“Art is not a mirror to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” -Bertolt Brecht/ Vladimir Mayakovski/ Karl Marx
In 2010 an inconspicuous looking suitcase was sent from Berlin to Mexico City containing a 12 meter tall inflatable silver hammer. Thus began El Martillo’s odyssey to protest the policies of the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancún. El Martillo’s short, but glorious life, climaxed when protesters from Marea Creciente (Rising Tide) stormed the conference complex fences, gigantic hammer above their heads.
In full view of the press Mexican police tore the inflatable to pieces. Within an hour global the media corporations declared El Martillo a symbol of the climate changes protests as its image traveled across the world.
Watch the video below:
The action is also archived and preserved in The El Martillo Project, published by Minor Compositions. The book documents the whole process from its conception and construction to the media flurry it sparked off. Included are numerous full color images and documentation of the project; texts and analysis by David Graeber, Alex Dunst, and Cristian Guerrero; an interview with John Jordan from the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination; and a fold out technical manual and plan for creating giant inflatable hammers.
Initially inspired by the quote “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” The El Martillo Project aims to inspire creative action and joyful disobedience.
You can order the book here.
“In the world of contemporary art people often publish beautiful critical documentation of projects that are neither very beautiful nor critical. These glossy catalogues give surface value to projects that are often vacuous and obtuse. Nothing could be more different with The hammer – the project itself beautifully merged the aesthetic and the activist, the world of art and that of social movements, whilst being a critique of old forms of protest and a celebration of collective creativity. The catalogue amplifies this fantastic project and tells the story of this courageous experiment in art activism via texts, press cuttings and images that inspire us and remind us of the power of beauty when it is thrown into the streets.” – John Jordan, Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
“I often think that grassroots activist communities don’t document enough. There’s so many battles to fight and oppressive systems to counter that we are always on the move. The power of archiving our creative resistance means than future movements don’t have to start from square one. It’s always a delicate balance of taking action, reflecting on it, archiving it for others and making our actions stronger for the next time. This organising praxis can be profound and help us shake power in the achilles heel if we get it right! The brilliant El Martillo Project most certainly struck that beautiful balance… so enjoy!” - Dan Glass, The Glass is Half Full
Bio: The eclectic electric collective (e.e.c.) is an international art collective operating at the borders of art and activism. It is founded in 2008 by Artúr van Balen and Jakub Simcik.