Region/Concept: Caribbean, Movement (Flight)
Sub-concepts: Citation, Exile, Transport
Description: Novelist and performer Rita Indiana Hernández records lines of flight in the 2010 album El Juidero.
Many ways to flee—from one island to another, from merengue to rock, from Spanish to English. Flight from one Caribbean rhythm to another and from any musical source—Bob Marley, the Eurythmics, Patti Smith—to the songs on this album by Rita Indiana y los Misterios. The title track’s video, reminiscent of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” focuses on dark deeds carried out in seventies-era clothing. Everything in motion, the lyrics tell us about a real-life move from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, a border-crossing with no shared border. The circumstances of exile are translated into constant movement, translation, and borrowing (that seems more like stealing).
Posted by: Craig Epplin
Region/Concept: The Caribbean, Movement (Drumming)
Sub-Concepts: Reverberating, Outpouring
Description: In the Dominican Republic palo drums connect the human body to cosmic rhythmicity through repetition of basic sounds, fusing the sacred with the profane.
The drums have an irrefutable connection to thunder. They both reverberate, or relentlessly vibrate, and in this way extend into space, folding it into its sound. The incessant reverberation is their presence through which they conquer space. One could say that palo drums are tamed thunders, which is the only way that the human body can take them in without exploding. Even with these subdued thunders, the body is already taken to its limits. For it is hard not to move accordingly in the presence of the roaring drums. They are capturing chosen degrees of thundering so as to make them closer to the human heartbeat. The result is the production of the cardiac beat. Repetition turns it into an ecstatic body, transformative for the sole reason that it necessitates stepping outside of oneself. A rare demand in today’s world. A primordial demand since the world started by stepping outside of itself: a thunder and a lightning that opened up the infinite unfolding of the galaxies. Thunders we hear during storms are good reminders of that initial crack through which the flow of life ensued. Most creatures still cower when they hear it, unaware why, unaware of their own sensibility to the cosmic vibration. But it would be wrong to think of palo drums as merely a domesticated force of nature, thunder pacified. Rather, it is a force of nature molecularized into controlled tonality that then permeates the listeners and turns them into dancers (a higher form of listeners). Let us not think of this drumming as an obscure practice. There is a geo-affective thread that connects drums to thunders, all the way to that initial rupture, the coruscating sound of cosmic outpouring. In the beginning there was not light; there was a clang.
Posted by: Dejan Lukic
Region/Concept: Outer Space, Movement (Soundings)
Sub-concepts: Darkness, Music, Physics
Description: The solar system is populated by sounds that result from various movements of high-energy electrons.
We always knew that darkness is palpable, first and foremost from cats and from fairytales. Perhaps we also always knew that it cannot be fully mute. But what does its sound say, besides that darkness is darkness? Let us proclaim: darkness speaks. Is this not what the very first impulse (of a child) announces before she can articulate anything (fear of darkness)? And further, are not symphonies of great composers the accurate and infinite articulation of this impulse (that darkness is alive)? Does not the sound itself occur in the first place to dispel darkness (lullabies)? Or better yet, to tell us that there is no such thing as darkness, only very low degrees of light… True. Infinite space “sings”, that is to say, the spheres sound back at us, wailing, squeaking, vibrating. The cosmos is a dance of high-energy electrons; accelerations in the electromagnetic field which suddenly sound like birds. (This also means that birds can sound like something completely different than themselves.) Indeed, insects and birds: two of the most important groups of animals for the understanding of music. At the heart of their sounds lies darkness that moves. And solarity is therefore heard (with one’s eyes).
Posted by: Dejan Lukic
Region/Concept: North Africa, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Flight, Acceleration, Synthesis, Ascension, The Nightmarish Return
Description: Waves of hundreds of African migrants rush the partition separating the Spanish exclave from Morocco to jump the border.
