The project 25%, a newly produced work by visual artist Francesc Torres and filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez, curated by Jordi Balló, is to represent Catalonia at the 55th edition of the Venice Art Biennale, which will take place between 1st June and 24th November. The curatorial idea of this project stems from a reflection on the role of art in the systemic crisis situation in which we are immersed: 25% reflects the percentage of unemployment in Catalonia.
The project, organized by the IRL, was presented last Thursday at the MACBA in a press conference presided over by the Catalan Minister for Culture Ferran Mascarell, who claimed that a very notable contribution has been made "extricating each of the lives, of the people, behind the simple figures". Mascarell stated that "participation at the Venice Art Biennale makes sense and even more so with projects like this one". "I don't know what repercussions it will have, but it is very closely related to what is going on in the world (...) When situations are extreme, some things make more sense than ever and this project is an example that encourages us to carry on fighting in this relationship between society and culture." Finally, the minister pointed out the project's three defining principles: collaboration, not just between artists and participants, but also with the authorities; absolute creative freedom; and honesty.
Along the same lines, the director of the IRL, Vicenç Villatoro, made it clear that "It is the artists talking in Venice. We in the authorities supply the context." Villatoro is convinced that the Catalan project will be part of the major debates proposed at the Biennale: "This year Venice cannot remain on the edges of what is happening in the world and there will be a reflection on how art should be related to what is going on."
The curator, Jordi Balló, explained the essence of the project: eight unemployed people, who cover the broadest possible social spectrum (a Senegalese man working in recycling, an over-qualified young architect, a scientific researcher, a steelworker over 50, and so on) have been photographed by Francesc Torres during a period of living with them for between one and two weeks. During that time, the artist recorded their daily lives and he has done a large-size portrait of each of them.
They have been asked to contribute an object of sentimental value that they have at home and they have also visited the MACBA individually, where they have chosen a work from the museum's permanent collection and have explained why they chose it. This visit to the museum was filmed by the filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez and will be part of the installation along with Francesc Torres's photographs and the two works chosen by each protagonist, the one they own and the one from the MACBA.
Jordi Balló stated that, "Everyone has something to say and the right to be heard (...) If all this has any objective it is not taking the current situation as read, not erecting insurmountable walls and raising our voices against conformity."
Francesc Torres highlighted "the generosity of the participants and the artists who have ceded their works," and he added, "the most gratifying thing is that we started from the wish to make this 25%, an abstract figure, tangible. It is not the fact that they are unemployed that defines the eight people, but that they are highly resistant citizens."
For her part, Mercedes Álvarez said that "seeing the pieces chosen and through the conversations we had with them, subjects for reflection have appeared like the value of use and the value of change. These people, who are not recompensed by the market, have on the other hand great social and civic value. And they are playing a role that ought to be played by the authorities'".
The eight participants were selected in collaboration with various groups fighting in different fields to confront the systemic crisis in Catalonia associated with unemployment and the lack of professional and job prospects. They are Gessamí Sánchez Ollé, 33, a biochemist and member of the Federation of Young Researchers in Precarious Employment; Noèlia Asensi, 32, an architect with projects about ephemeral art; Aura Jobita Gonzáles, 45, from Ecuador, a domestic cleaner and factory worker; Pedro González, 48, a steelworker; Cyntia Terrade, 22, who has never worked; Mamadou Kheraba Drame, 43, from Senegal, who has lived in Barcelona for 15 years and works in recycling; Alejandro Roldán, 60, a member of the Platform of People Affected by Mortgage Irregularities in L'Hospitalet; and Joan Andreu Parra, 42, previously a cashier in various bank branches, now looking for an ethical job.
The works in the MACBA's permanent collection chosen by these eight citizens and which accompany them in the exhibition in Venice are by the artists Hans Haacke (Condensation Cube); Federico Guzmán (Ambush); Carlos Pazos (That Night I Cried Again at Bambi); Jaume Xifra (Morceau d'art); Alan Sekula (Shipwreck and Workers); Esther Ferrer (Zaj Chair); Jorge Oteiza (Portrait of a Gudari Called Odiseo) and Perejaume (Compost of Nine Paintings, Compost of Six Paintings, Compost of a Painting With Frame and Glass). Some of them were exhibited in the museum's rooms; others were kept in boxes in the storeroom.
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