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The smoke that always vanishes inexorably

About the collection of “Smoke signals for other worlds”
by Mary Lightowler

*The text has been published in the book "Collection of Signals". +VIEW

A signal and a conscious act constitute the decision to communicate. Launching a sign, premeditated but urgent, is what drives the principle of "Smoke signals to other worlds". The rush is not in receiving the answer, but in the act that shows confidence that these worlds exist.

First it was an orange flare, a universal emergency signal that, with a duration of approximately 60 seconds, allows, even in situations of dense fog, to mark position and determine the direction of the wind -effectively-, in rescue operations.

The smoke that always inexorably vanishes, does so in a unique way each time, depending on the climatological context of the moment: wind speed, temperature and humidity.


Then, the color orange ceased to be essential and the requirement was presented to make the communication act even more effective, giving way to other colors that would make visuality more effective depending on the surrounding environment: violet, green, white, red or whatever was necessary.

The urgency is communication.


With an area of 1.7 million square kilometers, Patagonia covers half of the Argentine territory and yet it is the region with the lowest population density in the country: just over two people per square kilometer. It is in that desolate landscape, in which the emission of these signals is condensed, which, over almost four years -since 2018-, are launched in confirmation that these "other worlds" exist, are present and are receptive.

The landscape is busy and the fuse is lit. The smoke that enunciates a constant sound, unfolds in the landscape taking over it illusorily, for an instant. It is only possible to be apprehended in the photographic or video record.

What other traces account for the act? The body, the necessary performing medium, is presented as a tacit subject, without giving more details than a few footprints in the snow or revealing a subtle shadow in the distance.

They are, however, the bushings, the casings of the flares, the most forceful and at the same time necessary detritus of the action. They are the ones who later testify, documenting what happened:  labeled, burned and stored, they are the heritage of a performance based on the illusion of the existence of a potentially receptive other.


In the digital age, going back to the original act of sending smoke signals is a stance. It expresses the urgency of the state of emergency or alert and evokes questions about the relationships between landscape and subject, between nature and artifice, between the possibility or impossibility of communicating.


The conviction and the fact sustained over time, were forming a collection of signals, which taking over multiple supports: photography, video, also performance, intervention and installation, give meaning to the reiteration that, however, is modified in each event. .

In the water, in the estuaries and shingles, in the mountains. In summer, in winter or on a rainy day. At the time the broadcast is urgent, that is the time of each signal.

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