Muestra, cuenta (Show and Tell), to
Sistemas en los sesenta, exhibiciones de los noventa, proyectos para el 2020
March 17, 2017
There is a voice. There is guided daydreaming and there is hypnotic suggestion. There is an oscillation between doubt and invocation. There is writing and the body. The next moment we may find ourselves in a historic exhibition brought here by the hand of one of the visitors back then or someone who is not born yet. The experience may stay intimate and interpersonal, and possible.
Based on new scripts by Marta Duran, Augusto Gerardi and Jacqueline Goldberg
Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy
Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC)
Scripts that hypnosis inductions were based on:
Dressing for a Shout
You have come to the north side of the city. You are on an esplanade that runs beside a long and majestic mountain chain: a wall of green under the cobalt blue November sky. It is Sunday. Late afternoon on a Sunday in November. It is neither hot nor cold. There are no clouds.
You are facing a steep set of bleachers. You climb them. There are plastic chairs on the bleachers. You go up to the third row of seats. You sit down in the first seat, next to the stairs. You are comfortable, although your knees hurt a bit. You aren’t the same as you were ten years ago. You feel that your clothing is weighing upon your articulations[CC1] .
Others start to sit down near you. In front of you, behind you, next to you. Nobody knows exactly what they’ve come to witness, they say it will be incredible. An excessively perfumed woman stops next to you, wanting to get by, you don’t get up, you scrunch up your knees, she passes in front of you, she rubs up against your foot, you return to a natural position. Now your foot hurts a bit. You can still smell that woman’s excessive perfume. An old friend has sat down two rows back. He doesn’t see you. You try to wave to him. He doesn’t see you.
The location is heavily guarded. There are police and military guards scattered everywhere. That astounds you.
Behind you, in an immense building whose shape you can’t distinguish [CC2] between a pyramid and a skateboard ramp, is the mausoleum of the nation’s founding father. (…)
In front of you, a little more than a hundred meters out, is part of the audiovisual spectacle that you have come to witness. It is a barracks. You know this; you’ve seen it before. The building is wrapped in immense, stark-white sheets of fabric. The barracks is made of brick, you know this, you have seen it in photographs. But you see neither its bricks, nor its red tile roof, nor the two lookout posts at its sides. The well-known Bulgarian artist Christo has covered the colonial structure with white sheets of nylon. This is the same artist who in 2016 made a three-mile walkway atop the waters of Lake Iseo, in northern Italy.
You contemplate the covered structure. You look from one end to the other of the white fabric in front of you. It looks like a wave of foam, a movie screen, a whale out of a fantasy story. The white cloths flap lightly in the breeze. They sway, quiver. If the people next to you weren’t speaking, you could hear the sound of that fabric.
Behind the barracks and the fabric, where you can’t quite make it out entirely, is what until recently was the palace of justice, and which is now a flea market. You are in a symbolic place, where many people have suffered, wept.
The event is going to start. A hush falls over the crowd. The sounds of yawns, a sneeze, someone clearing their throat, can be heard. You shift in your seat, you seek a more comfortable position, you try to stretch out your legs a little more.
The sunset begins to dominate the afternoon. The light has become intensely yellow. The sky is crisscrossed with pink and orange stripes. The silence is nearly absolute, interrupted only by the rumble of cars, some very near, others far off.
In the center of the white canvas, a light appears. Images are projected one after the other, flashing by very quickly. Melancholy music can be heard, perhaps the saxophone of Miles Davis. You are looking at photos of the barracks in old times. You see the barracks without any construction surrounding it at all. The barracks with its enormous windows. The barracks from the inside, its arch-filled patio. the interior of the barracks in the rain. You see a photograph of the barracks with its inner arches painted red. You see a map of the barracks. You see the barracks a century ago, with the old pink pantheon behind it. You see the barracks from the sky. The barracks visited by children. Images continue to be projected. The silence is categorical. You see the barracks in old newspaper stories. You’ve nearly forgotten what a printed newspaper is, along with its smell of ink, but you’ve seen that today’s headlines speak of jailbreaks, famous prisoners, military captives.
