Por KEITH SANBORN
Catalogo de Nam June Paik Award. 2006
«Not everyone wants to enter a cave; you never know what might be inside.»
-Mohamed Chukri in Toni Serra’s Perro Corazón
«Istishara» in Arabic means to seek advice. In Toni Serra’s Istishara, people recount their dreams to understand, to confront the dead, to gain access to the deeper reality of the imaginary city below the streets of their city. Borgesian labyrinths appear, but instead of surveying the literary dimensions of a disabused orientalist prison, we cross real, numberless boundaries to enter a fearful, tender space. Divisions dissolve: East:West, dream:reality, self:other, life:death, human:divine. Ideas, impressions, insights migrate across languages and cultures. In Plato’s cave, contrived mysteries reveal the logic of power to a ruling elite; in Serra’s, we traverse obscure interiors, full of dangers from madness to death, on a path to apprehending, as a Sufi might, the many and the One. We learn to read the signs and their flickering transformations for ourselves; our guide offers clues: sounds and images echoing
from other worlds.
Serra’s work appears to divide in two: the personal «documentaries» in Morocco-such as
Istishara-and the vast, collaborative Archives of Babylon, tracking the Universal Technological American State. In the latter, each dream and conscious imagining is devoted to electronics and warfare: video games to television, corporate advertising to military propaganda. In the information age, the artist has become an archivist, and vice versa. But to grasp Serra’s larger project, we must surpass Borgesian catalogic ironies, approach the rigorous personal sociology of Benjamin’s Passagenwerk and inhabit he implacable, blasted logic of Debord’s final interventions where deft citation suffices to disclose spectacular mechanisms of control.
Debord tells us that the spectacle is not a collection of images, but a relationship among people, mediated by images. Serra’s work explores that relationship through images the Empire would impose and those rising up in dreams, in response to that attempted colonization. Serra’s project is anti-colonialist, but from the position of a subject neither subaltern nor master, but a constant traveler between worlds, a stateless shape-shifter, at home in the dark with as many names as identities: Toni Serra, Abu Ali, Pierre Gambarotta, OVNI sister. Each is a heteronymn of
the others; each creates new situations; each rings new dikhrs: remembrances which are and invoke the light.