18 Wooster Street
Nine regular prisms of the indicated measurements will be constructed in light materials, although they should not look fragile. An aluminum structure covered with a wooden sheet and painted black with asphalt is suggested. These forms will be supported on one side by two people—without this side being fixed to a specific point—while the other side is screwed to the wall at shoulder height at 146 cm off the floor. The forms will be arranged in an orderly fashion, equidistant from each other, six in the bigger space and three in the other. The gallery’s team will be responsible for the construction of the objects and the hiring of the workers with the artist’s supervision. The workers will remain always facing the wall and will have to be Mexican or Central American citizens as immigrants in the city. Two workers will be hired for each form plus a group of four people to work as substitutes, that is a total of twenty-two workers. The workday will be four hours or the time the gallery considers necessary (the possibility of establishing two shifts could be considered). The salary will also be fixed by the gallery. When the forms are not supported perpendicular against the wall, they will be left on the floor in the same manner the workers would have done it. From past experience, it is sometimes not possible to cover all the positions, in which case the forms will be left laying on the floor. It is also usual that the workers who participate in the action are impressed by the size of the public on the day of the inauguration, and decide not to return to the job. This will require the gallery to maintain a group of workers always busy in filling empty positions. The construction work of the forms will be done in the same place where the exhibition will take place, without cleaning the leftovers, as well as the possible dirt produced during the action, empty bottles consumed by the workers, etc.
— Artist's statement
Our project with Santiago Sierra was one of the most fascinating episodes in the gallery’s history. The artist requested that we find migrant laborers who would hold up beams for a minimal wage. I explained to him that, unlike other cities such as Los Angeles, where illegal immigrants stand around in the parking lot of the Home Depot waiting to be picked up for construction jobs, this economic structure does not really exist in New York. In order to find people to hold up the beams, we had to engage a temporary-employment agency. We spent two weeks working with the agency, but they were unable to come up with enough workers who would take the job. It was a very interesting lesson in the New York economy, versus the economies in other countries where Santiago had presented his work. He became very agitated, thinking that the gallery was not doing its job. We then engaged a second agency and increased the amount of money we were offering. Finally, with two agencies, we were able to find twenty-two laborers to hold up the beams. But when they were all assembled, I could see that they were not comfortable. These were not desperate illegal immigrants but serious-looking people who treated temporary labor as a serious profession. After about an hour, the workers began to rebel and formed an impromptu union. They designated a distinguished-looking older gentleman to serve as their spokesman. He came to me and very articulately explained that they had nothing to protest against and were uncomfortable being pawns in someone’s protest performance. They all decided to walk off the job. Santiago was immensely upset, blaming this all on the gallery. Determined to realize the performance, we found yet another employment agency and increased the wage by fifty percent, and finally found a group of people willing to hold the beams.
-- Jeffrey Deitch
Santiago Sierra was born in Spain in 1966 and has lived in Mexico since 1995. He is known for his social sculpture in which sculptural concepts intersect with the social and economic system.
Santiago Sierra’s work was included in Mexico City: An Exhibition About the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values, curated by Klaus Biesenbach, which opened at PS1 Contemporary Art Center on June 30, 2002.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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