A la life (2006)
A la life
December 31, 2005 to January 6, 2006
Santiago de Chile
01 The site of an invisible work: the operation, the excuse, and the edit
“A la life” takes as its point of departure a thoroughly personal event in my life. For over five years now I have not left Santiago due to a phobia that I haven’t been able to overcome. This phobia began to take root after a traumatic experience I had during a work trip to Ralco with Ñaña Nicolasa, an experience that marked me and that prevents me from traveling—both within and outside of the city—in buses, trains, subways and planes. I have only been able to get around by bicycle and in cars.
That is how, at the ripe young age of 18, I spent an entire year traveling around Santiago by bike. By these means, I was able to get to know and rediscover many places in Santiago, several of which I had only seen through the window on the bus. After several summers spent in Santiago, I made the decision to vacation within the city, doing so in the only place my impediment allowed me to go. Which is to say, “I arrived at the place where I already am.”
A few weeks after this idea had occurred to me I met Luis Guerra, and during our conversation I described it to him and suggested we might tackle it together, given that he indicated that he suffered from similar anxieties.
We ran the risk together of making a work whose principle aims resided at least in part in the invisible, where the lived experience of seven days of wandering through the streets of Santiago would construct an urban imaginary, where two artists appropriated the city in order to (re)construct the city and represent the situations they’d lived within it during the predetermined time period which they had chosen to dedicate to the making of the work of art. The result is the excuse of a pre-prepared operation, validated as art in its invisibility.
1.1 Invisibility: The fragility, the instantaneous disappearance of the work in the moment of its enactment. Leave the existence of what took place onsite, for four people, two, or for oneself. The exaggerated manipulation of everything and the speculative possibility of constituting all events as works.
1.2 The operation: of the invisible and instantaneous by means of the manipulation of events and subjective circumstances for the constitution of a work of art.
1.3 The excuse / the methodology: The work of art as a means of universalizing the (biographical) anecdote.
1.4 Editing as a recursive revisioning of the work: Videos, photos, objects, narration, documentation, the installation. The formality of art that makes it art.
02 The eternal return to the place of origin
The journey as circulation, in which one decides to be present in, to traverse, to rediscover familiar spaces and to distance oneself from oneself. Letting oneself be, or controlling oneself like a manipulatable external apparatus.
“A la life” has to do with a role change: from citizen of a society to spectator of the same. The change: from citizen of the spectacle—submersed in the routine imposed by the neoliberal social system that appropriates the individual and inserts her in its productive mechanism, to spectator-actor. The city becomes stage and, finding oneself on this stage, the spectator-actor ignores the situation: that two plays are being executed simultaneously, in the same space and in full relation the one to the other, but also in mutually-exclusive silence. Unconscious of the fact that the public is activating a dramaturgy that uses them to constitute itself.
To make a space one’s own. To deterritorialize oneself. To move from old and familiar to new, unfamiliar spaces. To deterritorialize oneself all over again. To make the trajectory of the journey from place to another one’s own. To constantly escape in order to arrive, rhizomatically, back at the point of departure and invert it. To travel from the place which one has never really left—and by this I don’t mean a physical departure, but rather a conscious disregard for the capitalist concept of property To divest oneself from the symbolic investment one has in the territory where one has lived, inhabited and otherwise engaged.
It is from this perspective that we began our adventures, without any further expectations. The simple itinerancy of two individuals within a city as if they were tourists, as if they were strangers. Playing dumb, ignoring what they already know, perceiving everything with fresh eyes.
For seven days they give themselves over to this challenge—sleeping in a tent, installing themselves in parks, plazas, and streets, appropriating the night and public space for themselves, now in movement, now in observation, conscious of the relationship that they are developing with each other (perfect strangers and without anything in common beyond the project that has brought them together). Kicking off at the start of a new year, a specific date that marks and defines the behavior of a society. To find oneself the next day in the same place as always. To confront the impossibility of travel. To feel suffocated by familiar spaces. The need to establish a critical distance with oneself, in order to act without adopting the mechanical logic of acting through inertia, by reflex, out of custom. To cultivate intentionality.
03 The imaginary of the city
The imaginary of a city as developed from one’s own experience of it, experiences which, upon being observed and recorded, acquire the capacity to impose a new reality and permit the contemplation of the realidad of which I had at one time been a part.
Each reality is educated by the circumstances and variables that daily life can offer up. Let’s say that daily life presents us with a series of moments that we successively live, and that inspire and provoke reactions which promote our critical and comprehensive capacities. Permanent circulation through the spaces of the city and constant interaction between the built environment of the city and human society affect the construction of the individual who repeatedly proposes her reality. This reality idiosyncratic and particular valorizes each thing according to each person’s own perspective.
This is our own city generated in “A la life”. The traversed city that is transformed into object. The city (re)constructed as work of art, full of micro-actions that constitute it as such.