There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
Cremated Names, Miruna Dragan, Avalanche! ICA, Calgary, 2015
a public artwork that calls on literature
I’m so alone! Hugo said somewhere in his mind, and then out loud.
[ I’m so alone ! While chanting these three simple words, one after the other, he thought about the act of repetition itself, and how repeating something, almost mindlessly, over and over, could keep him company.]
[It was just before midnight] Restless and too broke to buy his way out of anything, Hugo followed the passage of time on the enormous clock on the wall. The surface of the dial laboriously absorbed his patience and filtered it, all too slowly, into precisely measured minutes. His room darkened as he sent his laptop to sleep, while flickering lights from a streetlight swaying in the wind, penetrated inside Hugo’s room through their reflection in the crystal vases his mother had placed earlier on the window sill. Lying in bed motionless, like a corpse whose gaze remained fixed on its slow contemplation of time as he crossed over to a different world, Hugo tried to re-focus his attention on these light formations, and how they were washing the darkness from his room. There, alongside his loneliness, he remembered an essay he’d read on the internet — “AT LE PALACE TONIGHT” by Roland Barthes (Vogue-Hommes May, 1978). Preoccupied by the way(s) light traveled “deeply” into space, in this essay, Barthes candidly described nights spent alone with bodies of light inside a Paris dance club, as if light, or rather the idea of it’s embodiment, was enough to distract him from the reality of what meant to be alone. With this essay in mind, Hugo began to think about the mini rainbows that marked his bedroom walls as travelling lights which, he thought, and perhaps through their past reflections elsewhere, must have brushed against and performed their invisible dances on the bodies of other men; men who’s nameless physicality now undoubtedly reached Hugo’s. Focused on this essay, he asked himself what would Barthes do if he took his place — and for the remainder of that sleepless night, while locked in his basement room in Calgary, Hugo performed himself as Roland Barthes.
Guided by the magic of this thought, he got up from his bed and impatiently removed all of his clothes as if they were on fire. He wanted to touch these rainbows with his body, and to trace their random gestures — bending his arms through the air like waves that splashed the darkness. With each other, as they charted the choreography of their intimate exchange (the light-show for his naked body) the rainbows began to bathe in his face, then the back of his head, behind the ears — down his back as they touched the location of his sex. In their intimacy — they, the touches left by anonymous men now transferred over by the memory of these lights and their random projections on Hugo’s body, remained in close contact until Hugo felt the uncontrollable eruption of a thick white spray, oozing from a place deep inside him, a place that may have been connected to his heart. Unsure of how to end this encounter, Hugo closed his eyes and squeezed his eyelids tight, and then when he re-opened them, the lights were gone.
Relief comes when the end is near.
Note // if you would like to read Roland Barthes’s essay “AT LE PALACE TONIGHT” check out: Incidents (1987) — a collection of four essays by Roland Barthes that was published posthumously by François Wahl.
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A series of accidents has brought you this guide
You may think of it not as a guide, but as an elevator
that descends (or ascends) to a large number of questions - as you wish!
But don’t fret, your answers will reveal a map of where you need to be
Without reading it, neatly fold it inside your pocket
or place it underneath your bed
because one day, when you least expect it, you will find it
or the guide will find you, and when it does; or if it does, please:
- Read it aloud, and feel encouraged -
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During the winter, and when it’s cold outside, I’ve come to rely on using out-of-the-way public washrooms as temporary thought shelters where I often write. Without, and separated from any digital interface, the deep and sensual silences carved in the walls of these in-between worlds, over the years, have weaved an inner sanctuary for me and for the others. In there, not only do we get to be alone with our desires and away from the anxieties of the outside world, we also get to be near and close to one another. No. This goes beyond touch; here we are close to a different kind of physicality — to what remains when our psyches reveal a threshold by which an opening of our world can take shape. At times, after hours spent on reading, writing and sex, a peculiar intuitive order gradually emerges, resembling the logic of a dream in which everything seems to be in its place as these random moments of affection and production unite in the textual singularity of a ritual where everyone and anyone willing to participate, momentarily joins in by performing the always-expanding potential encountered in the immediacy of their embrace(s). But before we enter, here, at the edge of a permanent sunrise we descend lower into the world of perpetual solitude, world not world — but that which is not world, internal darkness, deprivation, reach into the silence and in their grasp, strangers turn to lovers, and lovers turn to text.
