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The 12hr-ISBN-JPEG Project

"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 site?

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.

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Site: http://www.pierremertens.com