To enter the school of value – Leonardo Araujo Beserra, 2019
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Forjada e Outras Formas [Forged and Other Forms], at Portas Vilaseca Galeria.
It is certainly true that there is an abstract world, completely encrypted, which has been erected for over twenty years in the cracks, rifts and basements of the internet. A space populated by collaborations between individuals who are letters. Who are using immaterial objects to survive. Which, on this side of reality, are converted into quantitative and disqualified numbers.
The Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser used to say that numbers aren’t read (A Escrita – Há futuro para a escrita? [Does Writing Have a Future?], Annablume Publishing, 2010), that they don’t produce sound, that we only reproduce them in speech because of the need to make explicit the existence of the abstraction which in it represents the fragments of worlds.
In Há mundo por vir? Ensaios sobre os medos e os fins [The Ends of the World] (Cultura e Barbárie, 2014) by Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, a kind of anti-capitalist post-ecological philosophical manifesto, this numerical abstraction is expressed in cosmogonic myths that cut across the very representations of the world. It seems the authors go out of their way to show how loaded with beginnings we are. If, in mathematics, the 0 is the founding element of counting, in Greek mythology Gaia would be, to the authors, the very surface of the Earth, the fine line between air, sky; and lava, hell, according to a Christian perspective. However, we can only recognize the myths that establish humanity as a 0 in those peoples endowed with origins, better yet, with no Western references, since they precede the emergence of the Earth. It’s the specific case of Amerindian myths.
Start by imagining that one lives by way of fragments that connect to one another. These are the experiences. Impossible to be captured in a network, lived experiences are the tiny fragments of time and space that any singularity obtains throughout its lifetime. These fragments are impossible to account for.
This is the reading French psychologist Josep Rafanell i Orra offered of Danowski and Viveiros de Castro’s text when he wrote Fragmenter le Monde [Fragmenting the World] (Editions Divergences, 2018). In this article, Rafanell i Orra inverts the neoliberal equation of economic and political fragmentation to make an ode to what we hate about the existence of this world. We feel real horror towards separation and the isolation that political liberalism forces us to exercise more and more through its economy of forms of life. But the psychologist, using a kind of numerology without numbers, pulls us out of the history of Western thought to demonstrate that the abstracted worlds that we compose in the course of life do not produce sound, because so far we haven’t figured out how to place them in a network of meanings that make sense. This is why experiences, up to now, could only succumb to memories. But Rafanell proposes that the worlds that exist in each of them are always founding realities of being. This is how he believes in contributing to communities in process, those that we imagine every day, those that have already been exhaustively exercised in the Amerindian mythological practices of zerofied humans. They exist, but are not made visible.
Forjada e outras formas [Forged and Other Forms] is an abstract object that moves towards a pedagogy that is little explored today, that of uncontrolled economics, but not Ancap (the current anarcho-capitalism isn’t anarchist, let that be established here). The exhibition presents diverse fragments of inverted finance, less hard, malleable to a kind of piracy that doesn’t expropriate, but by itself creates the means to circulate invisible currencies, encrypted icons, obtuse signs, values through which life is qualified.
The first fragments of the exhibition I’d like to discuss here are the broken cell phone screens, presented just like the decoy displays used by repair shops for mobile devices on the sidewalks of Santa Efigênia (a central neighbourhood in the city of São Paulo). To understand this one needs only to walk around and observe these salespeople. What are they using as the support for these objects? How do they move around? What narrative do they produce when they approach the passersby?
Walking around ceaselessly, always in overlapping conversations which are constantly paused to call out to potential clients, these salespeople carry cardboard signs wrapped in thick tape that holds in place cell phone screens of different models and generations. In them we can recognize the abundance of objects; in us, the scarcity – we only have one cell phone in our pockets or bags. The same thing happens with Pedro Victor Brandão’s Sem Concerto [No Repair] series – there is, however, one difference: the cell phones in our pockets work and those presented to us by the artist are visibly broken. In this anti-logic lies the financial inversion of Forjada e Outras Formas. The logic of selling an ordinary object that is abundant, but as the abstraction of a practice common to appropriation, suggests the desire for the anti-functionality of art, for the contemporary relic, for the useless “mineral”. Isn’t that the way that, to this day, lands and peoples are exploited for the extraction of stones and precious metals all around the world? Even beyond the Earth, in the asteroids that revolve around the Sun, in Orion’s Belt, there are companies financially speculating on their exploitation.
In a simple and direct way, the exhibition begins with fragments that are often not that far from the usual modus operandi of the contemporary art apparatus. The Sem Conserto series makes it clear where Pedro Victor starts from. Even if his work tries to point towards other possible worlds (and this will happen here as well), it’s clear that this process must begin with what is known, what is considered normal in the medium: the readymade practice of reevaluating the meaning of things we make inhabit the world.
