Throwback to Santiago Sierra’s exhibition “40 cbm Of Earth From The Iberian Peninsula” at KOW in 2013.
“Santiago Sierra’s first work was a cube measuring one by one by one meter: a sculpture in the style of Minimal Art, but without its clean aesthetic.
He saw Minimalism as an “egregious presumption and self-satisfaction on the part of Western culture”; it pursued the quest for ostensibly objective principles of form as though the latter existed in vacuo—as though systemic patterns in art did not correspond to patterns of thinking, economic life, and finally the reality of people who might be forced to adapt their lives and work to such patterns. Starting in the early 1990s, Sierra’s art accordingly matched Minimalism’s aesthetic to the structural violence that repeatedly prioritizes processes of value creation as well as forms of legal, racial, or ethical normalization over the needs of those who are compelled to submit to or sustain them.
Sierra had 40 cubic meters of soil excavated on construction sites in Bilbao shipped to Berlin in plastic bags measuring one by one by one meter and unloaded at KOW. The provenance of the material from the Spanish real-estate industry points to a shift of power in Europe’s economic structure. Some regions, such as the Iberian peninsula, find themselves devalued to the advantage of other regions or countries, especially Germany. New migration movements are set in motion, a phenomenon that the soil’s journey retraces. The distressed countries of Southern Europe now prepare their assets for shipping; they put their human capital and public property on the market at a discount and hand over control of systemically relevant infrastructures to investors. Packaged in Big Bags, the cheap containers of the shipping business, every cubic meter of Iberian soil represents the sell-out of someone’s living environment and self-determination and indeed of national sovereignty.”
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