I HAVE THIS STRANGE FEELING
©Jeremy Xido [video still do primeiro “ensaio” filmado para o documentário “Fui A Tua Casa”, com Natacha Paulino. Torres Vedras, Transforma AC, 2006].
“I bought this necklace today for no particular reason, I wanted to give it to someone, but I didn’t know who that person was. Now that I see how good it looks on you, I want you to have it. That’s what the birthday aura is. It’s a powerful force, and it makes people do all sorts of strange things. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was buying the necklace for you.”
[Paul Auster, “The Brooklyn Follies”, p. 85]
[Apresenta-se a seguir a primeira carta de Jeremy Xido enviada por e-mail a Rogério Nuno Costa durante a residência artística de um mês na Transforma AC/Torres Vedras (2006), com o intuito de preparar a realização do vídeo-documentário “Fui A Tua Casa”, um dos objectos documentais do “Projecto de Documentação”. Apesar de residirem no mesmo espaço físico durante todo o tempo da residência, a troca de correspondência foi uma das “metodologias” de trabalho e de pesquisa adoptadas pelos dois artistas como fixação de um discurso teórico-prático oriundo de conversas, reflexões, leituras, passeios e análise de documentos vários sobre o “Vou A Tua Casa”. Versão no original Inglês, não editada:]
I have this strange feeling. Expectancy… Like I have the sense that I am about to find myself again. Sitting at the table with you yesterday, we were talking and, at some point, I suddenly felt my esophagus constrict. Tighten. Now, a day later, I am not sure what to make of that moment, but it was unmistakably familiar to me in the same way that, while dreaming sometimes, I find myself falling and will wake up with a start grabbing out to hold onto something in order to catch my balance. As if contact with some physical element could keep me from falling in my imagination. What I thought as we were sitting there, Rogério, is that I needed this conversation at this point in my life. Somehow we were talking about different forms of self-reflection and witnessing. We seemed to be talking about the sense of “being there”. There’s a word in German — wahrnehmen — which comes to mind. In English you translate it as “acknowledge” or “to be aware of”, but when you break down the German word, it splits into two parts, Wahr (meaning “true”) and nehmen (meaning “to take”). To take the truth into your hands. Or to truly take something. It is about a relationship between my experiences of my self as I come into contact with what is. What is true. What is there. And you don’t have to fabricate this, because it is already there, you just have to take it or acknowledge it. It is a shift of perception, an opening of awareness. It is about looking at what isn’t hidden, but what is invisible, precisely because it is right in front of you in plain view. The things we disregard because they are taken for granted. The things that are dressed in camouflage like the music playing in this café I am sitting in or the plastic bottle that is placed next to a column in the square just outside of the window I am looking through right now. The cap is off and the bottle is half full and it is there nestled against the column on the top step and surrounding it is the story of how it got there, of my becoming aware of it and the feelings and thoughts my recognition of it engender and the future of what will happen to it and to me, and and and… And you told me that most of the people who begin to write about this project or tell the story of what happened in their encounter with you usually begin with the story of your meeting. How it happened. Where it happened. And this makes perfect sense to me. Because, from what I understand, that is very much the piece. Being aware of where you are when it happens. Not aware of it being the performance, but aware of the moment of living. This particular story they share with you and everything that happens — either outside or inside, I imagine — is the piece. And of course, the moment that they become aware of it, as you said, it is over. Because it is no longer being lived, it is being defined and interpreted. And this is something else. Another moment. A different project.
Several days have passed since I began writing this. In the meantime, we had a meeting with Luís about what we will do together and about my workshop and the idea we have for a late 19th century or early 20th century artists’ correspondence. Just like you, Luís asked us both to write something. However, he wanted us to put our conversation in some order. I think what I am now writing is perhaps the same sort of thing, but not articulated quite like that — and I think that difference in articulation is quintessentially the difference between the two forms of writing, even if the impulse is similar. OK. Here is one of the things that I wrote for Luís, that I think fits here anyway. In answering what we plan to do over the next few months, this was the first entry in my list:
1) Help Rogério figure out an appropriate way to create a video documentation of “Vou A Tua Casa”. The challenge in doing this is like the way Jewish Mystics describe looking at the face of God. You can’t. It is behind a series of veils. To look at it means death. How do you film a project that attempts to reveal the ephemeral sense of being there? Film is the quintessential artistic form in not actually being there. It is a form which denies the moment of watching as an event in lieu of an imagined space of possibilities. There is a conflict of forms. This is an interesting conversation for me. And I think I might be able to help. So this is part one of my work with him.