Forjada [Forged] introduces fragments that bring together, through photography, countless images of silver ornamental objects accumulated in a kind of Instagram grid made up of nine square frames. It’s possible to directly perceive what the artist intends: silver is an old type of financial accumulation, having served as a trading currency for families that, at some point, utilized their objects to qualify their wealth according to the quantity of metals they obtained. This used to be called bullionism, a practice ingrained in the mercantilist period of western civilization and its exploits of colonies. The artist once again confronts us with the contradiction of desire. Now, without a real object, he takes the first steps towards financial speculation, which he will reach for throughout the exhibition. In an image, beautiful because of the quality of its textures, in the depths created by the black and white shadows and illuminations in each piece of silver ornament, what Forjada protects is not only an explosion of the history of power in colonial society, but also a way of stoking the financial liquidity of a period that hasn’t left great economic legacies to the current generations.
Only after learning from Forjada that there is a huge amount of ornamental objects scattered around the world formed by ‘precious’ metals which no longer have the means to circulate as money, can one say that the fragments of the exhibition are constituted by means of a financial speculation proper to the art world, but which represent a very natural economic whole to the management of contemporary money. However, this is not yet the moment at which the leap towards a decentralized underworld of economic power occurs or is proposed.
As with any essay, it’s necessary to instill a moment of transition in the narrative, in which one gradually passes, in a kind of gradient, to what is evident, prominent in the discursiveness that is created along the reading of the narrative space. It’s like that in this text and in the exhibition that arises from it.
In the fragment Retornável [Returnable], the literal sense of the title is not replicated in the object. It contains, like notice boards with a keylock as one finds in condominiums and schools, as support and frame, an aged paper folder. On top of this folder, Pedro has handwritten the addresses of cryptocurrency wallets, one of which houses a non-fungible token emitted by the artist. On the other side of the papers are the private keys – successions of words – that unlock the wallets, however, these passwords are hidden by a silver sheet. Each one of the pieces in this series derives from a contract, not presented here, which starts a long-term capitalization process that establishes that the buyer of this fragment of the exhibition will allocate financial resources under artistic supervision.
The return on investment of the fragment isn’t exactly a common practice of collecting, even though nowadays there are still certain investors in contemporary art who mainly speculate on artists who are obviously rising in the market. What happens with Retornável is an immaterial investment that the buyer ends up making through a contract which follows an arrangement of co-ownership from the moment the object is purchased. Even if the buyer doesn’t want to invest, only having an interest in the material they acquired, part of their money will invariably replicate over time, in a financial abstraction created by the artist. In other words, the art object proposed by Pedro, in this case, goes beyond the limits of appropriation to also become a means of financially managing the life of the buyer, and even more so of the seller, who takes his capitalization percentage from the investment that was imposed on the purchase of the fragment, as he became the one who maintains the financial speculation.
This eco-economy proposed in Forjada e Outras Formas is what this essay has so far tried to make clear, although, like a point of light in the darkness, the ecology of abstraction is only a world-creating form of life, implicated in a network of obligations. It’s with this expertise in turning the desires of buyers into a means of financial survival for the sellers that a pedagogy of decentralized economy must be pointed out.
Room: test class
Well, only now, in this part of the text, we can grasp what’s intended: a flawed attempt at learning to manage experiences. Read ‘experiences’ as ‘numbers’, and ‘numbers’ as speculated money, and ‘speculated money’ as value. The value, from now on, isn’t a quantification. On the contrary, it’s a way of qualifying, because without its moral retaliations, it’s the means through which one can govern life in the current advanced stage of capitalism.
It’s not to say that knowing how to manage money is equal to generating the necessary autonomy for self-management. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t need money. What’s said here is: there is an abstract world, completely encrypted, which has been erected for over twenty years in the cracks, rifts and basements of the internet. And that this world must be, first of all, understood, for it’s the foundation of the worlds to come, and only after understanding it will it be possible to dominate it, in the sense of using it with sufficient skill to generate other possible worlds.
This is what is proposed by the Canadian sociologist Brian Massumi in his latest book, 99 Theses on the Revaluation of Value – A postcapitalist manifesto (University Of Minnesota Press, 2018). His idea is that individuals already fragmented around the planet become producers of abstract fragments. To make it possible that the misery of experience doesn’t spread further, turning those who are governed by the management of the stock exchange, banks, insurance companies and governments into potential hackers, artists and pirate speculators of a decentralized underworld, who on a daily basis generate real but immaterial worlds.
Imagine once more an encrypted investment bank that keeps its shares spread out among different individuals, who are letters in this underworld, that manage abstract experiences, cryptocurrencies, spelled numbers, money bet on a revolution that is taking place right now. Believe me, this already exists and is in full effect, but we don’t know how yet.
Think that right now, in those places where capitalism hasn’t yet fully established itself, in the East, the many groups that fight against terrorist institutions and dictatorial states are setting up a feminist self-government constituted by direct democracy, financed because many letters (individuals) bought numbers (tokens) that are managed in different speculative investments by other worlds that were created in its process. A world on the material plane, which is different from the world one encounters in the fragments of Forjada e Outras Formas and in this text, is in a state of emergency because various and different other immaterial worlds are linked to one another in a huge network of fragments, which sustains it on an imaginary plane and on the plane that circumscribes the phenomena of human nature. Perhaps this is Pedro Victor Brandão’s goal, to really contribute to communities in process, through the communization of the economy.
Leonardo Araujo Beserra
[Translation by Tanja Baudoin]