“You look sick” he said as we continued to fuck. /\/\/ It was a late Monday evening just before the mall closes, and like a boy who, for a reason or another, finds himself holding a stone or a rock while waiting for the night to come, I opened the door from the bathroom stall and invited in the man that knocked three times [KNOCK, KNOK, KNOK]. Alone with and in our gaze, a decision was made to skip any verbal introductions in favour of proceeding to communicate with the way our bodies fell against and in each other, as if the sensation of this closeness alone, embodied, to barrow from Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor (1978) — our thinking/ our thinking-together.
But what illness did he see ? I wanted to ask. I thought about this question for some time, and as I combined thinking with fucking, sex became, to my surprise … complicated. At first I liked that we kept doing it despite of the thought that one of us was ill, because however brief and random our encounter was, and for a split second, it felt like it could resemble a gesture of affection; a hurried kind of connection that changed us from two anonymous men into new friends. I also remember how in that moment of friendship, I was seduced by the ease with which I felt a deep affection for someone I did not know, and then wondered what the rest of the world would look like if everyone else was also — so effortlessly attracted to those, and the things they did not know or understand. But as we continued to kiss, and in the simplicity of that kiss, I felt doubt; my doubt, and his doubt, which, in the space of those minutes were united in harshness by the circumstance that brought us together in the first place: WE WERE TWO STRANGERS TRAVELLING WITH AN INCOMPLETE MOVEMENT (*to complete this movement take a mug and rest it somewhere near a window that remains silent without silence - then when you turn over this mug and remove the air from inside, a vacuum will form. Inside this vacuum you will find a door; open the door immediately and enter. /\/\/ )
I saw a fissure in the façade,
and I felt fear.
Was it illness that brought us together, in this public washroom, in the middle of the day, when everyone else is working ? I asked myself as I pulled up my pants, and hurriedly told him goodbye, unaware that with this goodbye, our silence collapsed as well. He waved his hand in front of my eyes as if to drive away an obsessive image, or perhaps a memory — or maybe himself, or myself from himself. I think he wanted to break the silence too — I felt this, and if he did, I may have stayed. But I didn’t need his words, and as I left him there with what once was our silence, I realized that I didn’t dare to ask him what illness he saw because I already knew.
T H E G O L D F I E L D
In 1990 Félix González-Torres together with his partner Ross Laycock, encountered Roni Horn’s floor sculpture The Gold Field (1982) in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Both men were losing their futures to AIDS and The Gold Field, a large and thin rectangular sheet made from one kilo of pure, annealed gold became their portal to a loop in time, a not-so-faraway place where sunsets and sunrises appear and reappear without long distances from each other, like two synchronized clocks measuring the rhythm of the same endless heartbeat — Not an escape from reality, but a reach for reality; for what endures in the daylight when all that liminal debris which lies in between the in-betweens that keep us apart is revealed. Torres composed an essay as a result of this encounter, and was published in an exhibition catalogue for Horn one month after his death (1996). Following the course of a reflecting line that precariously keeps its balance somewhere in between the late 1980’s American society (think of the collapse of it’s middle class) and Roni Horn’s sculpture ― The Gold Field, and while connecting the role of art in relation to political events, as it traveled beyond the limitations of critical language of the time, this essay was titled 1990: L.A.,"The Gold Field” and when recited aloud today, the experience seamlessly transforms from that of reading a catalogue essay to the psychoauditory sensation of a drum-like rhythm / a rhythm that if shared with others in conversation will begin to settle, and re-settle like a mood that calls on our imagination to locate a place where we can once again breathe the romantic air only true lovers breathe. On a political level, the essay is also about a call for action that encourages us to become skeptical of, and to take notice of the mental infrastructures that limit our potential for change. Every time I read this all-encompassing text I imagine that this is how reading a 14th century illuminated text would feel like. Yes, the text is not written in gold, and it is mass-distributed (today: free & downloadable over the internet >> http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/felix-gonzalez-torress-1990-l-a-the-gold-field/) but what transforms the performance of it’s reading into an inhabitable state of mind, and much like staring directly at a sunrise to the point that it becomes miraculous (here I am