Globale Positionen 01

An architectural Aleph

AutorInnen
Carlos Basualdo

A dark, large stone basin, wet, uneven. The caption at the bottom of the photography let us know that it belongs to a convent, part of the ancient Church of Santa Catalina in Mexico. In that very spot the nuns used to wash their heavy clothes, over and over again, for hundreds of years. The project by Dolores Zinny and Juan Maidagan consist merely of that brief caption and two pictures. The pictures render something of the deep intimacy of that space. A sacred space where a secular activity took place day after day, over and over, until its very repetition created an unexpected ritual. Below the heavy arches and the thick yellowish walls, the wet surface of the stone is a muted allusion to that ritual, sacred and meaningful in its understated simplicity.

Zinny and Maidagan also tell us that the space portrayed in the pictures is no other than the center of the world. Their words seem strangely close to those of Jorge Luis Borges, when he wrote in one of his short stories about a sphere that contained the impossible complexity of the universe and was found in a lost basement, in a imprecise neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The name of that wonder was Aleph, and, elliptically, Borges chose it to comment metaphorically on the unpredictability of culture, which, as the biblical wind, can blow wherever it wants. Zinny and Maidagan have made a place of the Aleph, and they have found it in Oaxaca, far from the noise of the urban centers, lost in silence.

The exercise that they are proposing to the newspaper readers is two folded. On the one hand they are subtly asking the viewer to de-center herself, to be able to accept that the Spirit is not located anywhere in particular, insisting on the fact that one should always be able to listen to Its words, even when they seem to be pronounced in a foreign language. But also Zinny and Maidagan have chosen the language of advertisement, of sheer information, to render the evasive experience of a place. Disguised as an ad that might belong to a mysterious and inexistent travel agency, they intend to offer the reader less the experience of the place portrayed in the two pictures than the longing for that experience. In a world saturated with speed and information, the longing for experience may be thought of as a gift. The gift offered by Zinny and Maidagan is such that its acceptance promises to take us far away from where we are. To a place from where we would be able to look at what we are, and see it differently.

(1999)

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