Cruising Quito was a project developed within the framework of Queer City Quito, from June 28 to July 8, 2017.
The project included a residency at No Lugar, along with an experiential research and reflection on the different spaces and technologies of gay cruising in the city of Quito, following the distinction that I have proposed between analog cruising and digital cruising, that is, between the cruising modalities that go from places like parks, public baths, or video venues, to computer technologies such as the Grindr or Hornet applications.
The objective was to evaluate and compare the continuities and mismatches between these different modalities of homosexual encounter. This project is part of a larger research where I have dealt with the “flows” that can be established or proposed between the physical/material and the virtual. This interest in the material-digital confrontation has had multiple and diverse routes, such as, for example, my series of Interface Paintings, my work about porn on the Internet, or my TAG3 series.
The resulting experiences of this residency in Quito were documented and are compartmentalized in a specially created website, where other materials such as texts, images, or schemes associated with the project are included. The proposal also included an instance of an object-based artwork that consisted of the assembly of a QR code, as in my Queer Code series, constructed of condoms painted in colors. This artwork was exhibited at the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in Quito. When scanned with an electronic device, the condom code linked to the project website.
I. An Alter-Internet Biography
Although it may seem odd, I was never very much into computers. I spent my childhood and adolescent years closer to the rural world than to the urban one. My parents grew up between the countryside and a small village in the south of Chile, in a very rainy area called the Valdivian temperate forest, which has a particular climate and vegetation. The area is named after the city of Valdivia, and it is the place where I was born and where I lived until I was four or five years old. My parents felt uncomfortable with the hectic rhythm of the city, the contamination, small spaces, and noise. That is why—when they moved to Santiago—they decided to live in the suburbs, in a country house away from the city with animals and plants. They didn’t like technology either. Maybe because my father was an engineer, he thought the digital world (computers, videogames, etc.) to be a waste of time and something negative. I came across videogames at my friends’ houses and the first personal computer I owned came as an inevitable and delayed necessity when I was finishing high school. For that reason, in the 1990s I experienced social massification of digital technologies from a distance. I felt a mixture of fascination, fear, curiosity, and desire towards that computing world. I believe that this distance—linked to desire—has significantly shaped my position regarding technologies and their artistic and political productivity, in being suspicious of apocalyptical positions, but mainly of those that are too integrated.
This distant condition has also determined the way in which I tend to keep away from digital resistance cultures, such as the hacker culture, free software, programming, cyber activism, and also the geek, nerd, and videogame cultures, which depend on having a thorough and deep understanding of technology and can sometimes manifest excessive eagerness or fanaticism. l keep the same distance regarding any kind of expertise on the web, since I have always defined my work (artistic and critical) as a result of my condition of being a user.
This also explains my choice for developing a different perspective than the ones usually approached by new digital media artists (using software, programming, HTML, Arduino, etc.). I believe that the projects I exhibit are often carried out with rather conservative media, such as painting or drawing. My works parasitize existing mass platforms, producing not so much from the complexity of digital technical knowledge, but rather unfolding their textual reflections and their poetics of work on certain aspects of the network experience, an object materialization that emphasizes analog and craft technologies.
II. Queer Codes
“Queer Code” is the general title of a series of works I began in 2011. In them, the QR code technology from advertising is brought into artistic works. I define the result as a deviation from the marketing economy: these are works in different techniques and material mediums (painting on canvas, drawing, bas-relief, objects, etc.), similar to the geometric abstractions, apparently neutral and harmless, but that have the ability to interact with mobile devices (smartphones or tablets). When the artworks are decoded, they link to different content both online and offline (video art, websites, poems, or performances—in many cases part of my own works). In most cases, the linked content in “Queer Codes” establishes formal, conceptual, or aesthetic relationships with the materiality of each piece, as well as with issues of sexual and gender post-identity, neoliberalism and the current society of control, technological precariousness, or political contingency in Chile and Latin America.
The Queer/Bizarre Code, Code Dissent
a. The series references queerness with its title “Queer Code.” It also plays with the QR code name and its English pronunciation (cuir, kiuar, cuiar), relating paintings and codes to the content they link to. Some of these codes are linked to performances or video-performances that reflect on generic-sexual identity, production technologies of contemporary subjectivity, their deviations, and insubordination vis-à-vis the heterosexual norm. The queer in “Queer Code” is also a reference to that which is visually bizarre or strange, the enigma of the sign, the not knowing what it is about, and which identity defines it.
