HOMELESSNESS IN MY HOME VILLAGE
31 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
I’ve done series of works on distant places like Japan, China, South Korea, Syria, Mexico and United States researching the amalgam of the otherness and the global consumer culture but now I have had a feeling that I should look the world also through a macro lens. I’ve been photographing with Luis a new slideshow titled Cervera de los Montes for Dummies in the tiny locality in the deep Spain where we live. We have put together over 100 pictures of ads, litter, graffiti and political propaganda found in the streets of our village.
Yesterday, we entered to abandoned row houses in the limits of the village. These dwellings were built some fifteen years ago but never finished because of some legal irregularities. One of the houses had been decorated by the local teenagers with graffiti done with the paints found at the construction site. It looked interesting and we began to plan putting up an exhibition in the house next summer featuring the slideshow and maybe some other works.
We were excited until we saw the neighboring unit – it was very equipped including the kitchen furniture though many things had never been installed like the electrical sockets. What made the panorama heartbreaking were the children’s clothes and toys around the rooms. We found also personal photos and documents of a young Romanian family with a son who had been staying in this house with broken windows and no door. It was possible to reconstruct the facts that they had lost their flat in Talavera de la Reina, the town ten kilometers from Cervera, and then found an emergency place to stay in this abandoned house but what we couldn’t figure out was the reason they had ran away so fast that they left many personal belongings behind them.
I think we continue with the idea of doing the exhibition and we’ll include in the show this ready-made installation of poverty and misery as a crystal clear image of the current Spanish economic crises.
26 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Every morning when I open my eyes I wonder what I can do to make myself famous. It's become my ambition, almost my raison d'être, to burst upon the city like fireworks.
That is how Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby, one of my favorite novels, begins. Not long ago, those could have been my words. I was ambitious and I had difficulties to understand people who had no desire for personal achievement. I thought the meaning of life consisted of distinction, honor, superiority, power and fame. I wanted to reach the sky. Now, building Lego towers touching the ceiling are the significance of my existence.
My attitude began to change when my younger child was born two years ago and I realized that my youth was definitely washed away. I began to accept the fact that I’m not a successful artist and the biennales, blue-chip galleries and the museum shows are not a part of my career. I don’t wake up anymore thinking that this is the day when Klaus Biesenbach or Larry Gagosian phones me. I feel satisfied working in a small scale and showing my works at internationally inconsequential venues.
The last three years I’ve been lucky to receive grants, public or private, enough to provide my half of our family’s lower middle class standard of living. I wouldn’t complain if I could live like this the rest of my life, as Cervera Baby, and just read in the newspapers about colleagues who are bursting upon Venice, Kassel, New York and Shanghai.
Or am I lying to myself?
22 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Spain's economy is sinking, the unemployment rate is over 25% and one million immigrants have left the country that offers no more opportunities. On Friday, two events described me perfectly the situation and the atmosphere of the country.
In the morning a 30-year-old blonde lady rang my door bell and begged me to donate food to her . I was stupefied and gave her one kilo of rice.
In the afternoon, I went to supermarket with my son. We were getting our turn to the fishmonger when a 60-years old apoplectic Spanish lady appeared and yelled that it was her turn - she claimed that she had been there before and just went to do shopping while waiting . I explained her that "first-come first-served" means that the customers must stay in the line during the waiting time. She shouted that the immigrants are in the country not only stealing the jobs of the Spanish but also the turns at the fishmonger's. She suggested phoning to the police maybe thinking that it could frighten me if I were an undocumented immigrant. I told her to phone to the fire brigade and the air force and then I ordered a half of a Norwegian salmon to be prepared for smoking it for my Spanish family-in-law.
PROTEST IN ART IS LIKE ALCOHOL-FREE BEER
17 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Spain's public school students, including the pupils of the primary schools, are on strike today against the government's education spending cuts. In spite of that, I drove my seven-year-old daughter to school this morning. My own cold war childhood was politicized and I was taken to demonstrations against the United States foreign policy and nuclear weapons. I want to keep my kids in innocence and not involve them in any kind of political action. They don't have to know about the economic crises and the turbo-capitalism we are suffering. On the other hand, my duty as a father, citizen and intellectual it to protest - but how?
Slavoj Zizek has famously marked that we have a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol (...), warfare with no casualties as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics.
