On the 14th of December, ADN Galería inaugurates its first individual exhibition dedicated to Núria Güell. Displaced Allegations is a compendium of trenchant projects that track her career and objectify her performative proposals. The exhibition analyzes the ethics of institutions that govern us, as well as power abuse allowed by the established legislation. Núria Güell makes obvious the perverse strategies that are camouflaged by actions, languages and concepts. The artist's investigative eye scrutinizes dominant uses of the status quo in institutions such as banks and the legislature.
Using social anthropology and the participation of the Other as tools that are inseparable from the artistic process, Núria Güell's studies turn into biopolitical resistance, bombarding everyday realities and relationships. The methodology of her work resides in revealing unethical legalized politics and hegemonic dominations.
In this sense, the exhibition presents a collection of projects linked together with a will to have a real impact: explorations that are interwoven within the social net the artist has created throughout these years. The gallery space is divided into three parts that navigate through this political and social engagement.
The first part refers to the work initiated in the city of Havana, Cuba, in 2008. Humanitarian Aid comprises a public announcement in which the artist offered to become the spouse of any Cuban who wished to emigrate to Spain, as well as paying for the wedding and plane ticket expenses. In a flyer she distributed around the city streets where the terms and conditions of the open call were stipulated, she asked the interested candidates to write "the world's most beautiful love letter", which would be evaluated by a jury made up of local prostitutes. Once the winner was selected, the wedding was celebrated and the married couple moved to Spain. They are currently waiting for the necessary time to elapse in order for the spouse to be eligible to obtain his Spanish nationality to initiate divorce proceedings and finish the project. The installation consists of a video collage that shows fragments of various recordings among which the following are highlighted: the promotional video tape delivered to the Spanish authorities that has scenes of the wedding in Cuba and images of her "fictitious romance", the jury's deliberation, and the first encounter between the artist and her spouse. In addition to the video, the letters that were sent for the open call are also exhibited, as well as legal documents of the marriage process. Núria Güell illustrates here the different political and socioeconomic uses of affect in the global context. She explores the identity creations of behaviour that are adapted both by tourists in search of affection and by Cubans who adopt a cover-up to alleviate their needs. Both work as strategies of control that dominate the collective subjectivity and affect our models of behavior, of thinking and of meanings.
The project not only highlights migratory restrictions, but also provides evidence of the existence of subjectification politics, as Suely Rolnik* claims, with all the biosocial consequences of perpetuation and consent that are implied.
When we enter the second space of the gallery we find the project: Police Officers' Contribution, which is also based in the city of Havana, and was carried out in 2009. On this occasion, through the use of photographs and a hidden video camera, the artist disclosed the flattery she experienced from Cuban police officers. According to Cuban law, police officers cannot have sexual or personal relationships of any kind with foreigners. The material she compiled was presented in the form of a police investigation panel at an exhibition the police officers attended after they were invited by the artist, who disguised the encounter into a date. Consequently, she provoked a confrontation between the police officers and the "police investigation", which they were being submitted to. ADN Galería presents the board that pretends to be part of a police investigation.
The next piece is Offside, from 2009, which received help of an unemployed African immigrant who was pressed to renovate his residence permit in order to remain in Spain as a legal immigrant. The artist hired him to play hide-and-seek with the spectators at the exhibition, and this way she solved his working status. In this project, Núria Güell highlights legal incoherencies and stresses the need for their deconstruction, generating new formulas to transgress them. To achieve this, she provokes an interference in the everyday environment through extraordinary activities of a disturbing quality, which redirect a priori adverse situations.
Intervention, produced in 2012, is another project that is presented at the exhibition. On this occasion, the artist creates a cooperative in order to hire an unemployed and evicted construction worker. He is assigned the task of demolishing the access doors to certain empty buildings that Caja Mediterráneo (CAM) had purchased in an auction after their residents had been evicted. By hiring a worker, he was guaranteed total impunity to avoid any sort of formal complaint. The installation is composed of the video recording of the construction worker opening a door after breaking its lock. The door that appears in the recording is located in situ in the gallery next to the video, as well as next to two framed documents: the creation of the cooperative and the construction worker's contract.