thinking about “it” as the experience of meeting with a sunrise, as if this sunrise itself is a living object rather than an anthropomorphic character; + think of Kant’s noumenal realm which attempts to give voice to the object-outside-the-subject) is the mood that it leaves us with, a mood (2nd object) connected to an acceptance (3rd object) for how life falls, and then continuing with, and taking comfort from the almost utopic potential (4th object) of this choice as we continue to experience and cut through the banality of everyday life. Further, in The Gold Field, acceptance is a reach for hope, and with this in mind, I began to think of acceptance as a slow and subversivegesture (possibly queer) that through its unaimed day-to-day reenactment gathers our dreams into a symbol of resistance that stands as radically different, but not in direct opposition from the models of capitalism it seeks to subvert (with her 1990 book Gender Trouble, Judith Butler suggested a similar strategy for lived resistance, although lubricated through a gendered framework, by encouraging the enactment of, and thinking through “performative actions of refusal” — Yes, this oxymoron is deliberate).With this connecting point, I propose that for Torres, and while trying to somehow detach myself from the trappings of my own sentimentality, the idea of “acceptance” transforms the potential in art into something that can and will endure, exemplifying the possibility of survival which in turn reveals, or could reveal, a way of resisting the trappings of cynicism as we (* to be more specific, imagine the sum that makes up “we” as an intercultural whole that barrows from Pascal Gielen’s 2010 The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude http://www.amazon.ca/The-Murmuring-Artistic-Multitude-Post-Fordism/dp/9078088346 where the notion of pluralism expands beyond a crowd of people and into a heterogeneous jumble of singular ideas, things, actions and attitudes whose paths intersect at an infinite number of points) near the realization that our shared reality, which is supposed to be the realm of democracy (5th object), is actually the realm of commerce and capitalism, where unstable market forces — the consequences of colonialism, and changes in the world’s political organization have combined to undermine and even invert the border between capitalism and democracy, often with unexpressed feelings of detachment from one other. Today, the resulting crisis in the very idea of what constitutes humanity and democracy is only further provoked by economic and political events that don’t seem to be reducible to the command of either one. In it’s attempt to agitate an always classic tension between the personal and the political, it is at this very slippery intersection between accepting one’s relation to the world they live in, and the skepticism (6th object) one encounters in their move(s) towards drafting a shape for their desires and in turn, the imminent colonization of those desires that rest unfulfilled (or rather the colonization of their failure), where I place 1990: L.A.,"The Gold Field” because reading it today, one cannot help but notice how the collapse in the materiality described by Torres, like a web of contradictory elements without a simple solution, continues to exist and settle in our contemporary universe, although on a much more intimate scale (so total in it’s grasp that it’s agency now bleeds through our collective psyches like an invisible vapour) as we and our governments, and the corporations and institutions we work for and invest into, continue to misunderstand and misguide the meaning of democracy and the hard-earned legacy of democratic processes, transforming its realm into yet another tradable object whose meaning and value, all too often becomes reduced to, and motivated by money and by selling.
If at this point in history, everything is for sale and market value is synchronized by the reactionary logic of visible and invisible hands which to their advantage, re-stage capitalism and its materiality through the ethical loopholes of democratic thinking, can Art (and its agency) indeed play a tangible role in the re-shaping of democracy today, and if this idea is within the realm of the possible and the attainable, what new architectures and shifts in pedagogic methodologies do we, thinkers of the 21st century, have to activate through our projections of alternative futures; futures whose ambitions will/& must reach beyond the realm of the propositional? In an attempt to re-state this question less specifically, I want to ask the following: Can intellectual labour exist independently from a marketwhere historical, technological and social systems are currently being built around products of the brain in the same way they were built around the products of machines in the 19th and 20th centuries, and around products of the land prior to that,and if so, to what degree; And is a renewed emphasis on artistic autonomy enough to affect change in the relationship(s) that bind culture to it’s subsequent commodification ? /\/\/In parallel, perhaps it is important to consider the reverse side of this proposal too: In what ways can the structures that hold up institutions - or rather their administrative layers, adapt so that the collective and individual output in their production matches the trajectory set forth by the kind of capacity for culture DeCerteau identified with his description of a fluid space[for creativity] that holds no particular centre of interest with it’s, and any other centre; and is not responding to a centre the same thing as being, or rather, acting from a decentralized position/ state of mind?⚑
