For circumstances I shan’t go into here, or which I’ll explain later, I was born in Peru on the banks of the River Amazon. This was in 1982, in a place called Iquitos, where I only lived for a few months. I remember nothing about it and have no ties to it. I left just as Werner Herzog was turning up with his team to film Fitzcarraldo. So the first thing I use by way of introduction—on a serious note, my roots—is really a little deception that I happily accept. What I like about this anecdote isn’t its possible quantitative or qualitative peculiarity but rather its aesthetic effectiveness, its strategy for producing value, although I readily admit that one thing might be linked to the other. Nor is it an extravagant idea to say that distance and the lack of any firsthand data make things, shall we say, available for speculation.
On a different note—though without letting go of the thread completely—when choosing Gold as the title, I might well have been thinking about alchemy. Alchemy is one of those things that reveal themselves by being hidden. By this I mean that in order to produce their effect, a kind of benefit, they have to hide their procedures, the process of transformation actually carried out. To a certain extent, these procedures are equivalent to the work needed to produce an image—in this case, gold. In a 1317 decretal, Pope John XXII used the formula Spondent quas non exhibent (“They promise riches they cannot show”) to condemn the practice of fraudulent alchemy. I don’t know whether he would have dared say “They show the riches they cannot produce.”
As a personal fixation, perhaps out of empathy, for some time I have been thinking about some of the ways in which this fabulous effect manifests itself as I try to understand its mechanisms. By way of example, and to expand the scope of this reasoning to other realms of experience, I’ll offer the case of the travelling salesman who was very keen on ties. Bright ties with loud patterns. He eagerly collected them and would wear them on his rounds. Since he loved to receive compliments on the quantity and variety of his ties, he took great care and attention to remember which ties each customer had seen so he could wear a different one for his next visit. In this way, in the eyes of his customers this gentleman’s tie collection was potentially infinite.
Making a possibly impoverishing effort to summarise—in a somewhat ironic tone—I think the question would be how to create the infinite, the powerful, using the most commonplace, specific materials, in a kind of virtuoso use of what there is. Or, even worse, how to indefinitely postpone the moment when this value has to be finally weighed and measured.