Continuing this tour, we encounter a showing case that protects a key carefully set below its dome. This mysterious key opens a safety box in a bank where a how-to-rob-a-bank plan is kept. The plan was designed by Jaime Giménez Arbe, alias "The Loner", in a novel-like style. Known for his robberies, The Loner wrote the story from a high-security prison upon the artist's petition. The first chapter of the story was sold in an auction.
Displaced Moral Application #1: Exponential Growth is the title of this project carried out between 2010 and 2012. It challenges the concept of bank ethics, where benefits are more important than collateral social damages, thus exemplifying a principle that is intrinsically linked to the current Monetary System in which perpetual accelerated growth is needed. The project generates value from a potential value, a strategy that refers to the concepts of speculation and inflation that form the central core of finance activity.
The third part of the gallery alludes to the judiciary power and to the constrained, focusing on the issue of how punishment and legal violence are administered within the frame of a contemporary and democratic society.
We begin our tour with Displaced Legal Application # 1: Fractional reserve (2010-2011), where the artist organizes a series of conferences in relation to the question: "Is it possible to expropriate banks?" It is possible to read the strategies and different ways of carrying out the master plan of an expropriation in a drawing made on a blackboard that is placed along a wall of the gallery. We can also see a video embedded between the chalk of the conferences where expropriators Lucio Urtubia, Enric Duran, and economist Qmundy participated. They established the basis of money created out of nowhere, the same way banks do. The gallery will distribute and circulate the master plan by handing out copies.
By questioning common law and prison politics, the Displaced Legal Application #3 FIES project analyzes the condition of FIES (an acronym in Spanish for Special Follow-Up of Inmate Files), a life regime that was established in Spain in 1991 for those inmates classified as incapable of adapting, difficult or dangerous. These prisoners are totally isolated and cut off, and they are treated in a way that doctors describe as white torture. The installation consists of letters between the artist and 70 FIES. Using the artistic media as a form of condemnation, Núria Güell gives voice to this situation which is totally new to many people. The artist was able to locate the address of socialist Minister of Justice Francisco Caamaño by using files in a reverse way to systematically send him copies of letters written by the inmates: poems, drawings, or short stories that work as a form of complaint. Last year, the minister renewed the previously mentioned prison life regime.
Displaced Allegations is understood as a place of dissensus, conflict, doubt, one that questions reality and displaces it, reconfiguring what is established and attacking forms of political subjectivity. In this sense, and using Luis Camnitzer's** term, the field of Núria Güell's artistic proposal is a battle field, a constant dialectic field, which establishes new links of community communication and responds to tangible and immediate situations.
Núria Güell does not understand the artistic practice as a representation of reality, but as a reality in itself. The artist becomes a catalyst that triggers questions and refutes what is hegemonically established, generating fissures in the ideological continuity. By appropriating Marina Garcés' thesis***, we could say that it is an honest art, where we find a yearning for truth, a yearning for us, and a yearning for the world that summons us as a public and reveals itself enveloped in reality.
In this sense, and continuing with the participative quality that is present in all of Núria Güell's works, some activities will take place during the months the exhibition is held. Among these activities we would like to highlight a discussion concerning the political aspects of art.
*Suely Rolnik, Geopolítica del chuleo, [online] Eipcp. November 2006. Spanish translation by Damian Krauss and Florencia Gómez, revised by Joaquín Barriendos and Marcelo Expósito. Available at:
**This is not neutral / Esto no es neutral / Ez da neutrala - Colección Daros - Latinoamérica. [Prologue by Luis Camnitzer] Exhibition at Tabakalera Donosti, 2008.
***Marina Garcés, La honestidad con lo real [online] Espai en blanc. Julio 2011. Available at: http://www.espaienblanc.net/IMG/pdf/La_honestidad_con_lo_real.pdf