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20 WORKERS IN A SHIPS HOLD, 2001

Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001

A 20 meter cargo boat was hired for one week. It was to pick up 20 people at a certain point in the port, who would remain hidden in the hold, and then head towards another point close-by, taking three hours there and back. The people were mainly contacted through the Ibn Batuta immigrant aid association. Although their Maghrebi and sub-Saharan origin was of primary impor- tance, alluding to the usual method of arrival of some foreign workers, two Bolivian workers and a female Argentinian worker were also taken on. They were paid 4,000 pesetas, some $20, for three hours and required to have their papers in order to avoid foreseeable problems with the police in a public place, where the event was staged in full view.

The piece was produced with the support of the local government, which had to control the number of workers, their legality and provide insurance. Likewise, they were responsible for supplying drinking water and ice because of the heat. Owing to the high temperatures, we had to work in the evenings. On the first day, we did not attract the numbers expected but, from the second day, the problem was that there were too many workers. Males of Moroccan origin monopolized the event completely displacing the other immigrants immediately, whilst the organization only just succeeded in withholding the names of the participants. The atmosphere in the hold was surprisingly spirited, with card games and singing.

On the fifth day, I had to leave the organization in charge, whilst I attended to other commitments. As a result, the piece was canceled suddenly – the heat and even a mutiny on board were blamed. In reality, what happened was due to an inability to control the growing crowd of participants and the real fear instilled in the local government agents entrusted with the task by this labor group which, in Spain, is traditionally associated with criminality. It is worth pointing out the considerable media impact of the event and the constant disruptions to its normal development owing to the presence of the press. The event took place within a framework in which the city’s immigrant workers were staging constant sit-ins against Spanish immigration laws.

Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work
Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work
Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work
Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work
Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work
Santiago Sierra, 20 Workers in a Shops Hold, Maremagnum Mall and pleasure-boat moorings in the port of Barcelona. Barcelona, Spain. July 2001, protocol work

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