Above the audience there are green and red lights. Several drones shine down incandescent light. A red light points at you. It is just above your head. It seems to demand that you speak. That light is strong, it bathes your face, you see your red hands, your red legs, your red shoes. A merciful, painfully sad saxophone continues to play.
The light over your head twinkles and disappears. You look in front of you, toward the white fabric. The light box where the images were previously projected disappears. And it reappears a bit further to the right. The projection once again. Some graffiti appear. You read that these are the graffiti that were once on the walls of the barracks. You pause at one of the images: you see the silhouette of the father of Independence, it is a child’s drawing, with irregular and shaky lines. The forefather in black and white, with his sword, his uniform. Underneath, in thick letters, it says, “He who stands tall writes history.” More graffiti appears. It is a calendar of the month of September, the numbers are in circles, there is an ‘X’ over the image. You see another graffiti in lines that look as if they were made by a child: it is the profile of two men, one in front of the other, each with a cigarette in his mouth, the image is crossed through with lines that look similar to the bars of a prison; underneath, as a title, it says “Captives.”
The projection square goes out and another one appears to its right. You begin to see eyes. The gazes of the elderly, children, men, women. You see them very up-close, the imperfections in their skin are visible. Eyes with glasses, with masks, with makeup. The depth of some of the gazes is a bit overwhelming. There are sad eyes, others that are threatening.
The screen goes out. The sunset moves on. The light is an intense orange. Red lights are shone upon the fabric. The red twinkles. You put on the paper mask that you were given upon arrival. Suddenly, a trumpet sounds out with a lively bugle call, there is a brief silence and you hear a small explosion, then another and another stronger explosion and then another stronger still. It’s a crescendo of explosions. They are claps of thunder, one after the other, getting ever louder. They are drums. Countless explosions. It is the march of enormous boots.
The fabrics begin to disappear; they drop like the pieces in a set of dominoes. You hear the sound of the immense pieces of fabric falling, mixed with more explosions. You hear a larger explosion, stunning, colossal, almost unbearable.
Along with the thunder you see a cloud that is beginning to grow. Dense, fluffy. The cloud moves toward where you are and stops a few steps away. You fear being covered by that yellow, carnivorous mass. You hear the thunder of the stones collapsing within the fabric. The cloud rises. You hear a cascade of stones. An enormous cascade of stones.
Little by little, the cloud of dust settles. There is no longer any noise. You see dust particles falling against the light. There is nothing beneath the cloud. Only the scattered fabrics. In the background you can see the outline of the flea market building. You are uneasy, your hands are sweating, you know that you have witnessed a memorable moment. The end of the end for a history. It smells like gunpowder. The cloud settles. There is a great silence.
To the left of what was the building, amidst the remaining yellow dust, appears a figure, walking, it is a man. In one hand he carries a lamp, in the other a walking stick. The figure advances amidst the dust, heads toward the other end of the imploded barracks, the lamp sways. You see the small fire of the lamp over the cloud of dust that is still floating in the air. The man whistles a tune and then says: “Seven o’clock on the dot and all is calm.” The man speaks ever louder, while the lamp moves with the wind. The mountain to your right is sharply defined, you see its outline against the cobalt blue sky. Before you the cloud of orange dust and the light of the man who shouts: “Seven o’clock on the dot and all is calm, the ruins and all is calm, the future and all is calm.” The sunset is complete, all is shadow, the man disappears to the right side. The lights are turned on in the bleachers. You see only the lights on the bleachers, where you remain seated. You take off your mask. Everyone remains seated. In front of you there is only darkness, the ruins in darkness, the fabrics disappeared into the darkness, the past in the darkness.