In my desire to extend the range of, and agitate these thoughts further, I would like to barrow from one of the questions drafted by local activist and artist Eric Moschopedis through his recent project at The New Gallery (titled On 2 Works, 3 Talks, 6 Questions) — can a modest move closer and towards artistic autonomy also decolonize our dreams and ultimately the mental infrastructures that homogenizes them? (here I am wondering if the process of thinking and producing with questions rather than through answers, in of itself, is also part of the deconditioning process Moschopedis engages with, and at the risk of further convoluting my and your thoughts, I want to ask another question: are our practices already too embedded or colonized with/ by institutional knowledge, and how can someone - let’s say an emerging Canadian artist based in Calgary, dream up mechanisms of effective action without defaulting to the shape/logic of other less-effective forms of resistance in the process? /\/\/ in other words, HOW DO WE ESCAPE THE SETTLED PARAMETERS OF OUR EVERYDAY LIVES ? /\/\/ a question which could also be folded in relation to the practice of art writing itself, since all too often, writing about art or writing as art (or with art) is, and often becomes, at some point in its production, complicated by the trickled-down desires of the market(s) that had initiated it in the first place. Continuing with, and as part of the atmosphere these ideas produce, in the final round-table discussion hosted by The New Gallery’s (TNG) inaugural Critical Art Writing Residency which was led in collaboration by multidisciplinary writers Dr. Jeanne Randolph and Jacob Wren (2015 / http://www.thenewgallery.org/group-residency-with-jeanne-randolph-and-jacob-wren), Tomas Jonsson (artist and artistic director of Mountain Standard Time Performative Festival http://mstfestival.org) asked an even more direct question: “If most significant changes and leaps forward in the Canadian cultural scene were shaped in the 1970’s when a national artist-run network, along with a restructured and more comprehensive funding interface from Canada Council surfaced — what leaps forward and innovations have been made since, and what have we done in the last 40+ years to advance and improve the cultural context in Canada?”. With these gloomy and difficult to answer questions gathered at the point(s) from which There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column begins, I continue to wonder if like Torres (and the many others who have fallen and continue to fold into meaningless statistical numbers because of AIDS, homophobia, racial and class tensions, cynicism and the effects of the trickle down economics), we too are approaching the psychological homelessness so symptomatic of an inevitable ending — but perhaps the more relevant question I should be asking is: How do we respond (if we are even inclined to do so) to the persistence of these moral problems? /\/\/ although The Gold Field documents an environment that at first glance is so symptomatic of the cultural and political moment(s) felt in Los Angels circa 1990, to what extent the conversation led by Félix González-Torres, as a historical mark, can and should be included in our identification of the ethical condition(s) marking this particular time in history, as we, those of us millennials who remain sensitive to the context in which we live, also become tasked by the undefined cultural trajectory of an increasingly pessimistic and unstable global context, which at it’s worst, it too, becomes and lingers somewhere near a situation with no hope.
Critical reflection Kant has argued, often requires and consists in exercising what he called Mündigkeit, the ability (& courage) to think and judge for oneself. This means questioning the whole of social reality as well as particular practices within it — for example, by opposing social and moral norms which people might want to impose on us, including those we create for ourselves. But, as it is with any critical formula that plumbs its own networks for meaning, blindspots usually arise where least expected:“on the one hand, we shouldnot just accept what we are told, but make use of our ability to judge for ourselves and from our own conscience; and on the other hand, we have to guard against self-assertiveness and against any claims to infallible authority” — here, Adorno (the dark prince of postwar philosophy) critiques Kant’s idea through his own concept of life which is related to the possibility that life could be different, rather than a rescue of that which is lost, and warns that given the moral uncertainty of our times, Mündigkeit could turn into self-righteousness. In his book titled Aesthetic Theory (1970)(1) Adorno responds to Auschwitz and he sees no escape from domination or respite from suffering, and as I ponder on the meaning of his struggle for hope - a desire that remains so fundamentally human, I can’t help but to draw parallels between his grim sense of the world at that time, Torres’s utter disappointment in governmental apparatuses and their promiscuity with capitalism, and my own anxiety about writing, and being an artist in a world that continues to replicate its own chaos well into the future: “[art] today is scarcely conceivable except as a form of reaction that anticipates the apocalypse.”