2004 / 5


25 Mantuano street, Madrid


Artists: Big Hope, Marcelo Expósito, Oliver Ressler, Université Tangente y Tom Lavin y Mario Acha.

Documents:, La Fiambrera Obrera, Critical Art Ensemble, Code Red, Boycott Bienniale, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Social Impact Project, Brumaria, Projektgruppe y Legal / Illegal.

Curator: Tomás Ruiz-Rivas.

Support: Goethe Intitut Madrid, Austrian Cultural Forum and Hungarian Embassy.

This exhibition had one basic objective, which was to defend a specific role for the artist: as a producer of a critical discourse and an agent for social and political transformation. The show was also programmatic in nature: it proposed a revision of Marxist thought as a point of departure for the construction of the artistic project.

Based on these premises, we addressed a number of issues. First, we hoped to contribute to the wide-ranging debate on the possibilities for making art from a Leftist perspective. Secondly, we wanted to establish connections between the local scene and a specific European art scene with a coherent and insightful political expression. The exhibition offered modes of work and organization that could be adapted to the complex context of Madrid.

Marx Update clearly fell within the Ojo Atómico's overall objective of transforming Madrid's cultural panorama, with all the sociopolitical changes this implied, and more specifically, it influenced the line of thought that we are developing with regard to the importance of alternative art management, the lack of validity of conventional cultural institutions, and the analysis of diverse pathologies of the local art system which, as we have pointed out elsewhere, are a reflection of the pathologies suffered by Spanish society.

But this show was also an invitation: an invitation to read Marx, to reflect, but above all, to adopt positions, to define attitudes and objectives, and to collaborate on the ongoing task of cultural transformation that we have shouldered. Four years after the exhibition and the writing of the first text, the international economic crisis has led to a revival of Marxist thought, and people are once again reading Capital on a massive basis.

The exhibition is divided into two levels, which tend to become confused and intermingled to the benefit of the show as a whole. On the one hand, there are five "pieces" in the traditional sense of the word: The Global 500, an installation by Oliver Ressler; Commonopoly, by the collective Big Hope; a map entitled The World Government, by the Université Tangente; Between Dreams: May 1st, a video by Marcelo Expósito, which was also presented as a part of the show, The End of the Fair Times; and Informal Economy, a multidisciplinary project by Tom Lavin, with the collaboration of Mario Acha as photographer.

The second level is a selection of documents and publications by collectives and artists who work in the wider spectrum of topics related to our objective: from theoretical explorations of art's function in society to political activism based on artistic resources. The selection includes:, la Fiambrera Obrera, Critical Art Ensemble, Code Red, B+B, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Social Impact Project, Brumaria, Projektgruppe, as well as the magazine Journal for Northeast Issues, and the catalogue for the exhibition Legal/Illegal. The selection is also open to new material contributed by the public.

Big Hope

Miklós Erhardt, Dominic Hislop y Elske Rosenfeld


The Big Hope project was created by the artists Miklos Erhardt of Hungary and Dominic Hislop of Scotland in 1998, motivated by a common interest in discussing strategies of commitment to social issues in art, as well as communication with a wider public. Since then, they have worked on a number of joint projects in photography, video and city maps, frequently involving different fringe groups of society, such as homeless people in Budapest (Inside Out, 1998) or immigrants in Turin (Reroute, 2002). One of the main objectives of these projects has been the empowerment of individuals through self-representation. In this type of project, the artist's role is that of mediator, preparing a framework for dialogue, monitoring the process, providing new directions and finally, presenting the results. The experience of this praxis has given us a certain degree of flexibility and sensitivity for negotiating territories outside the traditional bounds of art.

Elske Rosenfeld has joined forces with this group to work on a series of shows entitled Talking about Economy/ies held at ICA-Dunaujvaros, Hungary; SparwasserHQ, Berlin, Germany; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany; and OK: Offentlische Kulturhaus, Linz, Austria.

As a counterpoint to the dominant global economic system, Big Hope has taken a new step in its work-in-progress Talking about Economies, building a large-format game named Commonopoly which is made up of a series of boxes, found objects and letters containing instructions, which the public of the Ojo Atómico is free to use. Participants may play the game and make concrete contributions or interactions that are a symbolic representation of ideas relating to alternative economic systems. In this way, participants can expand on the game for future players. While some of these ideas have very specific sources, others represent more theoretical approaches. However, all of them refer to notions of sustainability and expand on the notion of community.