Theory: The fleeing mass staggers into focus, arriving to the trigger point. The trek has been slow and heavy. Having each been expelled by the rancor of decay, the discharge, which has submerged the places of origin in tarns of hunger, dejection and desolation, they arrive here—to the trigger point—in a synthesis of the worn. As though in one swift, unrestricted instant, the crowd is transformed. The legs, accelerating madly, rhythmically, propel the swarm toward ‘freedom,’ as though there were such a thing. As if the legs and the neurons were operationally schismatic. One believing in the victory of the sprint, the other born only of desperation, sustained only by adrenaline (without panic: this crown remains strong). The hamstrings feed a battering pulse into the ground; the quadriceps thrust the body forward—into ascension. The barrier has been scaled. The mind believes it has won. The corpse knows it must fall back. They are just corpses, in the end. Activated only by a spontaneous generation of life from within the wasted, robbed bowels. Picked off at the climax of this flight, the crowd is broken, returned to individuals, thrown back into the vacuum to pace in wait of the next purge.
Posted by: RLS
Region, Concept: Caribbean, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Meaning-Overthrow, The Thing, Cruel Play
Description: Rural peasants gather in the forests to practice secret martial art (machete fencing).
Theory: This blade has many histories: an implement of hard labor in the cane fields and rain forests; a mechanism of insurgent action in anti-colonial rebellions; and a transcendent instrument of dream-fighting in hidden gatherings across the island. Creation, destruction, and banality thus converge here (along the sharpened surface): immense narratives of economic misery, political resistance, and otherworldly aesthetics all find their source in the wooden handle of the machete. What is this mad potential housed within the object, the artifact, the thing—that it might serve such mutually exclusive forces? How does the same device that enforces daily toil and emaciation, or which drips with the blood of concrete revolutionary action, now come to associate itself with an outsider art-form (of simulated fatal movement)? What does it take for bare technology to become theater, vision, dance? Nothing less than a colossal semiotic overthrow: that this relic can transition between meanings so seamlessly (part-burden, part-weapon, part-medium), is the sign of a phenomenological breakthrough…for it draws a calligraphic arc from the material to the immaterial, from disenchantment to enchantment, senseless pain to ecstatic pain/pleasure, from deadening everydayness to the secretive, the untold, and the realm of cruel play.
Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh
Region, Concept: Middle East, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Fragment, Birthmark, Imperfection, The Map
Description: Three-year-old boy takes village elders to the place of his past-life murder.
Theory: Necro-memory: to recollect only the traces of the obliterated, the disappearance, the nothing. They say the birthmark is the sole record of a foregone atrocity (not the emblem of a past life, but of a past death), and that it can lead the elders to the proper site of damage, violation, and cold-bloodedness. The red lines across the child’s forehead are thus a cartographic document, a mapping of the burial grounds for an unthinkable incident. It does not matter whether this reincarnation-event is true or false (authenticity is irrelevant), only that it effectively takes place in the perceptual universe of the guardians of this people: that the imperfect trait of the birthmark acts as torch or night-star, that its stain guides and navigates the aged clerics across their high-mountain passes and into the nexus of an elapsed world of horror, that this malevolent fragment alone can facilitate the excavation of an unfound skeleton and killer’s axe, is enough to stitch the line between revelation and vengeance. Return of the worst piece of the puzzle—the vanishing-point—in the name of unfinished business. And so the punishing forms an image, and a circle.
Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh
Region/Concept: East Asia, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Confinement, Stillness, Silence, Horror, Incarnation
Description: Artist Liu Xia arranges dolls in telling positions of interrogation, torture, and constraint.
Theory: There is a unique kind of horror that resides within pure stillness — an affect of negative awe that belongs to the unmoving/the unbreathing alone. The nerves run colder here, before the dreadful image of the automaton (the doll, the statue, the puppet, the scarecrow). Frozenness, paralysis, immutability: one cannot tell whether they are incarnations of absolute surrender (that they have abandoned themselves to some half-existence) or whether they embody a far more grave and perilous concept of inevitability (that within them lies the inescapable potential to someday begin moving). At night we fear these dormant forms, these figurines and effigies that dwell in our fields, our windows, our cellars and bedroom chairs. We fear the fragility of their hovering and strandedness; we fear the unreadability of their psychology (or lack thereof); we fear that the fixed, spellbound gaze is only momentary, and serves a greater final purpose (concealed for the time being); we fear that soon enough they will break loose and sway toward us (with restlessness and thirst), for they already live where we live. In truth, have we not always suspected some sinister volition being held in store, an alternative version of animus to be released at the right hour? Are these motionless ones not perhaps the rightful heirs of futurity…temporarily suspended, in waiting, half-wakeful, with stares like premonitions…and ever-positioned for an eventual overthrow of the world?
Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh