The Permanent Imminence of the Fatal
The question of fear is a gaudily well-trodden terrain. In the everyday we tend to relate it to our present condition and no doubt we say: we live in fear today. This is immediately followed by a consensus that fear is a phenomenon of our hyper-informed age. In this respect, the mass media plays a fundamental role at the service of power, for whom it is desirable to have a meek society, placated by a conspiracy of fears. It sounds coherent, but wasn’t fear widespread before the internet, before television, before radio and newspapers? It’s true that the presence of the media intimidates us, but what then can we think of the idea of God, dead today but nonetheless omnipresent? And what of that vast, overwhelming Nature before him? And as part of that, the Other, always lying in wait.
Fear has always been there, it isn’t something that is experienced in a given set of circumstances; fear is a constitutive part of what makes us living beings, part of our soul, as Aristotle would say. That’s why its administration is such an effective form of control. God has to be feared, the Bible says it literally, time and again. The insistence is such that no quotations are required. It is undeniable how this text, conveniently bastardized by all Judeo-Christian ideology, is today overwhelmingly in force. That obscurantist fear resonates effectively even in our postmodern arrogance. It maintains its strength as an ideological tool, it conditions with power our political future. God can punish the human; he will do so if the human does what he is capable of doing. In the human resides a great fear of the Other, because he knows first hand the danger that this means to him. Homo homini lupus. This is why he invents God, to subject himself to a higher power that controls his acts. But divine punishment does not always arrive on time, so an instrument of this world is necessary. We fear so much our neighbour that as well as creating a God—or, at least, the story of one—we create a powerful monster to whom we concede the authority to exert strength, a Leviathan to protect us from the Other, but which also controls us and subjects us in the exercise of an economy of our fears.
Nature, the Other, God, the State. How to flee from the fear (phobos) that we carry with in us. The perfect trap from which we can’t escape is part of our being. Perhaps the most we can do is become conscious of this circumstance, and from there, take decisions within the narrow margin of possibilities that we outline ourselves with the intention of not being totally subjected. This is what freedom is about. Art is not capable of transforming this reality, it cannot change the world, that’s what politics is for. What art can do is combine things innovatively, produce relationships and perspectives outside of dominant trends. The encounter with that different thing that is the work of art can arouse new reflections in the spectator that potentially lead to growth. In this sense the present exhibition, bringing together works that approach the question of fear from different angles, can be understood as a thinking tool to feed that conscience, to broaden the margins of action and increase our freedom in some way.
The exhibition is distributed over three spaces in the MUNTREF Contemporary Art Centre. In the first room are works by Chip Lord, Kamal Aljafari, Johan Grimonprez and Marco Pando. Most of these work with the film imaginary, retracing an artificial university that is confused with the reality we live in. The spectacle, designer of illusions and fears, is reinterpreted by sensitive, critical perceptions. A watchful perspective also appears, akin to the point of view of security cameras, that is to be found at the opposite extreme to classic film diegesis. As a counterpart to the fiction transmitted, these contemplative images tremble with anguish and anxiety over the passivity that forms them. How could nothing happen?
In the central corridor, connecting the first room with the second, ten flat screens are lined up, containing a series of video works produced by the UNTREF. On the fortieth anniversary of the last civic-military coup, these are pieces tackle different issues raised by the dictatorship and state terrorism. These works are the continuation of an exhibition that CONTINENTE organized ten years ago with the title Exercises in Memory—Reflections on the horror 30 years after the coup. For this new edition a group of artists were invited to work with audiovisual media from a wide variety of diverse perspectives, and asked to make a four-minute video. They are Hernán Khourián, Carlos Trilnick, Juan Sorrentino, Jonathan Perel, Martín Mórtola Oesterheld, Ignacio Liang, Ana Gallardo, Christian Delgado with Nicolás Testoni, Gustavo Fontán and Magdalena Cernadas.
A sequence of fears pertaining to modernity itself is intertwined in the second room. The works of Orit Ben-Shitrit, Natacha Nisic, Luiz Roque, Dor Guez and Valérie Jouve are laid out as a chorus that outlines variable connections between everyday insecurity and the atomic catastrophe; the hegemonic nature of the State and the destabilizing power of finances; the personal journey and war.