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, timing is key. Timing.


Unlike most activities in Barcelona, Paratext started at 7 pm sharp.

Each artist had 30 minutes to present their work. Everyone was strictly compliant with this rule.

The transitions between each presentation took only a few seconds.

The floor of the Ricson Room was almost empty when we entered. However, after the first presentation, there were suddenly four rows of chairs to watch the second.

In English, the word seamless would apply to the flow of the experience.

The brackets that housed the content of this Paratext, the peripheries between each presentation considered in the planning, generated the sensation of temporary suspense. All thanks to Marc and others who worked to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted event.

Without these thoughtful details, there would be no set. We wouldn’t be able to go deep enough. It wouldn’t be an experience.

I begin the text for Paratext #39 with these insights because I would like to intertwine the
experience with the concept of the “black cube” and the performativity of deception. In
conversation with the artist Juan David Galindo months ago, he explained to me that he was
formulating theories concerning the “white cube”, the “black cube” and the “gray cube”; a spectral
approach to the architectural structures that help to show works of art, whether they are films,
paintings, installations, projections, etc. The white cube -always under odious scrutiny- seeks to
evidence every subtlety. It is an exhibitionist structure, scorching, dazzling. No person or object
can hide. The black cube -mainly used in cinema and theater-, on the other hand, unnerves you.
It is an uncertain, dreamlike, even esoteric structure. Its boundaries are not visually defined; the
enclosure becomes a nebulous atmosphere. This also is exciting.

We entered the Ricson Room, everything is dark except for a dimly lit table illuminated by a
spotlight, full of wires that looked like ivy. Shy, broken, murmured voices, played through
loudspeakers, surround us. We only see the silhouettes of others; our facial identity is obfuscated.
It is delirious. There is no choice but to wander around the black cube without encouragement.
Suddenly, someone pushes me. “Who are you?”, I ask. “It’s me,” he replies with laughter. (Giuliana
Racco playing with this anonymity.) A few lamps on the other side of the room light up softly, while
the others go out. The voice of Arash Fayez/Faeiz welcomes us half in Spanish, half in English, and
a few words in Catalan. Speaking cryptically, he says “follow the light”. Suddenly, upstairs in the
control room, a light turns on and we see Arash sitting at a table with a microphone and a spotlight.
Although his voice can be heard, his lips do not move. It is an old strategy, used in horror houses.
A game of presence and absence; a discord between what we see and what we feel. It is cinema,
it is theater, it is horror. David Lynch throughout his career as a set designer used the same
technique in his films. As everyone climbs the stairs to get closer to the scene, Arash rises suddenly
and climbs another set of stairs to an even higher platform, where he begins a slideshow with two
projectors. We see images strung together; documentation that comes from immigration
proceedings that Arash had to go through when he lived in the United States, along with
screenshots from his cell phone; random vignettes from his tumultuous stay there.

In the black cube, everyone participates. The absence of light forces us to unveil ourselves, to turn
on our most atavistic senses. Our features, differences, identities, and opinions merge into a
collective mass; together but apart, to quote the title of a project by Àlex Brahim. We return to the
first floor of the hall. Rows of chairs appear as if growing like plants out of the ground (returning
to the stealthy efforts of Marc and others). The cable-strewn table now has five people seated
around it. Giulia Deval introduces what we are about to see. She explains that, as a result of a
fruitful deposit, they have unearthed some ancient tapes with recorded information that helps to
understand what humans were like back then. She presents it with such confidence that there is
no room for disagreement. The four “researchers” who accompany her dissect the sound findings,
narrating the content, although they are not very audible because the speakers play sharp
fragments of distorted sounds from these tapes. During the presentation, one forgets that it is a
presentation. It is not just a performance: it is a scene, it is magic. The fictitious narrative (if there is
a true one) is elaborated before our eyes just as it would happen with cinema or theater but in an
even more latent form. For a moment, our stubborn and firm anchorage, in reality, is suspended,
questioned, put on hold. Like the positioning of the Otolith Group researchers, who believe that
there is sometimes more veracity and historicity in conspiratorial narratives, Deval manipulates
perceptual authority in an almost diabolical way.

And within seconds after the second presentation, Veronica Tran appears on stage. Despite being
a somewhat more conventional presentation, the content is wildly experimental. We should talk
about the hyper-objects of Timothy Morton, one of the leading thinkers in OOO (Object-oriented
ontology) studies, which argue that, contrary to the anthropocentric perspectives that have
dominated thinking throughout history, objects contain an agency of their own and, just like us,
are containers of information and experiences. Veronica explains – in a rather opaque language
due to the high level of technicality – that she has been researching the memory of objects, looking
at the “metadata” within them and the semiotics of the archive; the most external and mimetic way
we have to visualize what our brain storage would be like. Projections of amoebic forms, a kind of
chromatically very vivid slime, slide on jars, circuits, and other containers of information. It is not
surprising, then, that she takes advantage of the black cubes to make 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 signaling/semiological elements that we normally have: light,
explanations, linearity, clear indications, etc. It is the realm of the imaginary, of interrupted

I want to end 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 ‘mistook him for a woman, that’s not true, he’s going with
a man who is hiding his penis… and while this secret is hidden, the more it will stimulate him, and
that’s the old game of ‘if the prey is not afraid there is no hunting’. The fear that those places are
generating in him.” (

We are stimulated by being “fooled” and knowing it. That’s why we keep going to the movies, to
horror houses, to dark rooms, to amusement parks. We long for uncertainty. We crave the
anonymous experience. We get off on identity bondage.

And another by Erika Fischer-Lichte, who writes in Aesthetics of the Performative: “This is the
moment most feared by the audience and at the same time the most feverishly awaited, the
moment at which, whether it becomes reality or not, their deepest fears, their fascination, and their
morbid curiosity are directed.”

When we approach the shoreline between safety and danger … when we enter a space where
leisure and seriousness abide…


Categories: Paratext report |

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