Constructing Alternative Narratives of Europe in Contemporary Art: A PIGS’ Perspective

    • Europe Inside-Out Nice 2016
    • Presentation speakers
      • Patricia Mayayo, Department of Art History and Theory, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid


    The impact of 2008 economic crisis, which has been particularly harsh in southern European countries (PIGS, according to the derogatory acronym used in financial circles), and the erosion of social and labour rights caused by austerity measures have led to a growing dissent among civil society in southern Europe to the current policies of the European Union. In Spain, we have seen the emergence of new grassroots mobilizations, but also of new forms of cultural agency, as artists and art institutions show a growing concern about Europeanness and the construction of Europe. This paper focuses on two recent art exhibitions held in Spanish museums: Prophetia (Fundación Miró, Barcelona, 2015) and PIGS (Artium Museum, Vitoria, currently on display). These exhibitions raise a number of interesting questions about the European Union: Are we witnessing a “new abduction” of Europe by financial powers? Is the north-south divide based on old cultural and social clichés? Are these neo-colonial discursive strategies pervading European institutions and public opinion? How can we rethink European identity from the margins? By examining these two particular case-studies, my paper seeks to underline the usually neglected role of contemporary art in recent debates on Europe. I will emphasize the ways in which artistic practices and art institutions have contributed, specially in southern European countries, to reflect critically on the official definitions of Europe and to imagine alternative narratives of the European project.