Kafka’s novels introduce us to creatures defined as “helpers”. They do not, however, appear to be in any state to help. They understand nothing, they have no “tackle”, they do nothing more than play childish, silly pranks, they are annoying and even at times brazen and lascivious. In aspect, they are so similar that they can only be distinguished by their names; they look like “serpents”. They are, however, observant, alert and easygoing; they have shining eyes and in contrast to their childish behaviour, their faces are those of adults “students, almost” with long, bushy beards. Someone, we do not know who, has assigned them to their charges and they are not easy to get rid of. In conclusion, we do not know who they are. Perhaps they have been sent by the enemy, something that would explain why they do nothing more than dog us and and spy on us. However, they seem to be angels, messengers ignorant of the content of the letters that they must deliver, but messengers whose smile, whose look, whose gait “seems to be a message”. Giorgio Agamben.
The physical space occupied by caS at Torneo 18/San Clemente is, to all intents and purposes, insufficient for what we understand art centre to be. To begin with, there is the symbolic dimension, the fact, for example, that it is located in Seville and that it aspires to depict the different present realities that the city evokes. Therefore, the knot/node metaphor, borrowed from the language of telematics, is perhaps that which is the most apt to define the situation of an artistic space in the city. It is, as it were, a principal node yet when all is said and done, it is just one more link, a single point in the wider web of places and links that the arts centre must weave across the city.
A recent academic document on the work concerning architecture and language for the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) talked of an “openness towards the revision of the world of architecture, of the city, of town-planning and of their relationship with the immaterial elements of IT and telematics involved in the same city phenomenon”. The Seville Arts Centre (caS) also aspires to become a public space in the ambit of the media, the Internet, in the immaterial world of electromagnetic signals.
The recent Zemos98 festival presented their Reclaim the Spectrum exhibition in the caS in which they demanded a public and popular intervention upon the electromagnetic spectrum, the information society’s “qualified building land”. Can we aspire to put it at the service of the citizens beyond the channels of consumption and entertainment? Can we also make these spaces public spaces, common spaces for the citizens’ use and enjoyment?
The Cultural Critique Platform that mobilised various cultural collectives against the Seville Contemporary Art Biennial (BIACS) proposed to the caS the spreading in the city of a tool for democratic information and cultural debate, a free, autonomous tool free from the interference of different de facto interests that, naturally, conform the city’s cultural debate. As in previous years, the municipality has also shown its commitment to its most critical sectors through its support of the Public Symposia on Cultural Debate and a special edition of Parabólica magazine. Its commitment included the creation of a website, www.e-sevilla.org , a tool under the auspices of Technologies to the People which had already tested such a format in other ambits and in a similar manner in the cities of Barcelona and Valencia.
Basically, it is a point of social information, an archive of news and of different exhibitions on the city’s cultural life, allowing citizens to give their opinions freely on, and easy access to, the different issues and manners in which culture is created in the ambit of Seville. We at caS view it as a monument, a different way of understanding public life, endowing it with features that the citizens will find useful. To achieve this, we have, with the collaboration of the Communication Sciences Faculty, opened this window where citizens can air their views with total liberty, with total libertinism, even.
Constructing a common space often means that the scope of citizens’ freedom is boldly widened. Giving people the opportunity to express themselves freely and support the public airing of such expressions entails more than a few unpleasant surprises for the citizens’ republic that we would like to establish in a city such as Seville. Often, and this can be confirmed by examining the press, the radio and the television – our regular sources of information – freedom of information, an extremely free instrument which our societies have given themselves, is abused. In short, and as the general public would have it, libertarianism is confused with liberty. But this circumstance – the coexistence of rigorous analysis and insult, of constructive criticism and defamation, constructive laughter with unimaginative grossness – is a price that must be paid. As Georges Bataille would state, every economy has its dark side with elements that are associated with wanton waste yet this squandering of resources helps to keep the machinery of the economy as a whole ticking over. This rule is also true of the information economy and of freedom of expression.
A society such as ours which makes Carnival (and here I am not speaking metaphorically but of Seville’s eternal salute to the celebration of Cádiz’s Carnival for example, which provides it, the city of Seville, with a mirror) a mirror where the city can inspect itself critically, will know how to make correct use of a space for free expression such as this one, and will, as always, occupy this public space in an exemplary manner.
According to the theories of early 20th-century Russian formalists, it is these very tools, tools provided by the Carnival that enable us to make the aridity of the new industries and technologies that are constructing our modernity habitable spaces. Laughter transforms geometry and numbers into tools to help us in our daily life. The political construction of our society cannot exist without this transformation of, according to Bakhtin, “geometry into knife, fork and spoon”. And this transformation, as bequeathed to us by the Ancient Greeks, cannot take place in a democracy without the participation of everyone.
The www.e-sevilla.org website and the work of Technologies to the people have no other aim. Placing at the disposal of everyone a tool for communication and information, a tool to give everyone a say, requires us as users to continuously sift critical analysis from the constant babble, but such practice in terms of the web is not so different from our everyday experience in the real world. The instrument that this website places in our hands can help us better understand the noise produced by the herd, by the madding crowd.
We have given an abundance of reason for caS’ use of the NO&DO knot within a node symbol s its emblem, in this case evidently applying it the [Spanish] language of cyberspace and cybernauts. But before this symbol became the true symbol of the city’s imaginarium, it was the object of many different rumours, lies, legends and false friends. Nobody at first laid down its meaning from the “no me ha dejado” to Masonic revelations, all of this noise of information comprises the final meaning of the symbol as the common construct of its citizens.