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Proposal for a Public art intervention in Peralta, Navarra, for Proyecto Calle, first Call of Public Art of Peralta (Peralta Council, Government of Navarra, Department of Culture and Education) by Consol Rodríguez and Gregg Smith

As a visitor to Peralta, one is immediately aware of the intimate scale of the town. It is not a place where one can easily find anonymity. We quickly realised that almost everybody knows everybody there and community life is quite strong. In a town the size of Peralta one can imagine that the smallness of the population has both advantages and disadvantages. In such a place it must be hard to keep secrets. With our project we wanted to place values on the intimate relationships and communications which exist within the everyday life of Peralta.

Our proposal for Proyecto Calle originated in an interest to revitalise the public / urban space and transform it into a place that is susceptible of embracing a multiple history. A history equipped with all kinds of memories that generate a fragmentary and contradictory whole upon which it has to be build, with all its difficulties, the consciousness of the present time.
Our project was born from a punctual and experimental intervention that aims at interfering, redefining and modifying the places that are already regulated by the already existing architectonic reality.

The artistic function doesn’t have to be, it shouldn’t be, reduced to a simple function of embellishment of the public space in determined points of the physical, political and social order that is already dictated by the urbanism function –such things are usually found in the conventional monumental sculpture-.

Our proposal is a practice, and not something that has been already given. It is a way of exercising the right to speak one’s voice and to invite others to do the same. A way of understanding art as something critical and active that has a commitment with an art conception as something socially useful, as an enema to recover the public space as a social place where the collectivity is allowed to develop a critic culture with which to respond the established discourse and decide the profile of its memory, to enjoy the aesthetic experience and to vehiculate the expression to the community itself. It is born from the will to really re-appropriate the public sphere till discover in it a diverse history with different legacies and multiple subjectivity's.
The public space is something that is produced, it is not something pre-existent, and usually the dominant institutions are the ones which determine it. Public art appears as the instrument to reconsider this imposed public order to produce a new one. Then, the function of public art is that of doing or undoing the public space. This radical construction of the public sphere can be only accomplished if one takes into account and respects the following requisites: that it will be public the shape, the meaning and the effect of these new spaces or interventions.

The beginning of our proposal departed from a temporary action that would lead to the installation of a commemorative work of an event by signalising indefinite places and acting over marginal territories. This is a way to contribute to truly socialise the public space or to participate in the intertwining of what is public and what is private.

This point of departure of the temporary action would have been the result of a consciousness of two ideas:

1. The acceptance of the public space as a platform for changing events and expressions
2. The precariousness of the notion of place, a category that just admits one present

The punctual intervention would have aimed at emphasising the possibility of re-activating the public space by means of a real and practical use of it. In addition to this, by putting this accent on the intention, it would have aimed to question the impulse to improve the public/urban context through strictly object-based or aesthetic means.

The proposal for this project operated in two stages.
Stage one
In the first stage we would invite local residents to engage in the following way. Couples (groups of not more than two) would be approached of people in the town who have very close relationships with one another. They would be requested to take part in The Messenger, by agreeing, for the period of five days, to abstain from the use of any telephonic or electronic means when communicating with each other. If it were not possible to communicate via the spoken word, messages would be sent through hand-delivered notes. It would be important that no telephonic or electronic means of communication were used except in case of complete emergency.

The couples of people could be friends, lovers, family or they even need not know each other. But their objective is to arrange to meet somewhere in the town during that period. They could meet as often as they liked but all arrangements would have to be made via hand-written messages. The messages could be left at a secret hiding place or sent via a family member or a friend. After the period was over we would ask that we might use some of these for the next stage of the project.
  Stage two
This stage would make use of the messages that had been collected from Stage One. The messages would be used for two purposes:

1.The creation of a series of postcards
The nature of a postcard is usually that it acts as a souvenir of a place, a short note to someone who you are thinking of while travelling. It can be a pretty view or something funny and amusing or something historic or iconic.
For The messenger some postcards would be produced with a text already written on it. An intimate, hand-written text which offered an insight into the mundane realities f the lie there. The postcard will also contain an image which relates to the communication between the two people. The user of the postcard would be able to write their own message over this image. In this way the project would place values on sights in the town which are significant for personal reasons

2. A series of large texts on walls in various public spaces around Peralta
As permanent public intervention some of the meeting places would be demarcated by enlarging a selection of the texts and adding them to the environment of the place. The text would be enlarged directly from the original hand-written message.