“The world is an illusion and the end of art involves presenting the illusion of the world”

Paul Virilio, Esthètique de la disparition, Paris 1989

When art reflects on the relationship between reality/fiction and appearance/substance it seems to be moving more and more towards an in-depth exploration of the reasons underlying this paradoxical coupling of conflicting definitions, today synonymous with existence, in order to delineate the natural sphere of human action and the structure of society in which men act.

The definition of an ahistorical present, like a consumer good, is constructed on a network of interchangeable messages and self-sufficient signs annulling sense, until the true and the false, the real and the model, are no longer distinguishable. This has led, on one hand, to visions and renderings of illusionistic realities in art, a consequence of a progressive abstraction of reality itself. On the other, it has influenced different types of research to identify pragmatically in the DNA of the economic system the germ of illusion. Inherent in the process of collapse, generated cyclically by the present communications-based society, this germ of illusion coincides, in economic terms, with the paradoxical coexistence of progress/destruction.

In this sense, Virilio’s reflection sums up in a few words the guidelines of the EndCommerical project. Starting with an observation on the commercial dynamics of society and bringing out the precariousness of its strategic rituals (mass communications, commercial fetishism, actualising myths, etc.), it concludes with a denunciation (ideologically and iconographically) of the progressive de-realization of the economic system. In the logic of this paradox, the metropolis is portrayed in the volume’s images through its own aesthetic alphabet (images, trademarks, codes, rituals) and is revealed to be an enormous system/parasite whose existence is rooted in a process of constant self-destruction and rebirth. The continuous oscillations of the economic system and the dramatic contradictions it generates appear to be conditions necessary to maintaining a biological equilibrium in which commercial systems can be recycled time and again. Inevitably, these sustenance strategies produce an immense quantity of alternative economic and behavioural phenomena, which as ghostly reflections of the voracious economy, survive in a sort of perennial limbo.

So the commercial system seems to base its principles and its very survival on a mechanism of pure illusion and almost total abstraction, presenting itself as an inconsistent entity ready to vanish and reappear in changed form and with different objectives. With its roots anchored in the void, the commercial system presents itself cyclically as a mirror of reality, capable of putting on innumerable faces and of speaking multiple languages, moulding its features on the idea of society’s current needs. In fact, the commercial product, conceived as the faithful reproduction of prototypes or archetypes, takes shape from the study and intuition of peoples’ desires, simulating the linguistic and aesthetic accents of the culture and geographic area it aims to conquer and revealing itself to be a pure mirage the system itself will eventually reject and replace.

The acceleration of consumption and its related phenomena, which “commercial fiction” itself creates, develops simultaneously information overload and fragmentation and intentionally provokes a premature aging of the goods, which are destined to become an itinerant spectre until they are recycled.

In the intense sequence of images in EndCommercial, designed to reveal the processes the economic system employs to manage the life and decline of its products and postulates, the tangible

inconsistency and disquieting virtualness of commercial operations slowly emerges. The power of a product and its commercialisation appears, on one hand, to be unbreakable and “unbrakeable” and, on the other, unreal and apt to vanish because of the propaganda and survival mechanisms its existence is based on.

Once again, art explores the relationship between reality and fiction and draws its conclusions. In this specific case, art does not merely “present the illusion of the world” but precisely and unflinchingly offers a narrative expansion of images coinciding with a systematic theorization of the process of abstracting reality, perhaps even identifying the causes of the current wavering of identity.

EndCommerciaL® / The project

Conceived as a unitary artist’s project, although the result of the research of three different authors, the volume grows out of an analytical observation of recurring urban iconographies, narrated through more than 1,000 vivid color images.

EndCommercial conducts a scrupulous examination starting with visualization of individual details and leading to an intelligent perception of generalities. It deliberately focuses on phenomenologies sampled in different areas of New York City, chosen because this territory represents, par excellence, the contradictions and contrasts generated within the economic era.

The drafting of the codes through which the contemporary city naturally expresses itself, takes place in EndCommercial through sequences of photographic images in which specific behavioural acts, specific objects, anonymous signs and known visions follow one another, obliging the reader to recognize the changing common visual vocabulary.

The multiple images were catalogued and arranged by the artists in chapters. The logical sequence of the chapters is dictated by the individual definitions of spheres of investigation structured in a grid. The grid is the theoretical foundation of the project and allows the individual phenomena to be thoroughly deciphered and emphasizes the infinite relations and their cyclical nature. Developing in a pyramidal scheme, the grid suggests, in a reverse itinerary compared to the images, the immediate identification, in the fiction of the Commercial System, of the primary cause of the manifestations of the phenomenologies examined, their diversity and, simultaneously, their similarity. The same factor - the Commercial System - is consequently attributed the role of generating/degenerating engine: the development of the organic and improvised subsystems, which, born in the shadow of the big System, are today revealed to be metaphors of the end of the economic era.