Archivo F.X.

Pedro G. Romero

Set up in the late 1990s, the Archivo F.X. is an archive of documents under construction. According to Pedro G. Romero, the man behind the project, the archive “aims to lay the groundwork for the urbanization of the province of nihilism, to paraphrase Jürgen Habermas”. To enable this process of re-evaluation to be put into action, the archive provides a map of quirky taxonomies that can be used to read—taking a different approach, employing metonymy, learning and play—the tale that tells of the end of art in its two literal meanings: the end as purpose and as demise; the end as objective and also as destruction.

The main corpus of the archive is a huge collection of images and other audiovisual documents that record the extremely varied actions of anticlerical political iconoclasm in Spain. These materials—shattered sculptures, slashed paintings, charred rooms, churches demolished stone by stone and so forth—are classified according to the names of styles, movements, magazines, artists and works linked to what has come to be known as the modern avant-garde, from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the present day, from Malevich to Rothko, from Dada to the Situationists. In addition, every entry in the archive includes a series of texts that not only help to date the event in history—the iconoclastic action—but also help to draw unexpected associations between the image and its respective thesaurus. In these writings, we find documents that shed light on the event and the person who included it, as well as others that give the political, propagandistic and historical details of these snapshots. In addition, the entries contain reflections on the radical projects that make up the index of the archive, especially those that can be effectively linked to the named document.

Foucault wrote in relation to the method of Raymond Roussel: “In their basic function, Roussel’s machines make all speech undergo a moment of annihilation, in order to rejoin the language divided from itself—and yet identical to itself—in so perfect an imitation that between that imitation and its model only the thin black blade of death has been able to penetrate.” It could be said that the Archivo F.X. operates in the same way as these playful devices, reappropriating through artistic activity—from the most elevated poetry to the culture of entertainment—a transcendence associated with religious rituals, with their liturgy rather than their theological meaning.

Lastly, it is worth noting the words used by Pedro G. Romero to comment on the significance acquired by a language such as iconoclasm:

“It should also be observed how the arts up to 1945 used iconoclastic methods not only to achieve full autonomy, by disassociating themselves from social functionalism and institutional ties, but also to expand into every area of knowledge and social practice, making a particular impact in spheres to do with the community.

In a landscape like that of today, in which the image has established itself as the main symbolic capital of the social imaginary, it was to be expected that iconoclasm—from the two Buddhas in Bamyan to the Twin Towers in New York, from the burning of national flags to the setting alight of effigies of political leaders, from the punk of rebellious youth to the new fallen idols of the masses—should, in all its violence, become the political gesture by antonomasia”.

The works presented by the Archivo F.X. as part of the project The Unavowable Community are structured around an area of research recently embarked on entitled A Zero Economy. This investigation focuses on documenting the path of secularisation that has transformed some religious creeds and their rituals into what we today know of as the political economy. The research concentrates in particular on those changes triggered by certain iconoclastic processes. As a result, the proposal that the Archivo F.X. has worked on for Venice has a semantic architecture founded on three different concepts—money, community and knowledge—each of which constitutes an independent field in which internal relations and interchanges of meaning follow one after the other.

The re-issue of 6,000 copies of the coin minted by the Catholic Mutual Co-operative in Manlleu (Barcelona) comes under the first of these three concepts. The original coins were seized by the Municipal Committee and then later, in 1937, put back into circulation but only after the word ‘Catholic’ had been mechanically removed from the reverse of each and every one. The symbolic significance of money is also to be found in the Pesseta Thesaurus, the starting point for which was a collection of banknotes issued by Catalan institutions and popular organisations during the Civil War. These notes expressed a complete shift of the territory from sacred to secular since they renamed the places where they were produced, thereby putting toponyms on the map that were no longer under religious protection. The last of this first section of works by the Archivo F.X. is the sound piece entitled Lamentations, which explores the equivalences between language and the economy by considering the association between oral expression and the smallest monetary unit, in other words, the old validation of counting and recounting, which is presented to us simultaneously as narration and pecuniary quantification. For this project, extracts have been taken from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, a classic in which appear, perhaps for the first time, the financial equivalents of banking and the novel, not only as genres that hold sway in the new modern order, but also as examples of the current paradoxical biopolitical circumstances: bodies violently affected by the global circulation of capital.

Turning now to the second concept, the postal piece entitled Correspondence explores the notion of community and also pursues the reflection on communication and trade. The project links an entire community of citizens of Venice by means of letters (notes) that anonymously address them, giving notice of unexpected notifications, debts, reflections, quantifications, reproaches and, as in any correspondence, “love’s pain”, as Ezra Pound put it. This field of meaning of the community includes the development of the edition engine of the website, which not only updates the digital material of the Archivo F.X. but also reinforces the links between The Unavowable Community project and Georges Bataille, André Masson and the ‘conspiracy’ of Tossa de Mar around the founding of the review Acéphale, the starting point for the new genealogy of Communism posited by Blanchot.

Alongside all this material, a body of knowledge has been gathered together around two different projects: a newsletter that continues the collection begun for the Thessaloniki Biennale in 2007, which, in this instance, examines the links between the economy, employment and iconoclasm, employing as its core theory the ‘debt’ owed by the Archivo F.X. to Italian thinking; and secondly, the expansion of the Oikonomia Thesaurus through the inclusion of the new entries that make up the basis of the project A Zero Economy.