Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let's stick with capitalism

So hey, the other day I watched some guys build a giant wooden letter K in the forecourt in front of ACCA, (The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art).The K was the work of Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, and set up as part of the Melbourne Festival.

Sierra's spent the last two years traveling the world making and destroying giant sculptures of letters. In New Zealand the letter A was constructed from full cartons of milk and then shot to pieces with a gun. In Holland the letter S was constructed from fruit and vegetables and then eaten by a group of pigs. And here in the ACCA forecourt the 3 and a half meter tall wooden K was to be set alight and burnt to the ground.

As a side note I should say that fire's great and all, but still, I would've much preferred to see the splattering milk or hungry pigs.

The work ultimately consisted of ten letters, those letters made up one word, which was only revealed after all the letters had one by one, out of order, been created and destroyed. The Australian K was the final letter in the word. At the burning an ABC reporter revealed to me that the word was CAPITALISM. "But where's the K in that?" I asked, and she told me that apparently it's spelt in German, which is with a K not a C.

There was a huge crowd. We waited around for half an hour, they lit the K, it burnt for a few minutes and everybody filmed it on their phones.  I was upwind of the K, we were warned we might get burnt, and I did, a bit of ash flew into my neck. It stung. It felt like someone had used my neck to put out their cigarette. And then it was over and we all cheered.

The work itself wasn't especially interesting, I don't think it would've been nearly as celebrated if it wasn't Sierra doing it, but even still it was pretty exciting to have so many people outside in the freezing wind all huddling together. It felt like we were camping. Everybody was happy. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me because I was happy.

So ok, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, was that boring? Are you still reading? I'm no reporter, I only explained all that to give what I'm going to say next some context. Fifteen minutes before the K was set alight I decided to make a triptych of photos. It might be a little bit lame, (or maybe it's super cool), but for the first photo I held a tube of RAW SIENNA paint that I'd changed the letter N's to R's, making it RAW SIERRA. (Also pictured is my painting of a matchbox.)
Once the K was lit I changed the label on the tube from RAW SIERRA to BURNING SIERRA.
And here at the very end, once the fire brigade had extinguished the last of it out, I changed the text on a tube of Burnt Sienna to say Burnt Sierra.
Messing around after all this I asked my best buddys Fat Dan and Tristan whether they thought I should try and show the paint tubes to Sierra himself. "Why, so he can laugh at you and call you a goofball?" was the response. Here's a photo of them telling me that.
And of course I knew they were right, but even still I did it anyway.

I made my way over and told Sierra how much I really appreciate his work. It was so cool to meet the guy, even though I wasn't really into this particular piece I've always found his art incredibly interesting and important.

He was real friendly, and I showed him the paint tubes. English isn't Sierra's first language and at first he didn't seem to fully get what I was saying, but his entourage seemed to think it was pretty funny and helped explain it to him.
Sierra seemed to really like the tubes so I told him he could keep them. (Maybe he just wanted some free paint). He asked me to sign them and told me they'd look great on his shelf.

"Fuck the system" he told me, "Sure" I replied. And then we said cya and he was ushered into a car and driven away.
Flying first class all over the world in order to make an anti-capitalist statement is pretty funny. Before the K was set alight, Sierra asked the onlookers for a minute silence to be given to "The victims of capitalism". I'm not sure if that included me. Am I a victim of capitalism? I guess I should've asked him.

When it was all over and the coast was clear I jumped the fence and grabbed the couple of burnt sticks that remained from Sierra's scultpure.
Victim of Capitalism or not, it was a great night, and from now on I only scratch my back using genuine Santiago Sierra art.
Sure the burnt sticks ruin every shirt I scratch with them, but t-shirts are cheap and I can always just buy a new one every time my back gets itchy. That's what's so great about capitalism.
As a little disclaimer to finish this off I should probably point out that I know absolutely nothing about capitalism. I much prefer lower case letters.


  1. The moral of the story: Don't listen to others - follow your own instincts. And what a result! Sierra asks you to sign the tubes - now your art is officially in Sierra's private collection.

  2. Hey Tina, yeah thanks a lot, it was pretty cool. Sierra's now in my private art collection too of course, although I don't know how long I can get get away with hanging onto a bunch of burnt sticks.

  3. u could work the sticks into a piece of art and then you will have a Pittock/Sierra collaboration (sort of)