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18.12.2017

The Nationalization of Two Samsung Series 6 6100 40 ́ ́ DIAG. CLASS UHDTV 4K TVs

From the privatization of banking in Mexico, the Fobaproa, and art as an independent territory, Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba prepares a plan to be able to pay the debt of his father with BBVA Bancomer grant.

I’ve got two weeks to get up there and bring back what I’m telling you belongs to me.
The big problem is I don’t know anyone on Matamoros and it’s complicated to do it alone. Although, maybe a week there is enough to get familiar with the museum’s installations, nearby thoroughfares and even—if my limited criminal experience will allow—recruit some henchmen. Maybe a friend from here could go with me and lend me a hand hauling off the equipment.
If I tell you those TVs belong to me, it’s because that’s the way I feel. What an artist feels here and in the People’s Republic of China is reality.
The point is to get those damned TVs for shared use. I’m sure in three weeks they’re going to end up fossilized in some storeroom that smells of vacuum-packed, coated-paper mats, Old Spice spores now a thousand years old, and rusty paperclips. To avoid such a cruel fate, I’ll have to invoke and put into practice (this the Expecto Patronum of the crustiest old PRI-party shenanigans) the verb that, when required, must appear in the infinitive: nacionalizar, to nationalize. Those TVs have got to be nationalized.
To nationalize is to expropriate.
In 1936, Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas designed a “revolutionary instrument” [1] known as the “Expropriation Act” (Ley de expropiación).[2] For five decades this instrument was Mexico’s post-revolutionary calling card, fashioned from within its institutions. Expropriation of the nation’s railroads (1937), petroleum industry (1938), the electrical sector (1960), and private banking (1982) lent form to the nation we now know. Nevertheless, today, following Mexico’s integration into the global economy, the law is just another sterilized relic in the cabinet of curiosities that is the nation’s twentieth-century economic nationalism.[3] For instance, a demand to nationalize Uber these days would be unthinkable, dismissed as vintage populist exoticism.[4]
Now I’m not sure if you’re on to the fact that BBVA-Bancomer is Mexico’s most important bank. This Spanish-based capital institution is the leader of the banking system, “since it’s the bank with the most assets, the largest credit portfolio and the greatest deposits.” [5]
With all that power, can you imagine how many TVs they’ve got? Besides all the ones they have in their branches and offices, you’ve got to consider the ones their customers buy on credit with money BBVA lends them. It’s like millions, billions, trillions of TVs.
And how did they end up with so many TVs?
We might say the story began on September 1, 1982 when Mexican president José López Portillo ordered the nationalization of private banking and currency exchange. This was the controversial measure the commander-in-chief took to respond to financial crisis (foreign debt, currency devaluation, rescinded credit, inflation, etc.). Then known simply as Bancomer, it, like many other banks, came to be run by the state. But the subsequent presidential administration—that of Miguel de la Madrid, who was never in favor of bank expropriation and did everything possible to reverse it—soon began selling off state-run businesses since this had been one of the political recommendations the Washington Commission [6] demanded from under-developed countries the crisis buffeted. By 1991, it was urgent “to modernize” the banking system because signing the NAFTA accord was just around the corner and, finally, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari re-privatized the banking industry. This period is known as the bank-industry’s “for-eign-ization” (extranjerización de la banca) since transnational financial entities took over 90% of Mexico’s banking industry.
Eugenio Garza Lagüera, a businessman from the city of Monterrey, bought Bancomer. Most of the banks acquired during that period were “black box” institutions, but nevertheless the outlook was hopeful since Mexico was about to become a first-world country, as the media crowed at the time. That said, at the end of a frenetic 1994, the government found itself obliged to devalue the peso and ask for support from the international community to deal with its short-term liabilities;[7] the financial crisis went down in history as the notorious “December mistake.” Since an eventual bankruptcy among banks would have led the nation to financial ruin, President Ernesto Zedillo set up the infamous Fobaproa[8] contingencies fund to absorb bank debt, privatizing gains and socializing losses. Once it was rehabilitated and re-capitalized, Bancomer was acquired at the beginning of the new millennium by Grupo Financiero BBVA, which quickly recouped its investment as Bancomer became the Spanish banking giant’s goldmine.
Now don’t think I studied economics—I’m nowhere near understanding Mexico’s volatile economic history in detail. I’m an amateur. But what I am clear on (and that’s why I’m interested in looking at this) is that the market is a political, and therefore ideological, space. If an industry is nationalized or comes under foreign control, if a commodity is legalized or prohibited, that is a decision of political-economy. Unlike what orthodox economics preaches, Marxism reminds us there is nothing “natural” about capitalism.
If I’m telling you all this it’s because last year a collective show entitled De la formación a lo público opened in which the projects of the recipients of the fourth edition of the Bancomer-MACG program for 2014-2016 were exhibited. It’s a fellowship for contemporary art production that the Fundación BBVA-Bancomer grants in conjunction with the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil. A sweetheart deal between private initiative and the state, where the former puts up the money and the latter takes care of administering it. I applied and received support. My project was to pay the debt someone owed BBVA-Bancomer from the funds and resources the fellowship entailed. One detail was the debtor needed to have the same name as my father, Juan Manuel Aguilar, and that in exchange for paying his debt, this Juan Manuel Aguilar would reenact Juan Manuel Aguilar’s financial failures under the direction of Juan Manuel Aguilar.
And I’ve been dragging out the TV thing since May 2016.
Before the show closed, I thought to make one last request from the program. I asked them if I could sell some monitors that they’d bought to play the finished show’s video elements. I told them I was going to pay off a small debt my father had with BBVA, naturally after articulating it as part of the project and declaring semiotic insolvency was the sole way to resist financial tyranny. Nevertheless, they told me no. Ok, they didn’t say no, just like that. They took their time and let me know in a very friendly way.
The MACG director called me into her office; it was obvious the Fundación BBVA director wasn’t going to waste her time with me. I remember having the sensation that I was being attended to by BBVA’s complaint department: their delightful habit of saying no while smiling belied customer-service training. She explained how much paperwork my proposal would mean and they’d have to negotiate with the National Fine Arts Institute and its union, the Fundación BBVA, etc. Her entire explanation sought to underline how difficult my idea was and suggested I think of something else. Put simply, she didn’t want to help me but she couldn’t say as much. She received me because her image was on the line, refusing to offer her support without sliding into censorship. Her excuse was a boilerplate, but unassailable, recurring to the deepest bureaucratic abstractions with which dialogue is impossible. She revealed her own vulnerability since not even she, a “state-ified” daemon—a mid-range public servant and the bridge between mere individuals (mortals) and the state (Olympus)—could do anything.