We can also argue that once we overcome the initial festive moment, the “Queer Code” anticipates a problem concerning the processes of queer codification and its entry into a normative and exhaustive category of activist practices, artistic aesthetics, and academic bibliographical corpus. In the Anglo-Saxon contexts this has become already evident, and in non-English speaking countries it is accelerated by the literal transfer of the word “queer,” losing all the contestatory charge that the term could preserve from its performative context of initial enunciation. The word queer, when entering Latin America directly, without translation or divergence, does so as a glamorous new formula of knowledge exported from the United States. Unfortunately, the market in the “peripheral” countries of South America usually translates the name of the products into English, as an advertising formula to increase the symbolic status of the merchandise.
b. In Chile, at the end of 2011, the mobile phone company Claro made an advertising campaign where the face of Chilean actress Cecilia Bolocco appeared intervened by a QR code, with the slogan “I am Claro and I like it.” It was one of the first appearances of a QR code at a massive and popular scale in Chile. The campaign was quickly appropriated by photographer and activist HtmlvsCSS, who printed QR codes on sheets of paper to paste them on the advertising panels at bus stops. When you scanned HtmlvsCSS’s QR code, you were taken to the photo of the famous “Bolocazo,” hosted on HtmlvsCSS’s Tumblr account.
The artist stated in an interview with LaNación.cl, that he had done this because he “hated the Claro company” for its bad service and that he also hated publicists, who simply replicated the fashions of the moment. That action was very important to me, since one can affirm that the QR code entered Chile being immediately subverted and transgressed. The news of this intervention gave visibility to the code as a technological tool, but also alerted companies about the vulnerability of that advertising resource at a time when the business world itself was incorporating and assimilating it. The fact that the QR code had appeared in Chile, displaying its own possibility of transgression, issued a very strong message: we can intervene into all codes and all codes can be reappropriated. The market norms—all norms—can be disobeyed, parodied. It responded to the classical formula: “where there is power, there is resistance.”
The project La Bandera consisted of an initial performance on June 7, 2010. In that performance, Rivas washed a Chilean flag with chlorine until it became discolored. While this was happening, an image of the “El huaso y la lavandera,” a painting from the 19th century was projected, a paradigmatic image of the post-colonial national identity. Subsequently, this project has been developed as a video installation and as a QR code work that links to the video record of the performance.
“Inscripción de Código / Metacuerpo” was made in a performance meeting of Arte UNIACC. It occurred across several stages. First, a QR code was generated and linked to a placeholder video on the Vimeo platform. Next the image of that QR code was tattooed onto the artist’s body. That process was recorded in video and edited. The video was later uploaded to Vimeo, replacing the original placeholder video that had served to create that image-code, retaining the same URL. Thus, it was possible for the tattooed QR code to link to the video of its own construction. During a January 8, 2015 performance at UNIACC, the public was invited to scan the QR with their smartphones. The project included the collaboration of the Canadian artist Jamie Ross.
“No Me Mires” was an intervention and digital mounting of the photograph, “Dos Mujeres Yamana,” which appeared in William Singer Barclay’s book, The Land of Magellan, published in 1926.
III. Geolocating Desire: On Digital Cruising Space
Homosexual male flirting or cruising of spaces has been constituted as anti-normative and provisional. Cruising uses tactics of occupation, re-appropriation, and re-signification to occasionally transform urban spaces into territories of anonymous and illegal displays of desire. Even if a space becomes a regular place of cruising, this regularity is never completely assured. It seems to me that there is a structural continuity between what we will name analog cruising and digital cruising. This continuity is associated with temporality, space and desire. The analogical gay cruising belongs to a time of immediacy, and it is the immediacy that grants and makes possible the proximity of bodies in space. What these meeting technologies do is mediate the connection of nearby bodies, in an adjoining, contiguous space or territory. These are bodies that, from a heteronormative perspective, should not connect, that have neither a time nor a place to do so. Nevertheless, they still desire it and they succeed in doing so. Sometimes these counter-technologies transform the existing space or produce a new space. Often they function as a temporary occupation of a space, or they overlap or give a parallel use to the already existing space. That’s possible because you can build a space made up of codes, that only a few initiates will be able to decipher.
