Untitled (Proof of chance)
333 sacks of salt weighing three kilos each,
one diamond, one notarial deed
The piece involves placing a ton of salt directly onto the ground; somewhere within the salt will be a real diamond worth at least a thousand dollars. This act is to be conducted in the presence of a notary public, who will attest to the diamond’s authenticity. During the exhibition dates, 333 sacks, sealed with security tape and weighing three kilos each, will be put on sale; the diamond could be found in any of these sacks. The piece continues when the buyer is notified in writing that the work will lose its value as an artistic product if she opens the sack and breaks the seals, which means she must decide whether to keep it intact or try her luck by opening it.
Prrof of chance
It is well known that salt was ascribed great economic importance in ancient times. As Roman soldiers needed salt for their horses and livestock, imperial expansion needed to transport it over long distances; it even came to pass that the militia was paid in salt, which yielded the Spanish words salario (in English, salary; in Latin, salarium) and sueldo1 (wage), which, in a formidable ricochet, was later affixed in the modern term soldado (soldier) and its equivalents in several languages via the French term for payment, solde.2 Thanks to Marco Polo, we know that salt coins were amassed in the Chinese province of Kaindu duringthe thirteenth century, an idea that prevailed in remote regions of Ethiopia into the twentieth century.3
This historical memory is an ingredient in the action proposed by Fritzia Irizar in May 2010 for the presentation of the exhibit Critical Fetishes: Residues of the General Economy, organized by El Espectro Rojo in Madrid’s Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo, and which was later presented at the Museo de la Ciudad de México in 2011. With the help of a notary public, Irizar had a diamond worth approximately a thousand euros placed in one of 333 threekilo kitchen sacks that were later offered for sale to the public for three euros each. With this gesture, the artist challenged the audience to establish a comparison between the diamond’s commercial worth and the symbolic value of a work of art: through a set of rules issued by the artist herself, Irizar condemned any and all tampering with the salt sacks in search of the diamond as the total loss of the work’s artistic value. It is evidence of viewers’ fetishistic desperation that, on at least two occasions, museum employees found salt scattered in the exhibition hall. Choosing to keep the work intact, on the other hand, entailed a certain fidelity to mystery and desire: access to an economy based on the perpetual postponement of consumption; that is, precisely, the deferred economy of artistic pleasure.
1 Joan Corominas, Breve Diccionario Etimológico de la lengua castellana. 3a Ed. Madrid, Gredos, 1990, p. 522.
2 Mark Kurlasky, Salt. A World History, New York, Penguin Books, 2002, p.63.
3 Larry Allen, The Encyclopedia of Money, Santa Barbara, ABC-Clio, llc, 2009, p. 353.