On the White Carousel We Spin as the Fire Consumes Us

Ana Torres Valle Pons reflects on extractivism and precariousness within the art system through the metaphor of the carousel.

If we were to suddenly awake in a more transparent reality than our own, perhaps we could see the machinery that animates the ground beneath our feet; the mechanisms that from the depths of the world constructed by art institutions perpetuate the cycles of precarization, extractivism and neutralization.

Perhaps this will be that terrible moment that will unveil the meanings and consequences of the policies that sustain artistic manifestations and institutions in a vicious circle, prey to the incessant spinning of a symbolic machinery that in many ways resembles a carousel.

Captive of a particular hypnosis, once again we crowd on the revolving platforms that host exhibitions, events, fairs. The mechanical steps of the institutions that house them unfold like a mobile pedestal that we occupy in the game of glances that involves climbing the carousel.

But no artistic institution or mechanism exists as anything more than a stage to sustain the dynamics of bodies that are pronounced equal. Some, of course, are more equal than others within the carousel.1

Thus, the carousel is nothing more than a mechanical stage that articulates, with its maneuvers, the machinery that maintains the status quo of art systems. It does so by using the subtleties of spectacle: mediating social relations between bodies2 with choreographies about access and belonging, solidifying hierarchies, classes and aesthetic pedigree, and making use of all the aristocratic and bourgeois trappings of entertainment. After all, both the carousel and the pandering to the dynamics of the court were favorites at Versailles.

One of the sharpest weapons of the carousel comes from its courtly essence, from its mind contained within the palace bubble. Absent of life outside its boundaries, inside the carousel an image of the world is held, a simulation that allows those who ride the carousel to inhabit it as a fantasy container. A deliberate alienation of the real in the name of the aesthetic, of the collective for social status, of the transcendent for capital.

“Now more than ever, in these unprecedented times”3 the peculiar way in which institutional aesthetic regimes establish customs of uniformity has been exalted. At the borders of the carousel, filters are set up that imprint the distinctions between what can be said and who is allowed to speak. Its mechanisms of symbolic encapsulation deploy a chromatic tariff that demands that the discourses that enter the carousel be whitened, flattened, cleaned of any irregularity that threatens the symbolic homogeneity within.

The material deployment of the symbolic extractivism with which the carousel appropriates and neutralizes the discourses, manifests itself as a glowing white bubble. White walls, white pages, white speeches, white voices that reflect the racial whiteness and colonialism of white bodies, white minds, white teeth, white looks, white institutions, white bills. Is there anything that cannot be absorbed and bleached by the glowing whiteness of the carousel?

In this warlike form of oppressive and capitalizing aesthetics, anything can be encapsulated in a white bubble. The words of transgression, the quests for freedom are encapsulated in acoustic boxes that can drown out any scream, sterilize any rotten impulse in the face of symbolic asepsis.

The white carousel, tinged by its predilection for symbolic whitening, is a facade of purity that covers the sinister dynamics of exploitation and neutralization. Beyond any discourse, object or idea, people are incorporated as curiosities, exotic othernesses. The toll charged by the carousel transforms them into servants, buffoons, symbolic clowns who periodically climb on the white machinery to act as court spectacle.

The joy of drowning them in chlorine, of waving the pale bills by the speakers of the most outrageous and transgressive ideas–pet mascots captive of the anxiety of complicit recognition–to be that which the white eye devours in the euphoria animated by the white powder. For in the gaudy twists and turns of the white carousel, what is one outside the white walls, exiled from the white pages, without a place at the white tables?

In an artifice designed to whitewash guilt, the white carousel uses the alibi that thinks of art as inherently beautiful and kind to mask itself. With a resplendent mirage that has the beauty that hides, like the beauty of weapons, white masks are placed on black consciences. The self-decorated as allies, transgressors, decolonial, feminists are declared absolved. The voices of those who whitewash their sins with rhetorical acrobatics are heard in the white carousel, redeemed from the faults they have committed against the causes they claim to be part of.

In gestures the pretend to wash one’s hands, pamphlets with invisible texts are thrown into the air. Printed in white ink, a thousand times enunciated by masked voices, the words of poetry and emancipation exist as animals imprisoned in a zoo, encapsulated within the domains of the white carousel never to become more than an idea without incarnation.

There will be those who would come out waving white flags advocating for the white carousel, for its possible transformation if only the romanticized collectivities would ride on it, when in fact there is already a large collectivity populating it that is difficult to idealize. It is the collectivity of the white carousel that establishes domesticity, servility and exploitation within its institutions. The collectivity imbued with the aristocratic mentality, guardian of purity and domesticator of otherness that is devoid of responsibility, consequences and accountability.

It would be more pleasant for me to enumerate the escape routes and bastions brimming with hope that exist indifferent to the twists and turns of the white carousel; but that encapsulation of discomfort, destruction and injustice would be a rhetorical contortion that would bleach my own tongue with the white lies that pander to the white carousel’s sensibilities.

It is evident that the machinery has no braking mechanism and that the white carousel will continue to turn with its whitening gluttony. It will continue to spin when we congregate on its white floors to share the plague, when there is no one left to enunciate the rhetoric that sustains it, when everything around it burns and is caressed by flames. Like the aristocratic mind, the white carousel cannot see outside itself without being paralyzed with terror. Submerged in its mirage it will continue to spin absent from our world as long as the fantasy around it, the one that lies about its beauty and goodness, exists.


  1. George Orwell wrote the sentence “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than ot-hers” in his novel Animal Farm, published in 1947. At the end of the text, the phrase “All animals are equal” is amended by a group of now corrupt pigs with “but some animals are more equal than others”. A gesture that points out how the language of equality becomes the language of oppression.
    Rebecca Herring, ‘Some interpretations are more equal than others’. PIT Journal, Cycle 7. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: 2016.

  2. In his text ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, published in 1967, Guy Debord explains that ‘the spectacle is not a set of images, but the social relationship between people mediated by images’.

  3. “Now more than ever, in these unprecedented times” is a phrase widely used during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by various arts institutions in their public statements.


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