Letters to V., Letters to Su: five letters in one

Letter 1: Su writes
November 9th 2011
Location: Rotterdam

Dear V.

I’ve been trying to find time to write you for a few days, so much to tell…
I felt the same (Letter 5: V. answers)

After reading your last email, I went checking Napoleon’s sentence and I’ve found out that he used to say: “ As a rule it is circumstances that make men”, you said that he used to say that he was the circumstance. I wonder if it’s the same or the opposite.
Ok, if it’s like that it seems that apart from the exceptions to the rule, they are opposite sentences. I also searched in Google “Napoleon” “I create the circumstances” and it came up with many sites….

I liked the image of the duck. I loved it… and still see you walking through the neighbourhood with high hills if not comme il faut like melissa, the Brazilian ones made of plastic… I’ve seen a scene in a movie “The price of milk”; it’s a dog that has a phobia of going out, so he only goes outside in a cardboard box. A walking box that barks. The movie looks like one of the short stories from “Women who run with the wolves”, a kind of fable. I kept this sentence in my mind, did I heard it from you? “The flea’s dream is to buy a dog”. Great but it was not me…it’s almost like the mountain that give birth to a mouse, but on the other way around. Maybe the dog with the box was hiding from the crazy flea that wants to buy him…

This weekend I’ve been to a seminar in Amsterdam, it was called “Social Housing - Housing the Social” from a platform called SKOR whose main focus is public space. I send you the link to take a look, I think it might interest you: http://classic.skor.nl/set-1039-en.html. The seminar was in a very nice space, a stage with a black curtain, where the speakers would speak, with a big screen behind and two more on the sides of the room and a fourth one with a close-up from the speakers, at the entrance. Besides those regular chairs that you can’t feel your bottom after a while, it had some benches and also some really comfortable Pouffes where you could lay down and hear the talks. A relaxed atmosphere, I really liked, I met some new people and I’ve seen many people that I knew. The occupy movements where mentioned, specially the one from Amsterdam. It was one of those days when I thought how good it is to live here, I guess I missed going to a symposium. Su that’s great that you feel that is really worth and makes sense to be there. I’m happy for you! There was a Colombian artist there who makes some nice projects, as part of a collective: http://www.elpuentelab.org/, I think it might be interesting for you; some of his projects are even in Latin America. I vaguely know the intervention work in the favela, the one from Medelin, the one from the lift and the one from the shopping centre…and if that’s the same neighbourhoods that we’re talking about it is a very very interesting proposal. Then around the central area, they are promoting an initiative of painting the houses according to an Argentinean woman that teaches at FADU UBA that went there; I’m curious about it. It seems to be an important project. I’ve seen the link and I always wonder what in fact will change those people’s life. Still about projects in favelas, besides some architectural ones, the best projects I’ve seen so far are the ones related with music bands or orchestras that actually take the kids out of the favelas and open up doors for them to another world. And at the end you cannot believe you’re seeing a cello going back home, after a concert, in a favela.

I want to scan the publication they offered so that I can send it to you. Good! I also found a cool project from an artist that made a newspaper about Brazilian favelas: http://reporter-sem-beiras.info/pt-br/about and that will be shown in Brussels. I listen to Bach, cello suites, prelude, while I write you. This music always takes me to a place where I can focus and do what I have to do, like anaesthesia. The other day, I had a surreal experience with Ellen Alien (minimal techno): I was listen to it on the train, coming from Utrecht and it seemed like that super urban music, that rhythm would match so perfectly with that day, with my own rhythm within the city, suddenly I felt so much this feeling of being there.  Like if for a few moments the universe would have aligned and everything would make sense. I haven’t felt that for a while, especially like that, for nothing, for the simple fact of listening to Ellen Alien in the train, or while walking on the street.  When I make work, that’s how it feels like, it looks like as if for a moment everything would make sense and the universe shapes into something where everything relates to everything and creates an image of sense or meaning. (Interrupted by someone knocking at the door) Sense is lost again =D You know what I forgot to tell you last week I went to Utrecht to meet with Expodium crew. We talked about the letters. They asked me about the shop with the tango shoes, it is a nice image, indeed =)!

(Pause to check my email and I got an email from you: “kiss from me giving some news!” and a letter in attachment =) I will read it now!!)

