This Wednesday afternoon Catalonia presented 25%, a new work exhibition from visual artist Francesc Torres and filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez curated by Jordi Balló, at the 55th International Art Exhbition - La Biennale di Venezia, considered one of the mosts important art events in the world to be held from 1 June to 24 November. Organized by the Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), the project's curatorial proposal departs from a reflection on the role of art in the situation of systemic crisis in which we are immersed: 25% refers to Catalonia's unemployment rate. The mass unemployment affecting a fourth of the country's active population forces the IRL to take initiatives in reaction to prevent this situation from becoming a tolerated state of life that turns invisible since it affects a plurality. Making it visible, showing its severity and the dignity of those in this situation and their ethical and aesthetic paradox are also central aims of 25%.
The press conference and opening ceremony of 25% as a Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia have been chaired by the Catalan Minister of Culture, Ferran Mascarell, and have counted on the presence of the director of Institut Ramon Llull, Vicenç Villatoro; the director of Promotion of Cultural Industries of the Barcelona City Council, Llucià Homs; the curator, Jordi Balló; and the artist, Francesc Torres.
The Minister of Culture, Ferran Mascarell, qualified the exhibition as "brave" and affirmed that "it has sense". According to the Minister, "a country with a 25% of unemployment is a country that has a black hole and black holes are misunderstood realities that can swallow the whole cosmos. So we need to know what reality is ahead". He also added that "this will be one of the most commented exhibitions in this Biennale and, it will be, because there is a deep analysis and it will not be unnoticed. The phenomenon described here is not strictly Catalan or Spanish, but has a lot of structural and social model of global development".
The director of the Institut Ramon Llull, Vicenç Villatoro, talked about the project confirming that "it is possible to meditate about the 25% of unemployment from diferent perspectives: sociological, economic, political... The Institut Ramon Llull celebrates that this analysis has been made from the cultural perspective and specifically from the point of the contemporary art".
From the City Council of Barcelona, Llucià Homs, highligted the importance of being in international stages like the Biennale: "the internalization of culture is very necessary nowadays, and the fact of being here is the key. With this exhibition, Catalan culture is on the central debate of our times".
The curator of the exhibition, Jordi Balló, explained that "the exhibition is faithful to its original idea. We can't accept things that are unacceptable. It is not true that unemployed people are inactive people. We can't refer to unemployed people like if they were statistics without faces or stories. And it is not true that the crisis and the world of contemporary art are not related. This exhibition explores these paradoxes in these different worlds".
The photographer Francesc Torres said "we approached to this complex and sensitive reality of 25% with a deep honesty and great complicity". According to Torres, the most important thing of the project is the collaboration with the participants: "the 8 people that we documented throught photographs and videos became co-authors of the project. It's a coral work".
Eight people out of work covering the widest possible social spectrum (a Senegalese man engaged in recycling, a young, overqualified architect, a scientific researcher, a metallurgy worker over 50 years of age, and so on) have been photographed by Francesc Torres as he lived alongside them for one to two weeks. During this period, the artist documented their daily lives, and he has made a large-scale portrait of each of them. They were asked to provide an object from home (a painting, a figure, a reproduction, etc.) that held emotional significance for them. Finally, they each visited the MACBA individually, choosing a work from the museum's permanent collection and explaining why they had selected it. This foray into the museum was filmed by filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez and will go on to form part of the installation together with Francesc Torres' photographs and the two objects selected by each subject, one from among his or her possessions and one from the MACBA's collection.
The selection of the eight participants was undertaken in collaboration with different collectives fighting in different areas to address the systemic crisis in Catalonia in relation to unemployment and the lack of professional and job prospects. The participants are Gessamí Sánchez Ollé, 33, a biochemist and member of the Federación de Jóvenes Investigadores/Precarios; Noèlia Asensi, 32, an architect with projects on ephemeral art; Aura Jobita Gonzáles, 45, Ecuadorian, a domestic worker and factory worker; Pedro González, 48, metalworker; Cyntia Terrade, 22, with no work experience; Mamadou Kheraba Drame, 43, Senegalese, resident in Barcelona for 15 years and working in recycling; Alejandro Roldán, 60, a member of the Plataforma d'Afectats per la Hipoteca of L'Hospitalet (Platform of People Affected by Mortgages of L'Hospitalet); and Joan Andreu Parra, 42, formerly a cashier in different bank branches and now in search of ethical work.
The works from the MACBA's permanent collection selected by these eight individuals to accompany them in the exhibition at the Venice Biennale are by artists Hans Haacke (Condensation Cube); Federico Guzmán (Emboscadura); Carlos Pazos (Aquella noche volví a llorar con Bambi); Jaume Xifra (Morceau d'art); Alan Sekula (Shipwreck and Workers); Esther Ferrer (ZAJ Chair); Jorge Oteiza (Retrato de un gudari llamado Odiseo) and Perejaume (Compostatge de nou pintures, compostatge de sis pintures, compostatge d'una pintura amb marc i vidre). Some works were on exhibit in the museum galleries; others were stored in boxes in the museum's repository.
Photographs available at: www.llull.cat/monografics/25percent/premsa.cfm
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