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Projects/2001/4._Deseo (I wish)
View the making-of video (9.8 MB)

Details: Public art intervention in the city of Barcelona, from 12 March to 8 April of 2001.
By Consol Rodríguez & Eugeni Güell

The intervention
Deseo (I wish) was an intervention in the city of Barcelona. In it, using the strategies of the advertising industry, 140 images appeared in the urban landscape on different publicity supports: hoardings, posters, shop windows, buses, television channels, telephone boxes, the metro system and other spaces.
The images, featured portraits of citizens chosen at random in the street, along with their wish, as expressed by the subjects themselves.
Two plans, one in the Palau de la Virreina and the other in La Capella, provided a cartography of wish/desire in the city.

The exhibition

Deseo (I wish). An exhibition documented both the year-long process of carrying out this project and the results. In a sense, visitors could follow the route which formed the origin of the intervention in the city streets. This was the artists’ visual archive, a work present and absent, finished and unfinished, visible and invisible at the same time. A set of images, notes, film footage and texts went to describe the contacts with the citizens and their interest or difficulties in expressing their wishes or desires. The exhibition in La Capella formed a meeting-point for viewers, citizens and the creators of the project

Deseo... one year afterwards, text by Consol Rodríguez for La Capella. Temporada 2001. Institut de Cultura Ajuntament de Barcelona; Barcelona, 2002

Deseo (I wish) was an intervention that ran in the city of Barcelona from 12 March to 8 April 2001.
Mimicking advertising strategies, 140 images were distributed around the urban landscape on various public advertising supports, phone boxes, façades, billboards in the Metro, banners, shop window displays and videos broadcast by BTV and Canal Metro.
Each image included the portrait of a citizen chosen at random on the street, and placed within the image was a desire expressed by that selfsame person.
The entire working process during the year leading up to the intervention was presented at La Capella.
The exhibition at La Capella began with interviews conducted over the course of a year with the 140 people from various parts of the city who wanted to collaborate with the project. These 140 people –not a person more, not a person less– were amongst the 1.000 we tried to establish contact with during the year and who were asked to express one of their wishes. The 140 photographic images and videos that were used as the basis for drawing up the advertisements for Deseo also came from these casual encounters.
Deseo came into being, thus, as an invitation to the observer, the citizen, to fulfill part of a role –that of the artist who produces and makes decisions concerning her/ his work– and to occupy a space –that o f the communication channels, which are normally controlled by a dominant class who, by means of the advertising message, seek to impose their ideology on other individuals , who gradually adapt and submit to the point where they lose their critical capacity to judge or their ability and freedom to react.
The role that art once had of contributing with images and representation towards the construction of the symbols of the community is now being fulfilled by the modern media, from photographs to films, videos and television. Advertising and its artificial world wield an increasingly effective force in this sphere of creating the symbols of a specific reality. In this context, Deseo reinhabited for a few days this world of representations conceived as a visual archive in which individuality in the face of the collective was reflected in order to offer a space to the self.
The project aimed to serve as a mirror of a specific moment in a specific place, and a mirror always reflects what is outside, what appears before it. It is at this moment that one must look, and know how to look, and reflect on what might be on the other side of the mirror, on what is not being said and on what is not being shown and why. Behind what learnt behaviour patterns does our true desire lie hidden, the desire we cannot or will not express? How far does the mask that protects us day in day out go? And what are we protecting ourselves from? What is it that we fear to say, to expose to the gaze of others?
I am sure that those who see this body of messages that we managed to gather in the first phase of the project will be surprised and dumbfounded, just as we were. Even before we began, we were curious as to what kind of portrait of the city we would come up with based on people interested in collaborating with our project. It could be deduced, from a quick glance at the list of desires, that many of the people interviewed had learnt the "appropriate" response, the one that had to be given, the politically correct answer that we all have been taught since school to express. Evidently, we were and we remain aware of the fact that we have lived and still live in a society in which distortions of desire are generating serious problems such as an addiction to gambling, compulsive shopping, eating disorders and anguish over appearance; we are conscious that the public has been trained to feign a perfectly banal desire in order to slip through the analyses of social studies.
Here is one of the points behind which the essence of this project of a portrait of the city was hiding, an essence that we made public through this intervention on the streets.
As always, however, it is not possible to generalise. How, to mention but three examples, should we respond to desires such as "I want my wife to die before I do" or "I hope my eye operation is a success" or "I wish the mayor would remember all to hose promises he made"? And what about the spontaneous, sometimes uncontrolled, desires of children?
We might ask ourselves now, a year after the event, what would happen if we invited the same people who took part in the first project to formulate a new desire; or what would happen if the project was to be run in the same manner but in a city that is very different, for example Bogotá.
Deseo was not, however, a direct social action project. We were interested in quite the opposite, a concept that involved no "violence", we were interested in indirect action –however contradictory the combination of these two terms might sound– and solely to point in this manner to the channels of communication used by the systems of power to impose a particular order on the public space and to control individuals and society as a whole.
At the same time, we invited other people to exercise their right to free expression through us. However, our aim was solely to indicate this: it was not our intention to legitimise our artistic activity as social or political action, nor to "show" the world how to read the city, nor to give the impression that we were so aware that the only way open to us was to criticise or accuse. We did not seek to denounce, to make explicit, to single out or revisit some of the aspects of our society; we did not want to set ourselves up in a position from which we could then condescend. Art should not be devoted to stirring up revolution; the revolution is everywhere, in every small gesture we make in our day-to-day lives –though the artist's gesture is another of these gestures– and in the desire we all fall for change.
We gathered together images and words and made them public in the form of this invitation, which Deseo was intended to be. It was these wishes, sometimes timid, of the people who collaborated in the project, together with the rest of the intervention scattered around the city, that drew up the final portrait composed of fragments of a specific reality, of a time and place. Deseo was a reflection of and on the complexity of the everyday gaze.
The vision that can be arrived at through art is complex. Do we really want definitive answers? Even if someone were to declare that humans are eternal, the problem would remain the same, the problem of current relationships, of the here and now. There is no certainty that is interesting in an absolute sense. Along these lines, Deseo did not put forward a message but raised a problem and a question. Each of us was expected to supply our own answer, and each beholder should later draw their own conclusion. Behind the white background of the images, we might perhaps still be able to make out colours that would make our hair stand on end.