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An exhibition, that proposes a journey into possible past futures. At a time in need of ideas, projects, plans and desires, the exhibition “Estilo Indirecto” (Indirect Speech) offers examples that didn’t occur but still remain valid as a possibility, as an option and as a point of departure to discuss the unidirectionality of our present.
In turbulent times reason retreats and it becomes hard to think. Let alone, to imagine what the future will be like. We find ourselves wandering from one place to another, from one job to another. We must display the agility and ability to change that flexible capitalism demands of us, the consequence of the recurring idea of “nothing long term”, the leitmotif of the economic system that we live in. Emperor of our existence, the economy dictates the only valid way to live, happily abandoned to a society that tries to make us forget about tomorrow. Before it was bread and circus, now intravenous consumerism is the siren’s song that keeps us distracted. Always obsessed with the now, with the perpetual and stagnant present, lacking any space for a long-term project.
The irony is that now more than ever, amidst this desolate present that we are faced with, we are conscious of the failure of the system, of the defeat of the grand utopia of the masses that they previously sold us. Out of this discouraging affirmation is born the project “Estilo Indirecto”, presented at the Foto Colectania Foundation in Barcelona. The exhibition, curated by Martí Peran, is articulated around a prevailing need to rehabilitate the capacity of the imagination, as the sword with which to combat the dictatorial threat of the present. Despite the pessimism with which the current situation is described the exhibition is a gratifying experience, full of stimuli for numbed imaginations. It is an invitation to renew one’s critical faculties, a sort of visual therapy that creates a space for the activity of thought.
Using a narrative technique, what is known as indirect speech, the show reveals eight futures once imagined but now lost in time.According to Peran it is not about remembering or once again taking refuge in the past without applying any specific criteria. Indirect speech offers a sort of balanced symmetry, between memory and prediction, and each essay reveals it as a mechanism charged with regeneratory powers, making it possible to reencounter the utopian force of ancient dreams with a potential still to be exploited. Each one of the pieces creates a new landscape to be explored, where the classic question of “what would have happened if…?” acquires extraordinary dimensions. We can ask ourselves about how different the development of global trade would have been if, as David Maljkovic tries to show us, the International Fair of Zagreb had been a success. Through the projects of Jordi Colomer and Adrià Julià, we can ask ourselves if life in the utopian city of Falansteri or those designed by the followers of Fourier had been a reality, what would this have meant for life today? Some may seem somewhat distant from everyday reality, but each one reveals how a significant part of history could have been altered. Maybe the one that is closest to us today is the project of Javier Peñafiel, which imagines an alternative present and future for contemporary Germany, capable of changing its economic plans on a European scale.
Whatever the thoughts triggered by the exhibition may be, its poetic ingenuity brings to light the fertility of the past and the capacity of the present to develop it. Its discourse offers an interlude from the pessimism that predicts an empty and uncertain future. At the same time, the show liberates the spectator from any imposition, such as the obligation to interact or submit to an immersive experience. A necessary emancipation exists, to procure that there is this space to digress amidst these territories full of the murmur of lost stories. The images are neither hostile nor invasive, and their visual tranquillity makes it possible to advance, recede, analyse, pause and revisit, each one of its parts. This sensation is intensified by the neutral and ample space, in which the architecture disappears, leaving first and foremost the images and text that accompanies them. The writings lead us through the development of the same concept across very different pieces, all of which use photography and montage as their means of expression. The pieces are charged with new meanings, de-contextualised from their previous background of failure, re-considered, re-articulated and re-located in a new narrative that responds to the urgencies of today. The fragments and snippets overlap, reformatting the lineal time and space of history. The results are eight scenarios where a drastic turn of events could have changed the present. Each attempt supposes a stimulus for the mind, which perceives the possible existence of an oasis amidst the chaos, the possibility to leave behind the nostalgia for the present and look forwards.
In a world lacking ideas and, of course, lacking any critical spirit on the part of many, the need for culture to grasp the baton becomes ever more evident. There exists an unavoidable urgency to be able to imagine long-term projects, because without them the meaning of reality seems to fade until it is unrecognisable. Perhaps this is the role of critical culture today. To rehabilitate the individual and collective capacity to open cracks in the present, to be able to discern the future. To wake us up, to make us look at “the surplus and obsolete revolutionary material of the past” – as Peran so rightly describes it – to rescue the thousands of imagined futures, charged with transformational powers that were sentenced to oblivion. Material fragments that are capable of prospering in the contemporary context, beyond the more immediate present.