We have also protest without protest. The Occupy movement is demonstrating against social and economic inequality but it doesn't offer any alternative model to the capitalism. It is rebellion without a revolution and opposition without an ideology, which makes it easy to combat. To win a battle, you need a defined strategy designed to achieve a specific goal. Without a clear goal there is no strategy and there is nothing you are fighting for.
The demonstrators demand a reform in the capitalism, a system that has proved to be unable to sustain the world or even its own existence. We must be enough brave to admit that the antithesis of capitalism is socialism and the opposite of the corporate power is the collective ownership of the means of production.
So how should I protest if I don't want my offspring to join the student strike or I don't go to Madrid trying to occupy the parliament? Is writing this enough? Should I subject my artistic production to anti-capitalist and pro-socialist propaganda? Or is it possible to keep on doing ambivalent and ironic art works and meanwhile try to influence people in a direct way as a public person and intellectual?
Art as propaganda is uninteresting and ridiculous - it is art without art and protest without protest. A protest in art is like alcohol-free beer in Saudi Arabia.
MY FAVORITE SIN CITIES
11 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
A sin city is an urban area that caters to various legal or illegal vices including commercial sex, gambling, alcohol, drugs and organized crime.
My favorite sin cities are Atlantic City (New Jersey), Ayia Napa (Cyprus), The Block (Baltimore), Boy's Town (Nuevo Laredo), El Rosedal (Buenos Aires), De Wallen (Amsterdam), G.B. Road (New Delhi), Kamathipura (Mumbai), King's Cross (Sydney), Las Vegas (Nevada), Macau (China), Manama (Bahrain), Pattaya (Thailand), Reeperbahn (Hamburg), Sonagachi (Kolkata), Svay Pak (Phnom Penh), Zona Boêmia (Belo Horizonte), Zona Norte (Tijuana) and Zone 4 (Marcory).
Soon I don't have to travel too far to enjoy the sin because Madrid has be chosen to host EuroVegas of the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The regional government of Madrid has promised to fix several laws to suit for this awesome project that will be almost as big as the original Las Vegas Strip in the United States. This is the measure of Spain's conservative government, very close to the Catholic church, to save the sinking economy of the country.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
08 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Fake it till you make it, also called act as if is a common catchphrase that means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence.
I've always thought that I shouldn't give a miserable image of myself but act like my works were selling like hot cakes. Now I just read in my own interview that I've sold lots of works to Dubai and that I was paid in several full plastic bags filled with cash. Telling untrue stories like this to journalists can be a funny game but now a friend of mine warned me that the people working for the state's treasury can read the interview too and accuse me of not reporting my incomes and avoid paying taxes on them.
Maybe I have to tell the awkward truth - Nine of my last ten solo shows sold nothing. My Syria Study Center finished yesterday in Helsinki, the same result, nothing sold. I know that most of the people don't believe this, because especially in Finland I appear often in newspapers, magazines and on TV. We tend to relate the visibility with economic success but unfortunately it's not my case. I hope that at least the treasury department believes the truth.
VIVESEPULTURE OF CAPITALISM
05 October 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Jani inaugurated his show Memorial Service, with headstones of big brands, in Helsinki on Thursday but I was then already back home in Spain. I wrote a speech and sent it to him to be given in the opening reception.
We are here to bury Capitalism. To tell the truth, we didn’t love him but after living with him all our lives, our hearts are touched when we are saying goodbye to the greatest power of the world that has been affecting every aspect of our life, thoughts, fears and
dreams. Some could call us cruel, because Capitalism is not dead – we are burying him alive.
Each of you can decide if this premature burial is accidental or intentional. An intentional vivesepulture may occur as a form of torture, murder or execution. It may also occur with consent of
the victim as a part of a stunt or as a form of suicide. The victim may also be buried by others in the mistaken assumption that they are dead.
Now, does Capitalism look dead or alive? The future will judge us. Capitalism, rest in peace.
ONE HOUR IN BELGIUM
03 October 2012, Brussels
Actually, it's not that bad not finding a direct flight from Helsinki to Madrid. I'm at the Brussels airport listening to the Soapkills' Lebanese trip hop, reading Minna Valjakka's Meany Faces of Mao Zedong and sipping a Hoegaarden beer. I bought hand-made Neuhaus chocolate pralines and Godiva dark chocolate spread for my wife. I used to work with a Belgian gallery and come here really often, then we had at home always these sweet luxuries that addicted my wife.