Curator: Blanca de la Torre
"Eight years ago, Pigs really did fly. Their economies soared after joining the eurozone. Interest rates fell to historical lows – and were often negative in real terms. A credit boom followed, just as night follows day. Wages rose, debt levels ballooned, as did house prices and consumption. Now the Pigs are falling back to earth".
“Pigs in Muck”, Financial Times, 1 September 2008
The article quoted above marked the start of an economic and social imaginary that has coloured our lives in recent years. In what are perhaps the dog days of post-globalisation, there are three factors that are regarded as crucial to a country’s economic growth: economic abundance (technological wealth), raw materials and the workforce (labour wealth). Deutsche Bank ranks 62 economies and uses these factors in its criteria. Just five of these economies have none of the afore-mentioned components and four of them are European countries, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (the fifth is Argentina). The initials of these four countries form the well-known acronym used by the Financial Times in the article from which the quotation above comes and earlier by other publications, among them The Economist, The Times and Le Monde.
The acronym constitutes an ironic reference to the saying that pigs might fly, used to express disbelief at an event regarded as impossible, such as the economic miracle achieved by these countries. On occasions, another i for Ireland is added to the acronym (PIIGS), as this country is in a similar position. For our purposes, however, we will be focusing on the ‘porcine’ economies in the Mediterranean.
Giorgio Agamben anticipated the potential risk that the Latin cultural legacy might disappear because of the euro crisis, which this author from Italy believes is forcing countries in southern Europe to live like the Germans. Might it not be possible to suggest that within Europe, neo-colonial discursive strategies are being used in a north-south direction to enlarge the divide in the cultural imaginary? Is it possible that the supposed inability to attain the goals set by German austerity is being employed as a pretext to justify a type of segregation based essentially on cultural stereotypes?
The PIGS project features work by artists from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain and aims to reflect a political landscape permeated by cynicism that stems from the paternalistic discourse—loaded with clichés and a sense of superiority—of northern European countries regarding the countries in the south.
This exhibition is part of a wider project that begins in Artium and which will involve at least the four countries on which it focuses. It is conceived as a living project that will include, in addition to exhibitions, a section give over to theoretical aspects, workshops and parallel activities in the countries concerned.
The acronym taken as the title provides a pretext for taking a snapshot of what is happening and for bringing to light some of the interrelated accounts that offer us the diversity of layers hidden behind the crisis and the current circumstances.
How are our historical memory, its symbolic values and the way in which our past continues to exist and still shapes our present constructed? It is important to be aware of the connections that underlie the social imaginary, below every construction of a present in an indeterminate state.
Financial plots, in which the leading roles are often played by politics and the banks; forms of governance, ideologies and stereotypes; rhetorics on power, memory and the various pasts, be they historical or mythical; the construction of other narratives; and more.
Recent and earlier history point to the idea of a mediated reality, to a subjective interpretation of history that we need to reread. The tools for constructing the public realm, the individual and society cannot be detected without according due importance to the transmission of knowledge.
The project presents interconnected narratives in which the selected artists take a critical look at notions such as democracy, institutional ethics, control strategies that dominate the collective subjectivity, etc. Through these artists’ works, it offers other possibilities, other visions, another viewpoint for altering the established order.
PIGS speaks ironically and subversively of the socio-political implications of the crisis and its cultural roots, of an account within Europe that is full of paradoxes, of a fractured pan-European idea, and what the false construction of this idea means for the four countries in question.
Artists: Carlos Aires, Vasco Araujo, Artspirators (Maria-Andromachi Chatzinikolaou, Nikos Podias, Rania Armagou, Spyros Tsalapatas), Bill Balaskas, Karmelo Bermejo, Rossella Biscotti, Stefano Cagol, Nuno Cera, Paolo Cirio, Danilo Correale, Priscila Fernandes, Carla Filipe, Nuria Güell, Jenny Marketou & Zafos Xagoraris, Juan Carlos Meana, PSJM & José María Durán, Avelino Sala, Santiago Sierra, Federico Solmi, Stefanos Tsivopoulos
Production: Artium (Vitoria-Gasteiz), Contemporary Art Center-State Museum of Contemporary Arte (Tessaloniki, Greece), Galeria Municipal do Porto (Porto, Portugal), Es Baluard (Mallorca)
With the help of