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View from the project Blast Effects at Opening, Arco Madrid 2021

View from the project Blast Effects at Opening section, Arco Madrid 2021

encoder decoder (I), 2021 | 20 inkjet prints on cotton paper

enconder decoder (II), 2021 | 12 inkjet prints on cotton paper

If you get your information here, leave it here, 2021 | 3 inkjet prints on cotton paper

Blast Effects was presented at Opening / Arco Madrid (curated by Julia Morandeira Arrizabalaga and Ovul O. Durmusoglu, July 2021). The project started with an invitation made by Celina Brás, the director of the Contemporânea magazine. The proposal was to develop a visual essay that could reflect on some of the concerns of Harun Farocki’s work. Starting from the artist’s phrase “it’s impossible to either look or film directly into the sun” (affirmation which Farocki used to establish a parallel with the idealized products of mass culture and the different modes of manipulation of information), Blast Effects then follows its own direction. The images presented are stills from a 35mm film (already digitized) that records nuclear bombing trials. These tests were conducted by the U.S. Army in Nevada desert, with military on site and with numerous field simulations.

In encoder, decoder (2021) I made a montage with two types of stills existing in the film, all corresponding to an involuntary whitening of visual information, which is directly related to the various messages that we can read once seeing the original film, among them: “Talk means trouble don’t talk”, “If you wouldn’t tell don’t tell” or “If you get your information here leave it here”. During this recording, there are stills in which the image completely disappears, leaving only grainy patches of color. The color of the respective frames corresponds to the tones that the film achieves when exposed to radiation. I wanted to relate these stills with views of the desert that capture the explosions of the bombs, more specifically the flashes that make the screen image disappear turning it almost white (“it’s impossible to film directly into the sun”), or with the moments when the smoke from the bombs resembles clouds.

The three images that originate the series If you get your information here leave it here (2021) represent the limits of the censorship contained in these trials that took place in the desert, in secret. On the other hand, there was another aspect that I wanted to think about. When reading testimonies of citizens who watched the explosions from a distance without knowing what it was, I noticed that there was always a common denominator: everyone described the event as something of an immense and unparalleled beauty. I wanted somehow to ironize with beauty’s limits and its perversity.

All photos: Roberto Ruiz

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