I suspect the message the Fundación BBVA-Bancomer really sent me, stripped of the state-daemon’s veil of customer-service political correctness, was like this:
You and your supposedly contemporary art bullshit should go fuck yourselves get a real job you shitass, snot-nose retard we hope you get run over when you leave here and end up a cripple so you’ll appreciate life look if we let you do that and the other thing you did with the handout we tossed you in the fellowship it’s because we’re pretty cool but that’s enough with your goddam nonsense you’re a shit artist you stink you don’t know how to do anything right not paint or anything and we’re not going to let you sell the TVs to pay your rancid, lazy-ass freeloading old-fart dad’s debts please go fuck the two worms that left shit in your uber-whore mother’s brain or come on Daniel how stupid do we look what the fuck we’re Spaniards and we conquered this shitass ranch and people deal with it because we made it bigger than Moctezuma Morelos Zapata and Cárdenas put together for the love of fuck.
By now, my friends, you’ve realized there’s rage lodged in my heart. I’m exceedingly proud and not a good loser. The good thing was that day I didn’t get mad—I just said yes to everything, I played dumb with the TVs, made like I understood it all and politely walked out the door. You know what they say about who laughs last, laughs best.
So let’s move from the intestines to the brain and then we’ll go back to the intestines.
If there’s anything theory is good for, it’s application. So let’s take Arthur Danto’s notion of artworld[9] and then take what Boris Groys elucidates when it comes to the politics of installation[10] and put it into the blender for five minutes. A theoretical brew comes out that could bring on a conceptual diarrhea where a consistent possibility gets shit out: perceiving installations as a nation inside a parallel universe known as the art world.
In other words, in my installation—the one in the Contemporary Art Museum of Tamaulipas, home to the second stop of De la formación a lo público—I can set up a revolutionary instrument like the Expropriation Act where- and whenever I think necessary. This instrument goes through the surface of objects and subjects, instilling the law within matter itself. Because, in accordance with the ontological parenthesis that is artworld, as an artist I enjoy sufficient sovereignty to reorder my installation’s time and space and chemically legislate on the issue.
If I want to nationalize the abovementioned TVs, it’s because it’s feasible. The art world is an exclusion apparatus that lets you self-constitute as a political subject with an ability to transform matter and social relations via a deformation of the legal framework that contains reality. As such, the installation is a micro-nation[11] and I, as artist, am a sovereign who may make decisions regarding the territory he governs or establish key economic policy. Nationalizing those TVs is the sole way to overcome the crisis that is bringing down my installation (depletion of reserves, capital flight, unemployment, hyper-inflation) and the fact is that my father’s symbolic and libidinal foreign debt is driving me to affective ruin and I’ve maxed out every line of credit.
Expropriating the museum TVs would go like this:
Mexico City to Matamoros. The arrival can be by plane or bus, ticket prices hover between 1000 and 1500 pesos. Time passes and I don’t get to buying the airplane ticket and we get there on the bus, but it takes hours, almost a full day on the road. We seek out a cheap hotel in Matamoros, one called the Roma, downtown, a few blocks from the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Tamaulipas. The hotel rents for 500 pesos nightly and we pay four nights, 2000 pesos. My local is with me, and on the day we check in we go to the museum together. It’s early, I’ve got my hair cut very short and I’m wearing a cap; it’s harder for my friend to go unnoticed, but what are you gonna do? We case the joint: how many entrances, how many cameras, how many guards, and we contemplate several ways to haul off the TVs. They’re only mounted on hooks and we don’t need the electrical plug, you can get one of those easy, and we don’t need the remote controls, either; we skip them because the guards carry them. We won’t bring along weapons or drugs, nothing illegal of any sort. For that reason, we’ll need to video-document what’s in our bags, on our entire bodies, so if they nab us they can’t plant any shit on us. We don’t want violence, we’re after magic—a calculated, strategic act of illusionism: op art. We’ll also scope out a pair of allies and will be able stash the TVs there if we have to. We’ve brought no fewer than three pre-prepared outfits: wigs, shorts, hats, sunglasses, and bandages. A friend from the other side, from San Diego, is also here. He says he took I-10 to San Antonio and then went down to Brownsville and crossed the border at Matamoros. Between the three of us, we scrutinized where the cameras are, and where the blind spots are; he’s going to wait for us at a blind spot, the closest and the blindest, and we’ll climb up to the TVs. We disappear into the city. We reckon crossing the border with a couple of TVs is not going to be a major problem, but we’d rather do it at Reynosa, not Matamoros. Cross at McAllen and from there go up to Laredo and then hit San Antonio and take I-10 to San Diego. But neither my Mexican friend nor I will cross over, we don’t have papers. So my friend from the US says he’ll catch up with me in Tijuana and my friend from here and I go back to Mexico City, but to be safe, we’ll travel in separate buses to different destinations, maybe San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas. From there we’ll get on another bus line that doesn’t connect to Tamaulipas and then we’ll head down to Mexico City, getting in hours apart. Days later I’m wanted for the crime of robbery. The cops are after me because my expropriation is deemed anti-constitutional and irrational. If things go my way, I can negotiate a plea and pay a disproportionate indemnification so that BBVA will drop the charges. But I’m not giving back the TVs under any circumstances. They’ll stay in Tijuana until the furor blows over.
There are two weeks left to go up there and bring back what I’m telling you belongs to me.

