throughout the journey
„Terra“ sung by the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso
In account of the initial invitation to participate in Lisbon in the project Encontros 05-06(an initiative of Alkantara festival in collaboration with the Brazilian festival Panorama Rio Dança), in which there would be a partnership with another creator, from another country, another culture, two words marked our meeting alongside the first considerations: contact and displacement. The former one in direct relation with the meeting itself and the last one due to the fact of our actual need to displace ourselves for this project. Out of these two words, which would maybe come to serve as the bridge between us two, we started to get interested in doing this contact in displacement, as a sort of continuous experimentation where the place itself would always be moving and moved. Reminding a bit the flâneur of the XIXth century, someone that wanders through the streets, observing each detail, without being noticed, without impressing himself onto the surrounding landscape, observer of the modern cities under a non-stop transformation, a witness of an amazing and subtle spectacle in front of his very eyes.
Aqui enquanto caminhamos / Here whilst we walk invests on the possibilities of inhabiting the urban space through another politics of sharing and of perception. Taken in a walk through the invisible, but sensible, archictecture produced by the pedestrians and their living of the urban space, the audience is also invited to imprint his/her own presence in real time and space.
Gustavo Ciríaco & Andrea Sonnberger
Around Alfama, a report on the residence in Lisbon.
a kind of report......
So where to start, maybe at the beginning, let´s see.
So I started to occupy myself with the theme more closely.
I decided to read books about old gardens, about old structures in politics and communication systems and about the baroque periode cause for me these things related in a not thought-out way. And in the same time I started to read about a famous mountain climber called Reinhold Messner, who lost his brother „walking“ with him to the top of the Nanga Parbat.
Then I came to Lisbon, a place with a „big“ past.
The themes we talked about were very important for the project itself but also for my future work as an artist. They helped me to see things more clearly, sometimes they forced me to rethink other projects or even my going on as an artist, which was not such an easy process in thinking...but also a clearifying one. So beside the project itself with gustavo there happened a lot of things which are still on my mind and will feed me for a while.
Gustavo brought a lot of books and we read about „la dérive urbaine“, about les flaneurs, about landart, about architecture..... and the most important reference was the book about the brasilian artist Hélio Oiticica. But I think gustavo is the better part to speak about those.
Beside the theory we started to walk around Alfama, an old part of Lisbon, which seemed for us the best place to experience a labyrinthic way of walking.
Alfama is full of theatrical places and stories and of course pigeons. I found at least two great places for an opera. We read the missing reports, the graffitis, we met a very ignoring dog nearly every day (he or she is small with a redbrown fur and a strange left ear and is always very busy), a lot of children, a parrot (who denied to talk with us when we tried to interview him), budgies, old people, some french tourists, some american tourists, some not speaking tourists, people working... we were passing by a scary butcher shop every day, which looks like hard core porno shop but is really a butcher´s.
So the question arose what we want to do there with the public, what is our aim (walking without an aim, loosing orientation, getting drunk by the labyrinth and starting a new kind of sensation?????)
We are still searching for a partitur of walking which we can transform to other places, a choreography formed by the architecture and by things found there (and maybe by a task), to invent a tactic which allows a spontenious and lively experience while walking through a specific place.
During the discussion on the last day in Lisbon we had the idea to surround the public existing of ca. 30 people by a rubber band while walking through the space.
Some last words by Nietzsche (at least I think they were his):
Lisbon-Oiticica and Baroque gardens, a late report.
de onde nem tempo nem espaco
que a forca mande coragem
para gente te dar carinho
durante toda a viagem
que realizas no nada
através do qual
carregas o nome da tua carne
from where neither time nor space
may a force bring with it courage
so that we can give you love
throughout the journey
you undertake within nothingness
and through which you carry
the name of your flesh
„Terra“ sung by Caetano Veloso
With the text of the original proposal in mind, and the key words contact and displacement, we started our research in Lisbon, august 2005. Alongside with us we had a book, a good companion „A estética da ginga a arquitetura das favelas através da obra de Hélio Oiticica“ ( by Paola Bernstein) on, as the title itself tells, the architecture of the Brazilian slums through the work of Hélio Oiticica, a famous and one of the most interesting artists of the last decades, a Brazilian neo-concretist who moved from more bi-dimensional concretist concerned works to more three-dimensional, experiential, atmospheric, „penetrable“ works ( as he himself called them in one phase of his career).
