Statement (PL August 2010)
text of Valeria González for the book IN SEARCH THE LOST SENSE papers editores (2010)
Daniel Quiles on The Chosen instrument II in Beginning with a Bang! Americas Society New York (2007)
a letter to Emma Dexter about COGHLAN show at Juana de Arco (2006) by Patricio Larrrambebere.
The ABTE temporary headquarters MAMBA 2002/03 (PL 2002)
The very substance of memory. by Beatriz Vignoli. Buenos Aires Herald, January 14th, 1994.
Rétournement: ABTE’s Railway Interventions Daniel R. Quiles
ABTE: Fifteen Years on the Rails Daniel R. Quiles
In the film Scarface, the exclamation point to Tony Montana’s rise to the top of Miami’s cocaine underworld consists of a Pan American World Airlines blimp sailing by with an LCD version of the slogan “The World Is Yours.” In the final shot of the film, the message reappears, this time on a garish statue in Montana’s mansion after he has been killed and his world destroyed. This malleability of “Pan Am’s” anachronistic optimism for either sincerity or irony is played out to brilliant effect in Patricio Larrambebere’s the chosen instrument II, an installation and performance most recently staged at the show Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy: A Selection of Argentine Contemporary Art 1960-2007, at the Americas Society in New York. The work’s interactive dimension comprises the sale of Pan Am tickets to the moon—one can choose, in accordance with the original Pan Am options, from First, Clipper, or Coach Class—and in the performance Larrambebere, who has in previous works collected and reprinted tickets for Buenos Aires colectivos, or public buses, appeared in authentic costume as a Pam Am employee, selling tickets from a dispenser attached to his waist. The installation consisted of a video of the tickets being produced (with a machine that normally prints colectivo tickets), original plates for the tickets, and a desk featuring an absurdly comprehensive archive of paraphernalia from the now-defunct airline, which folded in 1991, including luggage tags (with mind-boggling destinations printed on each—at its peak the airline navigated much of the developing world), correspondence, promotional materials. If asked, the artist would unveil yet more of his treasure trove, lurking in a locked, authentic Pan Am suitcase. Here one could read bizarre original letters sent to preferred customers offering random and hilariously good-natured litanies of facts about upcoming destinations.
What manner of airline was Pan Am? Certainly not one that persists in any recognizable form today. Although the company was initiated in 1927, it made its reputation as the ultimate repository of internationalist hopes during the Cold War—the very possibility of mobility between countries being the ultimate sign of harmony. Indeed, the company rose and fell on this reputation, as it became a convenient locus for terrorist activity in the 1970s and 1980s (the Tenerife disaster in 1977, the Karachi hijacking in 1986, and the Lockerbie detonation in 1988 being only a few). In 1990, the first Gulf War put an end to many of Pan Am’s audacious routes through developing nations, sending the company into bankruptcy by 1991. Yet it is precisely because of this history that Larrambebere’s project is not just humorous and clever, but revelatory. He has chosen the ideal exhibition context for the work in the Americas Society, formerly the Center for Inter-American Relations, itself a relic of certain business-inflected tendencies of the Cold War that are now all but forgotten. Based on an actual 1968 promotion in which Pan Am sold preemptory flights to the moon, the artist has chosen the apotheosis of the airline’s cheery rhetoric that all conflicts could be overcome, all borders transcended, by the sheer potentiality of technology (and entrepreneurial prowess). That is, by modernity itself. It is true that the airline linked this bizarre campaign with the United States’ efforts to reach the moon in that year in one of the paradigms of its rivalry with the Soviet Union. But the implication of Pan Am’s tickets is that this service will soon be available to all who have the means; business trumps nationalism. Yes, this logic has now been perverted to justify the worst excesses of globalization, but in this earlier moment it might be read as the subtlest subversion of American bellicosity.
In the larger context of contemporary art, Larrambebere’s work might answer Hal Foster’s dictum that future art might embody a mode of “living on” after the many deaths of modernism and modernity alike. This prescription for neverending melancholia, however, does not fully account for the possibilities that emerge when one dredges up true relics from the past and, in the most ideal cases, pinpoints energies and desires that history left unfulfilled. Modernity is not only the most severe triumphs and disasters of technology and mass society, but also those projects in between, not only utopia or dystopia but also eutopia—realizable aims. Not the salvation of all mankind, but the touching naïveté of good-natured, respectful, humble business-speak; not the stark oppositions of the Cold War but sincere fascination with far-flung areas of the world which were at that moment undertaking independence. In the case of the Center for Inter-American Relations, the Alliance for Progress, and many other such “outreach” programs inextricable from the darker projects of the CIA during the Cold War, this utopian rhetoric produced understandable skepticism—“if you actually believe this, I’ve got a ticket to the moon to sell you”—and yet uncovering Pan Am’s unique and quirky corner of modernity yields an excess of hope that could not be assimilated by opportunism and catastrophe. Larrambebere’s collection of materials thus is not so much an archive, but a dossier of evidence.