It is very likely that these same technologies function as a certain space in themselves. The notion of virtual space crosses all types of cruising, regardless of whether or not it’s done through the network, whether it’s physical or digital. This is because cruising virtualizes the space. It opens it to other possibilities, beyond those that are its own, pluralizing spaces. A park or public bath can be just a park and a public bath. A dimly lit corner might be just that. But they could also be spaces of sexual encounter. With cruising, another space becomes possible, virtually speaking.
Grindr could be seen as a kind of virtual sauna, or virtual public bath, that puts us all more or less together, but without needing to be together physically. It could be likened to carrying the cruising park in your pocket, and being at the park at the same time. Applications like Grindr work by geolocation, placing you in a geographical coordinate depending on the position of the device. It is true that there are ways to deceive Grindr. Applications that are really counter-applications allow us to intervene in the device, faking the appearance of a place and deceiving the GPS. In spite of this, one could affirm—in theory—that the geographic relation that the application establishes is trustworthy. There is a direct association between the physical placement of the device and the apparent location of the device. This allows me to attempt an idea: it may just be a game of words, but through geolocation, maybe both the disposition of the device and the appearance of the apparatus could coincide in the same spot.
Digital cruising applications allow movement because they are installed on devices such as tablets and smartphones, which allow for movement during use (as opposed to a conventional telephone or computer). Grindr refers us to the positioning of the moving device, that is, in a path ratio that can be changeable, no longer static. But it should not be forgotten that the position of each of the users that appears on the Grindr’s screen, only informs us of the position of the device, not that of the user. While the application may tell us someone is only 20 meters away, it could be that the that person left his smartphone on at home, or that the guy we have a date with lost his cell phone in a taxi. And it could be that we walk around, block after block, chasing only a device or an avatar, that appears to be a user on the move.
Moving around the city is beneficial, at least from Grindr’s point of view. People in your neighborhood already know you, and it is only natural that new people will write to you when you change your environment. The universe of potential candidates expands if you travel. And you become a new possibility for a larger universe of users. Grindr’s maxim could be: move, change places, that way you’ll have potentially more sex. But at the same time Grindr keeps us in a certain fixed place. And it’s not just about what you gain when having a place to have sex. I say this because in a way Grindr is a virtual anteroom. What happens in that anteroom?
Those of us who use and frequent Grind participate in an experience common to other Grindr users. We should make clear that Grindr is not a true virtual space, in terms of what platforms like Second Life promised, completely disconnected from the physical environment. Second Life was typical of an understanding of the Internet as a world parallel to the physical world. Grindr instead uses an Internet dynamic that is directly associated with or interacts with material space, which is informed and informs us of it. Therefore, it is closer to both the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality. Grindr informs us of certain aspects of the physical environment nearby: the existence of a limited number of subjects with whom we could have sex. And it puts us in touch with them. From that perspective, Grindr could be understood as a window through which to view the nearby environment. It would be a sort of cruising window, that would have its eyes set on all the boys desiring to have sex that very same moment. In an abstract sense, it could then be a way of understanding and managing the nearby space or landscape. We should not overlook the fact that Grindr’s experience as an Augmented Reality in a city as racially and economically segregated as Santiago may be relevant in assessing how these differences are manifested or hidden in a possible journey through the city segregated from Grindr’s perspective.