As we discovered as the research, the walks and the talks went on, the thoughts and experiences of Oiticica (present not only in the book of Paola, but in other books about his work) as the rich and inspiring analysis of Paola Bernstein gave us at the same time many echos to what we´re thinking in terms of performance and at the same time it provoked in us new questions and engendered new ideas. As the initial demand of the projetc Close Encounters was to create one piece which would have the contradictory characeristics of being a site specific piece and not being that once it was thought to be performed in different cities, in different localities, right from the beginning we thought not a about a place, a building in particular, but the surroundings of an urban space, a region, a group of streets, where not only archictecture would be forming its physicality, but also the very experiencing of that space by the people who inhabited it through walking, living, working, meeting people, playing and so on. We were inspired specially by the concept/ denomination of Parangolé carved by Oiticica. Well, I think I have to go into details on the origins of this term. I don´t have the book with me where I read about Oiticica´s works (my first contact with him some years ago), but I´ll try to remember it. If I´m not properly correct, please let me know it. Well, the story goes this way. Oiticica was still working with his father at the National Museum then, and to those who are familiar with Rio, this musem is located in the traditional Portuguese district / bairro of Sao Cristóvao. In his way there, from the bus, he saw a street man, a homeless guy building an unusual construction, a sort of house where the walls were coloured lines /strings held by some wood sticks. On one of these nearly imaginary walls, a paper was hanging where one could read: Isto é um parangolé. (this is a parangolé). Parangolé, a word, although completely unknown to me, which in the seventies meant confusion, chaos, or something very simple, very ordinary. Oiticica took this word and used it in a very particular sense which got more clear as he moved away from his first concretist aims, to works more related to experience. What he read in this parangolé was the existence of imaginary, invisible structures that were so much a part of someone´s experience of the world as the very concrete and material things. As he said, in open markets, in slums houses, in streetsellling, spaces were built up and inhabited producing an invisible architecture that was established purely through wish, habit and movement. Parangolé was also the name of a sort of chothes created by Oiticica for people to wear for the sole aim of experiencing it with movement. This piece of cloth had no form in particular. A kind of blanket cut in different shapes. That stroke my mind since the first time I read it. It was on a similar ephemerous and invisible thing that we got interested in working, something inherently in operation in our inhabiting of a city.
Another idea, or better saying, another universe was also present at the beginning of the research. It was Andrea who brought it into discussion, her particular interest in the Baroque, in its structures, in its way of conducting people´s perception. Andrea is probably the right person to write about this. Anyway... it was funny to realize that although this theme seemed strange to the initial ideas, its relation become a very curious and pertinent one, through the idea of labyrinth, dear to baroque structures. This idea connected us to Paola´s book and to the proper origins of dance as an artform.
One thing for each turn.
On Paola´s book:
the Brazilian favelas (slums) are real labyrinths in constant construction, without any architectonical or urban planning. built by hazard, with countless different materials, found according to its inhabitants´ luck or money. In it, not only the barracos (houses of very precarious conditions) made this urban landscape, but also the streets themselves, not obeying to any previous uniformity or plan, revealed an inconstant, irregular surface. For Paola, in general terms (please read for more accuracy her book) by „reading“ the works of Oiticica, she saw a connection between this irregular landscape and the swing of samba, one experience interwoven with the other. In a labyrinth, one doesn´t have conscience of the whole, of the future, of the plan, something pre-experience. There, one has the experience, the presentness of his experience. For us it all made sense after a while that we should not have a plan shown to our spectators-participants. Instead of the experience of the street, we prefered the experience of the way (caminho), the aimless deambulation of the flaneur.
