25 de febr. 2016

the applause

What man contemplates in this scheme is the activity that has been stolen to him, it is his own essence, torn away from him, turned foreign to him, hostile to him, making for a collective world whose reality is nothing but man's own dispossession.
Jacques Rancière. The emancipated spectator.
Abu Qir street, seven in the afternoon, six lanes road. A man standing in the brick row that distinguishes the incoming from the outgoing cars. He has left a couple of plastic bags on the floor and he has rolled up his sleeves. He locates his sight on a relatively undetermined spot on the other side of the street and he applauds. Clap clap clap clap clap.

About three minutes of applause. Pause. He stretches his right arm, then his left arm, rolls his shoulders and resumes. Clap clap clap clap. On the left the faculty of engineering, on the right a hospital, on both sides cars motorbikes passersby traffic police bicycles. And a standing man who claps to a rhythm  he only knowns, lunatic metronome.

The scene repeats almost every day, almost in the same place, almost at the same time.

Almost everyone has seen him once. Even those who think they haven’t ever seen him, when asked they vaguely remember his shabby clapping profile. And when asked, almost everyone has a different story to explain his quartered ovations. A clapping man is an open question mark in the middle of the city. As in the old songs, some say his son was killed in the university. Some say he lost his job in the hospital. Some say he’s with the islamists. Some say he’s with the socialists. Some say he’s with the military. Some say he’s crazy. Some say he’s not.  What’s there left for a middle aged man to celebrate in the country of uncertainties? Where people disappear twenty by twenty and the enemies are killed thousand by thousand?

What the fuck is the clapping man clapping at? The question crumbles in the void of his palms. Clap clap clap clap.

Drinking beers with A I tell him about the applause in Abu Qir and about how it makes my day when i see the clapping man splitting normality in the traffic jam.  A switches on the warning lights bristling his eyebrows. He tells me that when Bouazizi set himself on fire in the public square back in 2010 there where voices who devoted time and words to theorize his immolation in terms of performance. Ladies and gentlemen we’ve discovered total art in times of dictatorship, with footnotes and arab springs. He adjusts his glasses and asks my opinion on the matter. Performance or what? I take a sip of beer to buy time. Well, i don’t know, i guess he’s just a clapping man but we should go more often to check how he does it.

There are poets in jail in this city. Censored movies. Shut down galleries. Charged publishers. Disappeared journalists. Tortured students. Ditched nobodies. Every time we think of doing something to give shape to what we feel, we update the bookkeeping of risks, counting interrogations as production costs. It almost never happens, but it happens. And we do less and less and it happens more and more. However a man carries his own reasons in the middle of the street for a standing ovation to this void and nobody dares to stop him.

I’m on my way back from the supermarket, I step off the bike and listen to the clapping man. I observe his gestures, tired arms, constant pace. When his applause is faces me I look at him in the eye but he doesn’t shrink. He sees me, but he doesn’t care. And i check the cars passing by, they don’t look at him but  they see him. Not a metaphor not a performance not madness. Then what? A asks. I don’t know: a parenthesis. And i clap.

Clap clap clap clap.

17 de febr. 2016

self portrait of wednesday

i'm afraid of my grandma dying
pigeons flying above the rooftops makes me smile
i have the ability of being deeply sad
and i have lived in many cities
the horizon is important to me, so is my bike
sometimes i'm scared of scared people around
and i'm proud of my living room as a shelter for friends
i don't know what will come next
my brother rarely smiles and it worries me
i love writing, but i can't dance