Paratext #31 by Aldo Urbano

Paratext #31
November 14th 2018
By Aldo Urbano

Iterations (Projecte Europeu residency)
Anas (Baden Württemberg and Hangar exchange grant)
Kenneth Dow (exchange scholarship Baden Württemberg and Hangar)
Sebastián Restrepo (Taller 7 and Hangar exchange grant)

I attend this meeting for the first time with a clear mission: I have to make sense of the strange parade of masks that will parade in front of me, to discover its secret order. I remember when I
was a child, before going to sleep, I would mentally review so that nothing of what had happened during the day would remain without being understood; if I had to do that now as an adult I would probably not get to sleep. But today, I was going as a “detective or sorcerer” (as Sebastià Restrepo would later say), and I suddenly felt obliged to understand it again, so that nothing would remain in the dark, and this very attitude distanced me and rendered me as a strange being in the audience; the only thing I would be obliged to do, before going to sleep that night, to unravel the knot of what I had seen or even the only one I thought there might be at that moment.

It begins. Anas Kahal is a Syrian artist who currently lives in Germany and is on exchange in Hangar. She projects images that are highly elementary and for that very reason cryptic, mystical without a doubt: a door that opens and closes in a loop, then two identical seas braid together in a single projection, perversely joining the waves, as if an event that should be one (the sea) were bifurcated in an uncomfortable duality. I also remember an apple wedged tightly into the frame as if this island were the symbol of the unity of all that is, a thing that took up so much space that it could not bite. It saddens me to be projecting my obsessions on what I see, analyzing everything from a kind of numerology in which I think I read each name of elements of the account of an unfathomable conspiracy. I know they are my obsessions, maybe not yours, and that is why I hope that it will speak.

Anas begins to speak. He doesn’t seem to know what to say, but then I think maybe he doesn’t want to say, he refuses to speak, perhaps in the superstitious belief that there are things that are
perverted if you explain them. Then I think of the audience as a psychologist who wants you to speak, who doesn’t trust to keep the veil intact. a particularly perceptive one, who not only notices what is said but also notes the omissions, those obscure areas of which he says nothing. And to him as to one of those severely traumatized people who cling to mundane things, to routines, to the surface of reality, because while in developing thought he might find healing, he will also find terror first. Anas is from Syria and the audience, like a psychologist trying to stretch an invisible fringe asks him the question. He doesn’t want to make his country’s conflict a literal matter in his work, he says he doesn’t want to use it, which I find very powerful, as then this omission will be the issue. Now it reminds me of Charlotte Beradt’s book (The Third Reich of Dreams, 1966) in which she set out about asking Germans who lived under the Nazi regime about their dreams, in subterfuge. These citizens, who although they tried to lead a normal life (clinging to mundane things like the castaway holds on to the wooden plank) and in many cases claimed to have no interest in politics, were surprised in their dreams by oneiric warning messages. Probably, the more one focuses on the surface of things, the more unbearable the past becomes
or the more terrifying the future will be. People in mourning are advised to focus on practical matters so as not to sink while acceptance works its way through. In this sense, I think Anas proposes that salvation (his, ours) might lie in taking shelter on the surface of things, in refraining from elaborating thought; in going through the narrow door that he projects, and that at every moment opens and closes.

Kenneth Dow is a German-born artist on exchange at Hangar, and right from the start he states that “having questions is good”. He says that in China a scooter was built in 33 days, and this
whimsical fact triggers my numerological alert system: 33 is the age Christ was when he died, and for Muslims, it is the age everyone is in heaven. I also begin to think that before the apple was one and that the sea that should have been one was two united by a space where a third sea appeared. About the number 33, he does not comment on anything else, and perhaps it was not important, so they are lost lines of thought, like beams of light that unfold in the direction of nothingness. But there is something in his work of youthful mythology, and then I unwittingly remember that Dennis Hopper was also 33 when he filmed Easy Rider. When my numerological drift has reached the first serious cusp (and it won’t be the last) I reconnect with reality. Kenneth Dow seeks to film those images that are at the limits of what is filmable, the terrain of the poetic; a terrain that belongs to literature, and that I am excited that he tries to approach from the filmic element. Simultaneously he is interested, in a somewhat fierce way, in the extreme control writing in which we are inserted by social networks, and he talks about what he was able to see in China while riding his motorcycle built in 33 days. I just wrote this and I think that this last sentence already has the appearance of a fable and that, given the autobiographical nature of his work, yes, he is probably already narrating his experiences as if it were a fable, and all his work resonates with myths that are cyclically repeated in our culture. The next artist will talk a lot about this mythological terrain in which we move, blindly.

