A Country Too Legible is a Not Disenchantment
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