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’ve been traveling on bus line seven for at least 45 minutes. It’s crowded, and inside the bus, it’s a little bit cold, although it’s warm outside. A lady sneezes on my back. Microbes disseminate all over and mix with other microbes and substances that were already there. A group of guys and girls, who look huge, hop on the bus, two of them hug to save space and to find a point of stability and avoid falling on the lady who sneezed on the back of my neck. This soup of microbes and macro microbes travel throughout the city at the speed of mid-afternoon traffic.

I get off the bus at Diagonal, cross a park, there is a group of people doing yoga on a large transparent piece of plastic that they have spread all over the ground, I guess it’s there so they don’t dirty their rear ends. I visualize all those sticky bums sweating and sticking to the plastic. It’s almost seven in the evening and the sun is shining, the days will still lengthen for the next month until solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and we celebrate the shortest night of the year with fire.

We sit in a dark room and I feel a little claustrophobic, I have the feeling that I’m losing my sense of time. Maria talks to us; she is talking to us about the relationship they have with a city that is strange to her. She sits on a bench and takes up space. She eats, walks, swims, moves, observes. She measures distances with words, but also with gestures and strokes. She measures distances with the words she writes in her mail she shares with someone who is not us, but who now reads us, and which are useful, in the silence of this dark
room, to slowly explain. The words measure the distances between Maria and her mail but also between Maria and us. Why not eat the oranges’ white part? The one between the rind and the flesh. This white part is the distance between the edible and the inedible.

The letters measure another distance, they talk about the passage of time, counting the days. Today is Wednesday, and this letter is from three Wednesdays ago, the day the calendar marks someone’s birthday who had to receive this letter. Birthdays are also a way of showing distance: from birth, or death, or the distance between you and me. Letters are, without a doubt, a way of counting, organizing, also of observing.

A leaf of a plant represents its whole species. The representative leaf is dry and exposed, on the side of the room in a small rudimentary herbarium with familiar plants, a loquat leaf, and dandelion. This leaf tells us about how death can represent what is alive and blend in with it. On the way out we talk about how science studies models because individuals are too complex.

Aleix starts talking, he says that his project tries to connect all the elements until he exhausts the possibilities of combinations between the 118 elements of the periodic table. I then recall Mendeleyev, a scientist who proposed new elements for the table that he never was able to “see”, but he knew they were there. Years later, after his death, he was proven right. We don’t see many things, but sometimes we need them to explain our world. Aleix explains that scientists say that they can only get to know about 5% of the matter in the universe, and from this 5% only 0.05% is on Earth. I think this is what scientists, and also artists do: imagine the rest of it.

While he talks accurately about certain details, he does not remember others, especially dates of events. Order on one side implies disorder on another. He starts with the Big Bang; he says that the energy that was generated in that germinal moment can be seen through the sensitivity of a cathode tube television. I don’t know if I completely understood him. He shows us an image on the sensitive screen of a television. He talks about video games and Coltan mines in the Congo, while he shows us a very large picture that looks to me like a very modern skyscraper, but it is a Sony console..

I think that we only recognize what we already previously knew, this is what it means to recognize: that our perception of the world is limited by what we already know. Explaining things differently, through other voices, or from another place, is an exercise that can generate a shift or a change in the perception of things. It is not necessary to “make images speak”, images do not speak, they say things, but from another place in a language that is neither oral nor linear. Images do what we cannot do here: explain things without an order.

From Coltan, we arrive at Leopold II, or perhaps the journey was the other way around: the wars for the extraction of minerals from the heart of the earth and the neoliberalism that feeds them are a consequence of the violence that this bloodthirsty man, who in the image appears mounted on a bronze horse, bolstered in the 19th century by forcefully appropriating land that was not his and enslaving the people who lived there. People die and the land moves.

The history of life on earth is – partially – a history of material relations; thus, to speak of the periodic table of the elements we speak of colonization, of exploitation, and of a certain vision of the planet understood as a resource: a relation in the function of what we can obtain. In an act of correspondence, we could think, instead, about how the material world relates to us, what is its agenda and what other stories can it tell. We might think that all materials on earth, are in a certain way, in fact, extraterrestrial.

Thus, we arrive in Mexico, with an image that Aleix says is the first image that was taken of planet Earth from outer space, although what we see is not land, but the reflection of the sun on the Pacific Ocean. One of the last images we see is the Sun Stone, the basalt monolith where the Aztec solar calendar that ordered the cyclical time of their cosmology is represented: it governed the sowing and harvest and indicated sacrifices.

The lights are turned on and the room is gradually illuminated. Our pupils constrict, stimulated by the bluish light that makes the images on the screen disappear and our faces appear. Outside there is still a bit of sunshine making the ocean glow somewhere on the planet and dazzles the aliens. I return to line seven bus, and a circle that has lasted a little over an hour, or maybe thousands, even millions of years, a full circle is completed.



Categories: Paratext report |

Cookies: We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. If you continue to browse you are giving your consent to the acceptance of the aforementioned cookies and acceptance of our cookie policy. ACEPTAR

Aviso de cookies