• Locating Work in Santiago Sierra’s Artistic Practice

    Andrés David Montenegro Rosero (see profile)
    Art, Modern, Twenty-first century, Art, History, Liberty, Labor
    Item Type:
    Santiago Sierra, work, freedom, Contemporary art, Art history, Art theory, Freedom, Labour
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    This paper closely analyses Santiago Sierra’s understanding of the relationship between work and freedom in contemporary society. By focusing on a series of works where the artist hired someone to perform a specific activity (often involving labour or a contractual working agreement), this essay explores the location(s) of work in Sierra’s artistic practice. In these pieces, the artist delegated or subcontracted a part of the artistic event, either to remain still, hidden inside a box or in a humid, hot compartment in a ship under the sun. At the same time, he remained as a ‘director’ or ‘coordinator’, dictating the conditions of possibility for these actions, the ensuing documentation and its posterior commercialisation. This implies that we can find, at least, two moments where work can be located in Santiago Sierra’s practice. On one level, work (manual labour associated with a paid wage in a determinate economic context) happens at the moment of the actual performance by the hired employees. At the same time, work can also be located at the moment when the artist records and produces an artwork (as intellectual labour). In this sense, the artist uses the work of others in order to produce his own, blatantly turning the workers from a means to an end. This duality suggests that work can be clearly antithetical to freedom for some in a system of advanced, corporate, capitalism while deceitfully emancipatory for a select few. By carefully examining the complex networks of work displacement in Santiago Sierra’s practice, it is my intention to lay bare the premises that support his vision of work as a site for constant struggle between freedom and subjugation.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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