In a cafe in Madrid, Enrique Radigales, Monoperro and Daniel Silvo met to talk about the production of art in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Everyone brought an object related to this idea, in order to follow a methodology for the discussion.
Monoperro (MP) – Some years ago I was part of a fake band called The Science of pop, and the premise was that, after a nuclear hecatomb, a group of scientists carried out a research on pop music, from the traces and comments that had survived. Music no longer existed, only texts and references difficult to interpret, would rebuild music. We would do a concert all dressed up as scientists, and we would explain: "Now we will play a music called Bach", because we concluded that there was a type of music called Bach as we had discovered many references to that name, so we assumed that it was a category; and another category was “herbalist”, and we gave an explanation and context to each category. I think the scientists who study prehistory do something very similar.
Enrique Radigales (ER): The elongated skulls from Peru apparently belonged to a missing link (in the human race).
MP – There is a theory that the missing link belongs to an alien race, who inserted their DNA into hominids to create man.
ER – I read that a new DNA has been discovered…
MP – The discoverer of human DNA says it could not have appeared naturally , but it must have come from a civilization beyond Earth .
ER – NASA says that in forty years time an alien civilization will be discovered . It's a statement, they’re fully convinced .
MP – As a probablity calculation, right?
ER – That´s right
Daniel Silvo (DS) – So , what´s the story of this piece then?
ER – This tile comes from a place I call the Antitaller, in Pericastó , two acres of upland terrain . There, there was a tools shed, where the farmers slept when they went to work. It is a tile from there. I liked the idea of the measure. As old and primitive as a tile , which has inscribed on it an unreal measure, unmeasurable somehow, such as pixels. For a possible dystopian future where we can preserve digital culture we ought to contrast it with a traditional metric system , centimeters . It is like the Rosetta Project, which is related to the theory of digital dark age , which means the loss of digital data transfer problem and data storage systems that become obsolete as floppy disks, hard disks, etc. Then the rosetta project has to do with the Rosetta stone, which consisted in engraving with laser a very small size text translated to two hundred different languages. To read the text you just need a magnifying glass, not a software nor hardware. And this was as a way to consider the digital world translated or transferred to a completely material and analogue world. The tile is boiled clay, a very old technology.
DS – It is laser against clay, two opposite technological ends. In fact, within this idea of preserving the digital I raised in the exhibition House, Bunker, the conecpt of Ruin, a hypothesis about the conservation of digital and technological works from its copy into analogue media. Did I tell you about the snake skin?
ER – and MP. NO
DS – It turns out that last summer I had to kill a snake.
ER – Why did you kill the snake?
DS – Some older men had a corn field, and there we found a snake. They insisted that I had to kill her, because it was dangerous at the time of making the collection, and should not be reproduced or grow.
ER – Why did you have to kill it?
DS – Because they were old and could not do it. I was told to do it because I'm young.
ER – And how did you do it?
DS – With a long stick , hitting it in the head until it died. I took the skin thinking of doing something with it. And what I did was a reproduction of a Jenny Holzer , that part that says "Protect me from what I want" , whith LED lights that move across. In this case the scales are like the LED lights, and the text is painted on it. I have another piece that is three frames of a video of Francis Alÿs on salmon skin . In Colombia I bought a goatskin on which I painted a picture of a video by Julian Opie . The idea is that my copies are more durable than digital pieces . But are they made with very unstable elements like conté crayon , so in the end I'm saying is that everything is unstable , the information will be lost gradually. The Rosetta Stone was almost a miracle, in most cases the information is lost over time.
MP – Normally things survive because someone does survive. There remains a belief that this object has a value, because in reality itself things lose value.
ER – In an life or death situation things lose its value , of course , if you need to warm up , you burn racks and canvases. Because life comes first.
DS – Oh, like in the video?
ER – Yes, as you told us about your video.
Monoperro. Sounds like the typical script of a Hollywood movie, a few who remain after a disaster in a museum. But then, in a Hollywood film they would eventually make the effort to maintain the culture.
ER – Yes, as George Clooney , who has asked the British Museum to return all Greek pieces. But then, the guy is not British , if the parts had been in an American museum , I donT not know if he had dared to say anything. It's easy to tell others what to do.
MP / DS – lol, exactly.
ER – It is like the picture some actors and filmmakers have taken in front of the Last Supper by Da Vinci, where take pictures is strictly forbidden . The last picture taken was in the 90s or something.
DS – So they went on an excursion to Rome and took a photo, right?
ER – Who knows what they paid for it.
DS – Anyway. I am sure people have done loads of photos, it is just that those photos did not transcended, but maybe this one was discovered because it was shared digitally, but I am sure it is not the first time.
ER – And what is this?
MP – We do not know what the object is.
ER – It looks like a cypress.
MP – We know what it is, but in a post-nuclear civilization disaster nobody will know what it is . For them this object emits a power, it is a mysterious object.
DS – So does this mean that after the nuclear hecatomb there will be no nature?
