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Untitled (On Wear and Tear) 






Variable dimensions




Samples were taken from the worn down parts of tools used by workers in different trades and professions all of which involve substantial physical effort to subsequently recreate, in solid gold, the shape of the concavities created by use. The objectives were to produce an imaginary recovery of the energy invested by these workers; to create a kind of monument, on the same scale as the mark left behind by the worker himself, as testimony to his tools’ everyday use; and to invoke nostalgia for the space given up by the material in question, product of the wear and tear that tools represent today. 

Untitled (On Wear and Tear)

Cuauhtémoc Medina

“To represent the unrepresentable” is among the tropes most commonly abused by art critics. Nonetheless, this is certainly an apt description for the alchemy Fritzia Irizar performs when she takes up a residue, a scent, or a substance and makes it materialize a particularly metaphysical chapter of modern society: the concept of economic value. In the 2006 series Untitled (On Wear and Tear), when Irizar smelts, in solid gold, the negative space left by the erosion of everyday tools a wrench, a hammer, a knife, locking pliers the artist sought to evoke a special transmutation. This isn’t the transformation of lead into gold, but rather the materialization of suffering and exhaustion. A representation of the interminable process by which physical and biological wear and tear produces wealth not without leaving marks behind, the chain of muscular actions expressed in the material’s own fatigue.


As Karl Marx noted, the life of an instrument of labor “may be compared with that of a human being. Every day brings a man 24 hours nearer to his grave.”1 Indeed, the “gems” smelted  by Irizar summarize “the lifetime of an instrument of labor,” which “is spent in the repetition of a greater or less number of similar operations.” The melancholy beauty of this transplant is the shadow of many lives consumed, reified as a kind of industrial ghost. The operation’s elegance lies in its delicate adherence to particularities. These “corpses of machines,” to cite Marx once again, also bear witness to the redemption of a generic industrial project into an object individualized by its mortality. Here, then, is the form that moves us: its stubborn silence is steeped in expressiveness. 





1 Spanish-language version consulted: Karl Marx, El capital. Crítica de la economía política, ed. and trans. Pedro Scaron, Mexico, Siglo XXI Editores, 1975, Tome 1, Volume 1, p. 246. 



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