The South Highway

David Maroto


Book, 17 x 11 cm, 128 p, language: English, publisher: Dutch Art Institute and CasCo–Office for Art, Design and Theory, ISBN: 978-94-90294-53-3.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2025/867).

Literary synopsis

The South Highway is based on the Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar’s short story La Autopista del Sur. The protagonist gets stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of a highway. Soon we realize that the traffic jam lasts too long, days, weeks, perhaps months. People who by chance got stuck close to each other are compelled by sheer need to join forces: to find water and food, to help the weak and ill ones, and so on. Groups are organized and communities are created. Personal relations also arise, stories of love and desire, jealousy, fights and friendship. After a long, though undefined period of time, the traffic jam ends and cars are free to move forward again. As it happens, those temporary communities get dispersed again, and with it all the created bonds and relationships. The characters confront the fact that they have to recover their old identities.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

The South Highway is written in the fashion of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books (very popular amongst teenagers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, right before the advent of the Internet). Its main characteristic is that it is written in the second person. The protagonist is not referred to as “he” or “she,” but as “you.” You, the reader, are the one to choose the course of the narrative. The book is divided into 75 sections. At the end of each section you will be given a number of options to continue the story. Depending on your choice, you will jump to one section or another. The narrative changes according to your decisions on the path to follow, the actions to carry out, and the answers to give to other characters. It is you who interact with the others inside the book, and thus are responsible for the protagonist’s vicissitudes. The protagonist’s behavior, and ultimately the outcome of the game, is the result of the combination between the character’s pre-established personality parameters as they come from Cortázar’s piece and the player’s autonomous decisions.

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