In her first solo at aÌ?ngels barcelona, Daniela Ortiz displayed artifacts from her latest transcontinental intervention, “InversioÌn”—a work in progress whose cunning Spanish title means both “inversion” and “investment.” Born in Peru in 1985 and residing in Spain since 2007, Ortiz investigates how race, class and ethnicity connect to postcolonial migration.
Her new project deals with the plight of South American immigrants in Spain. Once warmly welcomed to take on low-paying construction, hospitality and domestic-help jobs during the financial boom of the late 1990s, these guest workers are now considered a threat to the nation’s economic recovery. In “InversioÌn,” the artist has reversed the migratory circuit, offering a Spanish citizen the chance to become a laborer in Peru.
The inversion began on Jan. 13, 2012, when Ortiz posted an actual construction job online. Men of Spanish nationality were invited to apply for an indefinite employment contract in Lima. The website counted more than 1,100 hits for the announcement. Ortiz gave an extremely small window of opportunity: those interested had only three days to telephone her and e-mail a “curriculum vitae.” (The fancy terminology and computer-tech requirement were all part of the bitter joke, no doubt.) She then held interviews for three days in the aÌ?ngels barcelona basement project room.
Afterward, remnants of the process were on view in a stark gallery installa- tion. At the entrance, a display of official documents from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia (home to most of those migrating to Spain) allowed visitors to analyze each country’s immigration and hiring laws. Colombia is the most protective: 90% of all employees must be citizens. More lib- eral, Argentina forefronts the individual’s inalienable right to migrate.
Two small wall projections showed video footage of interviews with 11 eager finalists, complete with surround-sound audio of the candidates discussing their work history and their feelings about relocating. Lined up along a back wall were 11 unframed, untitled headshots that look like blown-up passport photos. Together, these elements revealed a considerable range in age, education and experience among the finalists, without indicating a hiring decision.
“InversioÌn” follows close on the heels of an equally ironic intervention in Barcelona. For “Human Resources,” a late 2011 exhibition at the FundacioÌ Joan MiroÌ, Ortiz ordered hundreds of handmade clay figurines of the sort sold to tourists visiting Peru. She had the objects shipped to Barcelona, where she paid Spanish workers to throw them against a gallery wall. The resulting rubble and dust, along with a video of the action, reflected the fragility of postcolonial relationships and the messy problems of mass manufacturing, import-export, kitsch and waste.
More intimate, “InversioÌn” translates an overwhelming economic issue into an act of redemption. Altering the financial outlook for one individual, Ortiz has created a new migrant worker. But the story doesn’t end there. The artist will follow the newly displaced Spanish citizen to Peru, collecting material for what promises to be another revealing exposeÌ.
Photo: View of Daniela Ortiz’s exhibition “InversioÌn,” 2012; at aÌ?ngels barcelona.