The Plague

THE TAMER OF SCALES

Carlos No is the undocumented cartographer of Europe. Almost 500 years after the time of the acclaimed Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, Europe has a new cartographer who, everything leads to believe, it will never recognise as such. For Carlos No is the anti-Mercator and this Europe either does not know how to or does not want to orient itself if not according to Mercator's maps. Let us see why. Just like linear perspective after Renaissance painting, Mercator's scale was the instrument which defined and calibrated the view of the modern Eurocentric world. The consistency of the single scale enabled the transformation of the chaotic diversity of the world into homogenous realities and proportions. The single scale, combined with the technique of cartographic projection adopted by Mercator, placed Europe at the centre of the world, which was absolutely unique in 1569.

It was necessary to wait for Carlos No to radically denounce Mercator. The denunciations are twofold, both of them are devastating.

In Carlos No, the unicity of the scale is an artifice that simultaneously reinforces and hides the power of who defines the scale. This power, far from being trivial, generates social injustice and renders it trivial. It generates historical injustice and converts it into a triumph of civilisation. It generates cultural injustice and gives it the varnish of universalism. It is urgent to denounce this power. But how, if our eyes have been scientifically trained to not see it?

Carlos No's brilliant answer lies in showing that, if it is true that modern scientific rationality surrendered to Mercator, the same cannot be said of art. Carlos No's art frees the diversity of scales and cultivates it to show that the relationships of power disfigure the oppressed as much as the oppressors.

The minuscule humanity of the oppressed and the excluded is confronted with monstrous objects of repression and regulation. In the contemporary world, a large part of humanity lives in the condition of sub-humanity. It does not cease to fight, and this is why Carlos No's figures walk and walk endlessly. But they always collide with something so monstrous that, even if guarded by humans, it lies beyond what is human, abstract cogwheels of the bureaucracy and technology of power: channels of water and people, rigorous in their counting, infallible in their control; impregnable castles with gates that have long stood unused; undecipherable key chains, with keys that keep in clandestinity the differences between themselves; road signs designed to kill hope, blocking entrance or expelling. Like Kafka's humans, Carlos No's humans wait without hope and they create the world's revolt through the sacrificial immolation to the world without revolt.

The second denunciation of Mercator carried out by Carlos No is connected to the nature of the centre of the mapa mundi. For Mercator, Europe was a welcoming and benevolent centre, an unselfish diffusor of civilisation, bearer of the lights that would irradiate to the entire world. In Carlos No, on the contrary, Europe is an inhospitable, hostile, aggressive, excluding and, above all, cynical centre. It excludes with gestures of inclusion; it denies rights in the name of the rule of law; it defends democracy by anti-democratic means; it creates universal rules to extract from them exclusive benefits; it disqualifies other cultures, reducing them to physical labour for public works; in the name of individual autonomy, it submits immigrants to the tally and indignity characteristic of slave markets. All with respect for “universal human rights”, since these are a “fundamental heritage of European identity”. Everything being carried out anonymously, so that the power may be everywhere without being anywhere.

Carlos No's Europe is a fortress that defends itself from strangers without realising that it is defending itself from itself. It is a metaphoric Europe that is everywhere around the world where inequality, social injustice and repression are disguised as equality, liberty and fraternity. Carlos No's oeuvre signals a turning point in Europe: the entrance into the post-Mercator age.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Coimbra, June 2011

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DIGNUS EST INTRARE 

Qui sont-ils ces mystérieux nomades? Qui sont-ils ces migrants sans visages, mais non pas sans valises, tenant parfois leurs enfants par la main, qui se pointent sans état d’âme apparent, aux marches des possibles… Ou de l’impossible ?

Ils sont anonymes, ont-ils seulement un passeport? Ils avancent vers des obstacles extraordinaires,  traqués, repoussés, et toujours, sans le percevoir forcément, offerts à l’hostilité du Destin. Du Destin ou des Hommes, leurs semblables?  Ils sont perplexes, incrédules… Sont-ils abattus? Sont-ils désespérés? Ils s’accrochent! Ils se doutaient que ce ne serait pas facile! A ce point-là? A ce point où précisément, l’artiste les met en scène avec ironie!

Carlos No voudrait bien éveiller les consciences, il voudrait bien éveiller la vieille Europe en dérive et le monde pourquoi pas? C’est pour ça qu’il détourne avec imagination et pertinence, des objets qui balisent nos vies: manettes, manomètres, alarmes, compteurs, panneaux de signalisation… Avec ces humaines inventions, il crée du « déshumanisé », il crée aussi du sourire, il crée enfin de l’inquiétude… Peu à peu,  il nous renvoie de nos certitudes et de notre confort, à des époques où l’on n’était pas né,  à des séries barbares qu’on a vues au cinéma!  Dans des ambiances de science fiction, de théâtre tragi-comique, de traversée maudite, ses petits personnages se rendent à l’évidence, il leur faut se plier à une volonté qu’ils ignorent mais qu’ils constatent.

 Ils sont impuissants!

Nous sommes émus; c’est drôle de les voir au bord du vide, obstinés à entrer… Est-ce chez nous? Chez nous, qui ne sommes plus vraiment ni assez riches, ni assez généreux, ni assez organisés pour les accueillir? Ne sommes-nous pas impuissants nous aussi? Et si un jour, c’est nous qui devions partir en exil? Nous qui devions réclamer le dignus est intrare?

La Peste et bien d’autres maladies de notre temps sont dans l’œuvre de Carlos No.     

Elizabeth Couturier-Bardin
Lyon, Septembre 2011