Detained is an open artistic and social project, that establishes an analogy between the situation of unemployment, and how being unemployed creates a state of arrest or detention. The work presented is a visual and conceptual reflection about the social changes cased by the economic crisis. Beyond the evident external aspects that transform our social framework, I am interested
in rethinking about and reconsidering the intimate modifications of the citizens in their daily relationship with the scourge of unemployment.
The unstoppable numbers of unemployed are subjected to the analogous context generated by police detention or arrest. Beyond the linguistic metaphor, according to the Oxford English dictionary, “Detention” is “The action of detaining someone or the state of being detained in official custody. “The fifteen people arrested were still in police detention” and “arrest” is “The
action of seizing someone and taking them into custody” or “A stoppage or sudden cessation of movement”
Is the annulment to the right of employment perhaps a waste product of our emancipation? The lack of proper individual autonomy leads to statism, as well as to the emotional, intellectual or physical incarceration of the unemployed. Both the institutional organizations and the private agencies with activities linked to the search of employment, propose job offers to the unemployed prior to their inscription in a classifying system that includes not only their the professional profile for which the person has been educated or trained, but other diverging data as well. There are few occasions in which specialized professionals can apply and develop their competence, because in the majority of the cases the jobs offered are linked to tasks unconnected, foreign or alien to their specialization or knowledge: with less academic requirements than those a job applicant has, the result is inferior financial payments are offered by employers. Nonetheless, the need the recession generates, forces employment seekers to accept jobs diametrically opposed to their identity, and this becomes a forced alienation that in many cases does not guarantee the unemployed access to the labor force. The unemployed thus face the undeniable obligation of modifying their professional profiles, and as a consequence censor their real and true professional identity with parallel curriculum vitae, and this generates a redundant aspect of their state of arrest and detention.
This gradual and constant modification silently settles in the consciousness of the individuals, slowly transforming their psyche.
The problem now, is not even the lack of material resources. The primordial danger is the malignant virus inoculated in our brains caused by the incessant repetition of the word “crisis”.
Conformism with mediocrity is little by little installed in our way of thinking, creating a split in our identity.
This project portrays unemployed people that I interviewed while standing in lines of different SEPE offices (public service of state employment) in Spain starting in early 2014, joined by another group of unemployed persons that belong to my social environment. The research material I extracted from these encounters includes photographs, audio recordings and different data about the formation, occupation, and aspirations of each one of the individuals with whom I subsequently worked developing different types of installations which include the use of paintings, drawings, and or video: Detained (Work and Service) and Detained (Temporary and Undefined).
One part of the project, DETAINED (Work and Service), is made up of paintings accompanied by contracts. The paintings, in the front image the model carries a poster with the real profession and in the profile, those precarious professions to which they have had to resort. The paintings are accompanied by “contracts” of “work and service” signed with the models. These contracts establish absurd clauses, stating that the portrait will be valued according to the minimum wage of the country to which the sitter belongs, and the model will receive a percentage of this figure equivalent to the unemployment rate of their country.
A grotesque system that, in the end, results in identical pieces in terms of technique, appearance and size having diametrically opposed values, when supposedly “we are all the same”…
Detained (Temporary and Undefined) corresponds to a video installation joined with drawings in which the police mug shots continues to be a reference and only the frontal portraits are used.
The video part that completes the installation, confronts 20 pieces of drawings by placing them in front of the projection, whereby the video projected on the arrangement of the drawings shows the same faces as those on the drawings. In a sequence of seven, one by one they start decomposing and fading until they are completely erased while a voice on “off” the voice of the
person whose face is being erased responds to the following questions “If the economic crisis did not exist and there wasn’t any impediment for self fulfillment, ¿what would you dedicate yourself to? ¿what would you work in? In the audio one does not hear the question mentioned, only the answers and or reflections of those portrayed and depicted in the drawings and video.
Starting from the reflection on social changes and the precarious situation at the beginning of the economic crisis, which gives rise to plastic and visual work, the project has evolved towards a participatory and open educational format. I propose different workshops on critical reading of the image, and debate on the discourses associated with the information we consume and how
we select our information channels.
Both contents, the creative and the pedagogical, take the form of a series of images and texts on plastic art, with a didactic appendix describing the structure and methodology of the workshops.
A text by the academic and critic José Gómez Isla completes the publication.
It is not just an artist’s book, or a catalogue, or a didactic guide, but a bagged proof of police custody containing all three. It is presented as a fold-out, a newspaper and a cardboard card, as a game and an excuse to keep asking ourselves questions.
The design of the publication, which has transformed the project into a unique piece and a collector’s item, is by the Tres Tipos Gráfico studio and forms part of the editorial catalogue of “La mirada creadora”.