Untitled (Luck for All)
2011 - 2012
Video (35’), printouts, booth, volunteers
Luck for All is a project that functions like a public welfare program, inviting the community to participate in an initiative that seeks to create a reception and distribution vehicle for amulets donated by the public. The amulets are then delivered to those who request them; applicants must prove that they are going through a period of bad luck.
The program imitates any governmentrun public program in both aesthetic and operative terms. To this end, an institutional image is created, as is a paperwork process that each individual must undergo, describing her personal misfortune in order to donate and request amulets. The program is promoted through a TV advertising spot that describes the program’s virtues and provides testimonies from several beneficiaries.
The exhibition includes application forms, photographs documenting the program in public spaces, examples of amulets, and the promotional ad “Luck for All.”
Transactions, those “mysterious process[es] by which things that are patently unlike are somehow made to be alike with respect to value,”1 processes in which homologation means enabling something to be communicated, are a key ingredient in Fritzia Irizar’s work. Converting values into prices tends to be the most efficient resource. The anthropologist Nicholas Thomas states that “in capitalist society... things like personal relationships, reputations, and parts of the body which are usually thought of in nonmonetary terms are occasionally priced for insurance, litigation, or blackmail.”2 One variation of this aspect is also a constant one, and it serves as a counterpoint for the artist: the assignation and arbitrary growth of value as effects of faith, superstition, chance, or speculation. Thus defined, Irizar’s work consists in creating devices that is, conditions for triggering specific kinds of relationships among subjects.
Untitled (Luck for All) is no exception, although it’s based on a mistaken premise or, better put, a paradox: to be able to create a system of acquiring and distributing amulets currently being used. The initial problem here lies in the fact that the owner should recognize and articulate his talisman’s properties and effects its function and then translate them into a specific, “fair” price, ignoring the transgression (of the object’s mysticism and uniqueness) that this entails. Which leads to two additional problems: if the amulet’s user truly believes in its capacities, will he willingly part with it, accepting that its benefits could be replaced by temporary, quantifiable buying power?
Irizar experiments, then, in shifting the symbolic structure of exchange toward donation, mediated or administrated by an ambiguous entity: Luck for All, which is simultaneously a publicity campaign, mobile information module, volunteer team, and civil and philanthropic organization. Residually, although here lies its interest and artistic strength, Luck for All is a mechanism for intervention in public space, one that delves into its occupants’ memories, fears, desires, and personal rituals.
This artist stirs up instabilities more than certainties and seeks ambiguities more than final declarations. This is why she chooses amulets, since they reject without this being their express purpose ostentation, circulation, and accumulation, unlike common goods. Therefore, Luck for All resists being fully identified as a parody of initiatives dedicated to wellbeing, the charityfocused subsidiary of a corporation, a cult of optimism-provocation, or an authentic call to civil solidarities in an unstable state with respect to rights and justice.
This is a reservoir of forces in which moral discipline, ambition, myths, and unease but also persistence, faith, humor, and empathy all lead us to make decisions, and it is the space that Fritzia Irizar seeks to render even denser through her work.
1 Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in Arjun Appadurai, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge (ru): Cambridge University Press, 1988 (Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology), p. 71.
2 Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 17.
Luck for All
Carmen Cabreros Urzaiz