(Letters 2 and 3: Verónica writes)

Hi Su,

I’m still not exactly in residency…what to tell? I’m checking the territory, the village: São Cristóvão and its people. It is actually a first step to meet, offer myself to be met, and negotiate what I will do with the city hall… etc. I guess the best would be to stay in the village where nothing happens… but where everyday life happens and I take pictures to the houses, which look all the same and then they became different after seeing the details… Isn’t it that the details are what I’m looking for as well… (?) Details that make life have meaning. I don’t know by what reason someone gave a negative connotation to the word detail! I’m checking out the possibility of staying in the village instead of staying in Montemor in the cloister. Who knows if that can be possible… just need a scooter. I like the cult of water that they have in São Cristóvão, some places seem sacred only by their water silences. There is a municipal “lavadouro ” (place for doing laundry, hand washed, the municipality has this concrete tanks that you can fill in with water and do the washing there, they are common in Portuguese villages) that I would love to fill in with blue paint and white letters with water devoted poems… but no one knows this… only you now… (Doing it will be total despair without 10 cm templates for painting the fonts on the wall… do you know how to get that? I don’t know how can I do anything without that)   

I’m thinking of reflecting on the residency later on together with you using the letter format so that I can use the exercise for myself as well… I think it will be great since we are both in a similar situation. Today I’m counting on going back to Lisbon and working as if tomorrow wouldn’t exist to fill in myself with strength and conviction. PI have the presentation of the project on the 12th at 4pm. I’m also thinking on painting an abandoned house next to the church but no one knows yet… now only you… I will draw it these days as well… I will send it to you after so that you tell me what you think…
It’s really freezing cold… I will also have to read “Picked Up from the Ground” by Saramago since it tells about something happening in a village…
And to conclude, I read a blog talking about a project in the village Querença in Algarve, http://impressoesvisuais.blogspot.com/2007/08/um-bando-em-revoluo.html, http://galerias.escritacomluz.com/ovelhamestre/querencabase
With pictures of the inhabitants at the window, where Com fotos dos habitantes nas J. Brites from Bando said:
            •            (...) And I came more and more to an understanding that for myself, contemporaneity implies a very special relation also with the past, with memories. Not the past in a conservative sense, but with the great popular creativity. Sometimes we think that it’s all only tradition, that it’s all very conservative, that it hadn’t been transformed, that it’s not stimulating interest for modernity. But it approaches common themes of all times, like love, death or jealousy. (...)
João Brites, director de o bando, ao Barlavento
(Badly translated from the Portuguese by Susana)

I don’t know if it’s exactly the memory of things that I want to reach, I guess not, I’d rather have the eyes looking towards the future… but memory is always a good starting point to open up for dialogue and first contact with a community, isn’t it? And from that everyday life I’ve been drinking what someone said that it was said by someone else before from the people, faces and stories, the priest that suddenly left to another country and is recently back… the owner from the restaurant that split from his wife and children to join with the Brazilian waiter… As I was leaving the cloister, where I will sleep for the next days of residency, until I find a place to stay in São Cristóvão, I took some pictures for you; very fast not to miss the bus. Always running. I really don’t like it…

The vase-animals-with-no-head and left objects; from my room you can see the cemetery, where there is a famous computer crave… the tower from the church, you know what the tiles show angels with their eyes perforated that’s how it used to be to desecrate the place, isn’t it amazing that you have to blind the angels? The power of image and representation is so strong… and the no-head paintings… sometimes I feel as if I’ve lost my head as well in this place… 
I forgot to say that I like the name São Cristóvão – the saint of the travelers. I like to know that it’s in the land that protects travellers that I will work during my trips… see what good things it will bring me.

Hi Su!
Here I am: second week of workshop! It was good to talk to you yesterday… so that you already know that I come in a rush to prepare the presentation about the house. I sent you already the picture of the house that is the house from the church, quite central although abandoned. And it’s exactly the one I told you I’d like to paint… isn’t it incredible? I’m lucky these days! I have to be careful about what I wish… This luck of having the television asking me to do whatever I wanted left me in total ecstasy. Now I will recover a façade and publicize the project at the same time. I hope there won’t be bad interpretations from this. I work in public space; no one said it was easy.
So, soon after my arrival to the cloister and the place of the no-heads – someone was playing in the living room: Debussy - Arabesque No. 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts-v0e3BJYg&feature=related
I don’t know if you know but I really like to hear this to calm down… before going to sleep, or before making something important and when the sound of the piano came from the back of the room it all sounded magic. I had to go there to see who was it: Lurdes’s fingers sliding through the piano bouncing like water of a small riverside. Seeing the room, I had the feeling that I had arrived home, but in a different place. A strange but good feeling. 

