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The enacting of the public (from performativity to emancipation) in Alicia Herrero's 'Public Considerations'
by Teresa Riccardi

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This 'credible' practice of the symposium conversations suggests a modification with respect to the subjective canon of the melancholy political gaze, or the purely vanguardist affirmitivity. It authorizes the 'public word' as a place of punctuation and checks, of critical, current and contemporary pauses and poses. They are institutionalized, to be copied in the event, on the podium, and as such to dilute in the present the frontiers between fiction and reality, demonstrating the artifice necessary for the creation of specialist discourses on knowledge and, therefore, on art. In this indirect performance, 'the public' is that which is spoken without words but is acted through gesture, that which is sustained as indefinite whilst it is acted and spoken, that which rhetoric does not explain but which it underlies. In other words, it is that around which the spectator's comprehension gathers, in the attempt to elaborate discourse, dissent or emancipation.


Yet how do we speak without words? How do we speak without fear of saying the truth? Could it be that both the public and memory talk through our figurations? Could it be that in Foucault's mechanisms, the possible lines of argument are to be found in the figures of subjectivity and the acts of speech? What is it that makes it possible to see and hear voices that talk frankly and without fear about 'the public'? It is now almost three decades since Foucault reinstated this attribute to the Greek term Parrhesias(8), and its particularities of use in the crisis of the democratic institutions of Athens. Herrero's work Links (2006)(9), in as much as it is one of the possible forms in the 'technologies of self', paraphrases the French philosopher, challenging the genealogies of this discourse in a context linked to the technologies and new media in the Argentine artistic field. This has perhaps been one of the few attempts in art that have considered the performativity of the acts of speech as a subject tied between economy, legality and politics that involve forms of speaking and talking in democracy, even beyond the media artefacts.

If it has been the (in)disciplined practices that in the past have exhibited the contradictions that exist in the rhetoric of liberty, perhaps they have done this less through the formal creation of constituent projectual devices and transvestite mechanisms, where the canon or rule of play makes conscious the act of speaking and its legality with respect to the body and the word. Or, as in these cases, it is staged, making the structure of 'how one speaks when one speaks' transparent once again.

In this way, the predecessor of the speculation(10) of conversational typologies explored by Public Considerations can be found in Links. Here, two naked women are shown taking the floor, reciting passages from Foucault's 1983 lectures in Berkeley University, California. It is not by chance that the lectures given by the French philosopher analyse the Greek term parrhesias. Here the term is understood not only as the inalienable right to free expression, it is revised through the uses and leanings of political philosophy towards the terrain of subjectivity and the personal, the relations with oneself and with others and fundamentally with the idea of 'taking care of oneself'. Foucault maintains that free talk, even in the sense of 'chattering', would to Plato be equivalent to acting freely, or freely saying anything that one has in mind, without making a judgement value or qualification. This, for the old Republic, was not a good example of constitutional democracy. From another perspective, as for Demóstenes, it is equivalent to a life-style or personal mannerism, although the author also explains that talking is a personal quality of the sovereign (that which, with the investiture of the State, manages to subjugate and control the bodies of the city-states). In this context, Foucault understands the act of parrhesias as the situation in which any citizen who asks for the floor and is granted it, can -and is in his right to- express his 'countercultural speech' against the biopower. This is a term that was actualized in the cultural field, particularly in the context of Argentina during the insurrectional crisis of 2001, in the recent writings of Giorgio Agamben, Paolo Virno, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and certain collectives of Argentine political practice. Nevertheless these revisions perhaps avoid the primary relationship between the biopower and Foucault's sexual twist, coinciding the appearance of the concept of the first volume of 'The History of Sexuality'. Rather they perhaps take as understood the (non)discourse of the Subjects and their sexual histories, to articulate other meanings in a new political frame. Recent readings and ontologies, when added to the established constitution of legalities, constitute new bases for the history of the diversity of sexuality in Argentina. Here, subjectivities (such as those found in the base of the Foucauldian performativity) are strengthened and their differences in their typologies made visible. Although considering local activisms, the conception of multiplicity and experiences situated outside of the known borrowings and dependencies.

Returning to Herrero, in one way or another, the artist considers the naked life of the women that pronounce themselves in front of the public institution. Silences and pauses make up a new place of enunciation, like the social spaces that dwell in institutions and subvert the formal structures of power. The bodies that imitate the speech and the discourse of the other, put into play the consideration that constitutes them, without understanding it as a synonym for that which regulates them. They are –on the contrary– linguistic competencies or unrestricted talk, that which guarantees the channel of knowledge of the rules governing that gesture's performativity, or perhaps its synonym, that which constitutes the subjective markers in the speech act.

Public Considerations, through a flexible and paratactical mechanism conformed of various represented sectors, interposes an instance that goes from where some speak and others listen to the possibility of total alteration (where all speak and all listen). All of them are articulated from the construction of a community that organizes itself amongst equals. In this way, the voices are orchestrated with a theatricality that appears in the forum. The forms of democracy - the biopower and the countercultural expressions - are in a way emulated from an institutionalization that constitutes them and also from the dissents that emancipate them.


If it is possible for artists to dislocate the classic roles and discourses produced by the cultural field in its institutional form (whether, through parody, to destabilize the mimicry of the market or to explain the camouflage that permits the survival of autonomy) the performativity enacted and dramatized by Alicia Herrero in her capacity for self-alteration(11), is that which makes Public Considerations an insubordinate speech-act in opposition to cultural structures and policies. It is not so much because she seeks to denounce injustice or represent the prohibited through a dramatic act, but rather that her act reveals the rhetoric naturalized in the gestures that through social rituals govern and structure the everyday. When we speak or use language to communicate, the words are articulated from the speaker, whose act/action organizes them and gives them meaning, whether this be that of an announcement, an argument, a dialogue or even a gesture. These form the acts of speaking, or speech acts, of which there are the highly regulated (greetings or other forms of courtesy) and the less regulated, such as misunderstandings, cultural significances that impose themselves, genr

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