Sebastian Restrepo is Colombian and has been enjoying a residency at Hangar for the past few months. He is a being with an unbridled mythological imagination, which I notice by the naturalness with which he introduces words like “werewolf” in his discourse; and also, unlike many of his kind, he is omnivorous, in the sense that he finds traces of primordial ancestral myths in all kinds of urban detritus, as shown by the archive of hundreds of photographs he has taken during his stay. Listening to him, I think that when one travels, one finds what one has been looking for: If that is the case, if he was interested in the all-white myth of Europe, where he has found it summarized in a pair of underpants in a souvenir store. He also seems to suspect that there is a knot that can be discovered, and he sees traces of its presence in vulgarity as well as in elevation: he speaks of latent connections, of “being the one who opens doors”, of becoming a “detective or sorcerer”, searching all the time for the signs of this unfathomable conspiracy, in which we all participate at every moment. It reminds me of someone trying to open his eyes in the sea, to see what centuries of shipwrecks have been deposited. On the other hand, in Sebastian, my numerological obsessions find their definitive channel: for example, in his biography, December 15 is magically repeated in serious events. As for the importance or not of certain days and numbers, I think that recently it was the “little summer of St. Martin (November 11), and I looked incredulous at the sky and that despite the growing climatic chaos this autumn day was invariably sunny.

I remember as particularly illuminating one of Sebastian’s archival photographs in which a graffiti read “Kontra el fascismo, satanismo” (Against fascism, satanism). It makes me think of James
Hillman in Pan and the Nightmare, where he proposes that the devil is nothing more than the figure of the god Pan, the satyr of Greek myth, demonized by Christianity and finally expelled from our consciousness. Pan is one of the gods associated with nightmares, epileptic seizures, and instinctive panic that explodes without warning, and yet he is also attributed to healing powers, as well as being associated with certain types of creativity. In the Greek world, this part of our nature was neither censored nor demonized, but included in the mythological code and thus assimilated. Hillman proposes that a solution to some of the ills we suffer from as a society could be to resurrect this unpredictable and unbridled god, and it is in this sense that I see in this graffiti a possible answer.

Linked to this by the will to recover ways of acting that have been annulled by our catholic heritage, the session is closed by the collective Iterations, also in residence at Hangar, who begin with a collective ritual in which bingo is played with keywords related to their imagination (singularities, joy, magic, porosity, etc.) and then, with liquors labeled with these words, they prepare cocktails with the concepts that each one chooses, like ancient witches preparing potions to transform all those who drink them, being the patient the one who decides which element is missing. Their project starts from the collectivity, and is nourished by the feminine traditions around magic, witches, or sorceresses, ignored by science or demonized by Christianity.

It seems that in some way there has not been a progression in everything that has been happening, and at this point, the myth is intertwined with reality in such an inextricable way that I do not see it again: for my potion, I ask, naively, the words magic and transformation; an incredulous look from the person who prepares it for me, and then I receive a cocktail that must be about 80% proof. I understand that it was necessary to balance concepts, that perhaps it was not necessary to ask for it all at once; I understand that taking this concoction will indeed transform me, perhaps for the last time. I cowardly abandon the powerful glass in a dark corner, renouncing to the afterlife it promises, a transformation of transformations, and I leave satisfied after having understood that reality indeed had a knot that someday could be unraveled, and unhappy that it is still invisible to me.

Categories: Paratext report |

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