic objects, telling their own stories from which to construct "intrahistories". In a way, MItjà has a collector's fine nose for the object, stirring around in corners so as not to miss a thing which might later disappear.

Thus, one of the key points in MItjà's posture is directed towards reversing the process which governs the consumer economy. We know that unstoppable consumption is consolidated through the consumer's continued dissatisfaction, in a strategy which, while apparently aiming to satisfy their desires, is actually aiming for the successive discarding of products, and the promise that new acquisitions will satisfy the expectations created for them. This is how a constant loop, of acquiring material things which are abandoned later on for new acquisitions, is generated. In this way, the circuit from factory to consumption, and from consumption to the rubbish dump, is assured. But Jordi Mitjà proposes  to subvert the process from appropriation, to possession and accumulation, until the objects end up as refuse, in order to rebuild this track in reverse. Therefore, he is dealing in the undermining and dismantling of the ideological models contained within material goods, enabling a critical reflection upon their uses and purposes.

The artist could well be one of the protagonists of Varda's documentary, since, to a certain extent, his work involves bringing new significance to the ancient practice of gleaning. In the original sense of the verb, to glean means to collect from the ground any leftovers after a harvest, such as grains of wheat, grapes, rice, and so on, and has much relevance to Mitjà's gesture. After all, gleaning arises from the necessity to retrieve, and not to waste, anything which may still be of use. In this case, gleaning advocates for a new artistic identity to the discarded object.

Perhaps Jordi MItjà's work is intrinsically interwoven with the landscape in which he works, so that his projects search for a direct interaction with the location in which they will be exhibited. The in situ research operates as a trigger for bringing out other visions of, and nuances within, the sites of his projects, visions and nuances which have apparently diminished in the public awareness, or which have gone unnoticed. Indeed, first of all the artist wanders, explores and strikes a perspective in order to identify those elements within the locality, or those regional values, which may externalise points of conflict and argument that, somehow or another, have been rendered invisible. This means that, in recovering certain elements, the willingness gravitates towards moving the artistic discourse towards a more social and political one.

In this sense, a part of MItjà's proposal consists in fixing attention on the old tanneries in Vic, abandoned due to the technological development which affected leather manufacturing throughout the twentieth century, and which now suffer a process of continuing degradation. Therefore, the proposal deals with making use of the symbolic potential of the abandoned tanneries to generate a debate on urban regeneration and the entire process of social, economic and cultural construction associated with Vic's transformation.
Along the same lines, Mitjà seeks the involvement of certain local agents. In this case, a print workshop, where the artist tracks down publications and documents which no longer have any use, which have ended up marginalised because of the impossibility of commercialising them, and thereby which contain no market value.

MItjà's project implies the reconstruction of the sense of personal and social memory. The artist's position also implies that it is possible to trace out a consistent thread between the past and the present through the insignificant. In fact, the will which he demonstrates in gathering up abandoned objects, objects which no longer arouse any interest, indicates his commitment to maintain an posture of confrontational resistance against a dynamic which prevails in the opposite direction. In a way, his quest becomes a kind of visual essay about places which have ended up as undervalued, due to an intransigent vision of current social organisation, and everything which revolves around that vision which, in spite of our day-to-day experience, confirms to us that the functionality of a useful life is privileged and that perhaps, in a planned way, that life is also condemned to carry an expiry date.

    With objectives which follow a similar path, Toni Giro's works offer an ironic perspective, not without a certain sense of humour, upon the dangers and pitfalls underlying late capitalism. The artist is on the hunt for an artistic expression which questions the logic of certain power dynamics pushing society towards an uncertain destination. In fact, his artistic career has been based upon a permanent interrogation of problems faced by contemporary society. In this case, the artist focuses upon a debate which has descended to us from the 1950s, from the last century, when warnings about the harmful consequences of alienation within a consumer society immersed in abundance were already present through certain currents of thought. In this context, citizens' rights have been subordinated to market benefits.