 


Terremoto clarifies that this text was commissioned to the author as a work of fiction. The magazine is not responsible for any act or word that could occur in reality from what is described in the text.

Notes

  1. Enrique Krauze, La presidencia imperial, (Tusquets, 1997), 34.

  2. Mexico’s Expropriation Act (Ley de expropiación) was published in the nation’s Official Federal Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación) on November 25, 1936. Federal Chamber of Deputies Library, consulted online in September 2017.

  3. In a few years, fellowships from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes will also be relegated to the cabinet of curiosities.

  4. Though in post-Brexit England similar things are being proposed. Nick Srnicek, “We Need to Nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon. Here’s Why,” The Guardian, August 30, 2017. https://www. theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/30/nationalise-google-facebook-amazon-data-monopoly-platform-public-interest

  5. “Los 5 bancos con mayores utilidades en 2016,” El Financiero, January 5, 2017. http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/rankings/los-bancos-con-mayores-utilidades-hasta-noviembre-de-2016.html

  6. Wikipedia: “Consenso de Washington.”

  7. From the so-called Reporte Índigo. México: El tesoro de BBVA, November 5, 2012. http://www.reporteindigo.com/reporte/mexico-el-tesoro-de-bbva/

  8. Wikipedia: “Fondo Bancario de Protección al Ahorro.”

  9. “What ultimately makes the difference between a box of Brillo pads and an artwork consisting of a Brillo Box is a certain art theory, the theory that lets it ascend to the art world, that prevents it from collapsing into the real object that it is (in a sense of is that is different from that of artistic identification). Naturally, lacking the theory, it’s not likely you can see it as art and so to see it as part of the art world you need to be on top of a great deal of art theory as well as a considerable amount of recent painting history in New York. Fifty years ago, it couldn’t have been art. But, of course, all things being equal, there couldn’t have been flight insurance in the Middle Ages or Etruscan erasers for typewriters. The world has to be ready for certain things, the world of art no less than the real world. The role of arts theorists, today as always, is to make the art world and art—possible. I can’t imagine the painters at Lascaux ever imagined they were producing art on those walls.” Arthur Danto, El mundo del arte, (Universidad de Salamanca, Spain). [N.B.: Translator’s rendition of Ruvalcaba’s Spanish-language citation.]

  10. “It could be said the practice of the installation reveals the act of sovereign and unconditional violence that initially establishes all democratic order. We know that democratic order never arises democratically; democratic order always emerges as the outcome of a violent revolution. Setting up one law means breaking another. The first legislator can never act legitimately: he installs political order but he does not lie within it. He remains alien to that order even if he then decides to submit to it. An artistic installation’s author is also that legislator that offers a space where the community of visitors can constitute itself and define the rules to which that community must submit, but does so without belonging to that community, always remaining outside it. This continues to be true even if the artist decides to become a part of the community he has created. This second step must not lead us to ignore the first one, i.e., sovereignty.” Boris Groys, “Política de la instalación. Un ensayo sobre las tensiones políticas que sugieren las instalaciones en el arte contemporáneo,” Horizontal, January 13, 2016. http://horizontal.mx/politica-de-la-instalacion/ [N.B.: Translator’s rendition of Ruvalcaba’s Spanish-language citation.]

  11. YouTube: The People Who Rule the World’s Smallest Countries (HBO), Vice News, August 3, 2017.

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