MP – So, they are not going to be able to compare, so retrieving this …
ER – so in your hypothesis there is no nature
MP – Exactly. They cannot compare it with nature, so looking that… They are underground, the issue is that they will receive all the emanation of nature through that object, but they do not understand why this thing is so powerful. It's very mysterious to them.
DS – They don’t know why it’s green, because there are maybe some underground lichen or plant, but they will not be green because there is no photosynthesis.
MP – To me the most interesting idea is this about returning to the origins. Prehistoric art arises because it’s a connection with another world, I mean, other spiritual world in which every being is immutable, unless one is born and dies, there is Unity, there is no division between beings… then I think art always tries to solve the mystery of the unknown. After the nuclear holocaust, losting all information regarding culture, this work is embodied into a myth about an utopian world to recover. But it is based on an object that is not the truth, because it is made on plastic .
DS – That is, for them, history is related to the metaphysical, isn’t it?, the past, the unfathomable… It cannot be recovered, it’s mysterious and deified.
MP – yes, but then I think if there is a nuclear holocaust and only a group of people survives, even losing the culture, I think in essence nothing will be lost. I believe, as the metaphysical theory says, that this lost world is unreal, an illusion, and the only real thing is the other world, the unique, the immutable. What I did the other day at La Fábrica is to explain that this world is an illusion, our creation, and the real world is another ones. I think I am me, and you are you, and he's him, but actually in the other world there is a unity. It’s like if there is a sun in a world, and in a second world there are many buckets of water, and the sun is reflected on them. We can believe that there are many suns, but it’s not. If all is lost it does not really lose anything, culture and knowledge have the ability to convey that idea, but …
ER – So, there are duplicated worlds?
MP – yes … There is a French scientist who speaks about the duplicated time. All elements in the universe is doubled. Even us.
ER – Then they do all the movements we do now?
MP not, because it is an immaterial double, a spiritual ones. But this man says that when we are born, until about 7 years, the process of entering in the culture is the process of separating yourself from your double. That is why children are very attached to their double. But that double is in a "place" where there is no time, time is everything. Children problematize cultural concepts, because they are constantly in the present. Anyway, what I want to say is that there is a physical demonstration that shows that this man is no other world , and that we are connected with it.
DS – and how is it possible, a place where there is no time?
MP – it’s not a place, it's like a no-time.
ER – I find it very interesting what you say about children: It’s hard to understand what the past and the future are for them, our present is conditioned by the future, and we build on the past our present. A child doesn’t have an idea about future because they live “here” and “now”. It takes time for them to understand those concepts.
MP – They understand it, but it's part of learning and culture.
ER – There is a book by Oliver Sacks called "I see a voice " which talks about the world of writing , sign language… He explains that it's more complicated to get on in the world for a deaf than for a blind , because a deaf doesn't understand time, past or future . He is isolated from birth , and this deficiency is not easily detected.
DS There aren't many ways to understand time if not through sound … But you can understand by touch , if you notice a breeze and then you feel it has stopped …
MP – Yes, but time is a very culturally abstraction, our civilization is one of the few that has built such a markedly linear time. You know what happened with that story about the end of the Mayan world , that was because their time was circular.
ER – Yes, cosmic spring.
MP . Sure, but then physically , from what I've read, is much more suitable the idea of circular time and organic than linear time , in which it seems that seconds are running down, like disappearing .
ER – That is much more stressful! Much more stressful than to think that you're going back to the beginning.
MP – But because you are in an organic thing, a cycle. We are so involved in linear time that we find it hard to understand …
ER – So Dani, this is fine for your scenario of a nuclear disaster, because we would always go back to the origin.
DS – Yes, in fact that is what I propose: it's all over after disaster, and the end is very similar to the origin of the history of art , some men leave a few traces in walls and that has to be interpreted.
ER – The point is that what remains in the history of art are big names. But then there are other names, which represent other layers of the known, with a lot of influence. For example, it is very likely that Biber clearly influenced other musicians who have been much better known than Biber. Yet he has remained hidden.
DS – I think the concept of avant-garde, which has always existed, has begun to be recognized in modernity, but before who was in the vanguard was considered as a madman.
MP – It also happens that we build upon a false idea of creation. For instance, when they tell you about the history of music, and you know Mozart, and then if you listen to 10 totally unknown musicians from Mozart's time, you wouldn't be able to distinguish between them . We think of individuality, but it was actually a group of artists working at the same time. Like Madonna , who will remain, but because Madonna manages to combine all the ideas and stereotypes of pop music, or Lady Gaga …
ER – Yes, Lady Gaga, for being so many times reproduced and copied.
MP – Yes, that affects a lot. Imagine two similar artists, if people copy and recreate mostly what one of them makes, that's the one that will live on.
DS – Yes, that's it, the most influential… the ones that leave a harder trace on his contemporaries are the most influential and therefore remaining more durably in history
MP – The ones that generate more dialogue.
DS – The best artist is the most copied. He generates more fascination, etc.
ER – And this object has a lot to do with this circular theory…
DS – That multiworld thing?
