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A rock / thrown into a window / of a historical building / on a United States island, / emblem of its independence, / by a man, / an artist, / a Mexican, / who received permission to do so, / is filmed / by ten cameras.
A review of each of the elements that form the action in the work of the Tercerunquinto collective reveals its multi-layered composition of meanings. First, we see an action that could be a violent and spontaneous gesture of protest, a display of anger that would be impossible in that public space under different circumstances. The artwork, therefore, lies in the negotiation, in the legal and bureaucratic processes undertaken in order to obtain permission to do the performance. It was the first of its kind granted in the United States.
Second, the place chosen: Governor Island, in the Upper New York Bay. It was a strategic location during the US war for independence in order to stop the arrival of English ships. Then, it was used for military purposes until 1996, and is now preparing for its re-opening as a cultural area (although with new real estate endeavours), following the town hall’s business plan.
Third, registering the action: the redundancy of the ten simultaneous takes of a rock breaking the window and falling inside the building. The collective is careful both with the act itself and its presentation; this is the reason why recording is not only the registration, but also an intrinsic part of each one of the pieces. In a process that oscillates between the supposedly criminal and the bureaucratic, the administrative and/or forensic precision that the recording allows for becomes indispensable.
Negotiation, symbol, and documenting are the keys that compose Insular Act. This structure allows Tercerunquinto to work in accordance with the logic of an authoritarian system that regulates behaviour —in relation to architecture and urban planning— and therefore functions as a form of control of our cultural, political, and social organisation. Their actions are laid out as an infiltration of the very organisational framework in order to articulate an institutional critique, turning an act of vandalism into a fully responsible one. The illogical side of the system is undermined from within, a strategy that connects Tercerunquinto with the practices developed in the 60s and 70s by video art pioneers, who reflected on the televised image infiltrating its circuits thanks to the independent and critical uses the new camera granted.
Reviewing it only six years after its completion, we cannot help but re-contextualise this work in the new situation of control and prohibition we are experiencing today, as well as those that lay before us. A complementary reading may take migration flows and their colonialist matrix into consideration. The island that is symbolic of one of the first revolutions against the power of colonial Europe and precedent for the French Revolution with its ideas of equality and fraternity, now has a new president, Donald Trump, who plans to build a wall on the United States border with Mexico.