Oliver Ressler


Oliver Ressler is an artist who works on projects involving different sociopolitical themes. Since 1994, he has been involved in exhibitions, site-specific projects and videos on issues such as racism, economic globalization, sustainable development, genetic engineering and forms of resistance.
The top 500 corporations in the world as listed every year by Fortune magazine may be seen as key players in economic globalization. The point of departure for The Global 500 was a research project into the websites and annual reports of the 500 multinational companies identified by the magazine. The different elements involved in the project—websites, exhibitions and video—were based on corporate memoranda addressing the strategies and discourses of economic globalization. The hegemonic theses of globalization were discussed, analyzed and critiqued by representatives of unions, NGOs, economists and theoreticians:

- Charles R. Acland (Cultural and Media Theorist, University of Calgary)
- Arjun Appadurai (Director of Globalization Project, University of Chicago)
- Andy Banks (Campaign Manager, US Teamster Union, Washington)
- Olivier Hoedeman (Corporate Europe Observatory, Amsterdam)
- Aquiles Magana (Head of the Mexican Union FALD)
- Birgit Mahnkopf (Prof. for European Politics, Berlin School of Economics)

The show presented pages from corporate annual reports, which were manipulated in such a way as to become a visual representation of globalization. A video presented the opinions of the mentioned experts.

Université Tangente


Manifesto Université Tangente:

Université Tangente is a zero university. It was created in rupture with scientific research, the production and transmission of knowledge, and cultural or artistic practices domesticated by the State or by the market.

As such, Université Tangente creates and sets forth its own forms of life, exchange, knowledge and justice. Tangente, the manifest university, produces and disseminates unique, autonomous and multidisciplinary human knowledge: expressions of existence, modes of action and group organization that emerge from an experience of the world. It works toward the existence and persistence of Otherness, for the unhindered movement of people, the development of South-South relationships, the development of autonomy and the implementation of free education.

With the creation of the Université Tangente, we would like to view it as a place free of exams and tests, open to all as a matter of principle. A place for social deconditioning, where the participants are the co-producers of the university.

In this exhibition it shows the map titled The World Government.

Marcelo Expósito


May 1 is the first production of the Between Dreams project, launched in 2001 by Marcelo Expósito.

Between Dreams seeks to function at a political crossroads between the present conditions of the metropolitan space and representations of the public space as a place of conflict. In this context, the project operates along two lines of force: in one sense, the archetypal dimension of certain historic representations of the city; in another, the degree to which the social movements of the new generation have split with how the city has historically constituted the quintessential public space, in which the subjects of conflict expressed their visibility to then understand the metropolitan space itself as a new territory for production and work, a place where conflicts related to the self-governance of life take place.

The central point of reference of the film May 1 is the May Day celebration, the festival of the social precariat, held in Milan for the third year in a row in May 2003. The video focuses on the symbolic dimension of May 1 as the antagonistic Labor Day for the historic labor movement, and the transformation of this date brought about by the May Day celebration, which is configured as a new vehicle for the subversion of the metropolitan space by social subjects that emerge from the new contradictions between capital and social work. The video incorporates images from the Milan May Day, presented along with several interviews with Italian activists and other visual points of reference: for example, the transformation of Turin's Lingotto (one of Fiat's classic production plants, currently a large shopping and convention center and an office building), and the manner in which it visualizes the transition to the post-Fordist production model. It also presents other points of reference such as the 1987 May 1 celebration and the riots in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg during the demonstrations against the International Monetary Fund, as well as the Labor Day demonstrations filmed in the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz of East Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Tom Lavin / Mario Acha


Tom Lavin presents a phenomenon known as the informal, underground or parallel economy, or the black market. This is the sector of the economy that does not show up in official statistics, and in which transactions are primarily cash-based and do not report taxes.
In other words, the informal economy eludes the capitalist dynamic, creating a transitional zone between pre-capitalist and capitalist modes of production, where the labor force does not generate capital gain and is outside of State control, revealed here as a tool for the organization of production.
The informal economy includes workers which the employer does not register with social security, like street vendors, particularly those of pirate CDs or knockoffs of luxury item, as well as freelance professionals who do not declare their earnings and drug dealers. It is a very complex reality, and in some countries, the informal economy accounts for eighty percent of yearly man-hours. Some economists have estimated the world product of the informal economy as the equivalent of the gross domestic product of the United States.
Tom Lavin's project focuses on street vendors, as an activity with the possibility of being formalized, unlike drug or arms trafficking. As such, this activity exists in open dialogue with the institutions of the countries where it is carried out. Street hawking also transforms the urban space, reterritorializing it and altering the relationship between the public and private in a diametrically inverse direction to that of the commercial districts of European cities.
Research and photographic documentation was done in Mexico by Mario Acha.

Tom Lavin