Paratext #38 by Lara García Díaz

Paratext #38
October 22, 2019
By Lara García Díaz

Jhouyu Hsieh (Institutional residence Taipei)
Consol LLupià (Short stay residency)
Shaotong He (Baden-Wüttemberg – Catalunya exchange grant)
Simon Pfeffel (Baden-Wüttemberg – Catalunya exchange grant)

 

If I were to consider a title for this text, curiously, it would be Paratext. A text that accompanies other bodies already enunciated, that marks possible orientation frames, or that walks hand in hand with other materials to configure third interpretations. The words that follow function under these parameters; as transition zones, as thresholds of mediation between bodies or as interpretative choruses between the manifestations that resounded in Paratext n.38 in Hangar and that which I have decided to rescue.

One of these bodies could be that of the island of Ses Rates – or the island of Redona as it is called – a small island that stood in the bay of Mahón, Menorca and its inhabitant, a scaly reptile scientifically catalogued as Podarcis lilfordi rodriquezi. The artist Jhouyu Hsieh uses a video with her image and voice to tell us in Patterns of Extinct Life as it was in 1935 when the island of Ses Rates was dynamited to facilitate the navigation of large ships and cruisers in the bay of Mahón, leaving both the island and any kind of life that inhabited it extinct. The reptile of the Pitiusas and the Ferreret, one of the only surviving species of the Plio-Pleistocene fauna of the Balearic Islands of which the Podarcis lilfordi rodriquezi forms part, was almost extinct during the Holocene, coinciding with the settlement of the “human” bodies on the islands. The most likely cause of extinction was the pressure exerted by the predators introduced by these bodies, including cats, the marten and the weasel. The final extinction of the Podarcis lilfordi rodriquezi, of which four specimens are conserved today in museum collections, also coincides with the current period of the Quaternary period in terrestrial history, or what Rosi Braidotti calls the convergence of the fourth Industrial Revolution and the sixth mass extinction instigated by subjects incarnated in the body of a “man”.

Catching reptiles as pets for keeping on terrariums on the islands themselves, or for illegal sale and export, has been another obvious threat to many of these populations. The fascination to conserve, domesticate or catalogue other subjects in bodies other than those properly understood as “man” can already be found in the 14th century, in which samples of a man-animal relationship that still persecutes us today are developed and left behind. It is later in the modern age when zoos are inaugurated, such as, for example, the Vienna Zoo in 1765. The Barcelona Zoo, however, was inaugurated 127 years later, in 1892. The artist Consol Llupià uses her voice, her body and a suitcase recently arrived from New York, to immerse us in a journey that takes us to one of the symbols of the Barcelona Zoo: the skeleton of the whale that was exhibited at the entrance to Wellington Street. What happened to this body exposed in the form of a cetacean? 36 years after its body was found stranded on El Prat beach in 1983 and was moved and decomposed in Barcelona, the zoo decided to remove the skeleton of the cetacean to a forgotten warehouse in 2018 due to its poor state of conservation. La Ballena del Prat al Prat is positioned as a protest slogan and as an interesting act of communication between extinct, or simply different, bodies, in which Consol asks his cetacean companion if he finally wants to return home with frequencies inaudible to the human ear.

From that extinct, or from the ambiguous cataloguing of different bodies and their forms of hierarchization through the gaze and desire of the “man”, we pass, from the hand of the artist Shaotong He, to recall what is indispensable for the subsistence of incarnated bodies: food. From melon with wine to Spanish omelette, Shaotong He displays a horizontal scheme in which he shows the ten recipes he has been collecting during his short stay in Hangar. Each recipe seems to have guided him to the enunciation of future artistic proposals that use, in most cases, humour as a starting point. Placed on his back, he shows us photographs of his culinary results and tries to establish some kind of schematic logic to defend a circular communication that includes the public, the institution and his own work.

Afterwards, artist Simon Pfeffel places a kind of apparatus in the form of a skeleton at the beginning of the room and emphasizes how his practice yearns to activate the body of the receiver relegating the greatest responsibility in it. Confidence, resistance or discomfort are the keys to his work and the hinges that articulate his proposal in this session. Just as Consol asks the Prat whale if she wants to return home, Simon communicates to us directly his desire to return to his own. For this reason, he asks us to participate in a kind of ritual or pilgrimage in which, thanks to the collaboration between the existing bodies in the room, Simon goes around the levitated apple of the ground. For a moment, while I observe the capacity for action and collaboration between the various incarnated subjects, I am reminded of the circular body of the extinct island of Ses Rates, the dark and bright colours of its reptilian inhabitants, and the serious sound frequencies in which the 19-metre-long cetacean seems to continue to communicate. I also think, while I taste the Spanish omellete that Shaotong He offers us at the end of the session, about the feeling of belonging to the bodies, about the lack of protection and vulnerability of the species in the collapse of ecosystems, or about their capacity for cognitive communication beyond any schematization. Returning home, I realize the urgency of devising affirmative forces capable of mobilizing aspirations for collective and shared freedoms, respect for biodiversity, and policies anchored in everyday life. An approach, as Gilles Deleuze points out, to the production of models of becoming potentiators that gradually help us to understand forms of sharing and communication between different bodies that existed, became extinct or continue to exist in different ways.

Categories: Paratext report |

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