“Brussels plans”, “Brussels condemns”, “Brussels decides…” and “Brussels approves…”. The Belgian capital is synonymous with the EU, it’s omnipresent and, it seems, intervenes in the lives of millions of Europeans on a daily basis. As an abstract concept, Brussels is both a symbol of the European idea of peace, freedom, democracy, security and the rule of law and an adversary for all those who see strong nation states as the response to the pressing issues of current times.
Paula Leal Olloqui’s work “Europe from below” sets off to trace evidence of power we hear about every day in Brussels. The starting point for the collages is photos taken in the European Quarter in Brussels where numerous EU institutions such as the European Parliament, the European Council and the EU Commission are located. There’s both an abstraction and other worldliness to the institutions of the European Union but also an omnipresence and a sense of intervention in the tiniest aspects of our lives. These institutions are ultimately locations, an understanding of which the artist gradually develops by viewing them as such.
The façades of the administrative buildings appear like an impenetrable wall, however here and there a depth and permeability are apparent showing Europe as the sum of a heterogeneous group of people which populate the content. “The Future Is Europe” it says hopefully from the façades and “Transforming Europe from below”. Someone has sprayed “We’re burning it the ground” a few metres further on. The unique achievements of a united Europe are reflected in the surfaces of the quarter – just as is the exclusivity of the European standard of living. The desire for lasting peaceful coexistence and privileges built on centuries of oppression and exploitation.
And ourselves, who are directly part of this in every moment.
Paula Leal Olloqui, born 1984 in Madrid, lives and works in Munich.