Buenos Aires Tour

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Artwork material

mass book

Artwork dimensions

height: 21cm
width: 15cm
depth: 6cm

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Accession method

Donated by Jorge Luis Macchi 2005

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Label text

The Short-Lived Gift of a World that is Rich and Flat

Jorge Luis Macchi produced a Buenos Aires tour guide together with two artists who are also from the same city: Edgardo Rudnitzky and María Negroni. According to the artist, it covers “eight itineraries that reproduce the net of lines drawn by the breaking of a pane of glass over a map of Buenos Aires. Forty-six spots have been chosen along the different lines”. The guide encompasses a map, a CD-ROM, photographs taken and objects collected by Macchi at these spots, as well as sounds recorded by Rudnitzky and texts written by Negroni.

Typically, city guides inform us about places worth seeing and suggest paths through the city worth taking. They direct our attention towards some things and away from others, and tell us how to makes sense of what we see. To borrow a notion from the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, they (re-)produce an order of the sensible: a hierarchical order of the parts that have a part, the parts that matter, that have a place and significance.

Macchi’s Buenos Aires Tour is an anti-guide. First, it challenges the dominance of the visual sense, as his guide includes found objects alongside recordings of fleeting sounds and written down thoughts provoked by chance encounters. Second, guides usually aim at reproducible experiences, whereas in the case of Macchi’s guide, already the attempt to repeat the tour seems pointless, given that it is the outcome of a random procedure (that is, we have no reason to favour his eight itineraries through the city over any others). Third, unlike ordinary guides, the contributions and choices of all three artists are so personal that they tell us as much about themselves as about Buenos Aires. But most importantly, by deliberately deploying a chance strategy, Macchi subverts the established order of the sensible and transforms Buenos Aires into an utopian place in which everything is, in principle, equal to everything else again (not in terms of characteristics but in terms of worth). The random procedure gives expression to a presumption of equality among all objects, sounds, sights and thoughts that together make up Buenos Aires. The (cracked) glass itself is therefore a metaphor of the dominant order of the sensible and its subversion. It is the hierarchical ordering that allows us to orient ourselves in the world as it creates things that have a place, a role, a relevance, a meaning. The world becomes sensible for us through this hierarchical ordering but this ordering itself remains most of the time invisible; unless, of course, we adopt a strategy that challenges the existing hierarchical ordering, like cracking a glass diverts our attention from what is behind the glass to the glass itself. Macchi reminds us that the world we take for granted is not just there, it is the effect of a hierarchical structuring. However, if we follow the cracks, we can encounter different things, sounds, sights and thoughts that are and make, as much as everything else, Buenos Aires.

(Text commissioned by ESCALA for the exhibition Connecting through Collecting: 20 Years of Art from Latin America at the University of Essex, 2014)

Jörg Schaub, 2014

This artist's book is part of a project carried out by Jorge Macchi with the participation of Berlin-based musician Edgardo Rudnitsky, and New York-based writer Maria Negroni. On collaborative journeys through the city of Buenos Aires Macchi collected objects and took photographs; Negroni recorded her impressions as text and Rudnitsky recorded his as sound. The project began with the breaking of a pane of glass placed over a plan of the city of Buenos Aires. Within Macchi's work, the deliberate fracturing of glass is a common device; it is an action within which notions of decision, accident, chance and consequence converge. In an interview conducted at the Espaciodistrito Cu4atro, Madrid, where the project was presented as an installation, Macchi described the process of its formation as follows:

'The broken glass was not entirely accidental; I chose to break and position it. What could not be predicted were the paths created by the fracture. These paths, emerging as chance, were made into permanent itineraries, they were made stable by a series of points, created by those street corners in Buenos Aires that corresponded to the path of each fracture. Previously, we knew nothing about these places, we did not know at all what we were going to encounter. There chance re-intervened.'

Macchi has placed this project in contradistinction to the purpose of the classic guidebook. Whereas city guides exist to document permanent structures, Macchi's publication instead serves to give permanence to aspects of the city that would typically be regarded as ephemeral, fleeting, subjective. For Macchi this tour of the city also captures a part of the history of each collaborator, it is connected to and created by their experiences, as he states: 'More than anything, it is a type of autobiography; this city is a mirror wherein the choice of a distinct object or sound will reflect each of us, via our preferences and through elements of our past.'

As, in turn, each viewer takes this tour it is read as a passage 'through the signs and traces that every man leaves in history.'

Jorge Macchi in conversation with Eugenio Castro, on the occasion of the opening of Buenos Aires Tour at Espaciodistrito Cu4atro, Madrid, 28.11.2003. Published online at www.ubicarte.com
Isobel Whitelegg

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