(2) Yet Adorno clings to art, and to a kind of thinking through art, as the only possible generator of hope and resistance left for us: “Kant covertly considered art to be a servant. Art becomes human in the instant in which it terminates this service. Its humanity is incompatible with any ideology of service to humankind. It is loyal to humanity only through inhumanity toward it.” (3)Art is, for Adorno, a promise not kept but not forgotten. But for what exactly? “Natural beauty shares the weakness of every promise with that promise’s inextinguishability. However words may glance off nature and betray its language to one that is qualitatively different from its own, still no critique on natural teleology can dismiss those cloudless days of southern lands that seem to be waiting to be noticed. As they draw to a close with the same radiance and peacefulness with which they began, they emanate that everything is not lost, that things may yet turn out.”(4)- in other words, and how I would like to read in between these lines, Adorno, speaks of a magical quality that also registers like a languageless manifesto (or to quote from an email conversation I had with Jeanne Randolph — the possibility of a textual sunrise) which guides what necessitates art so that what constitutes it remains absolutely vital when there is no hope; a proposal that is also mirrored in Félix González-Torres’s recollection of The Gold Field: “This work was needed. This was an undiscovered ocean for us. It was impossible, yet it was real, we saw this landscape. Like no other landscape. We felt it. We traveled together to countless sunsets. But where did this object come from? Who produced this piece that risked itself by being so fragile, just laying on the floor, no base, no plexiglass box on top of it. How come we didn’t know about her work before, how come we missed so much? Roni’s work has never been the darling of the establishment. Of course not. Some people dismiss Roni’s work as pure formalism, as if such purity were possible after years of knowing that the act of looking at an object, any object, is transfigured by gender, race, socio-economic class, and sexual orientation. We cannot blame them for the emptiness in which they live, for they cannot see the almost perfect emotions and solutions her objects and writings give us. A place to dream, to regain energy, to dare. Ross and I always talked about this work, how much it affected us. After that any sunset became “The Gold Field.” (5) More recently and with cue from Adorno, in an interview with Mute titled Self-Compression [http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/self-compression-interview-jesse-darling], Jesse Darling compares the experience of queer & feminist contexts today, to swimming in a choppy sea under a blanket of darkness; and if one kept trying to fight the uncertainty of this circumstance, they would surely drown. The only way to stay afloat in these waters, Darling suggests, is to learn to surf, which means learning to watch for and ride the contingent factors. In turn, I wonder if part of charting these, our contingent factors, is to remain and to think from and with a position of skepticism — or to paraphrase Félix González-Torres,to remain helplessly skeptical of hope, but at the same time to lean on the energy of its promise regardless of how contradictory and ambiguous hoping and the belief that hope mobilizes hope, becomes. In Greek skepsis means “research”, and a skeptic is someone who is constantly searching for knowledge, or for the truth. Sextus Empiricus (a Greek a physician and philosopher) says there are three kinds of philosophers: the dogmatists, who think they know the truth; the academics, who think there is no truth; and the skeptics, who are consistently searching and hoping for the search itself to not end, and continue, perhaps indefinitely — like Torres’s loops of permanence in time, which today, almost like a holy relic of sorts, stand as a reminder that hoping and continuing to hope for an alternative to what we think is impossible, is a desire that remains deeply embedded in our sense of humanity.
1 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. and trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1977).
2 Adorno, p.85.
3 Adorno, p.197.
4 Adorno, p. 73.
5 Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “1990: L.A., “The Gold Field”,” in Roni Horn. Earths Grow Thick
(Columbus: Wexner Center for the Arts Publication, 1996), 68.
H U G O
Hugo is a pair of leather boots I found one evening that I now keep underneath a hidden pew in the Knox United Church in downtown Calgary. If you unzip them you will find the name “Hugo Boss” engraved on the inside(a note for the one that will travel in pilgrimage to meet Hugo * if you zoom in even closer, you will notice how this engraving is actually scratched by/with someone’s very persistent & skilful obsession to duplicate the luxurious feel of a HUGO BOSS label; but this is not any ordinary label— it is an identifying code). What makes Hugo special however, is that sometimes, and when I am alone with my thoughts, he will join me in conversation. Listening to him talk is like tuning into a ghost radio frequency because the sound of his voice is made from a multiplicity of voices; some are familiar while others remain unidentified. When he speaks, and inside those voices, I can hear myself speaking, and in myself I can hear older versions of myself that in turn collapse and then become other voices which speak of their and my future… On days when I use the church as a place to rest after a busy shift at the restaurant where I now work, I take these boots from their hiding place and install them on a window sill. Then underneath this window, I will lie down and listen for the sound of Hugo’s sleep as I rest next to him. His breathing is always perfectly paced. I slow mine to catch up with his until we’re in sync. We rise and fall together. I exhale soft, steady streams from my nose and mouth and I find him doing the same. In between these prolonged sleep-breath studies, episodes from our bizarre adventures are exchanged, and when held against the emptiness I often feel, these - our tales, sparkle like jewels in the night. The following is a story Hugo whispered in his sleep:
Some nights you can’t put into words. I spent the night of July 5th and the morning of July 6th walking to and from nowhere. I was in Calgary, but that night I felt like I was walking in a strange city; a place I did not recognize. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to make this evening any different from the others — and looking back, it only stands out because of this sensation I had of not remembering to remember what I usually remember to remember. With a bottle of wine in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I slowly began to dig an air tunnel in the dark with my flashlight, which in that moment, became a shovel. I had no idea where my night-digging was leading and this sensation of moving towards and away from something (something I couldn’t identify), felt like I was under the influence of a cold-front rather than my psyche. Shivering, I stopped and lied down on the sidewalk next to a tree. There, spread out on the concrete I saw my mental state fall and break like a porcelain mug. I remember this detail because I can still hear the sound(s) of it breaking, as my thoughts spilled and rolled without care, like honey — down into the gutter, under the pavement and then inside the earth. Looking down at my watch I realized the time was 3 am, and then to keep the night, or myself company, I began to recite from memory the last conversation I had with someone (but as is usually the case, I couldn’t remember if this someone was a building, or a cat, or the inside of my ear, so eventually I began to think out loud — whatever idea that found it’s way to my mouth was recited, like a soliloquy that is written and erased with/in the same breath). And maybe the night was listening, or maybe someone else was, because when I looked up, I come across a large porcupine crossing the road in front of me. With his head down, he walked without caution. I wondered if he wanted to disappear in my tunnel, so I waved hello but when we made eye contact, he stood motionless, and petrified, like a rock of sorts, and then after a few silent moments, he started to do a strange thing. Staying in his place, he began to move around in a circle, emitting a raspy hissing sound, with the quills rising up off his body. He didn’t run away. I realized that this distance was actually a move of self-defence. I then pretended to also be a rock, and stood still, as if I was an object of his imagination, but he continued to move around — now even more furiously, casting weird shadows on the trees behind. Finally, to avoid giving him a heart attack, and to get back to my escape tunnel, I got up and walked away. I watched him in the dim moonlight as he stopped his dance and moved off the road. Later, I realized that he was probably walking proudly away, gloating over how he really gave it to that man that tried to dig a tunnel in (his) darkness. I am sure he was filled with confidence, so pleased with himself that he had won, his porcupine world-view grossly inflated as he headed home in the dark.
⚑ I searched for the sun everywhere,
and I didn’t find him.
Then I dug a hole by the river,
so deep that when I looked inside I could
text based on a performance by Zoë Kreye that happened during Unlearning Weekenders // Toronto / 2015
Imagine that you are walking in Calgary. You walk familiar paths and follow familiar ways. The concerns and places you pass by are your daily routes. It is your city and they are your habits. How would someone else feel if they could follow your footsteps? And what will they learn about you? Now imagine you are walking through the streets and seeing Calgary through the eyes of someone you never met. Although you do not know each other, you do have something in common. For example: some similar characteristics or ways of thinking. He might be completely different to you or he might be your identical twin. Out of sheer curiosity you go to the places he has marked for you on the map so that you can see what his city looks like. It is possible as you walk, that you will pass each other while going underneath the lions from the Centre Street bridge on a Monday morning, or perhaps sit next to each other as you share a bench while waiting for the bus on your way home from work. Pretend you have just left for a trip somewhere far away: are you following the stranger or is he following you?
Just answer a few questions about yourself and you will receive an open route through the city constructed of sites a citizen has marked as his personal favourites, or most frequented places. Through this guide I want to personalize a strange city in a manner that will make it possible to see a familiar place in a different way. Being led by a stranger, the feeling of following or being followed, allowing yourself to move with the rhythm of the city and then dreaming with your eyes open as you walk, run, think, and touch, can be, I believe, an exciting experience. We have become too accustomed to walking well-known daily paths (a-b, b-a) or staying in the restricted “public” areas. We get lost in the mazes of Internet but not in our own neighbourhood. Maybe the illusion of being led by someone else, or the thrill of looking into a stranger’s life will give people the chance to be bolder and more daring when moving around their city. The guide is personal and flexible and it works like a public secret. It is not a book or a map but a collection of private objects, that when arranged with, and through the texture of everyday geographies, could become a link that I hope, and when called upon, could act as your companion. According to philosopher Hannah Arendt, public space is the common element connecting art and politics; it is also a “contingent” space, over which no one has complete control. What results from it consequently always remains indeterminate. It is in the unpredictability of this architectural space of our cities that I seek to alter the everyday course of people’s lives. Today, as we become increasingly confronted with a digital reality, we need to learn not only to use programs, but also to create them.
