Walking with my friends …
8 October 2021
Gabriela Golder y Mariela Yeregui, Silence is impossible
'Walking with my friends ...’ is a meditation on the intervention project, Escrituras — which is composed of neon signs installed on the streets of La Boca in Buenos Aires — brought forth by Mariela Yeregui & Gabriela Golder, two of the most interesting, and important, contemporary artists in Latin America. It takes the form of a 'thinking fiction', and attempts to capture (if that is even the word for it) the moment of encounter (for one can never quite determine whether it should be an indefinite or definite article when it comes to encounters) with the works, words, image-words, that the writer experienced whilst on a walk; experiences that have since written themselves onto him as traces to be read. This essay is dedicated to — and in loving memory of — Jean-Luc Nancy
Texts in installations are not there instead of images. They are themselves images
~ Jacques Rancière (1)
It was a time I was more reckless with my heart.
A time when snow was swirling. So I decided to take a stroll — slowly, casually, meanderingly, into the past that is La Boca. Where ships still unfurl their sails as they slide into its banks, even as banks veil the fact that they have flown off with most of the port.
One might say there might have been una mano de dios somewhere in this. Or a draft, maybe even a cold steel breeze … certainly echoes of gods, dreams, pasts, of distant times calling across the skies …
Ah, a drift —
perchance to dream; oh, on a sidewalk …
or even, of a sidewalk.
To walk — perchance to dream
aye, there’s the rub
Not so much that in dreaming one might not be walking the same walk as everyone else, that one might not have one’s feet on the proverbial ground, but that one might well dream of another path one can walk.
But, regardless of the trials one might be facing on one’s walks, one must also bear in mind that even as one is able to walk, to move around, to roam, there are many who can no longer do so, who no longer feel safe to walk, who are no longer allowed to walk. From much maligned indentured workers whose walk, whose movement, is seen, constantly construed — vindictively, racially, perhaps even stupidly — as a threat; to civil-rights marches that are cordoned, shepherded, uncivilly beaten, violently attacked; to assemblies — in Mexico, Barcelona, Caracas, Athens, Vitoria-Casteiz, Wamena, Bougainville, Delhi, Buenos Aires, Oakland, Santiago, Hong Kong, amongst many many others — that are threatened, charged upon, brutally dispersed in order to make way for certain kinds of movements that are authorised, approved, sanctioned; to our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-gender, queer, intersex, asexual, friends whose drives, desires, bodies, are policed, criminalised, who are told to get behind closed doors, keep themselves concealed, remain under wraps, unable to walk in the open, to waltz in the sun, who are told that their attractions, their bodily passions, are beyond the pale; to les desaparecidos, whose very movements, ability to move, to walk, were literally disappeared, made to vanish from the streets, from our communities, who were separated from the lives of others, quite possibly from their very own; to refugees who are told that their presence is, their very footsteps on lands are, illegal, who are thrown into processing centres, treated as non-human, kept barely alive, just bare life; to those deemed minorities of all kinds who are barred from so-called polite-society, are told to remain in the oikos, stripped of their voices, who are told to hide-away, be kept from view, to be at best seen-but-not-heard, to only speak-when-spoken-to; to everyday occurrences where some people are, where one is, told to move faster, to slow down, to get out of the way.
Which is not to say that one should ever ask for, or have to apply for, permission to walk, or to stop walking: for, it is one’s right to move, to walk. But that even as walking, moving, movement, and thinking are in relation with each other, this relationship can be coopted, swallowed, perhaps digested, turned back upon us — where instead of choosing to move, we are moved, shifted, shafted; where instead of thinking, we are herded, flocked, maneuvered, into unthinking.
And as I walk I stumble on a sign, and it on me:
el viento arrasa y se va, it whispers to me.
And, alongside it, a conversation from many moons ago — echoes of the voices of Adel Abdessemed and Hubertus von Amelunxen in the fairie mountains of Saas Fee — came to me. In it, in the memory of it which called out to me, Adel was reminding us that « les balayeurs sont les derniers peintres au monde » (2) ; and in my mind, he was teaching us that if we wanted to see beauty, to see a painting, perhaps we first need to learn how to see, to recognise the moment in which a painting is being brought forth.
That the moment of art is not just in the everyday, the so-called quotidian, but that it might well have to be first seen as art — which might well be possibly why it is called a way of seeing.
Not of seeing what you already know or the completely unknowable, but the slightly knowable.
el viento arrasa y se va
I take it as a sign of magic.
And voices flew in the wind — « the ground moves again »
Hear them I could; but see them, not. Either they be invisible, or were voices in me head.
« … the sun ran
and the limit changed … ».
The rest the winds take away from me.
Where they next bring me I could not tell.
Not just because I had never been;
it didn’t even seem to be there.
For, as I was walking along, being blown through La Boca, along what I think was still La Boca, places were appearing before me, signs were being written in front of me — sketched into the air, sketched in air just before I landed in them, whizzed through them.
Bouncy, stretchy, light, fast, long; swinging me through the very phases of their light, their being; seeing nothing but the fibres between them as I was enveloped within their clutches, suturing me into them; tasting them as I was caressed by the sweet delights that floated past me, that I floated in.
The words escape me as I try to speak.
I’m not sure to where they go. Perhaps they have journeys of their own.
Like signs, which fly into one’s mind —
who knows why, how, when; perhaps they were always already there, just waiting for the right moment to let you catch a glimpse.
For, it is not so much that we discover things;
they are already there, somewhat awaiting us … occasionally perhaps even winking at us.
Maybe even speaking with us —
that is, if we first learn to hear, attune ourselves, open ourselves … to the possibility that they write themselves into you.
Light you up.
Alongside the voices of my dear dear friends,
Gabriela Golder and Mariela Yeregui —
rebels of the neon gods
About the works:
The images are from an intervention — entitled Escrituras (Writings), a project of urban passwording — which consist of the placement of six neon signs with different text along the Boulevard Benito Perez Galdos, in the La Boca district of Buenos Aires. The literary lines of the signs come from field work previously undertaken by Gabriela Golder & Mariela Yeregui, together with specially chosen residents from the area, using different artistic disciplines as guides for the different trajectories. This Project brings into play a critical look at cartographic strategies and the definition of territory with the object of making visible the different relationships between individuals with the village space at Boulevard Benito Pérez Galdós. If the real territory and its topology generate a layer of information that would be easily traceable, there are freeways and trails that are much less representable. It is about making visible what is not shown on maps: social links, organisational practices, community problems, prints of historic memory, formal reconfigurations in the urbanistic dimension, etc. — aspects that define a morphology that is not as clear as a representation of space could be in cartographic terms. The framework of relations that takes place in the territory is not what maps normally represent. And this is what interests us, this ‘transversal’ level that we call a goal-map: a relational tissue that configures and reconfigures dynamic and mutable universes; an intangible schema that is built, constructing links that exceed the map. In short, it is about planning other strategies of mapping, approaching the environment like an open-source territory.
These works have since been collected in a book entitled Es impossible el silencio, inspired by one of the signs. The book itself is composed of reflections and ruminations about art in public spaces, mainly by female theoreticians.
1. Jacques Rancière, ‘Theatre of Images’, translated from the French by Judith Hayward, in Alfredo Jaar, La politique des images. Zurich: JRP|Ringier & Lausanne: Musée cantonal des beaux-arts, 2007, 78.
2. This was part of a seminar by Hubertus von Amelunxen and Adel Abdessemed at The European Graduate School, Saas Fee, Switzerland, June 2016.