I returned to Havana, to participate in the XIth International Meeting of Dance in Urban Landscape “Old Havana: City in Movement”. For the occasion, I was teamed up as video-artist with Argentinean dancer Maria Eugenia Aquerman. In parallel to this event, I was also in the process of developing an immersive new media installation that involved sound, video and motion captors and therefore interactivity, in which I explored the relation between proxemics, sound and video narratives.
“Old Havana: City in Movement” is a festival that subscribes to an international circuit of “Cities that dance”. It calls for site-specific dance interventions that take place within the neighborhood of Old Havana—a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where local and transnational dancers take the city’s streets, parks and museums. Each year, approximately twelve countries take part in the event.
As Maria and I began to explore the margins of the city, we headed to the Malecón, the broad esplanade, roadway and seawall that stretches approximately 8 km along the coast from Vedado, all the way to the mouth of Havana Harbor. The Malecón defines the border of the city from the ocean and, farther away, from Miami, a very close presence in Havana, notwithstanding the geographic distance separating the two.
Maria stepped up onto the sea wall. Daylight was rapidly fading and was giving a sense of urgency to our experiment; the ocean was actively working away at the sea wall. Behind my camera viewfinder, I was attentive to catch Maria’s improvised movements as I was discovering them along.
She spread her arms out as if she were a flag, bending slightly forward to lie against the wind, as it gently pressed her back against the cityscape where sense of time and place collapsed.
Taking refuge where the sounds of the city mixed with the sound of the ocean, as Maria’s motions appeared to breach in interstices that allowed unspoken narratives to emerge, in an attempt to follow its thread, we gradually made of the city our field, our studio, our lab.
The utopian body
The ritual process that consisted in heading to the sea wall every day and embodying structures invisible to the eye added to the dematerializing of my sense of place. Through the embodiment of my camera viewfinder, and in anticipation of Maria’s movements, we were eventually led to the disembodiment of both our presences to the benefit of a third actor, that of a non-place where her movements added to those of my camera, resulted in movements that had not taken place in experiential reality:
In my viewfinder she lay suspended between earth and sky, weightless and falling, weightless and reaching, in and out of the frame, neither here nor there, as I had began to extend her movements one at a time, elongating them, counterpointing them with my own body movements, as if in an attempt to grant her wish to propel parts of her body into the air. Suddenly, she pulled out a fork and began combing her hair with it, her mouth open and still.
At that specific moment, her movements echoed irreconcilable absences, as I remembered a DUPP installation: “1, 2, 3, testing…” . It recalled that “Every night at nine o’clock the bay performs its self-evidence ritual: The cannon’s boom announcing the closing of the imaginary wall. A wall that surrounds a city we do not see, whose inhabitants are trapped in the inescapable circumstances of time”.
Maybe “these days, utopia is being lived on a subjective, everyday basis, in a real time of concrete and intentionally fragmentary experiments… as a social interstice within which these experiments and these new “life possibilities” appear to be possible” (Bourriaud 1998); and where again “the terminus can be the end, and the border; or the beginning as well as its own place, its own site of experience and encounter” (Ethnographic Terminalia, Montréal 2011).