Virtual murders at the Havana Biennial

/ 19 May, 2015

His work is called “Gamers O.K.” , and with it the artist imagines thousands of bullets constantly passing through the walls of the city; an eight-digit number increasing on a large screen located in Casablanca Park. Some have warned him that viewers will need more data to understand it, but that does not bother Mauricio Abad but to make public that “in this country there are many hidden processes, of which we are part, that we are experiencing without being aware of them”.

Perhaps for that reason, for uncovering the unknown, he has preferred that people to imagine what the project is about. This artist has been working for years with a principle catalogued by him as “mental image” where the piece offers a set of tracks for the public to establish assumptions. “My work is what you can imagine, I work with that image I put in your head.” In Casablanca there will be a dead counter growing in alarming numbers and the viewer must infer its meaning.

The lack of a technological infrastructure to access to the Internet has enhanced innovation capabilities of young Cubans video game fans that have created their own wired and wireless networks to link their computers. The need to establish digital links is a phenomenon inherent in the 21st century and it is manifested in Cuba in a very particular way: illegal, alternative, casual.

The issue of unauthorized networks has affected even in the social sciences because it is an interesting phenomenon. New forms of socialization, handling technology and ineffectiveness or silence of the legal frameworks place us before the opportunity to look at it from contemporary art, as one of the works that make up the official list of this Twelfth Biennial of Havana. The young artist Mauricio Abad told us about his project and the concept that motivates it.

“It’s a return to my childhood, at some point I was a gamer too. I always played, I had a videogame console, I shared this playing experience with my friends. Right now there is a huge community of video gamers in Havana. When, late last year, I presented the project to the Committee of the Biennale, this community had nine thousand people. At this point in 2015 the community already reached 13 000. An increase of four thousand users in less than six months seems extremely high to me. “

“That community stole my heart when I heard about it, because they are boys who more than seven years ago began to put wires and today they are connected by Wi-Fi to play. That was what they wanted and is the essence of the network. But they did not stay there, now they have forums, buying and selling services, blogs to help users (what they need, emotional problems, jokes, everything). They have created a kind of micro internet to fill gaps and of course to share and play. “

“The most played games are of shooting; including World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Battleship, Halo . We are talking about 1800 daily deaths in the Call of Duty, for example, and in the Battleship they range from five to six thousand. Many people dying daily at the hands of these 13 000 soldiers. “

Consequently, his piece will be a constant counting, in real time, of those deaths. There will be a screen with a structure related to showbiz (something in which he has worked for years, when he began together with the artist Marcel Márquez the first group of video projection mapping in Cuba, called Mapped Island in Group * .IMG). The text on the screen says “Killed by bullet shots.” Surely, at some point the audience will wonder: Whence do these dead come?

“O. K. originally meant zero dead; therefore, I hope that at some point people to know that those are gamers and not real victims. Network managers have trusted me, I can not reveal any information that destabilizes them because as the same for the Revolution the most important thing was to survive, also is it for the network. I think for years in Cuba there has not existed something as revolutionary as this. “

The Havana Biennial, in its twelfth edition, intends to establish a dialogue between the peculiarities of the current Cuban context and contemporary art forms. The work of Mauricio Abad, besides being closely linked with this idea, proves innocuousness of setting limits on the concept of art. The creator will rely almost exclusively on one screen and a text to sensitize the public with an emerging phenomenon that is impacting on our society.

“My main motivation to make this work at the Biennale is not violence in video games, not even the gamers; I do it to highlight those issues that are so close and we do not see. My piece is a kind of rare device, placed to draw attention of people on many hidden processes, which are not properly attended by Cuban art, because it continues discoursing on old, not updated processes. “

Those attending Casablanca Park by night will see the light stimulus beside the sound for each death. There, the artist will work at sensory level. Given an evasion that does not please him; the author will try to focus his eyes all the time in a real point. He will try to rescue the underground from art; catching public attention towards the rise of a singular phenomenon exclusive to the Cuban context: the informal networks that connect thousands of young people to, from the virtual universe, play, socialize, kill (virtually).

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