Image 1 / 4 'The Power of Working Class', 2014, installation (site-specific) wooden structures, bubble machines, printed documentation
During his formative years in Cuba, Adrian Melis was constantly told about the merits of socialism, the power of the working class and the perils of capitalism. During an extended stay in Spain he sometimes joined union protest marches. But he noticed that these did little to change the position of workers. In order to preserve the protestors’ voices Melis recorded the sound of the demonstrations and translated them using soap bubble machines of his own making. The viewer is bombarded with soap bubbles. The larger the group of protestors, the more bubbles are discharged. In this way Melis transforms something originally unproductive and immaterial into a concrete object.
For Ovation, Melis collected audio excerpts of applause from parliamentary meetings in various European countries. The artist was surprised that members of parliament applaud each other one day, yet might be at loggerheads the next. Seen in this light, he wonders what meaning applause still has.
“The Power of the Working Class”
Installation (electronic devices, bubble machines, wooden structures, printed documentation)
27 different demonstrations for labor rights of workers in Spain (2010-2014) translated into bubbles through a programmed electronic device. Machines synchronized according to the intensity of the protests.
Work selected for the shortlisted exhibition “Future Generation Art Prize” 2014
Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev, Ukraine.
Ovation (2014) consists of a series of monitors presenting excerpts of recent footage from the television channels of various national parliaments of the European Union. The artist edited these to highlight only moments of agreement expressed in the form of standing ovations, but providing no clues about the subject matter that had provoked the clapping of the politicians. Ovation thus hints at the increasing public distrust towards representative democracy and the lack of transparency in its procedures, despite the possibility of watching them streaming online in real time.
“Surplus Production Line”
Video-Installation, shredded paper, Video, DVD Pal, stereo, color, 10:00 min
Link to Video: https://vimeo.com/106381961
With the collaboration of Adn Platform-Adn Galeria, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten and Steirischer Herbst Festival
“Linea de producción por excedente” exploring the shifting politics of labour within the framework of neoliberalism, in which employees and jobseekers are forced into harsh competition with each other and alienating them from their personal feelings. Melis started a private company in Amsterdam, where he is based, in order to publish (on the Internet and through other media) a call-out for a temporary job welcoming native Spanish speakers to apply for the role by sending in their CVs. The successful individual was required to work for two hours per day, five days a week (from August 6 to September 6 2014), in order to print and destroy by means of a shredder all of the CVs gathered through the call. The final outcome of the mass of shredded CVs would be presented in the exhibition space. By doing so, Melis initiated a production process based on destruction, one that mobilised the expectations of the unemployed who had applied for the job (and whom he never met) and transformed them into raw material for the company to shred. As an ironic comment on liberal economist Joseph Schumpeter concept of creative destruction (capitalism generates new wealth by destroying existing economic and social structures) labour and work are revealed to be annihilating enterprises under their current, neoliberal guise. Moreover, in Línea de Producción por Excedente Melis pointed to the radical differences between the systems of work in his native country, Cuba, and the European context, showing how in the latter workers and employees involved in low paid, de-skilled jobs are forced to increasingly suppress their own emotions rather than being allowed to include them in their daily work processes.
text by curator Luigi Fassi
“The Best Effort”
“The Best Effort”, 2013, Installation-sound, 4 pedestals, 4 telephones.
For the installation “The Best Effort” (2013), the artist initiated four advertising campaigns in Spain for different jobs. The incoming calls of job-seekers are redirected to one of the telephones that is installed in the exhibition space. Each advertising is connected with one of the four telephones displayed at the gallery. At the same time, each telephone
is connected to one speech of the four Spain’s prime ministers: Felipe González, José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy. Every time someone calls regarding these jobs and depending on the advertisement, one of the audios is activated and can be heard at the exhibition room. All of them are optimistic and positive speeches about Spanish growth, the creation of multiple jobs, the progress and increase of Spanish economy as well as the development of the country. While the ringing phone itself is ignored and not picked up, the four Spain’s primer minister’s speeches are replayed repeatedly, making visible the gap between the realities of the working world in the country and the dynamics of contemporary politics.
“Dreams Production Plan for State-run Companies in Cuba”
“Dreams Production Plan for State-run Companies in Cuba” 2011-2012, Wooden boxes, written paper, photographs 20 x 25 cm, 20,5 x 11 x 2 cm each box, 2011-2012.
In “Dreams Production Plan for State-run Companies in Cuba” (2011 - 2012) the artist focuses on companies that are part of what he designates as “the areas that are most vulnerable to lack of productivity”. The workers received a notebook from Melis with the instruction to record the dreams they have during their working day, when they fell asleep on the post. In opposition with their unaccomplished official job, the dreams become a psychic production, an active time at the service of another employer: the artist himself – even if here the contribution is not paid. The written narratives are exhibited into wooden boxes that evoke a manufactured product, ready to be sold. They are shown together with a series of photographs documenting the project and its actors.
“The Value of Absence”
“The Value of Absence”, video documentation - installation, DVD, color, stereo, 10:20 min, 2009-2011.
“The Value of Absence” (video part of the installation), Low quality version for web, 7.55 min, color, stereo, 2011-2012
In Cuba dissatisfaction, indifference and a lack of motivation toward the socialist system of production has led to the phenomenon of making excuses to stay away from work. This attitude is made easier by the flexibility and tolerance demonstrated by governmental enterprises towards their employees.
The artist is interested in recording the creative mental process involved in making excuses to avoid work. He took advantage of the lack of motivation and got in contact with a lot of people who would get paid for not going to work. People use the telephone as privileged mean to explain their absence at work because in this way they feel as having a wider range of fake stories they can concoct. The artist’s aim was to compile as many excuses as possible by purchasing the rights to record the telephone conversations. The price paid for one excuse was the same of the deduction applied to the salary arising from the days of absence from work. Thus, the artist generated a community of people who has received the same amount of money that the State would have paid for their productivity; in this case, however, without having to perform a productive task.
An excuse may be effective for the period from one day up to a month, or maybe even longer. Excuses could foster periods of absence in different ways: to obtain a given period of absence (one, three or even more weeks, etc.) a worker could use one single excuse or several. The excuses were paid once the period of absence had ended.
“378.890 sqm planned”
“378 890 sqm projected” 2012, Installation, 244 x 122 cm, model (wood and pvc) vinyl, 2012.
“378.890 sqm planned” (2012) ‘s point of departure is the activity of Cuban companies that produce materials for construction. Noticing the discrepancy between the companies’ planned productivity and their true balance, Melis calculated the difference between the prognostics and the real results and virtually used the unproduced quantities to elaborate a model of what could have been built if the production plans had been respected.
“The making of fuorty rectangular pieces for a floor construction”
“The making of fuorty rectangular pieces for a floor construction”, 2008, Video, DVD, color, stereo, 5:30 min.
Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/67044287
In Cuba, due to a shortage of materials to produce, the workers of a state-run enterprise spend their workday just sitting, waiting for their working time to come to an end. Taking advantage of this still, idle time, Adrian Melis intended to give life to the factory, to generate a new form of movement, of a virtual, apparent nature. Each one of the workers and all together imitated for the whole workday - from 8 to 5 pm - the usual noises heard during the functioning of the factory, such as concrete makers, mixing machines, shovels, trucks, wheelbarrows.