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Unformatted text preview: e st reet vendor s— who hover on st reet corner s selling fake
designer handbag s— are usually t he social group most obv iously excluded from
t he glit zy opening; in 2001, however, t heir newly bleached hair liter ally highl i g h t e d t h e i r p r e s e n c e i n t h e c i t y. T h i s w a s c o u p l e d b y a g e s t u r e i n s i d e t h e
Biennale proper, where Sierr a gave over his allocated exhibit ion space in t he
Ar senale to a handful of t he vendor s, who used it to sell t heir fake Fendi handbag s on a groundsheet , just as t hey did on t he st reet . Sierra’s gesture prompted
a wr y analog y bet ween art and commerce, in t he st yle of 1970s inst itut ional cr it ique, but moved subst ant ially beyond t his, since vendor s and exhibit ion were
mutually est ranged by t he confront at ion. Instead of aggressively hailing
passer sby wit h t heir t r ade, as t hey did on t he st reet , t he vendor s were subdued.
This made my own encounter wit h t hem disarming in a way t hat only subsequent ly revealed to me my own anxiet ies about feeling “included” in t he
Biennale. Surely t hese guys were actor s? Had t hey crept in here for a joke?
Foregrounding a moment of mutual nonident iﬁcat ion, Sierra’s act ion disrupted
t he art audience’s sense of ident it y, which is founded precisely on unspoken
r acial and class exclusions, as well as veiling blat ant commerce. It is import ant
t hat Sierra’s work did not achieve a harmonious reconciliat ion bet ween t he t wo
systems, but sust ained t he tension bet ween t hem.
Sierra’s return to t he Venice Biennale in 2003 compr ised a major per formance/inst allat ion for the Spanish pavilion. Wall Enclosing a Space involved sealing
off the pavilion’s inter ior with concrete blocks from ﬂoor to ceiling. On enter ing
t he building, v iewer s were confronted by a hast ily const ructed yet impregnable
wall that rendered the galler ies inaccessible. Visitor s carr ying a Spanish passport
were invited to enter the space via the back of the building, where t wo immigrat ion ofﬁcer s were inspect ing passport s. All non-Spanish nat ionals, however, were
denied ent r y to t he pav ilion, whose inter ior cont ained not hing but gr ay paint
peeling from the walls, left over from the previous year’s exhibit ion. The work was
“relat ional” in Bourr iaud’s sense, but it problemat ized any idea of these relat ions
“ The procedure was done in a collect ive manner inside the closed door s of a warehouse situated
in the Ar senale, dur ing the inaugurat ion of that year’s Venice Biennale. Although the number of people
programmed to t ake part in this operat ion was or iginally 200, it was ﬁnally down to 133 due to the
increasing arr ival of immigrant s, making it difﬁcult to calculate with precision how many had already
entered the hall. It was then decided to shut down the entrance and calculate the number by a rough
count . This caused numerous problems at the door, due to the never- ending ﬂow of people that left or...
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This document was uploaded on 02/20/2014 for the course PHILOSOPHY 244 at University of Tennessee.
- Spring '09