Paratext #26 by Caterina Almirall

Paratext n#26
May 23rd 2018
By Caterina Almirall

Maria Norholm (international residence)
Aleix Plademunt (ADM-Mexico City, and Hangar exchange grant)

I take the 7th bus line for at least 45 minutes. It is overcrowded, inside the bus is a bit cold, although outside it’s hot. A lady sneezes on my back. The microbes climb over the whole space and are swept with other microbes and substances that were already there. A group of boys and girls that look huge comes in, two of them hug to save space and to find a point of stability and avoid falling on the lady who has sneezed on my neck. This soup of micro and macro microbes travels round the city at the speed of mid-afternoon traffic.

I get off the bus at the end of Diagonal, I walk through a park, there’s a group of people that are doing yoga on a big transparent plastic laid over the floor, I guess to avoid getting their bum dirty. I imagine all of those sticky and sweaty butt cheeks getting stuck to the plastic. It’s almost seven in the afternoon and the sun is shining, days will continue to get longer during next month until the solstice, when the sun will arrive at highest spot on the sky, and we’ll celebrate with fire the shortest night of the year.

We sit in a dark room which gives me a little of claustrophobia, I get the feeling of losing the notion of time. Maria is talking, is she talking to us? Through the relationship she has with a city that’s strange to her. She sits in a bench and occupies a space. Eats, walks, swims, travels, stares. Measures the distances with words, also with gestures and arm movements. Measures the distances with the words she writes in the letters she sends to someone, not us, but now she’s reading them to us, and are used, slowly, to count. Words measure the distance between Maria and her letters and also between Maria and us. Why not eat the white part of the orange? The one that remains between the skin and the meat. This white part is the distance between what is eatable and what isn’t.

The letters measure some other distance, they count the pass of time, they count the days. Today is Wednesday, and this letter comes from three days ago, the day that the calendar was showing someone’s birthday that had to receive this letter. Birthdays are also a way to show a distance: from birth, or death, or the distance between you and me. Letters are, with no doubt, a way of counting, organizing, observing too.

A plant leaf represents a whole species. The representing leaf is dry and exposed, on a side of the room in a small rudimentary herbal with well-known plants, a nesper leaf and a dandelion. This leaf tells us how death can represent what’s alive and get mixed with it. On the way out we will talk about how science studies models, why individuals are too complex.

Aleix starts talking, he says that his project aims to connect all the periodic table elements until he uses up all the combinations between the 118 elements. I remember Mendeléyev, a scientist that proposed new elements for the table that never actually “saw”, but knew they were there anyway. Years later, when he was already dead, it was proved that he was right about the elements he didn’t get to see. There are many things that we don’t see, but sometimes we need to explain. Aleix tells us that scientists say that we can only have a 5% of knowledge about the universe matter, and only a 0’05% is in Earth. I think this is what scientists do, and also artists: imagine the rest.

While he talks precisely about some details, he doesn’t recall others, specially the event dates. The order of one side means the disorder of the other one. He starts with the Big Bang, he says that the energy that was generated in this initial moment can be seen through the sensibility of a cathode tube television. I don’t know if I completely understood, he shows us an image from the sensible television screen. He talks about video games and the coltan mines in Congo, while he shows us a big photography which I think is a very modern skyscraper, but it’s actually Sony brand gaming console.

I think we only recognize what we already knew, and this is what recognizing means: that our world perception is limited by what we already know about it. Explaining things in a different way, with other voices, or from another place is an exercise that can generate displacement or a change in the perception of things. It’s not necessary to “draw out” images, images don’t talk, they tell us things but from somewhere else in the language with no oral or lineal sense. Images do what we can’t do here: explain things without an order.

From coltan we arrive to Leopold II, but maybe the journey was backwards: the mineral extraction wars at the Earth heart and neo-liberalism that feeds them, are, in consequence of violence that this bloodthirsty man, who appears in the image riding a bronze horse, perpetuated in the XIX century by taking control by the force of a land that was not his, and by enslaving the ones that lived there. People die and Earth moves.

The story of life on earth is, in a way, a story of material relationships, so, to talk about the elements of the periodic table we talk about colonization, exploration, and from a certain point of view of the planet understood as a resource: a relationship that works by what we can obtain. In a correspondence act, we could, however, in how the material world relates to us, what is it’s agency and what other stories it can tell. We can think that all the Earth materials, in a cert way, are, in fact, aliens.

This is how we arrive to Mexico, with and image that Aleix shows us as the first image that was made of Earth from the exterior, and that all that is seen isn’t earth, but the reflection of the sun in the Pacific Ocean. One of the lasts images we see is the Sun Stone, the basalt monolith in which the solar Aztec calendar is represented, that ordered the cyclic time if it’s cosmology: it determined the planting and the harvest and indicated when the sacrifices had to be done.

The lights turn on and the room gets slowly brighter. Our stimulated pupils get expanded by the bluish light that’s making the images disappear in our faces. There’s still a bit of sun making the ocean spark somewhere around the planet, and dazzles the aliens. I get back on the 7th line bus, and a circle that’s last a little more than an hour, or maybe thousands, or even millions of years, closes.

Categories: Paratext report |

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