With this exhibition, the Madrid-based curatorial duo YABY parlay Middleburg’s Vleeshal into a lens through which to focus on the byproducts of industry in what was once a major port for the Dutch East India Company.
Claudia Pagès’s Walking the Gerund Mountain (Montjuïc, bando del Port), 2022, is a sculptural video installation consisting of a single image fragmented across screens mounted on a circular armature. The action takes place on the sacred hill of Montjuïc, used by Spanish forces in 1842 to bomb Barcelona and later as an execution site for anarchists and Republican soldiers. Now the hill overlooks the industrial port whose operations sustain the state’s economy. In fragment from skinning cattle by power 1867 (fig. 122 in Gideon), 2022, Aria Dean translates the mechanized quantification of bodies by repurposing the slaughterhouse tools that streamline the killing of cattle. Christopher Aque’s Double Negativity (Swapping Spit), 2021, follows with a minimal representation of circulation and exchange, while Rindon Johnson’s five-channel audio piece Idiom 1 Plea Piece (Time is a Dimension), 2022, mashes together excerpts of songs that contain the word “please,” underlining the general ineffectiveness of entreaty, particularly in a sustained context of state violence.
With multiple references to the nineteenth century, this exhibition points back to the Vleeshal’s own former function as a meat market adjacent to the headquarters of slave trade companies. The contemporary works reveal the astounding proximity of that time to our own.