Degenerated Political Art by Núria Güell & Levi Orta

By Michaela Lakova

Barcelona-based artists Núria Güell (ES) and Levi Orta (CU) presented two of their works: “Arte Político Degenerado“ (2014) and “Arte Político Degenerado Protocolo ético”(2014). The works are part of a series called Replica Analitica which aims to reproduce strategies and structures deployed by capitalism in order to analyze, expose and use them to empower individuals — forming a new, anti-capitalist society.

As a prelude, Orta begins by showing a photo of the Spanish royal family pinging to the members and their royalties. Next photo shows Princess Elena coming out from a court hall after the trial of her husband – Iñaki Urdangarin. In 2014 he was accused and then found guilty in diversion of public money and tax evasion.

To start their project entitled “The Generated Political Act” the artists visited the ESADE – a prestigious international business school in Barcelona, from which most of the politicians have received their degrees.

Güell and Orta decided to start their own company in order to investigate how to avoid paying taxes as artists. Advised by ESADE lawyers they registered their own company in tax haven. The newly operating company named “Orta & Güell Contemporary Art S.A” allowed the artists to evade all the taxes related to their profits by taking advantage of the jurisdiction and the loose financial regulations in Spain. This legal act and certificate in their hands enables the artists to use all the privileges associated with a company such as: no restrictions of the capital flow, private banking, guaranteed anonymity, protected property, etc. The main interest of Güell and Orta is to look at how all these advantages might be used in a political way.

On the occasion of being invited to show their work at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid the artist duo decided to extend their project by adding a new layer to it: an “Ethical Protocol”. They donated their company and all its profits to a group of European activists who are developing autonomous structures within capitalist system. This company now allows artist to avoid regulations imposed by the state, the European Central Bank or by the International Monetary fund.

Güell believes that tax evasion can be a good tool for creating  autonomous institutions, independent from the dark world of financial monopolies. The speed with which institutions get instrumentalized and exploited by modern economy is one of the major concerns shared among the activist group.

Given this action as a central motif, the artists organized a day of debate with thinkers and experts from a variety of fields: economist and socialist Isidro López, philosophers Montserrat Galcerán and Santiago López Petit, political analyst Rubén Martínez, and activist Eric Duran, also a speaker at MoneyLab#2: Economies of Dissent.

“Art is a pretty disgusting world”

concluded participants at the end of the video fragment shown by Orta & Güell near the end of their presentation.

However the various artistic interventions presented as part of this panel should not only be seen as an attempt to disrupt power structures, but also as acts of political defiance. Through circumventing the capitalist system, they create their own social utopias.

The question remains: How can the application of illicit capitalist strategies, such as tax avoidance, help realize new social orders for the majority of the population, rather than simply highlight the corruption of a elitist minority? Through working together with other social organizations such as Fair Coop Initative, the actions of artists like Güell & Orta can inform, support and help realize the long-term goals of wider social movements.