Documents In the Present From the Future Through the Past

The Oxford Dictionary defines documents as being “written or printed, to be used as a record or evidence.” Thus they can be used to prove that something has actually happened. Things can get complicated, though, if imagination attempts to document itself, or to document the future.
Artist and curator Esteban Álvarez’s Documentos hacia un Futuro Imperfecto (Documents Towards an Imperfect Future) gathers a group of works by Argentine and Colombian artists that reflect on the relationships between the past and the future, history and utopia, reality, durability and documentation. They mix ideas of the old with the new, of abstract materiality meeting patent illusions.
Immediately after the entrance, visitors willing to take a chance can tear off their own raffle ticket from a pad of them hanging on a wall. Instead of numbers, however, each perforated ticket offers the word “paciencia” (patience) hand-stamped on each one, suggesting that we’re all drawing lots for a future that never arrives, a prize that will never be awarded. Alejandra Urresti, the artist, intends to manually produce 312 identical pads, which means she has to stamp the same word 62,400 times.
“I will be someone who has patience, someone who knows how to wait,” she writes.
On another wall, an A3 inkjet print has been pasted casually like a notice left by the building’s administration. But it contains anything but a mundane text. Written by Adrián Villar Rojas, the note speculates that Steven Seagal probably feels bad for having massacred so many people in action movies. He goes on to suggest that Seagal’s victims could stay underground instead of facing him and therefore getting killed; they could construct their own parallel world and then, when Seagal is old and tired, they could emerge into their better society. The killer dies alone, “very much alone.”
Hanging diagonally from the ceiling, a rake menaces Nicolás Consuegra’s architectural lines of chalk on black paint covering two walls, across its verticals. Given a push, the tool might even scratch the walls and leave a mark. The lines of text refer to the political construction of the Colombian nation through laws and weapons in a clear counterpoint of blood and ideas, past and future, reality and thought: “Colombianos: las armas os han dado independencia, las leyes os darán libertad” (Colombians: weapons have given you independence; laws will give you freedom).


In the center of the hall stand three blackboards, the kind seen outside groceries or restaurants announcing the day’s special offers. On them, Pablo Rosales tells the story of a spiral sculpture by Brazilian landscape designer, Roberto Burle-Marx. The sculpture was Burle-Marx’s only work in Argentina but it was demolished during the Menemist era.


Rosales’ account becomes an allegory of how politics affects culture and a paradox about the distribution of urban space. Rosales tells how, later on, after the destruction of that sculpture, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano (MALBA) was founded on a neighboring lot. Additionally, his project posits the reconstruction of Burle-Marx’s work, perhaps in a different form, but on its original site, the Plaza República del Perú.

Similarly, Horacio Zabala proposes Cada día somos menos (There are less of us each day), another project dealing with the distribution and history of urban space. He wants to construct a site-specific monument consisting of a closed concrete square in the middle of Plaza de Mayo, Argentina’s symbol of open and popular demonstrations.

Reimagining space and geography can also trigger fictional flights, turning them into stories. Ícaro Zorbar’s low-tech but complicated-looking installation fills the room with music broadcast via a plastic cup attached to wires and sitting on a stack of vintage sci-fi novels and old copies of Popular Mechanics. (Don’t ask me how it works; it just does.)

On the other hand, the “navigated novel” of Alicia Herrero, titled El viaje revolucionario (The revolutionary trip), intends to turn into theater the travel diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara Lynch in order to explore and replay his steps through the inner South American continent. Her plan follows the line of rivers that passes by Leticia, Manaos and other ports until flowing into Tigre on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. This route fits Guevara’s statement about “the fiction of the uncertain and illusory nationalities of America.” Herrero opposes the geography of water and its navigation with the fiction of the nation-state.


All the documents in this exhibition demonstrate the power of ideas and fantasies to imagine themselves into facts, or “facts;” but also point out their fragility and instability and question the durability of “documents” as a concept.

The future imperfect doesn’t exist as a verb tense in the Spanish language, or in any known language. (It does, however, exist as the name of a Star Trek: TNG episode about an impossible faked future within another faked future all based on wish fulfillment culled from the past. – Rick)
In this calculated confusion, we are left with the paradoxical question: Can the future help the past?
Text and Photos by Gabriela Schevach
Documentos hacia un Futuro Imperfecto
Fondo Nacional de las Artes
Alsina 673, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Through November 15th.
Monday – Friday 10 AM – 4 PM

(Source: juanele)

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