All these ideas are related to the physical space that the application is confronted with. But Grindr could also be thought of as a space in itself, a regulated space. From this point of view, we would have to perceive Grindr as a device that takes certain elements into account—in this case other users and their information and profiles—by ordering, configuring, and submitting them to certain standardized principles and protocols. This would be a computer and algorithmic normalization. It could be said, then, that one inhabits Grindr regardless of the physical place in which one is. It is important to understand this dimension in relation to the homosexual homogenization force that the app possesses as a standardization device. It is a kind of disciplinary effect, in which the codes to which a Grindr user is subjected are very similar in any part of the world, the logics are similar, the communication is similar. Those who have been able to travel and use the application in different countries, cities, or areas of the same city, experience how Grindr works as a virtual non-place for homosexuals in the contemporary world. In its non-place dimension, as an anteroom or space for transit and waiting, Grindr’s experience would not be very different in Santiago de Chile, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, or New York. However, we commented on the example of Santiago de Chile, a city segregated by class and race, related to economic and material contexts. A user of Grindr faces the city, a plane of physical, material, economic, and racial reality on which they interact through the application. Here, this urban segregation is contrasted with the opposite force the device has to homogenize or homo-normalize. That same opposition of forces is experienced in other places.
IV. The Post-AIDS Condition
AIDS, understood as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a virtual possibility of the condition of seropositivity. During the first years of the disease, being a carrier of HIV was synonymous and equivalent to having AIDS. Understood from a linear and evolutionary perspective, AIDS was conceived as the final and necessary stage after contracting HIV, a predictable and hyper-viralized spoiler, the chronicle of an announced death. In factual and epidemiological terms, this superposition was quite accurate, due to the initial absence of treatment. But the evolution of medicines has meant that this overlap is no longer necessarily true, despite persisting in the cultural imaginary about HIV. A large part of the pedagogical agenda of AIDS activism and biopolitical administration carried out by the governmental public health areas has been precisely to insist on the difference or distinction that exists between HIV and AIDS. However, my approach to this issue is neither epidemiological nor biomedical, but rather techno-symbolic.
I will use provisionally the concept “Post-AIDS” as an interrogation. This notion of Post-AIDS is the most accurate title I could find for a set of short notes and questions that have been around for a long time and that I develop from my place of seropositivity and from my experiences with the practice of barebacking (sex without a condom) as a user of Grindr. It is therefore an idea associated in a certain way to virtuality, and at the same time, to a dense, embodied materiality. The vitalist rhetoric of care and prevention have long saturated the language of HIV and AIDS with negative symbolic burdens, and the virtuality and materiality of these ideas offers sex without a condom as a “legitimate” possibility.
When you create a profile in Grindr—that is, when you start to exist in the app—you must add information: a photo or profile image, a description, and details such as age, height, weight, ethnic origin, body complexion, or sexual role. Along with this data, Grindr has incorporated a category for “HIV status,” which includes several options, among them the usual “negative” or “positive.” In an instance where a user is “negative,” he can also indicate the date on which he made his last exam. But to the traditional arithmetic dichotomy of HIV that divided subjects between a “+” and a “-,” two more recent categories have now been added. These categories of Grindr are those of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) consumption and the condition of undetectability. These conditions can be specified as data by the users of the app. That is to say, they express a recent phenomenon of “datification” of HIV status in computer-digital contexts.
In the plane of the interactive screen of the smartphone, the Grindr interface allows me to declare one of the four variables that inform my sexual health status:
- Negative, I take PrEP
- Positive, not detectable
These four variables appear like this, flattened by the plane of the screen, with the same typography, color and font size, absolutely interchangeable with each other as data-possible, almost as if there was no hierarchy of value between them. The datafication of HIV will undoubtedly have an operational use at the Big Data level, probably administered by algorithms for commercial or epidemiological purposes. But I think that this datafication also configures a symbolic effect that alters the microeconomics of HIV and the affective practices of care. The data is measured by its usefulness; they are not good or bad, they do not have morals. According to Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, the data is “a description of something that can be registered, analyzed and reorganized.” And to turn data into a phenomenon is to translate it into a quantified format so that it can be tabulated and analyzed. The datafication then implies a certain normalization, since the data—in the neoliberal context of the information networks—has a value in itself, independent of its content.
For these theorists of mass network data, the process of mapping requires not only adequate instruments to measure, but also the “desire to quantify and record.” The desire to characterize configures the limits of the universe that can be defined:. There will be no data without desire for data: the desire for data produces the data, the data is an effect of desire. Today in Grindr we can know if someone uses PrEP or is undetectable, because the data enables us to know this information. But, as data theory tells us, today there is such data because we want it to exist. Why do we want this data? What will we do with that data?
