Barcelona

Antoni Abad, Leido, 2005, video projection, color, sound, duration variable. From the series “canal*GITANO,” 2005.

Antoni Abad, Leido, 2005, video projection, color, sound, duration variable. From the series “canal*GITANO,” 2005.

Antoni Abad

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

Antoni Abad, Leido, 2005, video projection, color, sound, duration variable. From the series “canal*GITANO,” 2005.

Antoni Abad’s project megafone.net began in Mexico City in 2004 and thus far has encompassed a total of thirteen episodes in twelve cities. The procedure is the same each time: Members of a community misrepresented by stereotypes and subjected to discrimination are offered instruction in the use of mobile technologies; a sort of editorial board is organized to define the guidelines according to which members of the community provide content to an Internet site that represents them as they wish to be seen. The groups that have participated include Roma communities in Lleida and León, Spain; sex workers from Madrid; Saharan refugees in Algeria; disabled people in Barcelona, Geneva, and Montreal; immigrants in San José, Costa Rica, and New York; cab drivers in Mexico City; and motorcycle couriers in São Paulo. Whereas traditional media often exclude these socially marginalized groups, megaphone.net offers them a forum in which to exhibit their own collective self-portrait, one unencumbered by filters or intermediaries as they make their specific concerns visible.

This show displays some of the results of this ten-year journey. Due to the nature of the project, the exhibition is basically a place from which to make inquiries and, mostly, to consult the materials uploaded onto the Internet by means of this digital megaphone. Megafone.net does not take place in the museum itself, but in the explicit interaction between the Internet and public space. The act of recapitulating the initiative inside a museum is extremely important, however, precisely because of the light it sheds on the clash between the kind of cultural practice to which megafone.net aspires and that traditionally associated with the museum. For instance, despite the enormous effort that Abad has put into the task of preparing and launching each version of megaphone.net, the notion of authorship is radically displaced in this project. The artist is little more than a service provider and, primarily, a mediator practiced in siphoning funds initially intended for high culture to social scenarios on the periphery. This rechanneling of funds is highly political. Yet it becomes aesthetic as well when it captures resources conceived for more conventional ends and, above all, for a sort of productivity more in keeping with the expectations of technological capital.

Megafone.net also provides a way to examine some of the tensions that beset processes of emancipation in the framework of postmodern capitalism. One such tension is the awareness that though interconnected social networks and the sort of extended subjectivity they imply can help promote social transformation, they also form the basis for the production and consumption of capitalism’s new nonmaterial goods. From another perspective, communication via hypertexts—textual and visual materials interconnected in an interactive environment—both multiplies possible modes of sociability and intensifies the reigning delirium that is rapidly taking us toward a potentially irreversible disappearance of reality. While all of these tensions are at play within the megafone.net project, its underlying optimism is justified to the extent that each project is conceived in response to the needs of specific users in a specific place.

Martí Peran

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.