Juan Carlos León
Opening and mediation experience
During the months of June, July, August, and September we held in-person and virtual meetings (we met most of the time in different countries).
During the first phase, we tried to delve into the inputs that would allow us to better understand both the conceptual framework with which we were working (the theory of counterfactuals; the epistemology that reflects on data; the artistic representation of data), as well as such as the material that yielded the criteria (four financial self-help books), and finally the processing of data (from Ecuadorian citizens that was extracted from public records available online) to be processed and represented in the totems. To be all on the same page, Ana offered us in-depth philosophical classes meant to enrich our discussions, Juan Carlos held workshops in artistic explorations based on previous works, and Felipe guided discussions on economic theory. We had several online group meetings to discuss economic concepts to be used in the artwork and to brainstorm how to translate data into physical objects.
During a second phase, in August and September, Felipe conducted research on 4 best-selling self-help books to synthesize their suggestions into actionable policies individuals can follow to try to get rich and stop worrying about the future. We held online group meetings to discuss the findings and propose ways to effectively visualize the difference between the self-help agendas.
During a third phase, in September, Felipe performed statistical analysis using data for millions of Ecuadorian citizens and thousands of Ecuadorian companies. With the data, we documented wage and earning gaps between individuals by demographics, such as, gender, race, urban/rural divide, among others. We also estimated granular patterns of upward and downward mobility to be used in the simulations. Lastly, joining both data patterns, we performed millions of potential lives of individuals and companies, which would be subject to positive and negative shocks, allowing for the decisions suggested by the self-help books to have an effect over their simulated future. All of these dynamics were interacted by the intersectionality of the individuals to capture the differential effect of such self-help books for a variety of types of people, possibly allowing for structural inequalities to affect the effectiveness of the policy.
The development process of this work had three stages until today.
In the first stage, we performed preparative work both in practical and creative terms. All of us researched the 3D printer supplier as well as other material suppliers in Mexico City and San José. We purchased a WASP brand 3D ceramic printer from Italy, and after working with a local importing company, we received the machine in Mexico City in October. During this stage, Juan Carlos León, developed searches for the forms of representation and plasticity that the simulation should have, and made proposals on how a physical space could work for an exhibition. At the same time, Felipe explored how to translate the output of the financial simulations into 3D code.
In a second stage, we worked in the production of the pieces for the exhibition. Collaborating online as well as physically in Mexico City, we manufactured 5 pieces to be taken to Costa Rica. Each piece takes on average 4 hours to print. Juan Carlos designed reading guides based on the output and inputs of the financial simulations, as well as the 3D models and information from the self-help books. In Mexico City, we collaborated with a local artist to record a 4-hour long video meant for the exhibition in San José. Throughout this stage, Ana worked on the concepts and devices that should be part of the cutting exhibition in San José: process or work in motion, work as a sample of process, need for legibility and understanding of process and concept, and thus, offer guidance on elements and forms needed to be produced prior to the exhibition.
In a yet-to-be third stage, we have already started discussing how the final piece of work should be. In this last stage, Juan Carlos will work on the production of hundreds of 3D pieces that will be part of our final exhibition.
The 5 ceramic pieces were packed and taken by Felipe to San José from Mexico on their trip as delicate pieces. There were no problems with the packaging and transportation process.
Juan Carlos arranged a table for the exhibition from a local supplier in Costa Rica, which was delivered to the exhibition hotel.
The assembly process was carried out within the schedules. The table was delivered to the hotel without any problems. The video monitor to display the video piece vertically was provided by the Interledger team. We also obtained adequate lighting from the equipment team. The assembly was developed without problems and the work worked very well in the space and during the Open Studio.
During the opening and the Open Studio, we had many people visiting the work and showed high interest in the piece. The idea that this was a plastic representation of financial data was a very powerful concept for many people, especially those working in finance or in statistical research. Understanding that these processed numbers represented financial decisions of hundreds of people came as a surprise. People approached the work as a piece that had a direct function like ceramic objects. When they realized that they were the plastic representation of the information processed in the sheets based on criteria extracted from books and public information from Ecuadorian citizens, then many felt challenged.
The questions took up many of the curatorial premises:
What type of information is this? How do the figures show that self-help advice (believe in being rich and you will be rich; act rich, go into debt and the money will come to you; and occasionally save, among other tips) reflect the solidity of the system? In this system, the variations in people's behavior barely cause variations in the form, but the totem never collapses, due to the way in which the sample is taken or because the capitalist system is robust? What would be the actors that could alter the regularity of the totem, perhaps they are those that do not appear in the data and are less than 1%? Many of these questions were the cause of reflection in the room experience. Some visitors would even like to use this model to represent other forms of financial inclusion experiences, not inspired by counterfactuals but by a logic of comparability of models/territories/specific cases of financial inclusion.