Bautismos del inconsciente
MAMBA, Buenos Aires
Argentina, 2014

Curated by Javier Villa

This hypnosis performance, delivered in Spanish, opened up the cycle of ‘Bocetos del Inconsciente’ at the museum.

Unfortunately the performance started late, but I promised those that attended that we would certainly be able to go back in time within the unconscious to at least the appointed time of 7pm.

The idea Javier and I had schemed about was to create an induction which would immerse visitors deeper into various exhibitions at the museum, as well as a speculative curatorial idea that Javier has been harboring.

The performance took place in the auditorium, which has the beautifully strange characteristic of having glass floors through which you can see the archaeological remains of an 18th century Buenos Aires structure known as the “Casa del Naranjo”.

After a magnetic suggestion to the hands and feet and the activation of the non-dominant side of the body, I gave hypnotic suggestions that those present should begin to melt into the floor. At “Repetition Island” at the Centre Georges Pompidou 4 years ago, one of the inductions had been to sink down through the solid concrete floor and into the foundations of the building, but in “Bautismos”, the sub-floor levels were tantalizingly present even to the conscious mind.

The induction involved not just sinking into the floor but going back in time several centuries. As time was going backwards and the body was sinking, I began to weave into the induction a current MAMBA exhibition to do with violence: “Los vencedores y los vencidos.” The exhibition traces a variety of forms of violence and certainly Buenos Aires has had its share, particularly in the infamous 1970’s era of the “Desaparecidos”. My induction began to suggest suffering, pain and violence in a circular pattern, ever descending deeper through the layers of the floor associated with the crushed bricks, the smell of dust. Later on, some of the participants said that they had descended into a state of sadness and had felt this pain flow through their bodies. The idea was not to make visitors suffer gratuitously but as the induction developed, perhaps there could be a cathartic pay-off, as well as creating a deeper emotional rather than intellectual connection to the vencedores/vencidos exhibit.

I anchored this dark feeling with the sound of the word “invicteo”: the first in a series of thousands of made-up words that “do not exist”, which the artist Fabio Kacero had assembled into the opening installation of his exhibit.

Following this, I deployed the “swing induction”, involving anchoring the idea of blurred time in the simple memory of being on a swing in a playground, which had worked very well at dOCUMENTA(13), and was based on a text by my collaborative partner there, Raimundas Malasausas, to project visitors forwards and backwards in time. This exercise in “Bautismos” riffed on another of Fabio Kacero’s work in his “Detournalia” show, which included a film that cut forwards and backwards in time, as a kind of haphazard, non-narrative work pointing to a kind of omniscient parallel set of events across time. The swing in the hypnosis induction extended this sense, taking visitors forwards and back in time, not just to the promised 7pm of the intended start of the performance, but to both present and future scenarios.

The next part of the induction involved a levitation suggestion and a sense of floating through the air, an exhibit that Javier said that he would one day like to do but was challenged by the physical constraints of having visitors suspended while drifting through an exhibit.

The floating suggestion took visitors above the swing playground to float into the city and witness activity inside apartments of tall buildings. Lights were turning on and off in various rooms and the apartments were populated with friends that may not have been seen for a long time. The levitation gradually diminished and the visitor found her/himself wandering around an apartment that seemed at once strange and yet very familiar, as if seen in a film. The texture of the carpet, the smell of the walls, the sensation of the objects that would emerge out of the dim light came to life in every aspect of sensory possibilities. Unleashing the synaesthetic mind.

This part of the induction was to do with “wearing” the Gabriel Lester installation “Habitat Sequences” as if from within. The suggestions had remixed a Gabriel Lester small TV/video piece that showed apartments ‘across the way’ with blinking lights, and a series of tableaux vivants he put together as an installation, that were alternately bathed in light and then cast into darkness.

The visitors traveling through the hypnotic induction were now invited to find a stack of pages in a special room in this parallel-imaginary apartment, and on that page, to find a word with which they were unfamiliar and yet had special meaning to them. In effect, they were generating a new Kacero word, following his algorithm, thus instead of being simple consumers of Kacero’s exhibit they had become pro-sumers, generating new variations of the non–existent words.

In this way too, Kacero’s universe had penetrated into Gabriel’s, dissolving the spatial separation that happens between different museum exhibits, as the mind begins to meld different experiences from distinct unconscious viewpoints. These two universes were now collapsed into my own intuitive interpretation of them and then cascaded into the minds of the visitors. The idea of ego and authorship was truly dissolving away.

In Lester’s installation there was an old, half-eaten sandwich that I seized upon to be the culmination of the induction, since in hypnosis and especially hypnotherapy the two main drives to which one can link a motivational experience are procreation and food. So in this case, I asked the visitors to find their own food and “nourish” themselves with it, anchoring the whole experience of sinking, feelings of sorrow, drifting time, spatial floating, the recognition of meaning in unknown words and the sensory immersion in deja-vu spaces.

More than a synaesthetic activity, this was a “synsomatic” transfer.
The visitors awoke as if from a long sleep: stretching their limbs and silence lingered in the air for a few minutes.

It was uncanny because I had found myself drifting away from my prescribed “score”, which is a kind of visual menu that keeps my narration moving through a certain set of schemas and scenarios. Two of the visitors said that they had already begun to imagine the activities I had suggested before I uttered them. One visitor was convinced that his hand began to levitate before I started that suggestion and the other was sure that he had already imagined finding a piece of paper with an unknown word on it before I suggested that scenario. Would it be possible that the departure from my hypnosis narrative had been influenced by their own thought processes, as a kind of telepathy?

Perhaps the entire vector of creativity within the museum could be inverted so that the visitor reverse-engineers the process, by making the artist, in this case myself, create the work that emerged from the visitors’ minds?

Marcos Lutyens Buenos Aires 2014 - 2104 - 4102 ©

Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires MAMBA
2 Agaust 2014 7pm