A Country Too Legible is a Not Disenchantment

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In the heart of tech­nol­ogy—which is just as say­ing Tokyo—, Abel Bar­roso walks down the streets talk­ing through an atyp­i­cal cell phone. In front of peo­ple car­ry­ing mo­biles with Blue­tooth, In­ter­net ac­cess, megapix­els ready to take pic­tures and videos with an ac­cept­able res­o­lu­tion, and so on and so on, Abe­lito’s equip­ment at­tracts at­ten­tion be­cause of its enor­mous size in the era of tech­no­log­i­cal minia­tur­iza­tion and, also, be­cause it does not hide the ma­te­rial with which it was made: a peg of en­graved wood.

The na­ture of the per­former’s con­ver­sa­tion is en­tirely apoc­ryphal be­cause he is not en­gaged in a di­a­logue with a spe­cific per­son, since his tele­phone does not work. Abel is talk­ing, pro­vok­ing the con­text. Show­ing his back­ward­ness (?) in tech­no­log­i­cal mat­ters with­out mod­esty. Ex­chang­ing sym­bolic cap­i­tals of tech­ni­cal-cul­tural and cult re­cep­tions.

This ac­tion by Abel has its coun­ter­part in Tech­nol­ogy Man (2002), a ro­bot de­signed and en­graved by him in his own im­age and like­ness to be able to slip in and walk from one place to an­other demon­strat­ing his flair for any­thing in an ev­i­dent par­ody of our con­di­tion as “sec­ond line spec­ta­tors” al­ter­nat­ing with the first one ac­cord­ing to the strokes of new geopol­i­tics.

These sorts of brico­lages fol­low­ing Abel Bar­roso’s way be­come part of tech­no­log­i­cal mythol­ogy by nega­tion, that is, new fig­ures, all in a techno imag­i­nary with povera look caused by the re­cy­cling of mind and ob­jects the artist ac­com­plishes in his pieces start­ing from an il­lu­sion and our ca­pac­i­ties (in­no­vat­ing, for ex­am­ple) to make us en­ter in that “global re­dis­tri­bu­tion of cul­tural power” and sur­vive in this dif­fuse and rhi­zomatic tide called Em­pire,1 where man­ag­ing hy­brid iden­ti­ties seems to be one of the pro­gram­matic top­ics.

Café In­ter­net del Tercer Mundo (Third World In­ter­net Café, 2000) in­au­gu­rated this tragi­comic wave of in­stal­la­tions and works hav­ing to do with the pe­riph­eral con­sump­tion of tech­nol­ogy. But Abel’s hu­mor al­lows him to turn the de­fect into praise and crit­i­cism goes off in all di­rec­tions: to ex­cess and lack, to dom­i­na­tion and yield­ing.

In his works we can find an en­tire vis­ual es­say on the mech­a­nisms of po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural re­sis­tance in those coun­tries that, be­cause of di­verse rea­sons, have been ex­cluded from the new log­ics of cul­tural dis­tri­bu­tion and con­sump­tion (we may say pe­riph­ery, al­though the term is con­sid­ered in dis­use). He does it, that’s true, with an ac­cen­tu­ated sense of hu­mor and a lu­dic will (al­most all the pieces are in­ter­ac­tive) in­volv­ing in a per­verse way au­di­ences com­ing from all cul­tural log­ics. Abel points all the time at that “in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion of work” which not long ago Nestor Gar­cía Can­clini out­lined and was sum­ma­rized in the Tenth Ha­vana Bi­en­nial in La fábrica de la glob­al­ización

(The Glob­al­iza­tion Fac­tory, 2009).2 In it, re­sort­ing to lo­go­types of big transna­tional com­pa­nies, Abel drew an en­tire map of the com­pli­cated power net­works pre­vail­ing in the “global im­pe­rial rain­bow” of pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion and con­sump­tion of this era, in which un­be­liev­able dis­place­ments of cap­i­tal have taken place in the form of in­ter­weaved, rhi­zomatic rings. Abel an­swers them with not a lit­tle sar­casm and a dose of in­clu­sive cyn­i­cism with the se­ries Se acabó la guerra fría, a gozar con la glob­al­ización (The Cold War Is Over, En­joy Glob­al­iza­tion).3 In this way, even with video-in­stal­la­tion pieces, Abel Bar­roso closed a cy­cle which was jux­ta­pos­ing with an­other that, in a given way, is ho­mol­o­gous to it: mi­gra­tion and the con­trols mor­ti­fy­ing it.

Tech­nol­ogy Man & Asimo, 2003 Per­for­mance

Show room Honda, Tokyo, Ja­pan Cour­tesy the artist

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