I think I read about the veil thing in a book by Karen Armstrong. I can’t remember which book, but I found this quotation by her online: “The experience of God that is finally attained is utterly indescribable, since normal language no longer applies. The Jewish Mystics describe anything but God! They tell us about his cloak, his palace, his heavenly court and the veil that shields him from human gaze, which represents the eternal archetypes”. I am not religious. Not in any typical sense of the word. But the experiences that religious people try to get to and talk about often help me understand some of my own experiences. There is this feeling of truth or of presence that may be similar to their feeling of god or godliness. I don’t know if this is true, but Nietzsche wrote that he couldn’t believe in any God that didn’t dance, and I would agree, and somehow this seems to be an appropriate thing to write. (I am shocked that I am quoting so many people and thinking in such a literary way — Nietzsche and Karen Armstrong of all people! And a little later on I will quote Stanislawski…). You talked about “the birthday aura” (you quoted Paul Auster). The feeling of specialness. Like a field of energy. Like when dancing in a club and we see someone dancing away and just in it people start singing, “It’s your birthday!”. So let me think back to the day of the meeting. I remember my jet lag. The coldness of the space at Transforma. Full of malleable spatial possibility. I remember seeing your table with all the names of the people who took part in “Vou A Tua Casa” written out on index cards folded in half and set on end to look like so many little hills or pylons or those weird rock formations in central Turkey as a result of erosion or maybe like the image of forests in the computer game Ultima back in the early 90s. The flip flops and power cord on the table and me loving the fact that I just had to wonder what the hell you did with those things in your performance. I remember walking to find a café to sit in and talk. Rain. The first places were closed. You walked very quickly. Muscles taut and your motion certain. My cup of coffee. The television behind me that I couldn’t see but remembered from the last time I was in Torres Vedras and would always go to that particular café and order a tuna fish sandwich without mayonnaise. At some point as we were talking, I wanted to order a sandwich more out of habit than hunger. And as you were talking, at some point I had that constriction of my esophagus. It wasn’t bad. It was… revealing. Something happened to me like waking up from a dream and I was trying to catch my balance inside. You see, I have spent the past 7 months traveling around Europe to all of the places you will probably travel to this coming year for APAP. And I arrived with my camera and some newspaper articles and was housed in strange places and felt so unbelievably lonely and out of place, but I had a project ahead of me. I was scared because I didn’t know what I was going to do. Only in retrospect do I see clearly how I am often scared before something begins and once I am in it, fear never enters the equation. Then I am just doing and problem solving and improvising and more or less enjoying it. After months of being on the road, though, I started to feel a tremendous sense of disassociation from myself. I was so outwardly focused — on the stories I was trying to put together, on the interviews with other people, on trying to fashion a film out of it all, on the fact that whatever I did would be seen and judged by other people. Over the course of this time, I began to feel like I was drifting further and further away from myself. From my sense of being there. From my own body and life and fears and joys and things like what it feels like to do the dishes while talking with a friend. All of these things were so so so far away. My whole life was becoming like a perpetual state of jet lag. A friend of mine always quoted someone, I forget whom, and said that when you fly, your body moves through space much faster than your soul. So when you arrive, it takes days or even weeks for your soul to catch up. I think this was Jorge Luis Borges (now I am quoting someone quoting someone else!). So the feeling I had sitting there, listening to you and trying to grasp what you had been doing for the past three years, was of permission. I felt like I was going to be permitted to permit myself to be present. I was going to be able to accept my being and that it would be witnessed. And that it didn’t have to be spectacular. I just had to show up for my cup of coffee and be there. OK, so here comes the Stanislawski moment I promised. I knew it would come, because when I sat down here to write, the first thing I did was go online to try to find it. I found this, copied and pasted it at the end of the letter, knowing that I would eventually get here. So what you are about to see is a bit like time travel — I plucked this out of the past and in the middle of the letter told you what I would write in the future. Which is now:
It is funny, I haven’t read this book in a million years, but over the past couple of days, since our meeting, it began to pop up in my head again. Stanislawski’s “An Actor Prepares”. And one thing in particular. I was thinking about attention. So I poked around on the Internet and I found this:
5. Concentration of Attention
75 An actor must have a point of attention, and this point of attention must not be in the auditorium.
82 Solitude in Public: when you are in public (e.g., on stage) but have a small circle of attention and feel alone within it.
83-5 Your focus of attention can be larger areas, but this is harder to maintain — if it begins to slip, withdraw the attention to a smaller circle or single object/point, then gradually enlarge the circle of attention again.
88 At the end of every day, in bed, you should go over everything that happened in great detail, both appearance and inner emotions. Also try to refresh earlier memories of places, events, people. That is the only way to develop a strong, sharp, solid power of inner and outer attention.
89 You should give the objects of your attention on stage an imaginary life (where did it come from, who’s used it, etc.) so that they’re more interesting to you.
93 Observe things in daily life — bestow them with imaginary backgrounds to heighten various emotions. Remember those scenes and draw on them.
93-4 When interacting with people, attempt to comprehend their inner emotional life through their actions, thoughts and impulses. Why did they do that? What did they have in mind?
You know, whenever I think of Stanslawski I vaguely remember something I think I heard about him, that he wasn’t that great of an actor himself, but that he was an extraordinary teacher.
OK. I’m finished for this round. Almost. What I want to say, Rogério, is that I’m glad to have met you and embarked on this little journey. I have no idea how to do it or what to write, but I will try to trust that whatever I come up with will have to do. And it is bound to lead to the next thing.