Paratext #39 by Gabriel Virgilio Luciani

Paratext #39
27 de noviembre, 2019
By Gabriel Virgilio Luciani

Arash Fayez (Production grant 2019)
Giulia Deval (International residency)
Veronica Tran (Interaction lab residency grant )

_For magic (and comedy) to work, punctuality is key. Timing.

_Unlike most activities in Barcelona, the Paratext started at 7 pm punctually.

_Each artist had 30 minutes to present their work. Each one was strictly faithful to this rule.

_The transitions between each presentation only took a few seconds.

The floor of the Sala Ricson was almost empty when we entered. Even so, after the first presentation, there were suddenly four rows of chairs to look at the second presentation.

_The word seamless would be applied to the flow of experience.

_The parentheses that housed the content of this Paratext, the peripheries between each presentation considered in the planning, generated a sensation of temporary suspense. All this thanks to Marc and more agents working to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted event.

Without these details considered, there would not be a whole. We couldn’t get deep enough. It would not be an experience.

I begin the text for Paratext #39 with these reflections because I would like to link the experience with the concept of the “black cube” and the performativity of trickery. Talking with the artist Juan David Galindo months ago, he explained to me that he was formulating some theories regarding the “white cube”, the “black cube” and the “grey cube”; a spectral approach to the architectural structures that help to show works of art; be they films, paintings, installations, projections, etc. The white cube -always under hateful scrutiny- seeks to evidence each subtlety. It is an exhibitionist, scorching, dazzling structure. No person or object can hide. The black cube, on the other hand -used above all in cinema and theatre- is restless. It is an uncertain, dreamlike and even esoteric structure. Its confines are not visually defined; the enclosure becomes a misty atmosphere. This is exciting, too.

We entered Sala Ricson, all in the dark except for a barely lit table with a spotlight, full of cables that looked like ivy. Shy, broken, whispered voices from loudspeakers surround us. We only see silhouettes of others; our rostral identity is obfuscated. It is delirious. There is no choice but to wander through the black cube without breath. Suddenly, someone pushes me. “Who are you,” I ask. “It’s me,” she laughs. (Giuliana Racco playing with this anonymity). One lamp on the other side of the room lights up softly, while the others go out. The voice of Arash Fayez/Faeiz welcomes us in half Spanish, half English and a few words in Catalan. Speaking cryptically, he says “follow the light”. Suddenly, up in the control room, a light comes on, and we see Arash sitting at a table with a microphone and a spotlight. Though his voice sounds, his lips don’t move. It’s an old stratagem, used in houses of terror. A game of presence and absence; a discord between what we see and what we feel. It’s cinema, it’s theatre, it’s horror. Throughout his career as a set designer, David Lynch used the same technique in his films. As everyone climbs the stairs to approach the scene, Arash abruptly lifts and climbs other stairs to a platform even higher where a slideshow with two projectors begins. We see overlapping images; documentation coming from immigration processes that Arash had to go through while living in the United States, along with screenshots of his mobile phone; random vignettes of his tumultuous stay there.

In the black cube, everyone is a participant. The lack of light forces us to wake up, to turn on our most atavistic senses. Our traits, differences, identities and opinions merge into a collective mass; together but apart, to quote the title of a project by Alex Brahim. We return to the ground floor of the room. Rows of chairs appear, as if growing as plants of the earth (returning to the stealthy efforts of Marc and others). The table full of cables now has five people sitting around it. Giulia Deval introduces what we are about to see. She explains that, fruit of a fertile site, they have extracted some old tapes with recorded information that help to understand what human beings were like then. She presents it with such firmness that one cannot disagree. The four “researchers” who accompany her dissect the sound findings, narrating the content to us, although they are not heard much because sharp sprouts of distorted sound from these tapes are emitted through the loudspeakers. During the presentation, it is forgotten that it is a presentation. It’s not even a performance: it’s a scene, it’s magic. The fictitious narrative (if there is a true one) elaborates before our eyes just as it would in the cinema or theatre, but in an even more latent way. For a moment, our stubborn and firm anchorage to reality is suspended, questioned, paused. Like the position of the Otolith Group researchers, who believe there is sometimes more truthfulness and historicity in conspiracy narratives, Deval manipulates perceptual authority in an almost diabolical way.

And a few seconds after the second presentation, Veronica Tran appears on stage. Despite being a more conventional presentation, the content is savagely experimental. We should talk about the ‘hyperobjects’ of Timothy Morton, one of the main thinkers of the OOO (‘Object-oriented ontology’) studies who maintain that, contrary to the anthropocentric perspectives that have dominated thought throughout history, objects contain an agency of their own and, like us, are containers of information and experiences. Veronica tells us – with a rather opaque language due to the high level of technicality – that she has been carrying out an investigation as a result of the memory of objects, searching in it for “metadata” within these and the semiotics of the archive; the most external and mimetic way we have to visualize what our own cerebral storage would look like. Projections of amebic forms, a kind of chromatically very alive silt, slide on gerrets, circuits and other recipients of information. It is not strange, then, that she takes advantage of the black cubes to carry out these nebulous explorations. They require a space where the mind has either the possibility or the obligation to reconfigure itself according to the scarcity of signalling/semiological elements that we normally have: light, explanations, linearity, clear indications, etc. It is the realm of the imaginary, of interrupted translation.

I want to finish with two quotes: one from an interview with Francisco “Pancho” Casas, a Chilean performer, artist and researcher:

“…if a guy goes with a transvestite who “confused” him with a woman, that’s not true, he’s going with a man who’s hiding his penis… and the more this secret is hidden, the more he’s going to stimulate it, and that’s the old game of “if the prey isn’t afraid, there’s no hunting”. The fear that he produces in those places.” (

It stimulates us to be “deceived” and to know it. That’s why we keep coming to the movies, the horror houses, the dark rooms, the amusement parks. We miss uncertainty. We want the anonymous experience. We are excited by identity bondage.

And another by Erika Fischer-Lichte who writes in Aesthetics of the Performative: “This is the moment most feared by the public and at the same time the most feverishly awaited, the moment in which, whether it becomes reality or not, they orient themselves on deeper fears, add fascination and add morbid curiosities.”

When we approach the edge of safety and danger… when we enter a space where leisure and seriousness lie…


Categories: Paratext report |

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