Desire exerts a performative force on the data. But conversely, could it be that the existence of the data somehow produces a desire? It would be a desire configured as an effect of the data, in which the existence of the data as data-possible, activates a desire. Let’s put it clearly: if we apply data theory to the datafication of HIV, the reason that Grindr incorporates this data would be based on our desire—already existent—to fuck without a condom. But at the same time, it could be that this option in our Grindr profiles configure a possibility that did not exist before, or that was unclear, diffuse. The existence of these data would give coherence to the desire to bareback.
The Standardization of Barebacking
In Grindr’s networks, bareback sex seems to begin to be integrated into the practices of “responsible” sex, as long as that body is subjected to PrEP or exists in a state of undetectability. Some users of the network effectively report using PrEP, that is, they consume a daily Truvada pill as a chemical prevention to HIV transmission. To announce on Grindr that one uses PrEP means at least three things: firstly, it implies affirming that you are negative, secondly, that you do not get infected or that you are not going to infect anyone, and third, that—eventually—you could practice barebacking. In Grindr’s networks and its particular homosexual imaginary, the practice of bareback sex could begin to be integrated into “responsible” sex practices, as long as that body is subjected to PrEP (i.e. to the use of Truvada) or as long as you are in a condition of undetectability. These conditions can be shown as data by the users of the app when creating a profile, that is, they occupy the same position and hold the same value as other data, such as age, height, weight, ethnic origin, body build, or sexual role.
The use of Truvada could be interpreted as a ritual in which pharmacological power produces a contradictory body. On the one hand a “hygienic” body is produced. The physical barrier of the condom is replaced by a pharmacological mediation, which has been defined as a chemical condom. A body subjected to daily PrEP use is deemed a “healthy,” “safe” body that can penetrate or be penetrated without a condom. But consumption of Truvada also implies the opposite: the performative production of a “sick” body. If you are a carrier of HIV, you should take medications, among which Truvada or similar ones could be found. If you are not, you should also take Truvada to prevent getting infected (and thus, supposedly not having to consume those same medications). As a performative loop of the pharmacological power associated with HIV, we can all be thought of as bodies in treatment, regardless of whether we are carriers or not. The Truvada pill is a deconstructive chemical that breaks the dichotomy between “healthy” and “sick,” to submit to a new regime of medicalized continuity.
Another category of homosexual subjects associated with the digital normalization of barebacking is that of undetectability. Being undetectable means that viral load screening tests in an HIV-positive person are not able to measure their presence in the blood. In this context, the word “presence” is complex. The virus is present, but in such a low quantity that the measuring devices can not perceive it. Being directly associated with the measurement of a device, we will then talk about the “appearance” of the virus rather than its presence. The philosopher Jean Louis Déotte has described the function of devices from modernity, defining them as technologies of appearing. For him, the apparatuses of each epoch produce the regime of the appearances that govern us, what can appear, what does not, and how it appears.
Serological measurement techniques have made the subject carrying HIV (positive) and the subjest not carrying HIV (negative) appear up to now. The measuring device works under the dichotomized logic of + and -. Today, the drugs are making a new subject appear: that without being “negative,” seems as if it were. The non-appearance of HIV implies the absence of proof of its existence in the body, and also the material impossibility of contagion. A virus that disappears is a virus that does not reach to infect, because the contagion requires a certain minimum amount of viral load measurable by the devices. Hence the importance of the apparatus, since the regime of appearances is not “merely” superficial, it has concrete material effects. And strictly speaking, from the point of view of the device, negativity and undetectability mean the same thing. The only difference is that the undetectable has been previously declared as “positive”; it is a body already marked by the indelible sign of positivity. Here we have the second loop of pharmacological power: an undetectable seropositive body is a body subjected to biomedical, mannerist effect, with the same appearance of a negative body, but unable to return completely to that negative state.
These are two examples of the post-AIDS condition. But we must clarify that the post-AIDS condition is not a homogenous condition on a global level, nor is it a moment of overcoming the vital, political, and material effects, and also of AIDS metaphors. Post-AIDS is a differential condition in a differential world. A few weeks ago I received a message from a Venezuelan Facebook friend. He told me that his brother is a carrier of HIV and that the current political crisis in the country was also generating a crisis in access to medicines. The post-AIDS condition is an unstable condition that depends, among other factors, on delicate political-economic balances that the states of post-state neoliberalism must respect.
