At the Venice Biennale of 2003, Santiago Sierra walled in the entrance to the Spanish Pavilion and hired security guards to keep viewers out. Only those who held valid Spanish passports were allowed the privilege of entering the building. Non-Spanish visitors were puzzled, insulted, irate, annoyed, and more--though they should hardly have been surprised, given Sierra's history of aggressively toying with economic, political, and social issues to the point of genuine discomfort on the part of the viewer. Sierra's most recent project, Haus im Schlamm (House in Mud) at the kestnergesellschaft in Hannover, Germany, links the institution's history with the city's. Taking as his starting point the manmade origins of Lake Masch, which was created in the city center as part of a government unemployment-relief program in the mid-1930s, Sierra addresses the question of what work is really worth. Visitors to the museum, which is the city's oldest art venue, are confronted with two rooms full of 400 tons of mud, spread on the floor and walls. Wearing a pair of the provided rubber boots or just bare feet, viewers are invited to trudge through and leave their tracks all over the art establishment.
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Santiago Sierra was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1966, and has been based in Mexico since 1995. After his first solo show, at the Galeria Angel Romero, Madrid, in 1994, followed exhibitions at P.S.1 in New York, Kunstwerke in Berlin, CAC Cincinatti, and various museums and galleries throughout Latin America and Europe. He most recently was chosen to represent Spain at the Venice Biennale 2003.
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