The Ballet, originally a dance for the king and the nobles with the Court Ballet, became under the kingdom of Louis XIV, an intricate battle ground of social ascensions and falls. One had to master dancing to survive in that overcodified society. In order to serve as a guide for the dancing nobles, complex and beautiful patterns were drawn on the floor, something we relatively and easily can observe in some castles dating from that epoch. These designs were present not only the court dances, they were present in a myriad of other things, among them the garden labyrinths... A way of not only organizing one´s experience of the world, but also a way of submitting one to invisible structures of political power. Thanks to Bojana Cjevic´s acute help this connection with ideas subjacent to the Baroque was made more visible.
This way, we realized more and more the implicit implications of the urban places upon our very experience, and our wish to provide an experience where this would somehow be put forward and that would open space for people inhabiting it, in the sense another Bojana, this time the professor Bojana Kunst, curiously described in her lecture (the name of her lecture) the work in collaboration as something not planed, but submitted to casualness, to the ongoing present, to the process itself.
It´s important to say that alongside our research, we had guided visits with the participants of Close Encounters in some possible places for their performances, we had lectures, we had performances of the participants as well as the oral presentation of their works done until that date with further discussions of each other´s work. There were also meetings between each couple of choreographers and Bojana Cjevic on their researches and concepts and some discussions with topics that the group had chosen. For the Lisbon experience we chose as work strategy to take long walks around Alfama in order to map out its particularities through our perception of daily and ordinary things. At a certain point of our research, we set up two routes as a way to have a concrete circuit upon which set our investigation. This served as a good starting point. Once established these two routes, we walked through them in silence, registering the sounds and filming them. Our departure point was the Fado Museum, in the middle of and sort of located in front of Alfama. In its structure we found an old cistern where we felt very tempted to use it as an installation place related the walking. We had two different ways of filming the routes. One filming the path to be passed by and the second filming what we left behind us as we walked. These images and the sound were mainly captured for the instalation, but also to provide us more information of those places we walked through. In our observation of Alfama we paid special attention to how things were comunicated there, mainly through written papers glued to walls and light spots. We even produced a text using the same kind of form that people use there to ask for help, for instance, to find a missing cat. The use of texts as to ignite comprehensions or perceptions was very present then at the beginning of our project, though later being put more aside.
Many ideas came, many ones left us, but by the end of our sunny stay in Lisbon, we had some final decisions, among them we decided that we would walk with people in silence, avoiding the danger of them talking with each other nonstop what would certainly, we were afraid, provoke lack of attention and consequently the absence from the very experience of the walk itself which for us was so dear. The idea of an elastic band around them came later as something whose form, we hoped, would change according to the acidents and configurations of the walking path, and which would in establishing an inside and outside, produce in those people a sense of group, maybe even of identity.
„ The study of a site specific consists on extracting concepts out of the facts produced by existent senses through direct perceptions. Perception precedes conception when it is applied to the definition or selection of a site. One doesn´t impose upon oneself a site, one rather exposes it be it interior, be it exterior. The interiors can be treated as exteriors and vice-versa. It´s the artists taht can better explore the unknown sites. exterior“
Robert Smithson - Collected Writings*
*Obs.: This is not the original text in English. It was translated from French into English due to the bibliography consulted be in French.
In our research we realized that it was important to have an established route for the walk, but which should not be showed in advance to the people that would walk with us. We had the idea of building up a labyrinthic route as a way of rendering the experience more present, once these people would not have the notion of the plan to guide their very experiencing of the walk. We would walk back and forth sometimes through the same streets, repeating paths, and sometimes going through the same market area, but on the opposite sense. This way we would see and maybe hear again the same places. The first part of the walk consisted this way basically of walking around these streets aimlessly, just as urban flaneurs. It is important to say that our starting point was the cultural center and that we decided that this walking group from 12 to 30 people would be surrounded by an elastic band and would tend to be silent, a pact we established with each group at the beginning of each session: we would tend to be silent, but everybody was free to talk whenever she/he felt the need to do that. Although we leaded the walk, the group was continuously confronted with the self arrangement inside the form as we walked through different paths, sometimes narrow, sometimes with troublesome surfaces which put people in close contact with each other and then suddenly releasing them into a wider shape and consequently more distant contact. The form of the group with the elastic band shaped itself this way upon the changing urban architecture.
Gustavo Ciríaco & Andrea Sonnberger