 The Valdivian temperate forests are an ecoregion on the west coast of southern South America, in Chile and extending into Argentina. “The Valdivian temperate rainforests are characterized by their dense understories of bamboos, ferns, and for being mostly dominated by evergreen angiosperm trees. They are the only temperate rain forests in South America and one of a small number of temperate rain forests in the world” (Wikipedia).
 A particular user could have technical knowledge not only to “use” a tool, but also to produce, modify, or program it. However, here I do not refer to a particular user, but I use the conceptual notion of “user condition” to differentiate it from the role of “programmer.” Both subject positions define a radically different relationship with the tool (and its interface).
 HTML, the acronym for Hypertext Markup Language, refers to the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications. It defines a basic structure and a code (called HTML code) for defining content of a web page, such as text, images, videos, and games, among others.
 “Arduino” is an open source computer hardware and software company, project, and user community that designs and manufactures single-board microcontrollers and microcontroller kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control objects in the physical world.
 Cruising is a term that refers to the practice of searching for casual sexual encounters in public places, parks, squares, beaches, etc. There are also specific places where you can do cruising, such as bars and sex venues.
 We are thinking here of the distinction that is made between the concepts of device in the way Foucault and Agamben understand it, versus the notion of apparatus, as proposed by Jean-Louis Déotte.
 According to Wikipedia: “Second Life […] is a metaverse […] which can be accessed free of charge from the Internet. Its users, known as “residents,” can access [Second Life] through the use of one of the multiple interface programs called viewers, which allow them to interact with each other through an avatar. Residents can thus explore the virtual world, interact with other residents, establish social relationships, participate in various activities both individually and in groups and create and trade virtual property and offer services to each other. SL is intended for people over 18 years of age.”
 The Internet of Things refers to the interconnection of everyday objects (not just communication devices or computers) with the Internet network.
 Augmented Reality (AR) describes the interaction of digital devices with physical environments, which intervene or add virtual information to existing physical information. The result is a combination of both, unlike virtual reality, in which the resulting environment is completely abstracted from the tangible physical world.
 This economic and racial segregation is strongly determined by the urban landmark of Plaza Italia, which divides the so-called “high-rises” of the city, associated with high-income communes, and neighborhoods.
 I say this in the context of countries with universal access to medicines and taking into account that people around the world continue to die every day from AIDS, even though they should not do so medically.
 The concept of barebacking emerged in American gay communities in the 1990s.
 I used the phrase “Post-AIDS” for the first time in 2013, to give title to a project that consisted of a QR code built with hundreds of condoms, part of the series “Queer Code.” That first version was digital. The code linked to a gay porn video from the barebacking category with Latino actors. The project materialized in 2017 as a work proposal in SOY PAISAJE, the exhibition of the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo CAC in Quito, Ecuador, within the framework of the residence “Queer City Quito” I made in No Lugar. In this new version, the QR code linked to a website that registered my experiences of cruising in the city.
 PrEP is the English acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis, that is, the continuous administration of antiretrovirals in order to prevent the transmission of HIV. It is an optional procedure for HIV-negative people. Currently, the only drug recommended for pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV is Truvada. The use of this medication for prophylactic purposes is approved by the FDA.
 I say “almost,” because the order of appearance of each one already marks a hierarchy, which overlaps the persistent social valuation.
 Big data or massive data, corresponds to the phenomenon of exponential increase in circulating information, associated with digitality and the Internet network.
 Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big data: la revolución de los datos masivos (Turner Publications, 2013), p. 100.
 Ibid, p. 101.
 I use these words knowing their strong ideological connotation associated with sexuality, as they are the words and concepts that Grindr users constantly refer to and use. To indicate this use, I have placed these terms in quotation marks each time they appear.
 Truvada is the trade name of the association of emtricitabine and tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV. In addition, Truvada is the medicine used in PrEP treatments.
 Unless you use PrEP as an annex to the condom. However, this case seems to be very minor.
 These ideas are strongly associated with the notion of “pharmacopornography” devised by Paul B. Preciado.