TEXT (Indepth Review): POSTCAPITAL, by Raquel Herrera Ferrer

Read Spanish Version

For someone who was “born” in terms of cultural awareness long after The Wall fell (I still remember when the pop music magazine I used to read would distribute a “free piece of the wall” with an “authenticity certificate” among its readers), the feeling of visiting Postcapital exhibition, a physical and virtual project hosted by Palau de la Virreina (Barcelona, Spain) between April 12th and September 25th, is that of a Natural History Museum.

The postcapital concept has been developed by essayist and curator Iván de la Nuez to talk about the ensemble of phenomena regarding life after Communism and the decay of leftist ideologies that gave way to the omnipresence of Capitalism and its subsequent ravages.

Supported by de la Nuez’s theoretical framework (which includes not only a background statement but also a bibliographic section with contemporary books on social and political theory), artists Carlos Garaioca and Daniel García-Andújar present a variety of works, straddled between traditional “art installations” (sculptural or videographical pieces regarding concepts such as Left, Right, War or Markets), and a “browser bookmark aesthetic,” implying that all definitions of these “mummified concepts” come from the Wikipedia.

This sense is also enhanced by the presence of TTP (Technologies to the People) computers containing folders with all sorts of documents (texts, audio, images) related to the panoply of concepts presented at the exhibition (as an example, one can easily jump from an audio piece with a President Hugo Chavez’ speech to front covers of US newspapers on 9/11 events).

The Virreina exhibition is complemented by a website, www.postcapital.org, devoted to distribute information on “political parties, organisations and groups which consider themselves of the left-wing or have their origins on leftist movements”.

The website not only offers a list of these so-called left-oriented parties but also displays a list of Market news, Articles and Links on Web 2.0 (?!). The contents are gathered under categories such as activism, countries and regions, media, nationalism, political orientation, and theory.

My impression is that, regarding both the spatial exhibition and its online counterpart (and expecting Postcapital will be further developed on announced conferences and workshops), this project might be useful to students and scholars willing to get an overview of “what happened then”, long before everything was subsumed to our current “logical of capitalism”.

Thus, the “educational purpose” of Postcapital is to be taken into consideration, but it could also become its weakest point, since the rest of potential visitors to the exhibition might not be as enthralled with yet another “exhibition with a thesis” that in fact does not present any specific thesis. This sort of “Internet complex” is seemingly affecting many contemporary art exhibition proposals.

What I mean by “Internet complex” is the perception that many contemporary exhibitions appear to be indebted to the huge, wide array of contents available on the Internet, and therefore try to offer some kind of “total spectacle” by means of getting together installations, videos, computers, and books to be consulted on site.

A couple of days after I visited Postcapital, I attended the first session of Now, a series of new events on “Open science, Cybersphere, Eco Factor, Art Now, Psi particle, New activism and Emerging culture” at Barcelona’s Center of Contemporary Culture. I got the same feeling from the combination of conferences scheduled next to tables with books to read or computers with links projects to browse. These forced simultaneities made me wonder whether by “multimedia” some curators understand “the ability to open as many windows as possible at a time but not quite as much to look at any of them for more than a second”.

I still think it would be (at least ) easier to focus on some particular subject matter about the consequences of capitalism or the present derivations of technological culture. Otherwise, we could end up with lists of people, concepts and events that might have some interest for neophytes on social theory, but sadly might also add up to a “name-dropping” understatement of culture that overrules reflection on art and social and cultural issues.

http://www.bcn.es/virreinaexposicions/english/02060411.htm (eng)
http://www.postcapital.org/ (mostly esp, some parts in eng)
http://www.cccb.org/now/ang/index.htm (eng)