Imagen de Caracas Guión
After a long walk, here you are. Wearing black linen pants, a black hat, black shirt, the sun falls directly on your eyes—the hat does not help to block it. You feel moisture on your forehead, the tip of your tongue touches the upper edge of your lips, still dry. You feel a deep thirst and your throat is drying up.
Blocking the sun with your left hand, you turn your head upward and you begin to see millions of tubes, next to one another, on top of one another. You reach out your right hand to touch one of the tubes, and when you place your fingertips on the metal you feel the heat it’s giving off, a dry heat. You think of an oven with capacity for five hundred people.
Sounds of instruments and voices filter through the tubes, you cautiously bring your eyes closer to the opening, a huge purple flash blinds you and little by little begins to dissipate. Faces appear in the ceiling, a serious voice speaks, and the faces go up and down. There you are, doubled over with your face in between some tubes of burning-hot metal, seeing faces come down from the ceiling.
A distant mechanical sound causes you to break away from the tubes, you begin to walk along the wall of tubes, you take one step after the other, you feel heat in the soles of your feet, the sounds change rapidly, now you hear the dense traffic of the city, the wall of tubes goes on for 500 or perhaps even more steps until reaching a corner that also changes the direction of the wall of tubes. After another 500 steps, the soles of your feet feel like hot coals and the sun, now at your back, reveals another corner, from which you can see a long line of people, all peeking between the openings in the wall of tubes. You see an isosceles triangle on the floor, it looks like the shadow of the building, where all of the people are sheltered.
The sun is going down, you feel a cold breeze blow across your forehead, the sound of the wind in the palm leaves. The long line of people that you have joined begins to move slowly, you feel your stomach turn, your heart beats faster. With your right hand you rummage through your pocket, your fingers feel a round metal circle, you push it to the center of your hand, you repeat the operation three times, you pull your hand out of your pocket, you count the coins in your hand and they add up to four Bolívares.
You enter through a dark threshold some four meters tall, you take a step forward and you find yourself before an enormous white wall, requiring a decision: you can take the path to the right or the path to the left. Your right leg automatically aims for the left path; five or six steps later, an enormous downward ramp appears, the cold of the night has begun to break out among the tubes.
You look up and the structure does not seem to have a roof. You walk slowly, turn to the right, and you see in the distance a downward ramp; with each step you take, the ramp becomes less steep, you hear the banging of steps, some indecipherable voices, and mechanical sounds, pulleys and cables; you do not know where these sounds are coming from.
You feel bewildered, you continue walking, the ramp is about to end and a dark and enormous room is revealed, there are columns everywhere made of tubing. In the center there is a smaller structure made of tubes, it looks like a stage, due to the darkness and its height you cannot see what is on top of it, you put both hands in front of your eyes, but the darkness is absolute, you cannot make anything out.
Unexpectedly a voice floods the room, you feel as if it is speaking right next to you and at the same time it is far away. From the ceiling a beam of light crosses the room and projects a yellowish image on a white screen, a noisy city is before your eyes, like an enormous window amidst the tubes.
The voiceover continues the story, but the words become deformed and meld into vowel sounds overtop of the images. Suddenly a beam of light hits another enormous white wall, this time the image is reddish; it seems to be mount Ávila The camera moves from left to right, the narrators’ voices mix with the sound of the projectors.
Everything falls into a deep silence, darkness envelopes all. You take three or four steps, you can feel the heat of the crowd, and a constant whisper makes you feel uneasy, suddenly you are surrounded by four projections, horses and knights with huge lances leap from one screen to another, the galloping rings throughout the entire room, the horses surround you as if you were in the midst of a battle, on one side of the room some men dressed in white appear, with scythes and shovels, with the galloping of the horses making you peel back your eyelids as wide as you possibly can. In the distance you see men coming in carrying the same weapons as those on the screen, the battle is consummated, your eyes could not be more open, you feel as if the images have come out of the screen.
You turn and another four enormous projections show more warriors, this time with enormous shields covered in spikes, coming in a slow but steady march, seeming as if they will join in the battle. The march continues for several minutes on the four screens and suddenly on the eight screens a horizon of fire appears, with everything sinking into it, impaled and suffocated bodies appear on some of the screens, the all-encompassing sound of the fire envelopes the entire room.
Your heart beats quickly, suddenly the faces of walking men and women appear, it is difficult to determine what time they belong to, until those faces turn into bodies that speak and march happily, pointing, looking, cutting down trees; those faces are not only on the screen, those faces are starting to come down from the ceiling, looking in every direction, watching you from every direction, gigantic gazes watching over you through the projection.
A street with blue colonial cobblestones, a procession is going on, rollicking, joyful and with fists raised to the sky. A flag bearer with white hair walks by, you breathe calmly, the battle has come to an end, amidst jokes and slogans, the audience applauds, the lights of the central stage come on, the voice invites the audience to come up on the stage.
You take a few uncertain steps, the images are still repeating one after another in your mind like a vivid but distant dream, the sound of fire resounds, you continue walking toward the central stage, trying to remember the knights with lances, the blood, the lake of the dead and painting, the enormous bearded faces, stalking, watching you, the banging and the galloping. You remember the look on those faces that were bigger than your body, your heart speeding up, the adrenaline. Your sluggish steps climb the ramps leading toward the stage.
Once at the top, you see a festival of colored lights emanating from a number of jukeboxes that are spread out across the stage, accompanied by inflatable mattresses. A man with brown pants and a white hat puts a coin into one of the jukeboxes, he selects the old favorite “Quítate el Saco,” “Take off Your Coat,” by the Trío Venezuela, which sets him off laughing. On a faraway jukebox, “Roll Over Beethoven” by the Beatles has several people dancing. You lie down on one of the inflatable mattresses while others jump with excitement, you breathe slowly while others’ jumping moves your body involuntarily about the red inflatable mattress.
Sleepily, you descend the ramp, for the first time you see the room fully illuminated, you see how the screens retract up into the ceiling, you see an infinite number of buckets [PP3] that are also starting to be loudly lifted up. A voice asks the audience to clear the structure, you go up a second ramp, you put your right hand on the tubes and you feel the cold of the night, you take thirty or forty tired steps, breathing slowly, until reaching the threshold. You leave the structure of the tubes, and there are the stars in the darkness of the sky.
You come to the tall white columns of the building, directly in front of the door, and before entering, you look at the sky as if to confirm that you can stay there as long as you want, to see the whole place at a relaxed pace, without having to run out because of the rain. You look up again; a clear and bright sun makes you lower your gaze immediately. You go in confidently and you begin to examine everyone’s faces, looking for someone you know. You see them speak amongst themselves, make faces, smile, point to some space while they comment in whispers about what they are looking at. You pause a moment on a couple who are absorbed in looking at a column of televisions. You can’t even see what they see, but you hear water running, falling, possibly spilling and you imagine it on some unknown floor. You also hear the sound of something rolling around forcefully. Every once in a while the boy looks around, says hello to some of those passing by, smiles and returns to being wrapped up in what he’s seeing. You lean out, go closer, and the sound is ever sharper, louder. A cold chill enters your body and settles into your face and ears when you see the water trickling out between the bones of something that once had skin, the soaked bones of what was once someone. The sound of the brush scrubbing them chills your skin even more, it makes you wish for a jacket, it makes you hug yourself with your arms to try to stifle the sensation of cold and wetness that causes your muscles to tense and your teeth to clench. The bones shake from the brushing. There is no pain, but there is a very thin membrane that gives a latent sensation of pain, which if a bit stronger would be sufficient to feel the scraping of bones, as if you were being scraped yourself.