I start enjoying this space, the shape of the ceramic objects, which have been started and left unfinished or expecting; Tiago’s sounds with his music instruments… acrylic cube with speakers and metallic boards to be played by slugs or snails and become self sufficient… or the sound from the wind captured by a nylon string at the cloister or the sound from the pendulums… an infinity of experiences, that I must confess I really like. There is a mixture of a laboratory of very serious adult-child and at the same time free. I love the animals-vase-without-heads under the orange tree at the cloister. I start to really like this space. Thinking that when I came here, everything seemed misadjusted…maybe…it’s curious…I think you would also like it, but only after a while.

Here, time (and we always come back to time) seems definitive and different. The disputes of impatience are others… It’s freezing cold and I don’t know how I will survive, painting the façade tomorrow, under the rain. The locals will think that I’m the silliest person on earth. I really hope to have more to tell you next time. As my flyer announces… 

Meanwhile totally sleepy I started to read “Picked Up from the Ground” and it starts with a quotation from
Garrett where he asks himself: how many poor are necessary to make a rich? I think that by working about human needs I also have to detect poverty and it seems like nonsense that in times of crisis someone starts painting windows… I never see the nonsense, I would never do. If in Portugal there are no affirmations, if no one affirms as a result of a different poverty from not having what to eat, I think a project like this is urgent. Creativity for me is to feed the “I” and I think that really lacks here.

I will let you use the text if you find anything interesting. I feel like I’m not having time to mature my ideas. I’m afraid that all the residency period will be like that. I will transform this writings into more poetic instants so that it will be easier to you to translate and less blablabla; what do you think?
A thousand kisses V.

(Letter 4: Su answers)
1.31 am
How beautiful what you describe! Tell me afterwards how it all went with the paintings! I can’t believe you tell me about Debussy, it was one of my discoveries from last year, as I started to go regularly to classical music concerts here, amazing! Have you read what I’ve written before =)? I think it’s cool that the letters are whatever you want them to be; I like that it all becomes messed up. I like to translate them. And I think it is important that they are as if we were speaking to each other, as it has been. I really like that you tell me about your project. Maybe they will mix up. It is nice to think the rural and the urban, since we are living parallel situations in such different contexts.  Fucking sintony, V. =)!  I think on your project, on memory and monument. Today I was cooking and thinking about the idea of monument and I remembered about that movie “Elisabeth”: do you know it? I can’t quite remember about the film, but I know that she was a queen and she was really beautiful, desired by all men and she fell for a guy from the court that used their relation to betray her and she almost died or lost the throne. At the end, she tells him that the only reason why she kept him alive was so that she could always remember that she almost ruined herself because of him. And I thought if it wouldn’t be that she kept him alive to keep that memory alive and in that case, wouldn’t it be that he became a living monument. Can it be that people can become monuments? How can a person become a living monument? I guess… now, in this moment, when you make me think… that the monument evokes a memory; although the memory is not past, it’s something that happens in the present always influenced by the past and even by the perspective one has from the future on that instant. Like as if these times would always be connected like a string and it changes as we like our lives to be told to ourselves. To preserve something that evokes memory…I guess it is…it will be the first condition to be a monument: evoking memory… do you think we can make a monument to the future? It would always be a monument to a possible future that existed in the past. Like 2001 space odyssey in the monument to the future space?

A friend once told me that when she was feeling remote, she’d call her mother or her boyfriend to place herself, to know who she was. And that makes me wonder if some people with whom we loose contact won’t be somehow monuments of our memory, marks, of our history. I don’t know, I think it’s beautiful. Do you think it’s horrible? But unlike monuments, which have physicality, memories distort, dilute and reinvent. One of my professors used to say that memory is always present, it has very few to do with past and all to do with present. Maybe the monument is not the person, but instead the memory of any event that you lived with the person. I also remember that scene from the movie cine paradise, where he leaves and his friend tells him to go and not look back. The image-monument. But this is all very heavy, isn’t it? Big nostalgic drama. I don’t know anymore how the conversation brought me here. It must be from the pictures of the village, the abandoned houses… The angels with no eyes, animals with no heads, do you know “profanations”, by Agamben? It occurred to me. What have the angels done to be blinded? Don’t worry about not developing the ideas, sometimes it’s good just to vomit things out, you produce, then you work from there; sometimes first vomited impressions are important, they have a lot of vitality.

