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A piece by Alex Reynolds for one sole spectator


12 September 2011

A piece by Alex Reynolds for one sole spectator

The creation of filmic situations in real contexts leads to the practice of performance activating atavistic fears, raising questions about our context and leaving us, as users, faced with a sea of doubts about communication, truth, fiction and our own fragility. Frederic Montornés participates in “Te oímos beber”(We hear you drinking) and narrates, first hand, his reactions.

One day I received an email with information about an exhibition. The message said the following: “a piece by Alex Reynolds for one sole spectator”. More than an exhibition, it had to be some kind of action, a performance. I have to confess that the idea of participating in something that was being done for only one spectator captivated me immediately. I thought about how when you go to see an exhibition you are always obliged to share it with others. Sometimes with people you know, sometimes not. To participate in something where nothing like this would happen and which, what is more, I wouldn’t be able to discuss with anybody, intrigued me from the beginning.

Without waiting even a single day -the mere chance of being left out made me hurry- I put myself down as a candidate following the given instructions. Having done so, I just had to wait.

I knew that the mastermind behind this piece produced by Barcelona Producció 2011, ie La Capella, was Alex Reynolds, the artist, one of whose proposals I had been able to experience not so long ago. It was a piece, conceived for two people in the form of an audio guide, that led the two visitors at the end of their tour of the exhibition, to find themselves at the same point but having lived very distinct experiences. This, however, was very different. Not even the title, a cryptic “Te oímos beber”, made it possible for me to work out what was hidden behind this proposal.

I forgot all about the subject until, at the end of the month, I received an email telling me that I had been selected. It also asked me which of the two proposed days suited me best and at what time. The message was signed by someone called Juan. No trace, already, of Alex.

Apart from the possibility of attending an act that was being performed for one spectator, I began to be aware that something else was happening, which, like time, is at times hard to describe. I began to realise that even though the piece had been planned for the end of May or beginning of June, in reality it had begun the day that I had responded to the first email. Each time I thought about it I was invaded by a strange sensation. I don’t know, as if I was being played with, as if I had given them the wherewithal to do what ever they wanted with me. And now not just Alex. There was also this Juan, who I still couldn’t put a face to. So there were two or more on the other side, pulling the strings of something that I didn’t know about and that concerned me directly.

A month later I received another email asking me to confirm the day and the time. I responded to what they asked me and five days later they wrote again, informing me where I had to go. As well as what I had to do: follow Carmen at every moment, for approximately an hour, the amount of time the piece was meant to last. I forgot about Carmen. A detail, I discovered later, that was as clear and precise as it was vital for the denouement of the piece. However I didn’t regret my stupidity. What is more, I introduced it into the story to the extent that it enabled the entrance of a character, who was going to communicate with me. By texts and who was called, of course, Juan.

I arrived at the anticipated place fifteen minutes early. And this is what happened: Juan sent a text, saying to return a little later, as to do it at that moment could be dangerous. I thought: there already seemed to be enough intrigue and now they are administering another dose! What have I got myself in to? What’s going to happen (to me)? I knew only that it was too late to back out. I had to go through with it to the end. What will be will be. And another thing: I sensed that from that moment on, I was going to be observed. They would see what I was doing, without me being able to see them. So that at the same time as being invited to participate in something that was being done just for me, I had converted them into spectators of the work that Alex Reynolds had (also) conceived for one sole actor.

At the agreed time, as instructed, I approached the doorway and called at the indicated flat. The door opened, I went up in the lift and on arriving at the flat I see the door is open. I go in, say hello, nobody responds, I head towards the back of the flat, looking at everything as if it were an exhibition. I was looking for something that I wasn’t going to find. Everything was normal, very normal. Except for one thing: the cable of the telephone on the table came from behind a door that was very firmly shut …

With nothing to do, I sat down on the sofa, waiting for something to happen. I put the record player on to listen to the record that was on it: I think it was the soundtrack from Citizen Kane. It wasn’t long before I took it off. I tried one of the other records there: jazz music. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to manage, I needed to try and feel at home or if nothing else in a familiar place. So I appropriated that place, by doing the only thing I could: choosing the music I wanted to listen to.

