private: balance
site-specific installation
Installation developed for the Las salitas space at Fundación OSDE. The association between Buenos Aires´ most traditional banks and neo-classical architecture serves as a backdrop. Two related installations are elaborated in two interconnected rooms: in the first space there are three terminals reminiscent of automatic cash machines while the second space is set up as if an inner office storeroom, lit by the flickering flames of a fire.
private: balance
Fundación OSDE, Buenos Aires
Las Salitas
Privado: Balance (Private: Balance)
A woman's hand rises gracefully to lay a recently removed garment over the edge of a privacy screen, closely followed by an observer's rapt gaze. The agreement between the two is as thin as paper, but as firm as the minimal architecture that keeps the screen in place. What is kept private has always been the result of negotiation.
We own nothing at birth, except for our secrets. Even the most trifling of these belongs to us in exclusivity until the moment we decide to give it up, expose it or use it for leverage or bargaining. In the West, privacy is usually referred to as a right, a long-standing accord that affirms that certain personal information may be kept from the prying eyes of others. This right, however, like so many others, has been imperceptibly transformed into a privilege.
Like a slow drip that can sooner or later leave even a tank of huge dimensions empty, small personal details are silently extracted from us, in such tiny quantities that it goes entirely unnoticed. When we finally manage to detect the loss, we find ourselves with a balance irremediably in red.
Where does each of these escaped, lost, kidnapped drops scurry off to? Might they have the same destiny as all those tenths of a cent that always wind up in someone else's favor? Or do they congregate somehow like so many drops of mercury that come together on their own, answering the call of some strange gravitational force, with no visible herding hand?
The largest reserve of privacy is to be found in the company of all the other assets of any value, in small, medium and large metal boxes kept under multiple locks and keys in the real and virtual viscera of big banks. There, a vast reservoir of the right to maintain secrets as such is preserved, protected against the wavering wills of those who might purport to parade them in broad daylight, safeguarded inside vaults as infallible as a vampire's crypt.
Secrecy constitutes paradise in the here and now for those who gain access to the privilege. For all the rest, there is training-unhurried, unceasing, ruthless and implacable-that accustoms them to voluntarily handing over that which pertains to them. Institutions bamboozle us with passwords, code words and secret questions to disguise the free access to-and remote control over-our most private information that they enjoy. They speak to us in an unintelligible Latin, the language of law. They urge us to have a ball documenting and publishing every moment of every day, without leaving even the most insignificant thought, desire or emotion aside, as fleeting as they may be. Every drop counts.
Is there some universal law of the conservation of privacy that exists, like there is for energy or matter? Or is it a case of infinite consumption, like vampires, who need regular doses of others' blood to sustain their deathly lives?
No matter how deeply buried, as long as any possibility exists that what is secret might somehow come to light, there is a chink in the armor, and the privilege is an imperfect one. The ultimate guarantee lies in the power to, when the moment arises, make the thing disappear completely, like an elephant in the hands of Houdini. Maximum security can only be found in the flames of definitive destruction.
It is likely that even universal laws have their fine print, but that doesn't mean that equilibrium is entirely absent. In order for Paradise to exist, fire must also exist. Every step we cede means a corresponding advance from the other side, every tiny item we let go of falls into the hands of someone. Every deposit in the paradise of privacy was withdrawn from someone, somewhere else, at some time.
Tamara Stuby
Technical info:
Room 1
Three privacy screens: strips of paper from a document shredder, wood frames.
Three self-service terminals: wood,clear PVC and fishing line. (Warning: the optical effect generated by the sliding bar can be hypnotizing and/or addictive.)
The printed patterns used in all cases come from the "security" envelopes banks use for their mailings.
Room 2
Fire: light, air and silk.
One fireplace screen: newspapers cut in strips and censored (the old-fashioned way, with black tape).
Metal filing cabinets, cardboard document boxes.
Wooden desk with Minutes Book (bound shut with black band) and confidential envelopes with windows that show what is inside.
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