Sammlung Falckenberg, Wilstorfer Straße 71, Tor 2, 21073 Hamburg-Hamburg

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Santiago Sierra
Sammlung Falckenberg, Wilstorfer Straße 71, Tor 2, 21073 Hamburg-Hamburg
7 September-12 January
From the Press Release

Sierra is internationally renowned for his provocative performances. In his work, Sierra’s subject of choice is the structural violence imposed by political and economic systems. For his piece ‘250 cm line tattooed on 6 paid people’, six young Cubans standing next to one another had a continuous line tattooed across their backs for $30; in 2003 he had the entrance to the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale bricked up, leaving only a small opening, and only allowed holders of Spanish passports to enter; in a very controversial action in Germany he directed car exhaust fumes into a synagogue in Stommeln, transforming the latter into a death chamber; in exchange for small sums of money he left people in cardboard boxes for hours on end, had them support a collapsing wall or had them masturbate in public.

Sierra confronts viewers with an external reality where economic exploitation, low wages, self- prostitution and blocking out the past are the order of the day: ‘My work champions lives destroyed by capitalism. And for me, capitalism is sadism’s economic weapon of choice.’ Sierra’s art not only represents an attack on the unfair distribution of wealth and on inhumane working conditions, but he also uses it to criticise the positive image of work that is dominant within capitalist society.

Sierra states that in his work he does not portray his own desires, but reality - yet this declaration actually stands in crass contrast to the minimalist abstraction and reduction that are the formal characteristics of many of his works. At the same time, with this statement the Spanish artist thus professes ‘objective form’ to be the principal objective of minimalism. The exhibition at Deichtorhallen Hamburg, staged at Sammlung Falckenberg in Harburg, underscores these formal qualities of his work. Alongside Sierra’s sculptures, the exhibition is also showing photographs, filmic works, installations and objects. It is complemented by a ‘memorabilia’ room showing posters, invitation cards, documents and sketches of actions and constructions covering a period of more than two decades.

The exhibition at Sammlung Falckenberg provides viewers with insights into Sierra’s development with, among other things, his minimalist and conceptual art. In fact, most of his works are relicts of past performances. Performed in front of the public, Sierra’s large-format, black-and-white photographs are often coarse-grained pieces of documentation that lack a professional photographic or filmic aesthetics. Sierra is also associated with artists such as Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra and Franz Erhard Walther because of his sculptural aesthetics.

Since his praised contribution to the Venice Biennale in 2003, Sierra’s reputation has grown enormously. As one of Spain’s most reputed artists, in 2010 he chosen to receive Spain’s national prize for fine arts, the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas de España, which is worth €30,000. However, in keeping with the ideology of his works, Sierra refused the prize declaring that he did not want to be exploited by the state.

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