Have you heard the Bill Hicks story about the squeegee?
Well it's always hard for me to choose the right bit. The right snippet that encapsulates the concept. It's so important to choose the concept as narrowly as possible. I always have hours and hours of footage. I could create ontological continents, if I didn't narrow down to my precise needs.
I found these guys in a theatre of the oppressed amateur group. The 1st time I heard about theatre of the oppressed was in a street of Quito. This lady who looked like Jackie Brown, or rather no, like a 60's feminist black actress, not a blaxploitation one, with a short afro, jean flares, and a leather satchel on her shoulder, who had just arrived from Rio, where she was from, she sensed I could be interested in theatre. South America is full of magic like this, things just happen out of the blue. Sometimes I feel like things happen out of the blue the moment you step out of western society.
So when I arrived in town and knew I needed amateur actors to clean the window panes of the flame buildings, I went straight to the nearest theatre of the oppressed center. They're great aren't they? So natural. Only one of them is a cleaner in real life, the other ones are in retail. David Cronenberg says this, you can't ask an actor to embody a concept.
I wanted to show the need for liquid capital to build solid static symbols of its power. These towers erected in the whole world.. I want to touch them with my little finger. Men at work, up and down the panes of glass, caressing, rubbing, exchanging, with the steel and glass monsters. The sweat and heat leaves their palms, the glass eats it, absorbs it, as if it never was. Isn't it moving, the futility of their effort? It reflects our own existence, mankind watching its own ephemeral bleep in its narcissus pool. “And the eyes saw sight”, and the building saw another building, empty, innocuous, absolutely conscienceless. Isn't that what fascinates us the most? The fact that these structures that supposedly we plan, build, clean, and admire, have an autonomous existence oblivious to our meagre contributions? We speak of the ghosts of empty buildings, but these, these aren't haunted, these never let life in, they are their own life, we are just passing through. Entering and exiting lobbies, staircases and rooms; looking through endless panes of transparent sand paste, from inside and outside, feeling as alien to the window no matter our position. The window is, we witness.
Can you believe the single blade squeegee was invented in 1936 by Ettore Steccone, an Italian immigrant in Oakland? His company is still a leading one in the field. This is what I'm trying to tap into. Our meagreness as actors of nature and yet the beauty of our entrepreneurship. Nothing can stop us. Even not understanding the buildings we erect ourselves. We do things. Steccone's company's slogan is 'We do windows'. You know what I mean? I mean look, the dust is everywhere. They will never get that flame clean, here is Sisyphus, defeated, unrelenting, the rock is the victor, undisputedly.
I guess in the end, we just build buildings to pass time, right? Maybe I'm going a bit far.. I could talk about this forever. Is there any need to finish anything at all? These three flames buildings, they will never be finished. The windows keep breaking or falling off because of the wind. Then they have to get that mechanical arm crane to fix it. One of them disappeared the other day, I mean it's just absurd. Even if they manage to wipe one side from the dust, which is ridiculous bearing in mind the sheer size of the thing, it's already time to clean the other one again! With all the maintenance needed in the world, how can there be unemployment? I find it baffling.
I love watching my footage over and over again. Every time, the performance is live. The alchemy of each limb and element.. Gravity, time and space interweaved and read by my hungry eye. It does not matter who sees what in this. I can be deciphering it on my own it is already enough. My eye my hand the lens, it's an erotic dance. I am making love to the image, the moment, the repetition, the difference, to the actors as well. I hope their wives won't mind. I don't care actually. I am the little hammer to their TV screen, I am the disturber, the bringer of their frustrated amateur theatre group dream. I am the Utopian gust of wind. And it smells of sex. These buildings will only live and die if we make sex to them. Yes, make sex to them. We built them as sexual organs, they need to ejaculate. Only by stripping away our inhibitions and coming together as one giant hand masturbating the Three Flames, the Shard, the Burj Khalifa, will we free them, us, and their spirit/sperm. Have I told you about my spirit/sperm theory?
(written for Alex Culshaw's video installation in the Farringdon Factory)