Untitled (Time Capsule)
Diamond, rock salt, safe, notarial deed Variable dimensions
Diamonds and salt are both crystals, similar in appearance, which have been considered valuable materials over time. Salt was prized for its food preserving properties and used as hard currency. By contrast, diamonds have been valued only for the purity of their appearance. The notions of these materials’ value are subject to the beliefs and fantasies that lend the piece its complexity.
The work consists of a diamond in a safe filled with rock salt, which is then buried in a public plaza. The stone slab that covers the safe matches the rest of the plaza’s paving, which impedes the piece from being discovered. A notary public attests to the events, so the only physical remnant of the piece is his notarial deed. The work transpires like a rumor surrounding the idea of a treasure hidden in an ordinary place. The public’s desires and imagination come alive, circulating the action through their own storylines. The materiality of the work is replaced by the construction of a myth.
If this were a work of literature, it wouldn’t be a mystery story. Or would it? It has something of a riddle about it, of a detective enigma. Something from Edgar Allan Poe. The thing that’s buried under the floorboards over there isn’t it a kind of tell tale heart? And isn’t it hidden, in fact, like that stolen letter no one could find because it was directly in view? Let’s think of it this way. The story of a dia- mond that, like a babushka doll, rests among pounds of salt, inside a safe that, in turn, is buried in a hole in the ground, covered with layers and layers of cement and, above them, a flagstone we couldn’t easily distinguish from all the other flagstones paving this plaza in Culiacán, Sinaloa; this story, like I said, will be forgotten over the years. Maybe a rumor will remain in the air. A murmur that will occasionally get the old men talking: how did it go again? Ah, yes, wasn’t it that there was a trunk full of diamonds under City Hall? No, it was gold and it was buried under the sidewalk in front of the pawnshop. What do you mean, gold? It was a safe, but they say there was nothing inside; or there was, but it was only salt. You’re all wrong; somewhere I read (the youngest among them might say) that it was a piece of contemporary art. Art?! You’re crazy! It was something valuable: coins, rings, something like that. And, even so, beneath that faded stone trodden by everyone’s feet every single day, it keeps pulsing, almost inaudible, a tiny mineral heart once placed there, precisely in order to betray our collective forgetfulness. A time capsule, then. Hidden six feet underground.
And so, maybe, if this were a work of literature, it would be a feature article, meticulously detailing what happened from the moment when the idea took shape to the moment when the flagstone was put back into place. A couple days, perhaps, in which we would follow the steps that led all the participants to end up, gathered together, beside a hole in a small plaza on the first block in the city of Culiacán Rosales. From the testimonials of those present, we know that the diamond, which was once set in a fourteen-carat gold ring, had traveled from Minnesota, and that the safe was acquired shortly beforehand at a store not far from where the hole was made. There was much discus- sion, it seems, about whether to buy a black safe or a gray one. Ultimately, the black safe won more neutral, more serious. In attendance onsite, aside from friends and curious souls, was the notary summoned to bear witness; the mason who had dug the hole several hours prior and who would later be responsible for closing it up again; the crane operator who would have to lower the safe all the way to the bottom of the pit; the jeweler with his magnifying glass who would verify that the diamond was indeed the diamond; a TV cameraman; and, oddly, a contemporary artist. And thus, the notary attested; the cameraman filmed; a gentlemen dressed in blue, possibly the notary’s assistant, poured the salt into the safe until it was full; and someone, perhaps the contemporary artist, stuck in her hand and buried the diamond; then, perhaps the same person closed the box, and the crane operator lowered it slowly until it vanished from sight. Then the mason lay cement on top, which took about fifteen minutes, and, when everyone was thinking,
for obvious reasons, that the whole affair was somewhat reminiscent of a funeral, the lid—excuse me, the flagstone—was set down, and some- one applauded (perhaps the notary’s assistant).
Ergo, maybe this could all be reduced to a simple notarized document recording the fact that, on the twenty sixth day of the month of October in the year 2007, on the patio of the building belonging to the Dirección de Investigación y Fomento de Cultura Regional, located on Dr. Ruperto Paliza Avenue, in the downtown area of the city of Culiacán Rosales, in the Culiacán municipality, Sinaloa State, Mexico, in the presence of Mr. So and-So, Notary Public, residing in and exercising his duties in the abovementioned municipality, certain events occurred in the form and terms set out below.
But anyway, this isn’t a work of literature. Or is it?