Colón, the first communicator
According to history, Cristóbal Colón discovered America. We prefer to speak in less Eurocentric terms and to say that Colón established the first channel of communication between the Old and New Worlds, the first thread of a network which over the centuries has grown exponentially.
We believe that Plaza de Colón should maintain the communicative character we attribute to the person it is named after (oddly the park by the square is called Jardines del Descubrimiento). Now, more than five centuries after that first contact, we suggest using this agora to highlight the contemporary state of relationships between Europe and Latin America.
Local networks, global networks
Michel Serres describes the hypercommunicative contemporary condition with his brilliant reflection on the hors là in his book Atlas. Hors-là is a state that links the local context and the global context, community networks and international networks, the tiny and the huge.
The social jungle of Madrid contains new emerging communities, consisting chiefly of immigrants. The most populous communities are those of Latin Americans. Generally speaking, it is always vital for there to be a catalyst to function as the collagen of social cohesion. In our communication society, this catalytic function in recently arrived communities is performed by call centres. They are the physical vortices of an indefinite but dense mesh of local relationships, and also a medium of global relationships. In other words, an epitome of hors-là.
The proposal is so simple and pragmatic that it verges on the debatably (and deliberately) non-artistic. We are aware of this, but even so we propose setting up a free call centre in Plaza de Colón for the duration of Madrid Abierto.
This project eschews the objectuality and aspiration to eternity that often weigh upon contemporary art. Rather it seeks to explore aspects collateral to the object (the call centre) itself: how news of its existence spreads, how its use is organized, parallel activities that may spring up around it, the opening hours it will have (probably nocturnal), and so on...
We like to think the square will be exactly as it was before once the phone booth is removed, though it will have helped build a more complex and intense social network between those who have benefited from it on either side of the Atlantic.
We will develop the above firstly by finding a specific site within the large urban space that is Plaza de Colón. An analysis of public behaviour shows two areas of traffic: the pedestrian stretches along Calle Serrano and Paseo de la Castellana (Jardines del Descubrimiento) and the territory where skateboarders do their tricks. We have chosen the site where these two spheres meet so that the installation may be used and even “appropriated” by the different types of people whose paths cross here and those who will be attracted by the call centre’s presence.
Our intention is to cultivate various types of communication: the invisible spreading of news of the call centre’s existence in the immigrant neighbourhoods of Madrid, the intercontinental communication provided by the telephonic interfaces, social interaction between those waiting their turn to call and those who have already called or even with skateboarders or passers-bay, and also the advertising/graphic communication (illicitly posted adverts, graffiti, etc.) that will surely emerge sooner or later on this new urban feature.
As we do not wish to concentrate all the activity around the feature of the telephone, and in order to facilitate all the forms of expression mentioned, we have proposed a range of possibilities for carrying out the project (such as modules each slightly different), offering a variety of mini-spaces.
We have decided to break up the project into easily erectable, removable and transportable modules. This facilitates construction and will allow the project to be used subsequently in other cities or squares. The structure will be made of wood or fibreboard panels with a wooden frame, which greatly reduces the project’s material cost.
At the times of day when it is advisable for the installation to be closed, it can be turned into a sealed and vandalproof “cabinet”.
Jardines del descubrimiento, Plaza Colón.