It had to happen. A year and a half of exhausting pandemic has raised collective anxiety to the highest level and already at the peak of mental exhaustion, the ascent should culminate in the sale of an immaterial sculpture, that is, out of nowhere, at the modest price of 15,000 euros. It makes sense: the pandemic has exacerbated the information saturation of society, already immersed long before in information overload. Headlines, notifications, last-minute findings on this or that vaccine, restrictions and modifications of curfews and gauges, Numantine confinements and perimeter releases … Our neurons have long given up processing information, even knowing it is vital. Therefore, what we crave most is nothing.
The Italian artist Salvatore Garau has managed to condense the need for emptiness into something as simple as … emptiness. It is not an allegory: it is literal nothing. Money has been pocketed for what we still do not know whether to qualify as a supreme act of originality or as one more notch in the European picaresque tradition. Those who have spent years grumbling against Miró’s paintings because “a five-year-old can make them” will be trilling when they see that even ficus could already design sculptures like Garau’s.
In it, the success of the non-existent crystallizes before our eyes with stark evidence. The nothingness of today should not be confused with the nothing that Carmen Laforet described in the postwar period. So “nothing” meant misery and poverty. Now the emptiness triumphs as a symbol of luxury and of an exalted exploitation of our mental saturation.
There are many signs of that success, so I predict millions of followers on Twitter to nothing. What times those in which the emptiness, symbolized in the blank page, used to represent creative anguish. Politically reinterpreted, nothing is the privilege that exempts from accountability. The blank sheet allows all kinds of interpretations and does not stop at any obstacle. Also, it can be transformed into anything. On a blank sheet of paper the ordinary citizen can write whatever he wants, and the leader can write down whatever he wants. And if one day our political or aesthetic spirit tires of emptiness, we put something else in its place and the matter resolved.
The same is true of our lives as distracted consumers. I have a feeling that we are reaching the peak of consumerism. We are no longer going to continue buying objects, convinced that “it is never enough.” Soon we will convince ourselves that everything is left over, although we will continue to pay the coaching minimalist by Marie Kondo to get rid of what we have. In fact, nothing already occupies large spaces on supermarket shelves and items are advertised for their non-ingredients. Coca-cola Zero is a classic, but let’s think about the sausages with zero phosphates, zero preservatives, zero colorings. Or in the triumph of food without: gluten-free, lactose-free, alcohol-free,… nothing. Zero has become the best advertising claim. I myself bought a deodorant the other day that promised: “zero aluminum.” I was unaware that deodorants contained aluminum, but once I was aware of it, I prefer to spray nothing on my armpits and I gladly paid for it.
Floating spas are booming in the US (float-spa). There the floating sessions in the dark deprive the client of sensory perception. They promise muscle recovery, calm for the nervous system and enhancement of creativity, in exchange for the relief of erasing ourselves from existence for a while. The one-hour session costs $ 145, as I read to Kyle Chaika on The New York Times.
The passion for nothing surrounds entire countries. Finland has had a tourism promotion strategy for more than five years in which it offers silence as the main attraction of the country: the soundlessness. Zero noise. Just peace of mind.
As for the literary, triumphs the wonderful Biography of silenceby Pablo d’Ors, which has sold 200,000 copies. I also bought it the other day thinking the pages would be blank, what a break. To my surprise, it is a book with letters, so I had to read it. The author comes to describe his discovery of meditation, which consists of being still, breathing and quieting thoughts. It is a form of stillness and silence, which reveals our true being. Perhaps that is the emptiness that we need so much.
Salvatore Garau titled his intangible sculpture I sounded (I am). Perhaps he is trying to tell us that we are nothing now, that to achieve emptiness we do not have to exert ourselves much, or acquire anything, but rather the opposite: let go, let go, stop, leave, turn off, close our eyes … we are willing to pay for nothing, because we have forgotten that it is free.
Irene lozano She is a writer and deputy for the PSOE in the Madrid Assembly. His latest book is They are mills, not giants. How social media and misinformation threaten our democracy (Peninsula).