In the last fifteen years, under two conservative and two social-democratic governments, the Spanish economy has experienced runaway growth based on the monoculture of the construction industry: more housing was built here than in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy combined. During the same period, public administrations have taken on overambitious projects building airports, high-speed trains, universities, museums and contemporary art centres... taking advantage of the low interest rates set by the European Central Bank. Before the “festival of construction” could reveal the calamity of a developmentalist model based on credit paranoia and a generation of cheap, intensive labour, the economic crisis of 2008 exploded, Lehman Brothers, subprime credits and all, laying bare the fragility of financial capitalism as the dominant power, the criminal activity of its directors and the willingness of both the executive and judicial powers of western democracies to bow down before them.
In Spain, the effects of the crisis are proving to be lethal to the social fabric: 9,000 more unemployed every day, every second young person out of work, an increase in public and private debt, the majority of financial institutions facing technical bankruptcy, negative economic growth, the gradual dismantling of the welfare state, a spectacular increase in the gap between the highest and lowest earners... and, most dramatic of all, the reappearance of the misery and poverty that have been absent since the end of the 50s.
In Spain, the tale (and portrayal) of financial economics, politics and culture coincides; they fade and reappear in units of space and time in the present, marked by the ideological substratum of late neo-liberalism. The appearance, disappearance and subsequent hibernation of the 15-M Movement serves only to reaffirm that the dispossessed of this earth still haven’t found their paradise.
And what happens to the big housing developments, the large machinery and containers? There they are: more than three million empty homes, new airports that have shut down or never even came into operation, high-speed train lines that are closed because there aren’t enough users, empty university buildings with no students... and what about the museums and contemporary art centres: more than 100 built and brought into operation during that same period? I’ll leave it to the reader to answer that one.
Within the cogs of everything I have just described, art no longer fulfils its role as an agent for building metaphors, a pollster of reality, a questioner and critic of unjust or improvable situations; no, art, its system, its institution, appears as an integral and collaborating part of the ideological device of a state that administrates the disasters of the latest predatory capitalism.
This text is presented at the Metropolis M ARCO booth in English and Spanish and on this website.