> Max Hernández Calvo. Smoke Architecture, October 2015

The installation Smoke Architecture (80m2 Livia Benavides) enacts a radical transformation of the gallery, which during the exhibition is transformed into a kind of pre-industrial factory producing artisanal bricks. Completely operational, it creates around 500 bricks per week.

In the front yard of the gallery, a brick furnace has been built. A chimney of galvanised steel emerges from the oven’s roof, before turning and entering through one of the gallery windows. With a serpentine shape, the duct system meanders through the exhibition rooms, around walls and columns and across all the various spaces. It pierces the walls that divide the rooms and exits through the roof of the building.

The equipment and materials used in the different stages of brick fabrication are found inside the various rooms. These include the raw materials, the wire mesh used to filter the earth, the moulds used to give form to the bricks, the tools used for drying and, finally, the furnace in which the bricks are fired. Thus, each room represents a different stage in the process of brick manufacturing, connecting the architecture of the gallery to a Fordian yet artisanal process of production.

The chimney emphasises this sequential arrangement of the work—related to the process of industrial development—by tracing a route through each room, visibly linking the various processes of production. At the same time, the material features of the steel ducts evoke industrialisation, in counterpoint to the pre-industrial style of the artisanal brick production.

In this way, the installation juxtaposes industrial development—linked to the transformation of raw materials—to pre-industrial development, exemplified by the manual extraction of raw materials and the artisanal fabrication of the bricks. However, despite the transformation of the gallery into a brick factory, its function as a place for contemplation is fully preserved as the ‘factory work’ is carried out of the view of the public (no worker is ever visible). The worker is manifested only by what is produced over time: bricks, floor plans and a series of walls which are in the process of being built through the central corridor of the gallery.

Even though this type of work appears to evoke Andean traditions of pre-modern construction, in which earth is used to create dwellings in the same place (in a sort of integration with the environment), the walls that are being built make reference to a clearly modern form of logic. The spatial configuration is based on the architecture used for the control of masses. The layout of the bricks—symmetrical, discontinuous and sequential—has been taken from mechanisms of queue management and crowd control, typical of security systems.

This idea of order and control is reflected in the furnace’s chimney, which runs through the gallery, channelling the heat and the energy liberated during the manufacturing of the bricks. This produces a visible reference to the mechanisms of administration and control (ducts and interior walls) while at the same time the work carried out (of fabrication and construction) is rendered invisible, disappearing from the scene.

There is a relationship of continuity between the way that control is rendered visible and the work rendered invisible, as this invisibility is due to the management and control of brick production and the construction of the barriers. Thus, the installation indicates work of administration and planning (suggested by the diagrams, tests, and structural plans that appear sequentially throughout the gallery), dealing equally with brick fabrication, architecture and construction, as they concern the organisation of labour and social control. In other words, it encompasses the modern orders of the factory, the metropolis, and the masses, but maintains the reference to pre-modern systems through one type of artisanal production.

Smoke architecture also alludes to a social and economic architecture: the processing of productive activities that also involves other systems of control—administrative more than physical—that regulate their flow. This raises the issue of social relations and work conditions, of which the installation itself becomes a self-referential example.

The organisation of labour, the regulation of people’s movement and the systematisation of production to which the installation alludes presuppose a series of physical and social mechanisms of population control. But all these references are inscribed within the context of an artistic project that as such is subject to a different set of dynamics.

For example, the internal barriers constraining the public lie in stark contrast to the freedom of movement implied by the gallery context. Thus, in contrast to the unidirectional trajectory of the smoke which exits from the chimney, in contrast to the methodical production line process which unfolds through the various spaces of the gallery, and in contrast to the paths rigidly demarcated by the barriers that are being built, the installation, as an artwork, offers the public the opportunity of freedom of movement.

This juxtaposition between visible systems of regulation and the tacit idea of freedom points to the internal regulations in operation: while the public determine their movement in an autonomous way, their behaviour inside the gallery is in fact determined by internal mechanisms self-control. In other words, not only does the public move through the physical space delineated by the architecture in accordance with their conscious desire (guided by aesthetic, formal and sensory factors); in addition, a social space unfolds bounded by the cultural conventions which all members of the public have internalised.

In this way, a wide range of forms of governance of people and populations are brought into play, involving internal and external control mechanisms of physical, social, economic and other orders (what Foucault calls ‘governmentality’). This governmentality articulates the pre-modern and the modern, hinting at a continuum running across the extraction of raw materials, artisanal production, construction, industrial activity and the post-industrial work that underlies the creative sector, within which this installation in inscribed by default. It is notable that the production of the artwork itself is dependent on the functioning of the brick factory, despite the fact that the two take different paths.

The administrative techniques and mechanisms of power that are used for both the running of the brick factory and building/remodelling the gallery presuppose other administrative techniques and other mechanisms of power. This gives rise not to the ‘brick factory’ as such, but to the installation Smoke Architecture. Ultimately, this project involves other processes based not on tangible production (of bricks and walls) but on the production of intangibles (experiences, ideas and discourses), where the investment places more value on the creation of symbolic capital than of capital goods.

From this perspective, the invisibility of the productive work in the installation (the labour of fabrication and bricklaying) duplicates the invisibility of the activity that ‘produces’ the artwork, or, in other words, constitutes the constellation of elements and processes that make up a work of art. This is because this sort of productive activity, which can be best referred to as post-industrial, is practically invisible to our eyes: it is part of an economy of knowledge, today based fundamentally on telecommunications, which tends to develop in a delocalised way and usually takes the form of a network of services, agents and resources.

By converting the gallery into a factory, a workshop and a building site, Garrido-Lecca draws on diverse productive models, work regimes, modalities of power , development plans and ideas of progress. The distinct strata which are superposed can be read as a cross-section of processes of political, social and economic transformation, which are often confused and contradictory (it is telling that when the workers are absent during gallery opening hours, the factory and construction work appear to be at a standstill).

In more ways than one, Smoke Architecture stages the advances and setbacks of this complex and unfinished process, telling the story of a highly ambivalent present struggling to imagine its future without having fully processed its past.