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Avistamiento de galletas de la fortuna en un centro comunitario en La Boca, Argentina. Foto: Gentileza Sonia Becce/Santiago Orti.
Spotting fortune cookies at a community center in La Boca, Argentina. Photo: courtesy of Sonia Becce/Santiago Orti.

Fortune cookies for times of pandemic

Thirty years after they were "baked" by the mind of Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, his "good" fortune cookies are giving away optimism all over the world.

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On May 25th, the citizens of La Boca, Argentina, witnessed the arrival of piles of fortune cookies that were distributed free of charge to a crowd of people. The recipients who broke them before they ate them to read their message came across a phrase of such good fortune that the day improved at once. It also happened in many other cities and countries, a flood of fabulous news about the future of people in the darkest moments of a pandemic.

It happened on a beach in Rio, in a stable in Florida, in a forest in Finland and at the airport in Shanghai. Cookies, cookies and more fortune cookies coming through a hole in space-time. A hole whose origin was in the deep sorrow that an artist felt for the death of his lover as a result of another epidemic, HIV, but that was 30 years ago.

In 1990, Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres produced a work called Untitled Fortune Cookie Corner, which consisted of an installation where a mountain of fortune cookies was stacked. As he did in other pieces where he stacked candies or rolls of paper, this lucky corner alluded to "the ability to immortalize through regeneration, augmented by the experience of loss," explained gallery owners Andrea Rosen and David Zwirner.

It was them who came up with the idea of bringing the exhibition back to life during the COVID-19 pandemic and to distribute fortunes by returning art to public space and people, as the enigmatic González-Torres would have done. 

The exhibition consisted of a thousand people - a diverse and international group - who had to take a piece of the work to a city and follow specific parameters that would start with between 240 and 1000 fortune cookies placed in the place they chose and how they wanted. 

People who come across the play could take the cookies with them and participants would have to "regenerate" them so that there would always be the initial number of cookies.

"I thought about that phrase of Freud's: 'We prepare for our greatest fears in order to weaken them'. I was losing Ross, so I wanted to lose everything to deal with that fear and maybe learn something from him. So I wanted to lose the play too, that which was so important in my life. I wanted to learn to let go," explained the late Gonzalez-Torres of Untitled Fortune Cookie Corner.

The project began on May 25 and will conclude on July 5. Watch out for the corners of your cities, you never know where the luck may be.

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