No, Or Santiago Sierra's Latest Art World 'Prank'

Santiago Sierra (b. 1966, Madrid) is well known for his cruel and nihilistic pranks. To  save myself the effort of writing very much about Sierra (whose work is tedious but simultaneously serves to illustrate the complete decomposition of the institution of art), I’ve taken the following from a Wikipedia page about him: “Some of Sierra’s most famous works have involved paying a man to live behind a brick wall for 15 days, paying Iraqi immigrants to wear protective clothing and be coated in hardening polyetherane foam as “free form” sculptures, blocking the entrance of Lisson Gallery with a metal wall on opening night, sealing the entrance of the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennial, only to allow Spanish citizens in to see an exhibition of left over pieces of the previous year’s exhibition… In 2006, he provoked controversy with his installation “245 cubic metres”, a gas chamber created inside a former synagogue in Pulheim Germany.”
Sierra’s cynicism and inhumanity are well illustrated by the examples above. He titillates the rich by locking them out of galleries, whereas when it comes to the wretched of the earth, Sierra delights in degrading them by providing a meagre wage in exchange for the performance of boring and humiliating tasks. Sierra’s treatment of those he hires demonstrates not just his repugnant inhumanity – his success as an artist is also based on some extremely cynical calculations about exactly what types of degradation inflicted upon the poor will most appeal to rich collectors.
As an adjunct to the Frieze Art Fair in London, Sierra’s new film No was screened last night to an invited audience at The Prince Charles Cinema just of Leicester Square. The promotion for the movie ran like this: “NO, Global Tour, 2011 A film by Santiago Sierra, Directed by Santiago Sierra, Filmed by Diego Santome, black and white film, 120 minutes. Santiago Sierra(‘s)… recent work, NO, GLOBAL TOUR, consists of the manufacture and transportation of two monumental sculptures in the form of the word “NO”, travelling through different territories on a flatbed truck. The NO, GLOBAL TOUR has resulted in a feature film that documents the passage of this large NO through various world cities… The film, full of all manner of references, does not aim for surprise but thought. Using the strict black and white that characterises his work, and with a soundtrack limited to a careful treatment of incidental sound, the film revitalises the road movie genre through a productive encounter with other languages and disciplines.”
The information that came with my invitation to the free screening was, of course, hype (as is the claim – sometimes made about Sierra – that his work is in some way ‘anti-capitalist’). Free beer and popcorn were a further enticement to attend. Rather than provoking ‘thought’, NO looked like someone had randomly strung together a bunch out-takes from one of Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit’s TV movies – and with results that were far less enticing than those achieved by this pair of London psychogeographers. I went to the screening with the intention of watching the reaction of the audience, who looked bored shitless after ten minutes. Most had walked out before the end of the movie. I presume this is what Sierra wanted and that he’s more than happy with this result. For the rest of us NO is simply a bit of a yawn. The lettrists achieved far more with their deliberately boring films of the early-1950s, and if you want to be alienated in style then stick with the output of the French avant-garde of sixty-odd years ago. Sierra is strictly for the idle rich, and hopefully they won’t be with us for much longer.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by James Hope on 2011-10-14 20:52:16 +0000

Sierra sounds like a complete scumbag!

Comment by Martin King on 2011-10-14 21:53:01 +0000

I thought Santiago Sierra was a cheap deodorant until I discovered Mister Trippy’s blog!

Comment by SD on 2011-10-14 21:57:52 +0000

Demolish Santiago Sierra!

Comment by Mistress Fiona on 2011-10-14 22:19:08 +0000

Sierra is an absolute bore. Meanwhile Stewart Home is quite shaggable.

Comment by Danger Mouse on 2011-10-14 22:30:21 +0000

Santiago Sierra is stupid!

Comment by DS on 2011-10-15 00:03:35 +0000

Santiago Sierra can suck my dog’s dick. What a plonker!

Comment by Animal Lover on 2011-10-15 01:02:06 +0000

Sierra ought to suck his own dick, a dog’s dick is too good for him!

Comment by Madam Twanky on 2011-10-15 08:15:30 +0000

I heard Santiago Sierra is a collective persona and anyone who is a right-wing knobhead completely devoid of any artistic talent is allowed to use the name…..

Comment by smarter than you on 2011-10-15 13:32:08 +0000

Your all really misinformed… Sierra is probably the greatest humanist in art today, if anyone ever actually did some reading about his work, or for that matter actually saw it, instead of reading one line compressions of his actions, they might have some incling of where sierra stands and thus what value can be measured in his work.
good one retards….

Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-15 14:51:22 +0000

I doubt that someone who decides to comment here with the obviously elitist fake name ‘smarter’ than you’ and signs off by calling others ‘retards’ is capable of judging who is ‘the greatest humanist in art today’ – personally I don’t much care but it isn’t Santiago Sierra. As for the claim that we should actually see Sierra’s work or read about it, this is clearly disingenuous since I very obviously sat through a two hour snore fest screening of his new film on Thursday. I’m well aware of some of the claims made about Sierra’s work but they simply don’t stand up to examination – and ‘smarter than you’s’ dumb ass comment serves as a nice compression of the nonsense in question…

Comment by Dress Sharp on 2011-10-15 15:34:16 +0000

Q. What’s the difference between Santiago Sierra and a dead donkey?
A. A dead donkey has way more aesthetic merit!

Comment by Liam on 2011-10-15 16:03:40 +0000

Ugh. Maybe now that the art boom is over, people will stop paying attention to this guy. I’m trying to think of a way somebody could take themself more seriously but I’ve got nothing.

Comment by Regine on 2011-10-15 16:33:10 +0000

‘the art boom is over’ is one of those sensationalist headlines that newspapers like so much. it is not over, but as you note the art market is having to adjust. i’m quite curious about the marketable impact this will have on sierra and other artists

Comment by Anna Midnight on 2011-10-15 17:08:36 +0000

Trip, you’re a bit too soft on Smarter Than You. Sierra’s work is all one-line non-ideas aimed at getting press coverage. You don’t need any more than a headline. Why waste your time watching a two hour movie by this twat? Sierra’s utter lack of subtlety and talent shines through everything he does – making him one of the most boring artists in the world today! You should have made an issue of Sierra’s depthless and clueless and frankly nostalgic postmodernism rather than wasting your breath explaining you’d just watched a two hour movie by him in its entirety – which is obvious to anyone who actually read all of your post, rather than reacted to a quick scan of it with a stupid knee-jerk comment.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-15 18:51:23 +0000

I don’t think it is worth engaging on that level with someone who takes Sierra’s claims about his own work at face value. Obviously, just because Sierra and his gallerists and paid PR boosters make fake claims about the value and content of his ‘art’, it doesn’t follow that these are true. I allude to this in the post above anyway. Likewise, the shocked reaction of fan-boys to objective criticism of the likes of Sierra always amuses me. The fan-boys simply can’t bear to see their stupid and worthless idols exposed as charlatans. The fan-boys would be even more shocked were they ever to hear their idols’ views of their fans. Liking Sierra or U2 doesn’t make the fan-boys – as they wrongly believe – superior to non-fans, and so their ‘elitism’ is completely laughable!

Comment by Doom Fox on 2011-10-15 22:09:39 +0000

I agree completely with your points about Sierra but think you should have extended the critique by pointing out that his work is a pale imitation of that of Anibal Lopez, who is less one-dimensional. Sierra completely rips both the aesthetic and execution of Lopez’s work – as you no doubt know since you’ve previously covered his work on this blog when reviewing a screening of videos of Guatemalan performance art. Also to avoid any confusion it should be stressed that the dreadful Sierra screening at the Prince Charles had nothing whatsoever to do with the official Frieze Art Fair. Frieze has no control over satellite events. Ditto the fact that famous bodybuilder Anibal Lopez is a completely different person to the artist of the same name….

Comment by Janet J. on 2011-10-15 22:56:37 +0000

Anyone who abuses prostitutes the way Sierra has in his work is clearly a complete shit.

Comment by Ford Cortina on 2011-10-15 23:19:22 +0000

Some people are talking at a big international art expo and one of them says: “Santiago Sierra is an asshole.” Someone else replies: “Hey I resent that!” The first speaker says: “Why? Are you Santiago Sierra?” The second person replies: “No, I’m an asshole!”

Comment by The Joker on 2011-10-16 14:27:55 +0000

Q. What do you call Santiago Sierra & Nicolas Bourriaud in the front seat of a car?
A. Two airbags!

Comment by Alice Whitehall on 2011-10-16 18:47:22 +0000

A guy passes Santiago Sierra standing next to a small hole in the wall yelling, “FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE”. Interested the guy bends down and looks in the hole. Instantly the man is poked in the eye with the sharp end of a paint brush and runs off screaming in pain. Sierra stops yelling “FIVE FIVE FIVE” and starts yelling “SIX SIX SIX SIX”.

Comment by Skippy on 2011-11-09 16:28:23 +0000

Sounds like you missed the point of his work…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-11-10 05:33:25 +0000

It rather looks like you don’t know how to construct a logical argument. To be convincing you’d need to explain the point of the work and then demonstrate that I’d missed it. Since you don’t bother to do so your comment is simply pathetically banal rhetoric. If you can’t do better than this you’re not only wasting your own time and that of everyone reading your comment, you’re simultaneously making yourself look like a complete jerk.

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