Overturning Politics With Art

by Jessie Roberts

Erica R. Hendry spotlights Los Encargados (Those in Charge), a striking 2012 short film by Spanish artists Santiago Sierra and Jorge Galindo:

Their 2012 return [to Madrid] came unannounced mid-day in August in the form of a live performance piece: An unauthorized parade along the Gran Vía, Madrid’s central thoroughfare, of black Mercedes-Benz sedans carrying upended portraits of Juan Carlos I, the sovereign who began Spain’s transition to democracy after the 1975 death of the dictator Francisco Franco, and the country’s six subsequent prime ministers. … Using 12 cameras, the artists captured the procession in black and white as it made its way around the city on unusually empty streets (by chance, there was another demonstration across the city, Gordon says).

The event—which was nearly halted by police, Gordon says—caused a viral sensation after bystanders posted photos and videos online. The beauty of the film—and the editing—is it lets the artists play with perception. In some shots, the portraits, which were created by Galindo, are righted while the cars roll upside down, or backwards, down the streets. In the film, as the procession of cars passed museums, old cinemas and other landmarks, the editors added the populist Polish song “Warszawianka”—the signature anthem of the Spanish Civil War. The screen is split into three as cameras zoom in to the whites of the leaders’ eyes, and an ominous police siren swells and fades as the piece comes to a close.