Realising that I had left the door open, I got up to shut it. Shortly afterwards, I heard the door open and someone enter. The first thing I saw was an amazing black dog followed by a person who, judging from the harness, I suspected was blind. Once inside the flat -her flat- she acted as if there was nobody else there. As if I was invisible… My greetings to her simply had no effect. Having dumped what she was carrying, she headed towards the bathroom; the only thing I could sense was the fixed stare of the dog sat at my feet. While she was in the bathroom, the telephone rang. She came out of the bathroom to answer it. Somewhat upset by the weird conversation that started up about a certain Juan, the blind woman changed the music following the instructions given to her – there was no doubt about it: they were watching me – she picked up a map that she found in one of the drawers in the kitchen and having changed, left the flat to look for I don’t know what. Before leaving, Carmen made sure to grab a revolver… And abandoned the flat leaving me inside, not knowing what to do.

Juan had to remind me, via a text, that I had to follow Carmen at all times. I went down to the street to join her and her dog. We traversed a few streets, when suddenly a taxi stopped and Carmen got in. After a while – and, once again, with the help, by text, of Juan reminding me what I had to do – I got into the same taxi. Before I had realised it we had left a district, which, even though I wasn’t familiar with it, stopped being the scenario in which everything up until then had happened. Now the scenario had expanded to include the whole city; as well as the possibilities of what could happen…I felt that I was losing control of a situation that I had never controlled. I remembered that I was the subject of an action “made just for me”. As well as an action represented by me.

Without warning, the taxi stopped at a corner. By the door where I was sitting a blind person got in, a friend of Carmen, with whom she struck up a conversation, that had a touch of melodrama when she mentioned the name of a character, who without having seen him, had already began to be more than familiar: Juan. The conversation ended when Carmen insisted the other blind girl get down from the taxi and to follow through with some aim, of which I had no idea. The scenario changed once again, extending its reach beyond the limits of the city.

We left Barcelona by the ring road heading towards a place I had never been. The mere memory of what this place had been made me ask myself once again what was I doing there. In one of the most inhospitable parts of the city, close to the container loading dock, with nobody in sight, the taxi stopped, indicating to Carmen that she had arrived at the designated place. She got down, as I did, behind her. And like two halfwits, we were left standing there, Carmen and I one beside the other, waiting for someone or something to indicate what we should do. Waiting for instructions. As if out of nowhere, a character approached us who, even before he spoke, I had my doubts whether he was an actor or just an inhabitant of the area. Without a by your leave he began a sort of monologue about his psycho-morphological gifts, a form of wisdom, a science –he said- that studies the pysche through physiognomy. For his quasi lecture, to which – I confess – I paid little attention for fear that Carmen might abandon me there, he used photographs from newspapers and a way with words that more than one exhibition curator would covet. Engrossed in the long-winded soliloquy, the scenario I found myself in, beneath the bridge of the ring road and the image of Carmen and her dog waiting for I don’t-know-what, Carmen’s phone rang. On ending the conversation, I watched her head towards the train track with the aim of crossing it. It was then that I spotted on the other side of the track, three characters waiting: one in a car and two outside it. I abandoned the psycho-morphologist, sticking to Carmen like glue. I now was unable to forget that I had to follow her at all times.

On joining the group I found out that one of them was Juan (also blind) and that something had happened between the two of them, that judging from the tone of their voices, I didn’t think was going to end well. And so was it. After a brief romantic re-encounter, with a touch of soap opera, things heated up and before the second blind man joined the couple, I heard shots that ended the lives of all of them. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. A toy murder in an inhospitable place. And with nobody to talk to about it! All on my own… until, without a by your leave, they got up from the floor, commented on the action, got into the car and having banned me from getting in, headed for the hills, leaving me alone under that bridge, with no idea about how to get back.

I did what anybody would have done: I retraced my steps. Half way along, a car braked right beside me and the driver, extremely agitated, told me to get in. In less time than it took for me to react, we were going at I have no idea what kind of speed. I only knew that if up until then I could have abandoned the project at any point, now I couldn’t even get out of the car. Unless that is I wanted to die. The driver, the psycho-morphologist once again, spoke at the same speed as the car. He went on and on with his diatribe until he reached the back part of Drassanes and, suddenly cutting short his speech, told me to get out of the car. An offer I couldn’t refuse. So I paid heed and got down from the car and watched him go.

And there I stayed, until half an hour later, without anybody passing by, or anybody saying anything to me, or Juan sending me a text, I thought perhaps that the time had come to abandon that place. For all that I felt watched, it was no longer the same. Not the same play, nor the same film. It was just the normal flow of life. The protagonists, the people that passed by and maybe didn’t understand why I looked at them in that special way. Or what I was doing leaning on such an anonymous and lost tree trunk as the one where they had left me.

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