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Jaime y Manuela Currators (Manuela Pedrón Nicolau and Jaime González Cela) launched their virtual exhibition La Gran Conspiración (The Great Conspiracy) into the world during last December in 2020, as a part of the digital contents programme Programa Ventana, promoted by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). They use this name as clickbait, trying to draw our attention to show us a virtual exhibition, but not only that. It is also the framework from which they propose that we think about our relationship with information in the present of digital communications. Curiosity is, in fact, the engine through which the website that embodies it makes us browse through the contents. For example, it allows us to access the accompanying text, but gives us the option of deciding how much we want to read.
One of the conspiracies underlying this project consists of making visible the connections between the fields of realism and digitalism that the Internet tends to hide. The design of the website (under the care of Hyper Studio) is fundamental. For example, it is configured as a space that changes according to the place or time in which we access it, and it shows us the traces left by other visitors in the form of a wake.
Another conspiracy consists in reflecting on the emancipation of art regarding the physical space. The works which make up the exhibition, made by Paco Chanivet, Agnès Pe, Clara Montoya, Francesc Ruiz and Marc Vives, experiment with distance. That is, they lay out possibilities for the relationship between online/offline, art on the internet and the access to it.
Despite having been conceived beforehand, this project takes shape at an opportune moment. The circumstances derived from the present pandemic, such as isolation, but also the flagrant precariousness for sectors of culture that had previously been made precarious already, make it appropriate to think with some haste about possibilities for art beyond physical space.
In addition, all of us have found ourselves facing the impossibility of understanding and controlling reality. Given this, conspiracy narratives are presented as a way of finding explanations and relating to the world. What belonged to fiction has become possible, has transcended imagination and has become something real. Therefore, why should not we think as possible an art whose production and access are conceived as radically alien to the physical spaces of the museum or gallery? A search that, in addition, Manuela and Jaime place as a continuation of the escape projects of the museum of the last century. As they say, a way to continue with the path to “find new supports, mechanisms and rhythms to broaden the scope of art”.
Since it is a virtual exhibition, the idea of distance appears at the centre of the proposal. Nomads, by Clara Montoya, reflects on the distance that has appeared between our bodies and everything else. It consists in a computer program developed for the occasion which reorganizes the materials stored in Open Street Cam, an open-source digital platform that collects images published by its users from different parts of the planet.
The virtual representation of environments and cartographies of the world affect our relationship with the territory. However, in the images stored in Open Street Cam there is no shared standard. Moving away from the unitary gaze imposed by monopoly technologies such as Google with Street View or Maps, it brings us closer to other points of view and other ways of looking (rhythms, perspectives, image qualities, alternative paths…). Therefore, it brings us closer to other bodies. To all the people who have wanted to upload their routes, to the bodies of those who visit them at the same time on the website, or those who carry out the route in the real world.
Distance is also present in the work Pou (well, in Catalan), by Marc Vives. There, we find ourselves in a black space, which only contains spheres that emit sound. Through a coordinate axis we can get closer to or away from them, and therefore from their sound. Each sphere is a sound track built through an automatic editing system based on algorithms, which, from some specific parameters, selects the fragments of a recording and generates a new track.
To do this, it starts from sound files from different platforms on the Internet and from personal files. Pou cedes part of the compositional work to mathematical calculations. We move away and get closer to be able to decipher what we hear, as if looking for a human trace in the machinic environment and the audio track.
But with the present pandemic, not only distance has taken on a leading role. So has the suspicion on which the conspiracy theories that have flourished so loudly are based. Mistrust and suspicion make what seemed fiction become plausible. Distrust is, after all, the reasoning hidden behind the acceptance of keeping distances, because being close means exposing ourselves to losing control over our bodies and its circumstances.
In this space between fiction and reality, invaded by the uncertain and the unknown, we find Palimpsest, by Paco Chanivet. This work is built on the concept of Hyperstition, that is, a fiction that transcends that category to become reality. It consists of four fictional texts written by four different people, describing a supposed work by Chanivet himself. Through reading, we access a work which only exists in its narration. Which exists in the description of each of the texts, and in the superposition of them all. It is one and several works of art that unfold through a narrative experience, given that, in addition, in each text there is a hidden link that causes the download of a file.
In addition, accessing the work is somewhat ritual. The text that we find available on the website varies depending on the hours of the day it is accessed. To be able to access the work in its entirety, it must be done through time, walking the path once more and following the same steps up to, at least, four times. What the ritual has of religious appears here and, furthermore, as a regulator of access to the information.
This fear of what we do not see, of what we do not understand, this suspicion derived from the fear of losing control, has also permeated the future. How big will the crisis to come be? Will galleries or artist residencies survive? Will the economy and the structure of art survive? Will the artists survive? Agnès Pe responds to this fear with The Most Necessary Museum. She offers us an archaeological look at the first website and makes us meet again with a code developed in 2005. In this museum, if there is still some available, we can get pixels and link them to another space on the internet. Everything that is linked will become part of the catalogue of artists of this museum and, with that, of the great conspiracy.
From distrust we quickly jump to secrecy, because distrust also comes from a lack of information, or from the inability to access and interpret it. In a present pierced by a saturation of information that makes it unreadable, Francesc Ruiz proposes with Correos how artistic practice can be a form of distribution of information and with which to show its mechanics.
Francesc sends empty envelopes to Montevideo. Empty, because the information he wants to distribute is on the outside of them. It is visible. The envelopes contain images that refer to the Spanish postal system on the one hand, and the Uruguayan on the other. Images that come from the corporate identities of both, and from the processes and places through which the envelopes pass. To the images of the same envelope, the traces of the places are added, the hands through which they have passed. The trail of the trip is added. The shared information grows with each shipment because, in fact, the information is the protagonist here and, therefore, the visible part. However, being closed, the envelopes seem to hide a secret.
Conspiracy theories seek to put a face to something that is experienced as threatening, they propose persons in charge for keeping secrets that move the world. In the light of this distrust, Jaime and Manuela have not only left their investigation open, but also available.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)