A thought-provoking exhibition at Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona: “The Cost of Money: Raft” is the artistic intervention by Mark Cottle, currently hosted by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe. This installation is part of a larger itinerant project that seeks to illuminate the profound toll that capital takes on humanity and the environment.
Cottle, a multi-faceted artist and architect, began this exploration through a residency and exhibition at the Neutra VDL House in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. He has now arrived in Barcelona to continue his compelling dialogue with iconic works of modern architecture. Although these buildings share common architectural strategies, each possesses distinct qualities that require a unique and individual formal response from the artist.
The exhibition at Mies van der Rohe Pavilion consists of two expansive carpets, each measuring approximately 13 x 6 metres, meticulously constructed from a network of single-use plastic bags in various colours. The interior carpet covers the floor of the main room, encircling the onyx wall, while its colour scheme mirrors the rust-coloured onyx, green marble walls and dark metal mullions. The second carpet, whose base colour recalls the exterior travertine paving with turquoise and yellow accents, floats gracefully at one end of the vast pool, evoking the image of a raft.
Cottle painstakingly collected and rescued nearly 10,000 plastic bags from the city’s rubbish bins, saving them from their fate in landfill. Each bag is a powerful symbol of transaction, embodying the tangible residue of consumed goods and serving as a poignant indicator of a multitude of informal economies that include local neighbourhood shops, small family businesses, and ventures set up by newly arrived communities. “The Cost of Money: Raft” challenges viewers to consider the exorbitant human toll that capital takes, especially on vulnerable populations.
In the context of architectural icons, however, the disposable and ubiquitous plastic bag contrasts starkly with the immutable nature of these revered structures and their rarified distance from people’s everyday lives, highlighting the social and economic disparities between the few who can afford or appreciate architectural masterpieces and the many who are forced to live in makeshift dwellings, often constructed from discarded materials such as plastic bags.
By stimulating such discourse in spaces such as the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion or a Neutra house, Cottle intertwines the settings with the Modern Movement and the profound issues that emerged from the rapid acceleration of the Industrial Revolution before the Second World War – issues that encompass the social and environmental costs embedded in today’s escalating environmental crisis.
name: The Cost of Money: Raft; location: Barcelona Pavilion, Spain; artist: Mark Cottle; organized by: Mies van der Rohe Foundation | @fundaciomies; material: ±10,000 single-use plastic bags; photography: Anna Mas | @annamas;