"Ruins for the Future" existed on the web
as the first Peruvian International Exhibition of Contemporary
art created by curator, Pierre Mertens, and art dealer,
Marjan van Mourick, in collaboration with the National
Gallery of Lima. It opens as both believable and genuine.
The opening page presents small thumbnails of the nine
artists and their subsequent outdoor installations.
By selecting the link "the artists," the user
can choose an artist form a list, artist that Mertens
tells us were asked to produce artworks in relation
to the Peruvian regions' historical background. Projects
were to respond to a number of factors including paralyzing
strikes and violence related to Peru. These responses
and outdoor installations included a biography and a
short text on each of the artists and their work where
one can continue to move deeper into the website.
When viewing the work by Anish Kapoor or Mario Merz,
the user experiences a shift. With Kapoor's installation
for example, glowing red ovals are inserted into the
landscape and the sides of brick ruins. And Merz has
somehow created glowing ambers and numbers floating
in mid-air outside of the ruins. The viewer may begin
to question what they are seeing, wondering if this
is reality or the creator's fiction.
This is precisely what Pierre Mertens, the artist/curator/promoter
intended: to create a space, a fiction, a non-geographical
reality, one that can be viewed solely online. The artist
consciously attempts to represent this "exhibition"
as featuring artworks by well-known and reputable art
as featuring artworks by well-known and reputable artists.
And why wouldn't we, as viewers, believe what we were
seeing? Through "Ruins for the Future," Mertens
is challenging the existence of actualities in time
and space, by including options for the user to view
the artworks in various detail, and even order postcards
and other "tourist" paraphernalia if so desired.
This defends Mertens' desire to create a space as if
one had visited it, but to hold the viewer from being
able to physically enter the space. The viewer is able
to discover the truth; when clicking on the link "latest
News," Mertens includes a short statement beginning
with the appropriate introduction, "Don't believe
everything you click." Here, Mertens includes a
short piece written by Elizabeth Bard of rhizome.org
that begins to explain the context of this site to the
user: the site is a virtual exhibition, not existing
in the physical reality, the artists that are cited
as creating artworks in fact did not, created entirely
with unauthorised, patched together, digitally created
photos. The questions, thus, begin to emerge-what and
why has the artist gone to this length to create a fictitious
The starting point of this exhibition for Mertens was
the traditional brick ovens he encountered two years
ago in the Arqueipa Valley, Peru. Mertens added them
to his archive, knowing he wanted to include them in
his future work but not yet sure how. Linking together
the history and future of Peru, through their use for
the foundation of future buildings, these ovens provided
the title for this work, and this the help of a promoter,
Marjan von Mourick, this project became their first
virtual exhibition. As Mertens describes is, "I
was fascinated with those ovens
they were like
ruins, but they were making stones to build new houses."
For Mertens, a key goal of this project was also to
address the idea of future in another way. The sites
were to symbolize the political, economical, and social
situation in Peru, one of poor health, poverty, and
subjected to globalization and dangerous violence within
the region. As Mertens says, "Nobody believes in
the future here, everybody works simply to survive."
These ruins are located in a region of the Valley that
is not frequented by tourists and isn't reported in
guidebooks or tourist maps. The lower classes of Peru
live here, their only subsistence is making bricks to
be sold in exchange for food and water. Global political
and economical powers are being forced upon areas of
Peru, including the Arqueipa Valley and Mertens saw
this geographical area as an opportunity for a major
project to be born. Today, buses drive tourists to this
area and they are told of Merten's project and its attempt
to address Peru's past and its future.