Look, tomorrow I will have my first aerobic class in Kanaleneiland. There was not place in Zumba class. I don’t know if I’ve told you before, I decided to take these classes there, so that I will go there once a week to make research and to start getting to know people from the neighbourhood. And I convinced my friend Silvia to join. I think it will be great, we both dancing “Follow the leader”, too good, ahah!! I also like the travels by train; I like to think in the train… I also started to repeat some gestures that I had collected when I when there and to photograph them. Send pictures!! André Catalão will make a Portuguese “tasca” with fado on Friday. A group of around ten friends will go from Rotterdam, it will be great! I think I will love to see “tuga” (Portuguese familiar abbreviation for “Portuguese”) environment on that neighbourhood, it sounds good doesn’t it? I just tell you: I’d love to be there!! Red wine in a ceramic glass, chouriço, caldo verde (traditional Portuguese dishes) … snails…mini (Portuguese invention: a bier in a very small bottle, so that you drink it very fresh and with gas)… people with a cap turned towards the left side…I’m being influenced by Alentejo. Today my gastronomic adventure defeated me with pork’s lips from “cozido à portuguesa” (traditional Portuguese dish)…

 (Pause to eat some cereals, as I was almost fainting, writing always makes me hungry…)

2 am
I have to tell you a dream that I had. It’s funny because last email you were saying that it was the fact that I didn’t understand the rules from Kanaleneiland that scared me. Actually I have been thinking in the idea of rule, in general (can you ever think about rules in general? My answer is no, but that’s another story). Before you tell me your dream… social rule is something I find beautiful. For instance, the other day when I was in Martim Moniz (neighbourhood in Lisbon) and a dude was walking with a woman, both African and in a certain moment he crouches and spits to the gutter, very close to the floor. I found that gesture beautiful. Sometimes we need to be out of place to see the rule. So he crouched because it was important for him not to spit standing but for me to spit is to spit and it wouldn’t be very different if I hadn’t seen them in Senegal crouching to piss next to the gutters… what to say… sometimes we are so fast making interpretations of such secondary gestures that might be more than anything else aesthetic gestures, no? What do you say? I have an article to read about beauty and adornments of an Indian group from Brazil… and I forgot… so much to read…I also think it would be interesting for you to read “La puissance d'exister” by Onfray about rule and compromise. I think I already told you about that… I don’t have the book here now; otherwise I would give it to you.

I found it beautiful and cynic at the same time, my unconscious mocking of me, ahah! Do you remember of course of my problems with psychoanalysis? I had a teacher that was all into psychoanalysis and we had big arguments in classes with all that Lacan stuff about relations and phallus and I-don’t-know-what, where I told him amongst other things that I found incredibly dangerous that intellectuals would recognize themselves in that model and accept it, because it’s what we know, but what we really need is another model, a new way of thinking relations between people, generally speaking. That we need to create our own models. We, talking about monuments, I had this dream last week:  there was a party, my friends from PZI were there, the place was confusing, I don’t quite remember, we were dancing and having fun. Suddenly, the director comes to me and says she has something for me that my teacher sent. I was intrigued; she went to pick up something and comes with a big bottle of champagne, a perfectly normal bottle of champagne. I didn’t get it and then I look at the label and in a perfectly normal label, the champagne’s name was: “ACCEPT THE RULES” then I don’t remember of anything else. I woke up and laughed a lot. But as I don’t like psychoanalysis, I don’t take unconscious messages ahah so I don’t accept whatever fucking rules the dream was talking about without questioning them! But I really want to make a drawing of it; do you think this bottle of champagne is a monument to the conformists? I’m in delirium, ideas overlap … :))))) woman, make that bottle and send it!

This letter is so fragmented that I think is because I don’t write you for a while, I write you as I recall things that I wanted to tell you, but like hiccups, without any connection. I’m sorry to write you so much at once and all so inarticulate, a series of constellations that I still cannot map.

Good luck for tomorrow! Good luck with TV and watch out, don’t be nervous, once my friend Tiago that is a photogenic guy, he was so nervous talking to the TV that it seemed that he had a paralysis on his face, he was so nervous that he could only move one side of his face ahah! Lots of strength to win the rain and all and all and all!!

It happened. Let’s see what the journalist will choose. I hope it won’t be a mega manipulation. I got the idea that he wanted to valorise an artistic project of zero cost to the state and that it can be a touristic opportunity by creating a picturesque situation… well, see what comes out of it, poor house…I have to go back to work, a thousand kisses
(I have no idea how you will edit this letter… sorry)

Kisses: a thousand and I will think calmly about your project to see if I can think of something interesting about it.

Note: Names have been changed to preserve personal privacy.