For an instant you think that it is you; you confuse yourself with that torso that you can see separate from you and you imagine it within, now you see the ribs covered with white foam and your chest is flooded with bubbles. You open your fingers to await the sweep of the brush, you feel an itch that you need to scratch. You are thirsty. In this moment, you now have a sensation of transparency, of cleanliness, of lightness that causes you to recall that time in the yard outside your house, the smell of soap and wet earth and your mother at the sink scraping the clothes over and over again, making foam and rinsing. A recollection that cuts off suddenly upon hearing the voices tangled around you. You seek out the clearest, the closest by, and you hear the couple from a few seconds ago conversing practically in whispers, with their youthful, carefree attitude, as if nothing around them had any effect on them at all. You continue to think about what is to come, about the country that lies waiting, about everyone’s uncertainty, which you do not note in the faces of the couple, perhaps due to their youth. However, you observe that the boy is older than she, that his expression and gestures betray an experience that makes the girl’s innocence stand out that much more. He caresses her cheek as she smiles; you decide to move on.
You continue to walk and you feel that the space is getting more and more full of people, more and more noisy and packed despite everyone speaking quietly. Your chest begins to move more quickly in order to breathe, and you have to make a bit of an effort to push out the air that is trapped in your throat. You saw something tangentially, some smell, some sound that made you turn to a clearer place and breathe with your entire body. A sentence is stamped across your forehead: “Born strangled by the cord.” The very idea turns your stomach, as if your heart had suddenly fallen there and its movement were being confused with hunger. The image you see is tiny, but clear. Its color and tone remind you of an ultrasound. A necklace around the neck of the woman, a woman who won’t let you see her eyes, her hair, her face. An enormous knife is suspended in the air, motionless, as if it were cutting the air itself. But you have the latent sensation that it could move at any moment. “Do not kill or witness the killing of animals,” you read. You don’t like that image. It strikes you as horrible and beautiful at the same time, the possibility of it coming to an end unsettles you, you are thankful that it’s frozen in time. You prefer to turn aside your gaze and move on to another scene that calls your attention, one in which there is a woman taking off a white dress, a different woman, a barefoot woman with thick legs and a serene expression. You attempt to identify any emotion in her face, but she is absorbed, concentrated on what she is doing. You see her take the skin of an animal, an animal that looks to you like a sheep, perhaps a lamb. The animal’s skin, completely dry and without a trace of blood, covers the woman’s naked body, and she remains composed. Now she bends over, takes a small handful of dirt and brings it to her mouth, chewing it slowly. With her mouth’s movement you imagine the grains of dirt in your own, your teeth grate together, and at that instant you realize that you are pressing them together with force, as if trying to prevent that image from entering through your lips. She is surrounded by people, she repeats the same movements over and over again and all of them watch her expectantly, with curiosity, some as if they were watching without being welcome, as if spying. This is how you are feeling when you realize you’re more interested in the reactions of others than in the woman’s own movements. You pan out with your gaze and you locate the couple again. The guy looks at the woman who is eating dirt while the girl pulls him by his arm to take him somewhere else. He smiles at her while resisting a little bit, and finally they step aside.
