In ancient times, with grand, solemn gestures, augurs would trace a square in the air, delimiting a space within which omens might be divined and wonders revealed. When a flight of birds was spied crossing this window of sky, priests were able to interpret signs that offered encouragement for the performance of heroic deeds or boded well for successful conquests in enigmatic oracles.
In buildings consecrated to the gods, the inner courtyard framed a section of sky enabling the lines of the cosmos to be contemplated and the fate of the world to be divined. From this process of looking and praying, raising one's eyes from earth to sky, the very designation of the temple was born: a place of cosmic inquiry into the destiny of men and the contemplation of the will of the gods.
In our world, the forms of remediation that have led us from the media of different types to the use of digital media seem far removed from the conditions of oracular space. What oracle can generate an enigma in the age of Web3? Is the slow progress of a flight of birds compatible with the immediacy of 5G communications? Is the factory of media events still compatible with the divination of destiny that led supplicants to the temple to quiz the augurs and inquire about destiny?
Maite Cajaraville created a hybrid project entitled VEXTRE – Virtual Extremadura – for exhibition at MEIAC in 2021. A hybrid project, something between expanded reality and plastic installation, it rigorously challenges the territory which provides the elements for its generation. Indeed, the sculpture displayed at VEXTRE is the result of an exhaustive social, cultural and economic reading of this territory, and the data on it, which are assigned to a number of distinct criteria, generate a digital object created by Cajaraville through the medium of ceramics using a 3D printer.
It may safely be said that the sculpture produced presents itself as an oracular voice. As cryptic as the oracle of bygone times, it speaks of the region's raw materials, its demographic profile, and its economic constraints, presenting the territory in an eloquent three-dimensional form. As with an oracle, it is not the answers that matter, but rather what we do with them. From the outset, the opportunity the visitor is presented with for doing away with stereotypes and preconceived ideas about the territory is remarkably effective in political terms. The responsibility towards this «sculpture of the future», as Natalia Piñuel Martín has rightly called it, is shared by the artist with institutions and the exhibition-goer, who are all engaged in a process of rethinking this collective territorial imaginary.
We in Portugal have incorporated the Alentejo region into the VEXTRE project. This exhibition is part of a cross-border cooperation initiative with the MEIAC, which sees VEXTRE transformed into ALVEX — Alentejo-virtual-Extremadura — enabling an extension of the dialogue between institutions and the artist, allowing for the scope of investigation and the creation of the oracular device to be extended to the two territories involved. The visitor to the exhibition is confronted with the two sculptures silently facing each other. Created through the same process, contiguous like the territories they represent, eloquently cryptic as only oracles are. They challenge us to imagine dialogues yet to come, while providing much information about these territories. Isn't this the stuff that dreams are also made of?
José Alberto Ferreira