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Secret the Book
Spaces of Shadows and Lights 


By Antonieta Landa

SECRETO was a project by Chilean artist María Luisa Portuondo Vila that has involved different communities around the world through the compilation and sharing of secrets. 

Under the premise that secrets can generate shadow spaces in our unconscious, Mª Luisa invites participants to read the secrets of others and release their own. Through this harmonious relation of reciprocity between reading and writing, a web of confidential information weaves itself, inviting us in turn to reflect on our own memories. 

SECRETO is an invitation to collectively free ourselves from the untold.

I watched Ma Luisa travel the world with a suitcase full of secret envelopes. I enjoyed seeing how she had changed the setting of the installation, for example how she placed the mesh on which she hung the secrets she had collected around the world. Each of these modifications was made to make it comfortable and welcoming for those who wished to leave a secret as well as read one that had already been left. The adaptation to the space reveals the versatility the piece needed in order to fit in different cities and spaces, such as a museum in Moscow or Zhujiajiao waterfront. From place to place, I observed how Secreto evolved. Ma Luisa's trips around the Americas, Europe, and Asia helped her nourish herself and her work, and she and Secreto gained one another. A promise Ma Luisa made to her audience remained constant throughout the three-year process of setting up and taking down her installation. "A book will be published at the end of this piece," and that book was just published.



















As part of this process, Mª Luisa met Sebastian Arancibia and Sebastian Barranque, the two members of Naranja. Naranja Publicaciones is a bookstore, a publisher, and an archive located in Santiago de Chile, with a specialization and artist's books. It is important to note that the Sebastianes were not only interested in publishing Secreto, but they were totally involved in the creative process in terms of how the book was going to be conceived. What is the best way to translate the experience that one felt as a participant in Secreto? Taking part in an installation as this one, as sensory and intimate as it is, how do we transform it into a book? To access the Secrets in the book, Naranja conjures the idea that each secret is enclosed in sealed pages that the reader must tear to unveil each secret. It seeks to introduce a performative element to this work by engaging the reader's body, however, it also seeks to break, to transgress in order to access the intimacy of another, of an anonymous character. It may seem on the one hand that breaking or tearing something is a violent act, however on the other, it emphasizes that this is a unique event, a surprise that will only happen once, similar to the experience of discovering a secret that will only be revealed once. Likewise, the discovery that Maria made of a secret her father took to the grave, and was the trigger for everything that happened later with Secreto.


In Secret the book, the outside is comple black, and the inside is white and gold, a nod to something I heard Maria Luisa mention as she traveled with the work, and is also at the beginning of this review. Whenever she described the unconscious space used by secrets, she always used the metaphor of shadows, of a dark place where our secrets live, in which they dwell. Furthermore, it is important to consider what darkness means and whether it necessarily implies negativity. In essence, the book incorporates the same concept as Secreto, the installation. Its intention is to "liberate" those dark spaces. The difference this time is that the secrets are delivered to posterity and permanence through the publication of a book. This is why the book was chosen to be black on the outside, as the kept secrets occupies a place of darkness. When the book is opened, the secret is released once again and enters a place of light for the reader to see. It is hard to find anything brighter than gold and white combined. It is almost as if there is a ceremonial aspect to it

Taking us on a similar journey that Maria took to mount the work in the story accompanying the book Secreto, Naranja takes us on a similar geographical and temporal journey starting in Chile, then New York, Rome, London, Berlin, Albania, Moscow, Seoul, Shanghai, Santa Cruz, Sao Paulo, Caracas, and finally back to Chile (just to name a few places). This logic does not apply to the envelopes that contain secrets in the book. There is a possibility that when you read about the experience that happened in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, you may be moved by the secret written in the language of the Berlin-based person who delivered it. This is not an accident. As Mª Luisa began her journey, she thought it was obvious that secrets would be distinguished by their location and be easily categorized. Undoubtedly, a person's identity is strongly determined by where they were born geographically, but there are some things that are universal. As Maria (and all of us who were following Secret around the world) discovered, there weren't many differences between a secret from Beijing and one from Navarra. In this sense, we can say that we have a transnational experience when it comes to what we consider sufficiently concealable, shameful, or reprehensible to keep in our shadow spaces. In spite of the fact that neither this work nor this book pretend to be an exhaustive sociological study, it is inevitable to find aspects of it in both. The data collection process is the most obvious, but it occurs almost as a consequence of the process aimed at another goal. With this book, we now have it at our disposal, where we can interpret it however we choose, wandering through others' intimacies and hopefully reaching those places of light where my friend Maria Luisa so badly wants to take us.

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