Endless plastic bags fill mies van der rohe`s barcelona pavilion to spotlight the cost of money

Designboom_ The Mies van der Rohe Foundation presents an itinerant installation by artist-architect Mark Cottle at the Barcelona Pavilion, dubbed ‘The Cost of Money: Raft’. Having begun in 2019 as a residency and exhibition at the Neura House in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, ‘The Cost of Money’ is an ongoing artistic project that draws attention to the very high human and environmental cost of capital worldwide. Cottle materializes his explorations by using emblematic works of modern architecture as a backdrop and element of interaction.

For this 2023 installation at the Barcelona Pavilion, Mark Cottle translates his reflections on that topic by filling the space with two large carpets of the same size (approximately 13 x 6 meters), each formed by a network of single-use plastic bags of different colors. One of the pieces is located inside the Pavilion and surrounds the onyx wall, occupying most of the floor of the noble room; the other piece sits outside at one end of the large pool, like a large raft.

Expanding on Mark Cottle’s ongoing ‘The Cost of Money’ project, each plastic bag filling the Barcelona Pavilion implies and represents a transaction, the tangible residue of consumed goods, a resource that is sometimes reused but most of the time is thrown away. Available in large quantities, plastic bags are a symbol of a single-use culture. They often arrive through a series of intertwined immigrant business communities and become indicators of a myriad of informal economies, neighborhood shops, and small, family-owned, or newly-arrived businesses. Mark Cottle and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation thus encourage visitors to reflect on the high human cost that capital demands, especially in the most vulnerable populations, and the enormous expense it entails for the environment.

With ‘The Cost of Money: Raft’, I have wanted to bring the discussion on the steep human price capital exacts, especially for the most vulnerable populations, and at enormous expense to the environment, to the Pavilion, a place that represents a moment in which industry was seen as a necessary tool towards the future but which already had a high social cost,’ Mark Cottle explains. The almost 10,000 plastic bags that make up the two carpet pieces have been selected and saved by the artist from the Spanish city’s garbage cans, eventually saving them from ending up in the trash container. Each carpet contains three groups of different colored bags.

Ultimately, ‘The Cost of Money: Raft’ installation by Mark Cottle at the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion links the different parts of the space — inside and out — referring to the Modern Movement of 1925-1950. Many themes emerge as a result, derived from the industrial revolution and its acceleration before World War II, with the social and ecological consequences that have led mankind to drown in its current environmental and humanitarian crisises, especially apparent in vulnerable populations. The project will be on view at the Pavilion until July 23, 2023.