    Thus, we find a perverse example of how the rules and practices of  consumer society are applied in the entrepreneurial world, in human resources and personnel policies for employed staff, in which workers are dispossessed of all their rights and are treated as just another product, to be used and exchanged as material goods. Currently, nobody is scandalised when talking about job insecurity, staff mobility, relocation, job regularisation, and many other euphemisms larding the economicista ideology which governs us. It is surprising how these words have been "naturalised" within the everyday reality of labour, as surprising as the manipulation and use made ​​of language. We have seen the word "revolution" subverted until we can dare to turn it into an advertising slogan, devoided of any content. Similarly, certain historical, political, cultural and social narratives have been used, in order to become adapte to the conveniences of hegemonic power. For example, in The invisible hand Giró highlights the dangers of appropriation and manipulation of thought and language through texts by Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Hence, a technical language associated with economic theory becomes a poetic text. The words, divested of their original meanings, acquire new connotations. Somehow, this piece assembles a discourse which seeks to create fissures upon a fictitious reality which governs us, thus generating a mordant and interrogative perspective upon how certain ideological currents are constructed and imposed.

toni giro blisterConsumer products rarely have a neutral entity. Indeed, their power lies precisely in that they are always accompanied by a well consumer-researched "identity" and an "experience", containing a whole ideological construct aimed at defining a model of life. Thus, the consumer may be defined according to the objects around him. Undoubtedly, our everyday relationship with consumption and with decision-making regarding the purchase of products, has a great deal of relevance to an ideological positioning on technology, fashion, food, culture, and so on. Goods possess a very powerful symbolic character, therefore, the choice of one object over another similar object is not a trivial choice, due to how we understand and interact with the social construct. For example, Toni Giró in Blister Suite, a piece constructed by reusing blister-wrap or the plastic containers protecting the objects which we regularly buy, which the artist has refilled with cement, aiming to dismantle the ideological power of material goods and erase all significance from them, so that the viewer gives them a new identity. The piece becomes a sort of a collection and a formal serialisation these objects' outer casings, thus establishing a genealogy of object-families related to everyday life, domesticity, DIY and new communication technologies.

The sin of covetousness, that is, the raw desire for lucre, avarice, which until recently were viewed with disapproval, not only among intellectuals but also throughout much of society, have become a set of ascendent values. Thus, capitalism, protected by its ideologues, has provoked a radical volte-face in how the economic system is conceived, projecting financial utility as homologous with modernity, progress, prosperity and individual freedom.

In this scenario, the theological character which money has acquired can be seen in the political and social changes which have been unleashed. Hence the desire of money for its own sake is no longer considered as sinful and reprehensible, but comes charged which a peculiar passionate intensity associated with  ambition, lust for power and personal advancement. But the reality, as Giró states in the Darrera Estrofa ( Last Verse), is a bitter one, demonstrating that to reduce the world to monetary considerations, and to transform money into power is a dangerous game which has brought us to where we now stand.

 Last Verse displays a natural underwater landscape, in which, suddenly, something strange appears; a five euro bank-note, dancing in a particular way while sinking in an environment in which it does not belong. Carried by the current, the bank-note mimics the movement of seaweed, rubs against decaying matter, is sometimes ignored and is sometimes attacked by insects and fish. The soundtrack which accompanies the images is evocative of passages from the genres of science fiction, nature documentaries and documentaries of natural disasters. The use of certain quotations at the beginning and end of the video ambiguously sets the theme. When the artist recreates the image of a bank-note descending to the bottom of a pond, he is, in some way, leaving to the viewer's intuition the folly which we have come to by legitimising the bombarding violence of money, now converted into a tool for societal domination. Last Verse highlights the indissoluble contradiction between the "naturalisation" of a state of continuous social imbalance imposed by financial speculation, and the management of the common good.

bitllet 1bitllet 2In short, the central pillar of Economies of wear and tear is marked by the desire to reflect upon the absurdity of this social construct, which every day is imposed as the only way of "being in the world" and which one way or another marks the patterns of human inter-relationships and patterns of social functioning. Magdala Perpinyà Gombau





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