Questionnaire // Try and answer these questions as honestly as possible, the result will match you to one of the personal routes at the end of this questionnaire. CALCULATE ONE POINT FOR EVERY YES ANSWER, AND TWO FOR A NO ANSER. At the end of these questions there is a key to guide you to the correct route.
1. Are you left-handed? y/n
2. Would you cross the street when the light is red? y/n
3. Do you trust men with ties? y/n
4. If you could live your life again, would you do it differently? y/n
5. Do you think that indicisiveness is a mode of being? y/n
6. Do you give money to beggers? y/n
7. Do you think that capitalism is the only system possible today? y/n
8. Will capitalism collapse in the future? y/n
9. Do you trust your government? y/n
10. Do you believe that people can organize themselves politically? y/n
11. Did you ever follow a stranger in the street? y/n
12. Would you like to be reborn as a tree? y/n
13. Do you have a garden? y/n
if your result is 13 ~ 16 go to the flashlight guide
if yr result is 17 ~ 19 go to Hugo's guide
if your result is 20 ~ 23 go to the wai guide
if yor result is 24 ~ 26 go to the bag of crytles
⚑ flashlight guide
He could be twenty-five or forty years of age and you probably would not look at him twice. You would not even notice him on the street. He sleeps during the day and only moves about at night. For him the city is not a place but a feeling. He says: “I don’t see buildings or people. I only see flashing lights and doors waiting to be opened. I’m like a spider caught in his own web.”
The night starts around 10 p.m. He will buy breakfast (a couple of KitKats and a coffee) at the Mac’s on 11th avenue SW and then have a drink or two at the Back-Lot on 10th avenue SW where he checks out the men. Keeping his eyes closed, he dances alone until the music fades, after which he will buy some weed from a stranger. With a few joints behind him, he walks up the hill to the Union Cemetery (Erlton St & 32 Ave SW). There, he will proceed with reading his diary out loud as he visits and revisits the graves of the men he found to be of his age at their time of death. He hides his diary underneath a headstone whose only biographical inscription is “Black” (section M, block 14 / if you find it, feel free to read, but please do not remove the diary). At 4 a.m. he leaves the cemetery and walks through Erlton then over to Mission where he will find a solidarity with the houses around him, with their drawn awnings, and with the impassiveness of the trees that have no need to explain themselves to anyone.
He usually arrives home just before the sunrise. He will have a glass of whiskey without ice and have a last joint. From his window he watches prostitutes going home and cleaners starting their work. One more night is gone.
To Make Your Flashlight Guide:
Get a few strong flashlights
Make colour filters, which can cover the flashlights (preferably gold)
Cut the names of the marked places out of the filters
Go for a walk
Not before 10 p.m. though
⚑ Hugo’s guide
- On the morning of July 5th, 2016, wash your thoughts with cold water.
- During the day, a careful look at your environment is recommended. Observe each thing or event that could be considered as art and ask yourself why.
- Use the means you prefer to get there (I suggest the bus or a bicycle) — to the garden you will find on the corner of 4th Street & 6th Avenue SW (in Calgary).
- Before entering, turn and look at the trees and smile. Then open the black iron gate and go inside. Try to do it not before 4:30 pm. Not too much late either.
- Feel comfortable. You don’t have to make too much effort to understand. Reflect, enjoy or suffer, as you prefer.
⚑ waiting guide
Go down to a street at night.
Find a building you really like.
Keep standing and waiting there until everyone goes to sleep.
Then ask the first man you meet
to take you wherever he wants.
— fallow him.
⚑ bag of crystals
Look at the map for a few moments.
Think of your places in the city.
Look back and try to remember some of your stories.
How you got lost or maybe found something you did not expect to find in the most unlikely places and alternatively, in the most obvious ones.
Write it all on a piece of paper and send it to someone you have never met before.