Public Complaint Office Social Sculpture Barcelona, Rotterdam, Bogotá - 2014-2017
Considering the complaint, a proactive agent and a first step to action, this proposal arises from the intention of collectively constructing a non-governmental listening space for residents and passer-by walkers in some iconic neighborhoods of Barcelona. It seeks to investigate the urban environment of a location through complaints.
In the first stage, a portable office, containing two chairs, a small table and a sign that says 'We Listen To Your Complaints' moves through different parts of the neighborhood. It is installed in places with high confluence of people: Police Stations, churches, supermarkets, universities, etc. This office will be open to anyone who wants to express their dissatisfaction and any kind of complaint. The office is attended by the receiver who will listen carefully and transcribe the details of each complaint in a form that describes the place and the content of it, then the complainer signs a testimony. This use of a non governmental bureaucracy intends to reach a wider public which is able to understand this type of language.
Public Complaint office initially took place in 2014 in Barcelona, two times a week during three months, I would install the office in front of several iconic locations: the MACBA museum, In La Rambla del Raval, in the middle of Plaza Cataluña, in front of the Town hall at Plaça St. Jaume, in Robadors, the streets of sexual workers, inside Escola Massana University and other places. Since Spain has a strong complaining culture, it was a success. People could complain about anything, from a political to a personal situation.
After gathering an important amount of complaints and building a complaint archive, I studied the complaints and searched for patterns and categories among them. The complaints that were repeated more than once, were transferred into posters. In it you could read the issue of complaint but you couldn’t read the name of the person who expressed it. The idea was to write anonymous complaints to later paste them in the places where complains where gathered, thus to make complaints an element of identification and of anonymous connection among citizens. The pasted complaint marked a correlation between the location and the issue written on it.
The posters remained glued to the streets for two or three days, causing several reactions of curiosity. Public messages are usually either advertisement, institutional messages written on boards or graffiti and street art, which is usually written on walls. The messages here were glued to the ground, they were written in first person and were anonymous.
How can we use non- governmental spaces in order to build a strong citizenship?
How to hack institutional and bureaucratic languages in order to appropriate public space?
In 2016 I repeated the performance in Venice, Italy at Future Landscapes Festival, and then at Worm Performance Bar in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Later in 2017 Public Complaint Office took place in the streets of Bogotá. I could confirm that the complaint culture changes from context to context and that it always offers a great amount of information.
Much is said of the complaint as a pejorative, inefficient and even addictive habit. The complaint, however, describes very well the complainant and the socio-economical and cultural context in which in is expressed. In addition, the action of complaining structures our criterion and keeps us potentially attentive to the events in the field of micro and macro politics.
NEST art center. Bogotá, Colombia 2017.
FUTURE LANDSCAPES. International Art and Architecture Festival in Venice, Italy 2016
WORM Performance Bar. Rotterdam, NL 2016.
Common Sense. Galeria Chez Xefo. Barcelona 2016.
Urbagenación. LaContra Barcelona 2015.