These past 10 days, I’ve been knee-deep in research for Troika Fiscal Disobedience Consultancy, a new show by Spanish artist Núria Güell which opened in the gallery at Project Arts Centre last night.
Throughout 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, Project are engaging with acts and idea of ‘rebellion’. Núria Güell uses installation, writing, performance and video for political and social activism, believing that art holds the power to rethink ourselves as a society. Preoccupied by the ever widening gap between rich and poor, some of her projects have included publishing a book that explains how to expropriate money from a bank, entering into a marriage of convenience in order to give legal status to an individual, and creating a company in order to hire a construction worker to demolish doors to enable squatting. For this solo exhibition here in Dublin, she has collaborated with Catalan activist Enric Duran to establish an agency that borrows from the tactics of corporate tax liability systems – in order to advise grass roots social projects on how to practice tax avoidance.
The exhibition screens several films (including Katerina Kitidi and Aris Chatzistefanou’s Debtocracy and Ruaridh Arrow’s How to Start a Revolution). The opposite end of the gallery becomes an ‘office’ for the consultancy, a desk inviting visitors to explore the company website, the wall above it brandished with its logo. I worked on a design for the business cards. Both the desk and business card features a bunch of yellow tulips – a nod to the Tulip Mania which swept the Netherlands in the 17th century, considered the first speculative bubble.
To give a social and historical context for the action of the consultancy, I collaborated with Núria and curator Tessa Giblin to research eight cases of fiscal and civil disobedience. The short texts I wrote and designed became the surface of a coffee table in the consultancy’s ‘waiting area’. The cases came from the distant past right up to the present: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the bus; 18 million citizens of the United Kingdom refuse to pay their Poll Tax; Gandhi leads tens of thousands of followers to disregard the British salt monopoly and harvest their own salt; Charles Stewart Parnell encourages struggling tenants to shun their landlords.
From the dumping of tea into the sea by 200 patriots during the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to a group of independent retailers in a small Welsh town going “offshore” in 2015, I found the research fascinating – uncovering and telling the stories of acts of civil disobedience that have denied unjust laws collectively, publicly, peacefully – realising that Núria Güell and Troika Fiscal Disobedience Consultancy is but the latest in a proud and vibrant history.
The exhibition is one of Frieze Magazine‘s Dublin highlights, and continues until 19 March 2016.