Los Penetrados, Santiago Sierra’s political porn photography

While in Madrid, i discovered that Santiago Sierra had a show at the Helga de Alvear gallery. I dragged my paracetamols, high fever and microbes out of the bed and headed to Calle Doctor Fourquet. I felt so bad that day i thought nothing Sierra could do would affect me. The show is called Los Penetrados / The Penetrated and it is exactly what you imagine. Sierra hardly ever trifles with subtlety.

0aasantiitigjh.jpgFirst act: 10 white race men penetrated 10 white race women

October 12th is the National Day of Spain. It used to be called Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) as a celebration of the day Columbus arrived in the Americas, the day Europeans encountered Native Americans. Several countries celebrate October 12th. Over time, however, Día de la Raza took the form in many countries of a counter to Columbus Day. It is used to resist the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and celebrate native races.

0atreebl.jpgFifth act: 3 black race men penetrated 3 black race women

On October 12th, 2008, Sierra shot The Penetrated, a series of photographies and a 45 min video in 8 Acts.

Couples are geometrically arranged into compositions of up to 110 bodies with two colours. The Acts feature the various possible combinations of penetrator / penetrated: white man-white woman, white man-white man, white man-black woman, white man-black man, black man-black woman, black man-black man, black man-white woman, black man-white man. The persons’ faces have been digitally erased to accentuate the modular character of the actors. A mirror set at an angle behind the actors multiplies the couples and the viewpoints.

The current reality of Spain can be applied to the body patterns.

The theoretical structural geometry of the action is echoed in a weave formed by the 10 blankets on which the successive couples are to be placed. The reality of the proposal is expressed when some of the blankets are left empty in those Acts in which the circumstances did not provide the necessary elements/actors to undertake it. For instance, in Act 3 there are only three couples, given that due to police pressure the majority of women did not turn up. On another note, social and cultural conditioning hampered the appearance of passive black men.

The final element of the action is the penetration and the negative connotation that almost inevitably accompanies it. The title of this work “Los penetrados” [The Penetrated] throws the focus onto the passiveness and submission of the penetrated.

Sierra explains his work as a comment on immigration and racial issues: “The traditional paranoia of white people towards black people or of Europeans towards Africans is linked to a strong phobia. We thinks that sooner or later we will have to pay for our past and present greedy misdeeds. But this white paranoia is also related to the size of the dick or to the fear of a sexuality that demeans us. Our female and males might fall in love with it and that frightens us more than the perspective to lose our jobs, only your boss can take work away from us. The political reflections and the actions that derive from them are more primitive than what is ordinarily thought. Behaviours of racial identity are very animal because we are animals.”

0aawhiteblackra.jpgLast act: 10 black race men penetrated 10 white race men

On view until February 28, 2009 at Helga de Alvear gallery in Madrid. There’s another work by Santiago Sierra on view in London until the end of the Year, Death Counter.

Previously: Holocaust installation by Santiago Sierra, Guantanamo museum and other tales of extraordinary rendition at Helga de Alvear gallery in Madrid, Image of the day, All-Inclusive. A Tourist World.