by Eugenio Salas
At the first stages of this project, one of the primary ideas occurred to us as departure point was inviting artists who share a dual nationality, since having two residencies is a very current reality of our times in which we, e-fagia members, are also included. Having two residencies implies the idea of crossing a border. Which inevitably signifies a reconfiguration of perceptions, values and ways to see and represent the world. Hence, there is a co-existence of two realities that in some cases are analogous but in some others are conflicting.
Furthermore, extending these concepts into a larger definition, we began looking for connections with the number two and its subsequent metaphorical representations. We were inspired by the dynamics that result after having two ends and a flexible middle point, not only a place from which these two entities can be perceived but an element that adds tension due to the pole’s magnetic attraction/repulsion characteristic.
Although this idea is applicable to the experience of living in the Diaspora, we really wanted to go far beyond it. Consequently, from a very specific fact, dual nationality, shared among the participants, we came to a broader concept based on perceiving all the elements in play -such as artists, art projects, curators and galleries- coexisting all together as part of a bigger equation.
Therefore, this exercise of abstraction broadened the scope of our survey offering
a universe of possibilities. Inspired by multiple manifestations of the binary form in other disciplines, we adopted the mathematic approach that conceives this type of relation as an arbitrary association of elements within a set. However, in the process of putting the pieces of this “puzzle” together we let the artwork speak for itself and respond to the binary context resulting in multiple relational or complementary associations.
Embarked in this binary exercise and aiming to explore as many possible ways to interpret the work and deal with current contextual issues, we found relevant to address the binary relation between the French and English Canada inviting Agence TOPO, a non-for-profit electronic and media based group from Montreal, Quebec, whose project Mes Contacts/My Contacts uses the internet to deal with the intersection between self-narratives and double personalities raising questions between real vs. fiction. By stretching the initial concept of dual nationality and dealing with a double identity, Mes Contacts/My Contacts touches on the self-narratives on the Net raising questions between real vs. fiction. “(Participant) artists have developed fictitious identities in their practices to create works where these probable identities could spread. The Net surfers will be invited to discover them, to witness fragments of their life and to enter in relation to a context where a certain doubt might arise as per the existence of the characters”.i
Moreover, another consideration that we took into account was the fact that, being a media and electronic art collective, our driving force was the digital world and its straight connection with the computer science field, especially in telecommunications, in which the binary relations are heavily employed using coded data representing text or computer processor instructions with a two-digit number system also called binary code. “In order to use digital transmission… the analog signals that make up audio and visuals must be subjected to a process of analog-to-digital conversion”.ii “Digitizing reality” and compiling oral stories from the neighbors that document the “the oldest “Little India” neighborhood in North America”iii, web-based project Little India deals not only with the dual co-existence between analog vs. digital, but also with the variables between foreign vs. local. A trace of these narratives can be either accessed from the streets using mobile phones or navigating on the Internet.
Other works explore these binary associations in both the form and the concept. In the case of Start Dreaming by Esrah Erfaninan, the dual-screen projection installation resembles the binary fission phenomena in which a natural organism reproduces itself “…by a separation of the body into two new bodies. In the process of binary fission, an organism duplicates its genetic material… and then divides into two parts”.iv Furthermore, Start Dreaming presents images of housing projects in suburbia that, primarly, document the homogeneous face of Capitalism. Built alternating two layouts, these row houses’ structure also remind the binary form in the pattern of much of the instrumental music that predominated in the 17th to the 19th century which feature two complementary, related sections of more or less equal duration.vUsing similar narratives and referencing classic films, Theo Pelmus and Ulysses Castellanos offer a complementary exploration of the self; on one hand, Theo Pelmus’s The Fall Sweet Art Transformative Performance deals with the constant construction and deconstruction of identity exploring formal dichotomies (such as analog vs. digital and organic vs. artificial) and making a statement emphasizing the uses of all senses for its reception. On the other hand, Ulysses Castellanos’s Superexorcist examines the metaphysical aspect of the self in a continuous dilemma between good vs. evil and faith vs. loss of it. Both artists conjure their sets of binaries that eventually collapse into live performances.
As previously mentioned before, binary connections take place in multiple ways relationally or correspondently. In the case of Lidia Leon’s My bodies: My soul and Jorge Lozano’s Eye Function, the subject becomes the intersection point in which they establish a dialogue reflecting upon the constructed image and its consumption in our current society. For example, in My bodies: My soul, Lidia Leon’s photographic representations contradict the standard family portraits celebrating an important joyful occasion. Her pictures, on the contrary, are raw portrayals of her family members exposing their naked bodies in front of the camera commemorating their lives in the exile. Hence, these revealing and intimate depictions of nakedness challenge the photographic medium and demystify the “naiveness” of family portraits. Jorge Lozano’s piece also contributes to the reflection on the (de)construction of reality, exposing the visual narratives employed in amateur videos, and exploring the connection between War and moving images, particularly Film. Images of a murder by ‘sicarios’, that presumably recorded the scene with a mobile phone in Colombia are contrasted with an also amateur video –available in YouTube- of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan imposing the Western colonial rule by teaching local children English vocabulary. Both videos question social perceptions and stereotypical tales about what a violent act entails.
i Tremblay, Élène. In: Mes contacts/my contacts http://www.agencetopo.qc.ca/contacts/info_en.html Retrieved February 10th 2009
ii Encyclopedia Britanica Online Library Edition: http://library.eb.com/eb/article-9001602 Retrieved February 10th 2009.
iii SAVAC. In: Big Stories Little India>About the project. http://www.savac.net/littleindia/1024/aboutproject.html Retrieved February 10, 2009
iv Binary Fission. Encyclopedia Britanica Online Library Edition: http://library.eb.com/eb/article-9034410 Retrieved February 10th 2009
v Binary Form. Encyclopedia Britanica Online Library Edition: http://library.eb.com/eb/article-9079219 Retrieved February 10th 2009