ER – Why did you bring it?
DS – Because I liked it , it seems very nice, it has many colors … And some colors are repeated … Look, here there's is a blue face … ah, all colors are repeated! I just realized !
MP -It's like the theory of the doubled world.
DS – It's true! Here there is a blue one and the other blue is on the opposite side! In the antipode!
MP – Reality is very multifaceted.
DS – Multifaceted and double, as you said. I brought it because it is more complex than the Rubik's Cube. I think the world has become more complex in such a way that I think this is a very interesting way of representing it. I believe, however, that the world after the apocalypse will be the opposite. I mind, simple and unique. It will be simplified in a radical way. The needs are going to lessen, they will be, again, the timeless main three needs.
ER – The timeless main three? Which ones are those? let's see, let's see! haha
DS – Haha, well, the most basic and vital human needs, which are food, shelter and reproduction, right? these three vital needs will be, again, the only important. Right now we are surrounded by an amount of needs that are very difficult to handle and satisfy.
ER – If you start again, you need a surplus to start creating culture, because the surplus gives you the time to recreate in some arts and crafts.
MP – However, it's odd how in prehistoric times, suddenly it seems neither logical nor necessary that somebody starts to make art. I think its meaning belongs precisely to the one is at that time recreating the world.
DS – I do believe that art is a necessity , not something that emerges with time surplus . Such is the precariousness of life in the prehistoric era , such its fragility that human beings need art and ritual to ally with nature, with animals, to survive. They are so overwhelmed by the world and its brutality, that they need magical assistance , because they can't do it on their own.
MP -That is the human circumstance, within such a hostile environment , the human feels unprotected , but what they did had was the magic connection, which provided them with a symbolic strength, which is the realization of protective energy . I think none of the theories I 've heard about the prehistoric organizations convinces me completely, because we are not able to fully understand the context in which these people developed their culture.
ER – When we talked about free time and surplus, I think these men had more time than we have, more contact with the community, they could be express some fears in a more calmed way, and some people like the shamans could be the channelers of these ideas, they could paint them . But culture as we understand it is much more sophisticated, is farther from this hunting rituals we talk about.
MP – Recently we were in Korea with a scholarship , and we contacted an art collector through a friend of a friend of ours. He invited us to his house, and he showed us a huge collection. He is a textile manufacturer, and he has built a couple of buildings to put his collection in. I wondered why this man spent part of his fortune in a Basquiat painting ? I get the feeling that there is something more powerful in those objects that merely cultural or mere speculation . He is not buying just value, he showed us the collection in a very personal way, he had a connection to the power that is transmitted through art, he wasn't interested just in the object.
ER – About contemporary art there are multiple profiles, right? There are many collectors who are moved by impulses. When he starts to accumulate a number of works, the collector must seek physical spaces. That's why I think in a dystopian future there would be more private stores than museums.
DS – Of course, that is already happening.
MP The idea of museum is very similar to the idea of an encyclopedia, but that has changed dramatically.
ER – That has changed, yes, now every museum box has its own readings and is aware of its own limitations and encourages them. That's what's interesting.
DS – It is also very nice, the idea of the museum as a teaching tool, I think that missing that purpose would be a shame. In a future where only the private survives, the educational use of museum would end.
MP – I think reality is more complex, if people start to appreciate other things, art objects will lose value.
ER – But that idea of cultural value, I think that for the contemporary art collector is very different than for the eighteenth century aristocrat. This sought to put his own filter to the interpretation of history but not only through art, but through many other cultural and scientific products . Collecting was much broader. The exploration boom led to make a kind of collecting that summarized in a more accurate way what was the reality around them, involving one's own experimentation. The idea of cultural collecting no longer exists, the contemporary art market is now very far from reality, it doesn't represent at all what is going on, it is not local, it doesn't represent what we are normally concerned about, and it's away from a shared taste.
MP – It turns out that in a museum, in Málaga, they found an ancient sculpture of a goddess, a pregnant woman, and the people from the village where they found it kept it at home.
ER They put it on top of the TV? hahaha
MP – Yes, and women went to visit is in the houses, because word got out that touching it was good for fertility, that it had power. And of course, now, also many people go to the museum to touch the sculpture.
ER – And how did they do? does a man with gloves hold the sculpture and people make a row to touch it?
The three of us laugh
ER – I think this story is wonderful. After so many years…
MP – Exactly, these figures were made with that idea.
ER – It is the world's oldest useful object, and it still works!
DS – Even if the information about the use of that piece may have been lost for a big period of time, when they find the piece again, its use is so contained in it that anyone can distinguish its utility , even a Martian would say, "if I touch this object can favor my fertility "
MP -But that use has been preserved because it appeared in a popular and everyday context, if they had take it directly to a museum, the custom of going to touch it would not have been generated.
ER – That object has been witness to the whole cultural development of civilization until today. It is still valid and active, it has been validated through oral transmission.
DS – It is so consistent that anyone who sees it can access to its meaning.
ER – I think our three objects lead us to this Venus.