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Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) Presents #04 Natascha Sadr Haghighian De paso

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) presents #04 Natascha Sadr Haghighian De paso.On view through 12 December 2011.

The term ‘material’, referring to culture, appeared for the first time in the nineteenth century. The study of objects, as well as the distinction between object, thing, artefact and work, has been the subject of investigation for many anthropologists who, since the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, have been reflecting on man’s ability to turn materials into utensils. Human capacity for the study of the different materials, their resistance, flexibility, hardness, elasticity, transparency, brightness and colour, and of almost anything that can have a practical or ornamental utility, has come to fascinate an incipient science of the human. The first bottle that might be said to be ‘plastic’ was manufactured in 1947. The development of the carbonated drinks industry in the United States promoted research on this material and its uses in the food industry. Plastic soon became a major asset in the sector, after a tentative start in 1960. However, the first bottle of polyethylene terephthalate (or polyester) did not appear in the market until 1970. The history of transparent plastic is linked to the history of the struggle between two major corporations to discover and patent polyester, an ideal material for the food industry: Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and DuPont. The race began in Europe, between ICI, the biggest chemical company of the British Empire, and DuPont, a company founded in 1802 by the French chemist, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, who had escaped the French Revolution and founded the company in Delaware. For over a decade now, the reconverted DuPont (DuPont Teijin Films) has had the patent and is the sole producer of Mylar®, Melinex®, Teijin®, Tetoron®, PET polyester film (the material for all bottles), Teonex®, PEN polyester film and Cronar®.

Cabin luggage is even more recent. The first individual trolley bag appeared on the market in 1989, and was invented by Robert Plath, a pilot for the North-American company, Northwest Airlines. Rolling cabin luggage would merit a text in itself. It is an adaptation, in the sense described by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck, of the biological changes that occur, not in the human organs, but in the objects and artefacts that, by being modified in size, shape and physical qualities, in turn alter human behaviour.

Let us now imagine a work that consists in crushing, repeatedly and mechanically, an object—a plastic water bottle—by another—a piece of hand luggage. A crush that produces a sound, amplified by eight channels, which occupies the totality of the central space of the Capella MACBA. Not far from this curious and strange conflict between things, we find another two objects, one of them equally curious: a photograph taken by David Seymour during the siege of Barcelona in 1938, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, in which we see a citizen stocking up on water. Thanks to the collectivisation of the Sociedad de Aguas de Barcelona by the anarchists, water was then a common commodity, a guarantee of survival. Next to it there is a fountain. Built with IKEA catalogues, piled up and with a straw on top emulating a jet, this silent fountain alludes to the most basic liquid in life, an absent liquid: water.

The totality of the project refers to common commodities, to transformation, to cultural and political life, to consumerism, and to having access to them. But it achieves something unprecedented: nothing is reduced to an icon, to an image. It avoids interpretation, since listening, seeing and thinking is a prerogative of the viewer.

Exhibition curated by Chus Martínez

Organised by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and co-produced together with the Han Nefkens Foundation.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Carrer dels Àngels, 7
08001 Barcelona

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