Because I find my ignorance unbearable, I treat it as knowledge instead. I observe it, I trace it, I make it coherent and informative, I analyze it, I draw conclusions from it, and I use it as a landmark to position myself.
Ink on paper. Brochure with brief explanations of every sign and pictogram used consistently in my notebook.
8 in × 11 in
Over the centuries, we have agreed that knowing is good, or at least better than not knowing. Learning is largely regarded as a valuable experience and it is usually pictured as an expansive force, as if knowledge was some sort of mighty river capable of multiplying its watercourse through streams that move into different directions. A flowing river, a forbidden tree in the middle of paradise, a blooming garden, a treasure’s map, a window, an open door, a lit light bulb: apparently knowledge is, above all, a cluster of metaphors. Moreover, what we are potentially able to do through knowledge is also usually a metaphor: getting to the bottom of things, bringing the far closer, building a net, connecting the dots. In some way, we seem to enjoy placing the abstraction of knowledge in physical space for it gives the impression that our bodies can handle its infinity.
Printed Book. Based on experience and observation, this dictionary is an attempt to unravel some of the numerous codes, assumptions and emotions behind the universal gesture of applauding.
5 × 8
But, despite being our own invention, language is a disobedient tool. Inherently unbridled, it does not belong to anything or anyone but itself, which is to say that the meaning we can take from it is nothing but our problem; language doesn’t work for us. This is why consistency, as an attribute we expect to find flowing among words themselves, has actually less to do with language’s preoccupations than it does with our own.
Digital image and Ink on paper Variable Dimensions
This is more apparent than we may think. The logic of words has virtually nothing to do with the logic of the world we may want them to represent. It is not part of language’s calling to make the world available to us; on the contrary, when expected to offer concrete solutions for our broken relationship with the environment, words instead tend to act as anticipated failures.
Video and Vinyl text on wall List of 100 actions carried out both nationally and internationally during the first two weeks of Chilean social uprising (October 2019).
120 in × 100 in
Ultimately, limits are the only thing we know. Perhaps that is what brings us together as humans. We recognize our bodies for the edges beyond which they stop being our bodies in the same way we name things based on their difference with other things. If we go to the microscopic level, where particles move among voids that do not necessarily respect visible boundaries, our reality stops being recognizable as the ground we walk on and instead becomes the abstract representation of our own limits when facing the different planes in which this reality exists. No matter how captivating, a borderless reality is simply unintelligible.
Pen on paper painted digitally
24 in × 35 in aprox.
Finally, there is a moment in which it must be recognized that universality is an idea rather than a fact. Since we cannot tangibly experience global totality through our finite bodies, its concept lives primarily in our imagination; we aim to be closer than we really are and sadly, in that attempt, we erase anything that the other might actually have to offer to us. In the end, our idea of the universal is little more than a dream that comes out of despair. It has no real power nor hope, but rather the flavor of anticipated defeat. Universality is the mirrored reflex of our inescapable introspection, the exhaustion of unanswered questions about our fate and ultimately a shapeless pile of inaccurate terms trying to hold us together. Humanity as a whole is, more than anything, a perpetual state of longing.
Digital image, printed paper, and printed vinyl Variable Dimensions
Most of my work stems from the fact that I find my own ignorance unbearable. As a kid, after I was told that knowledge is power, I’d try to hide everything I didn’t know by frantically reading books, deviating conversations, and—sadly—by keeping my mouth shut way too often.
Over the years, the limits of ignorance have become an obsession and a space I continually come back to, maybe as an attempt to reconcile with what I don’t know and to transform it into an opportunity to think twice, judge better, and eventually speak louder.
This way, I sustain a text-based practice in which manuals, maps, games, diagrams, and dictionaries operate not as clusters of answers but rather as routes to further questions. Where does certain knowledge come from and why do we stick to it? How much of what we know depends on social, political and/or economic structures? Who decides which knowledge is valuable and which isn’t? Can knowledge be arbitrary? Is knowledge necessarily true?
I work from my own need to (un)learn and to question biased models of thought that deem as neutral what we call “information.” Particularly now, as we face a global phenomenon of cumulative crisis, extreme polarization, and growing civic rebellion, I think it’s essential to examine how convictions and beliefs are negotiated, and what are the possible ways to liberate knowledge from individual arrogance and make it instead a tool for a fairer and more empathetic coexistence.
Consuelo Tupper (Chile, 1992) is an interdisciplinary artist and writer, whose work revolves around the limits of collective understanding and the role of language as a storyteller. Through text-based pieces such as manuals, maps, diagrams, lists and dictionaries, she explores the biases of what is considered knowledge, as well as its emotional components and the many challenges faced throughout its cultural transmission.