Santiago Sierra

February 18 - June 7, 2009
Curator: Elisabeth Millqvist

The disturbing quality of Sierra’s works lies not in the gap between me and the Other but in the unbearable recognising of another human being.

Curator Elisabeth Millqvist, from the catalog.

Santiago Sierra makes the main exhibition at Magasin 3 this spring. Since the 1990s, Santiago Sierra has worked to create socially critical actions. He has represented Spain at the Venice Biennale where he bricked up the entrance to the Spanish pavilion, he has worked with drug addicts and prostitutes, and has created an income index related to skin color. Sierra’s works leave no one unmoved. By means of formal presentations or staged events, he places focus on and reminds us of societal conditions. The actual events, their traces and their documentation constitute the works. The artist uses the titles of the works to describe precisely what we are seeing and thereby invites us to look beyond the form or the action being performed.

Santiago Sierra puts focus on the location of Magasin 3 in the free port when creating two new works. Transport and trade, exemplified by the port area, are important subjects in his artistic practice and will be the focus of the exhibition. The artist will show his most comprehensively challenging sculptural work to date, a piece from 2006-2007, and will extend the exhibition to billboards around the city.

Have you seen them around in the city?

In the gallery entrance and on billboards around the city we find posters of the work 89 HUICHOLS. We are presented with a series of black and white portraits. We see peoples’ backs, their necks, hats and scarves without any further information. By placing the work on billboards the artist wants to create a contrast to the commercial portraits that we usually see.

“The interesting thing is also that when you have somebody… when you don’t see the face of somebody, their position becomes more active, you know, you have to think why does she not show me the face, you know. And in a world full of images, this image, which is an anti image in a way, becomes full of meaning, because the person has to create what the person doesn’t see.” 

This is how Santiago Sierra described his work in an interview prior to his exhibition at Tate Modern in London, 2008. In presenting the persons with their backs to the viewer, there is a connotation of guilt and shame. Sierra has previously done series of works like this, among others 184 PERUVIAN WORKERS, Santiago de Chile, 2007 and 100 BEGGARS, Mexico City, 2005. The posters are available for purchase at Magasin 3 (size 100cm x 70cm) for the prize of 100 sek. The Huichols are a small tribe of Native American people living in the mountains in the western central states of Mexico. Like many other indigenous peoples they struggle to have their land rights and their traditions acknowledged. The Huichols are a profoundly religious people. They are farmers and the right to farmland in Huichol villages is earned through ceremonies and sacrifices to the community, not through monetary purchases of acres. In the Huichol language, Wixarika, there is no word for money. The Huichols are said to be the last tribe in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. The Huichols’ way of life is under threat however since farmers, ranchers and the government seize Huichol communal property and push them into smaller parcels of land. They must often work under bad circumstances in tobacco fields or such for very small amounts of money.

Articles written about the Huicholes: The huicholes and pesticides, A Poisoned Culture: the case of the Indigenous Huicholes Farm Workers.