– Summer 2009

How to Engage with It? Addressing Alejandra Riera’s Maquetas-sin-cualidad

Angelika Bartl

In 2005, the Paris-based artist Alejandra Riera and Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona published the book Maquetas-sin-cualidad (Models-without-quality).1 The book appeared after the exhibition 'maquettes-sans-qualité, travail en grève/treball en vaga/work on strike', which took place at the Fundació Tàpies that same year and displayed extensive parts of Riera's long-term project 'Un problème non résolu, <1995-…>' ('An Unresolved Problem, <1995-…>'). Initiated in 1995, this project can be characterised as a co-operative, experimental- research initiative that investigates the conditions for and possibilities of political action in diverse social contexts. During the project, the participants use and produce documents that relate to political situations of everyday life as well as to specific moments of political activism - for example, the Kurdish struggle in Turkey or the campaign of the sans papiers for legal documentation in France.

This large-scale, wide-ranging project is subdivided into intermediate stages, which mark new directions of investigation and working constellations. Riera refers to them as maquettes-sans-qualité, or maquetas-sincualidad. Each of them is numbered and accompanied by subtitles that indicate the starting date, the current status of work and details on the content.2 And each assembles various documents from the project, such as photographs, captions, texts and video documentations. The maquetas can be considered an archive of the project's activities - but an archive which refuses any defined or logical structure. Instead, the documents appear in 'discontinuous arrangements'. Riera herself describes the maquetas as 'the form that has been given to an imaginary space, a refuge that leaves room for the multiple voices brought into play by the corpus of an unfinished work of artistic practices'.3 With these words she underlines not only the

  1. Maquetas-sin-cualidad (en la fecha del 19 diciembre de 2004) (fragmentos) , Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2005. Besides Nuria Enguita, the director at Fundació Tàpies at the time, Noemi Cohen and Clara Plasencia worked on the exhibition and publication. Wherever possible, quotes have been made from the English translation of the text, published in a brochure to accompany the exhibition.

  2. 2 For example, 3a maqueta-sin-cualidad, <1999-…> (trabajo abandonado) (abecedario(s) y anexos) Leyla Zana - Hiam Abbass - una mujer-fotógrafa - … - un problema no resuelto, <1995-…> (3rd model- without-quality, <1999-…> (abandoned work) (alphabet(s) and annexes) Leyla Zana - Hiam Abbass - a woman-photographer - … - an unresolved problem, <1995-…>).

  3. Maquetas-sin-cualidad, op. cit., p.9.

  4. See, for example, her contributions to the exhibitions 'Stand der Dinge (Teil 1)', at Kunst-Werke in Berlin (2000), 'Dinge, die wir nicht verstehen' at Generali Foundation in Vienna (2000) or Documenta11 in Kassel in 2002.

  5. In relation to the 1a maqueta, see Ruth Noack' 'Gewaltstrukturen, strukturelle Gewalt und die Macht der Bilder. Gedanken zu einem Kunstwerk im Jahr des Scheiterns der "Operation Provide Comfort"', Springerin, March/May 1997, pp.24-31.

  6. Bill Nichols introduces the term 'discourse of sobriety' in relation to documentary film. See B. Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts of Documentary, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.

  7. See Boris Groys, Über das Neue: Versuch einer Kulturökonomie, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1999; and B. Groys, 'Kunst im Zeitalter der Demokratie', in Bice Curiger (ed.), Public Affairs: Das Öffenliche in der Kunst (exh. cat.), Kunsthaus Zürich, 2002, pp.5-11. For a critical discussion of Umberto Eco's notion of 'open work', see Annegret Jürgens-Kirchhoff, 'Das "offene" Bild - Überlegungen zu einer ästhetischen Kategorie', in Peter Klein and Regine Prange (ed.), Zeitenspiegelung: Zur Bedeutung von Traditionen in Kunst und Kunstwissenschaft: Festschrift für Konrad Hoffmann zum 60 Geburtstag am 8. Oktober 1998, Berlin: Reimer, 1998, pp.348-61.

  8. Jacques Rancière, Das Unbehagen in der Ästhetik (trans. Richard Steurer), Vienna: Passagen, 2007, p.54.

  9. See also Jacques Rancière, 'The Emancipated Spectator', Texte zur Kunst, vol.58, 2005, pp.35-51; as well as J. Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons on Intellectual Emancipation (trans. Kristin Ross), Stanford University Press, 1991.

  10. Maquetas-sin-cualidad, op. cit., p.9.

  11. See especially Maquetas-sin-cualidad, op. cit., pp.11-13.

  12. See Linda Nochlin, 'Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?', ARTnews, 1971, pp.22-39 and 67-71; Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981; Nanette Solomon, 'The Art Historical Canon: Sins of Omission', in Joan Hartman and Ellen Messer-Davidow (ed.), (En-)Gendering Knowledge: Feminists in Academe, Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991, pp.222-36; and Silke Wenk and Kathrin Hoffmann-Curtius, Mythen von Weiblichkeit und Autorschaft, Marburg: Jonas, 1997.

  13. See Beatrice von Bismarck et al. (ed.), Games Fights Collaborations, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1996.

  14. Maquetas-sin-cualidad, op. cit., p.13.

  15. For a more detailed discussion of the video see Angelika Bartl, 'Aufteilen der Räume. Perspektiven auf und mit einem Dokumentarvideo in der Kunst', Bildwelten des Wissens 5, 1 Systemische Räume, 2007, pp.28-38.

  16. Maquetas-sin-cualidad, op. cit., p.238.

  17. I am referring here to the German title 'Die Politik der Bilder' of J. Rancière's book The Future of the Image (trans. Gregory Elliott), London and New York: Verso, 2007. Translated by Daniel F. Herrmann