You start to feel the heat a little bit as more and more people are packing in, breathing, taking your air and coughing, sneezing, yawning. To the left you can make out an image that attracts your eye, which from a distance looks to you like the outline of a chubby doll with a sort of veil. You like what you see, it seems very delicate, subtle, hazy. As you get closer, little by little you begin to make out some details, a few strands of hair that are woven into the fabric of what appears to be a doll’s dress. You come closer and you read Rice paper, blood and woven hair, and you realize, it’s dried blood. And without being able to avoid it, the scent of blood comes to you instantaneously, your memory brings it back, that severe evocation that comes whenever you even see the word “blood.” The union of this smell and the shape of the dress now bring about another unexpected memory, when the girl fell, the wound on her head, the stitches, the hospital, memories of childhood that carry you away to the smell of blood, to your mother, to the comforting caress. But there is something in that image that provokes a certain aversion or repulsion. You feel it when you approach once again and notice the needlework made of strands of hair. The idea of your own hairs tangled up in your mouth brings about a discomfort that you can feel in your stomach, and now you imagine yourself touching that figure made of others’ hairs and you cannot avoid feeling the emptiness, the malaise. There is some kind of pain in this dress, something innocent sutured to the body itself, through the sacrifice of someone you do not see, but who has left their tangible evidence on the white cloth. You turn to the side and discover the girl next to you looking at the dress as well, this time her partner is not by her side. For the first time you see her alone and you can get a good look at her, she is very young, maybe fourteen or fifteen years old. Her black hair goes down to her shoulders, her gaze – now that she is alone – is a little bit sad, distant. When she was with the boy she seemed different, perhaps happier, more playful, but the way you see her now, with a somewhat lost gaze amidst the hairs and the blood of the doll’s dress, she seems defenseless and childish as well. You wonder where the boy who was with her might have gone, you do a visual search for him throughout the entire place without moving from where you are, but you do not see him. During your search, the powerful scent of cheap perfume suddenly hits you, you think that it belongs to her, but then you realize that it is coming from a fountain that is pouring forth a deep yellow liquid with the perfume that you smell, you realize this because when you turn your face in that direction the smell becomes much stronger. Now you seem to see the boy pass by the side of the fountain, or at least you think it’s him because of the yellow flannel, but you lose him again. Something worries you about the girl’s solitude, perhaps her way of reacting to what she sees. She is captivated looking at the little dress, she furrows her brow to read Rice paper, blood and woven hair, she suddenly looks away, steps to the side, realizes that you are watching her and it seems to you that she feels a little bit of shame, although you do not know why.
More and more people keep packing in, as if their bodies were becoming thicker, as if their skin were absorbing the air and retaining it within their bodies, giant sponges, and you get confused by so many voices that no longer whisper or smile, now they simply talk and laugh, as the noise forces them to shout a bit. And amidst that racket, that commotion, and the lack of air, and the small remaining space to get around, you lose the girl, and you feel the need to look for her, the sensation that she might be going through something and then you start to walk a bit more quickly across the entire place. Along the way you’ve seen the image of a space that is inoffensive in appearance, a small photograph of some random spot in the city, with cracks in the cement, untrimmed bushes, weeds that spread through cracks in the sidewalks, but you’ve recognized something in it, something has unsettled you profoundly and also makes you remember the fragile face of the girl, your palpitations become stronger, a small spasm shakes you, perhaps the memory of a photograph in the newspaper with some horrible news. And suddenly many images blend together, many smells whose origin you can no longer recognize, if they are from here, in this place, or if they are just memories of other previous ones. Perhaps it’s also the blend of perfumes belonging to the people passing by, who are talking, laughing and hugging each other in greeting, while you continue by yourself, looking for something. Those people who have now become so dense that you feel that you are enclosed in a tank of empty bodies, which you must push aside in order to see where you’re walking and open up a path, and suddenly you find yourself in a corner, and you feel a terrible heat that forces you to quickly exit, drops of sweat run down your back, and on your hurried walk you again see the woman dressed in the sheepskin and some footprints left on the floor in blood, and blood also defining the contours of that dress and the subtlety of a white fabric with what from a distance appear to be pink flowers, and those dolls that are duplicated over and over again, and the white fabrics, and the photographs of women who seem unknown yet familiar, all over the place. And you feel as if you have no organs, no skin, naked, completely exposed, vulnerable, and somewhere you read “I want you to feel the same way I do,” and that phrase gives you pause. Finally, after so much running around, your body demands rest, immobility, and you remain static, fragile, seeking air in some open space, you want to see the clear sky that you noticed before you entered, you walk on, seeking the exit, but you stop for a second to take a final look for the girl that you remember as anybody, anonymous, who needs help and can’t find it, and you see the boy’s yellow flannel, and you lose him again and you finally exit…and you breathe, and you see the sky again. You take in a big breath of air, you let it out with a sound that comes uncontrollably from your mouth, and you breathe again. You notice the smell of damp earth. It’s starting to rain.