“Even from here, our city is always at hand
if you make a fist it will fit in your pocket”
[Extract from the poem “W mieście” (“En la ciudad”) by Marta Eloy Cichocka].
When I press Record I capture small fragments of the city. I put them away, from my hand into my jacket, letting them mingle as they swing with each step. I also take in the expressions, beauty, wrinkles and experiences of every person I walk past, their breathing ending up in my pocket. I don’t understand everything they say but I imagine it. Many have felt the same way before.
I listen to the rain, as it sometimes spits and drenches alike here and there. I admire the astonishing architecture in the large squares and the neglected balconies in the boroughs, braced, with window panes that once shone. I set my eyes on the aesthetic traps hidden around Wroclaw: fake windows, painted on buildings for the purpose of maintaining symmetry in the composition. This makes me think of Horror vacui, non-acceptance of the void.
I feel the opposite: a rejection towards the saturation from music, melodies, singing, sounds, noises, voices and echoes that surround us continuously. In the city, a lapse of silence is hard to come by. We cannot free ourselves from the rumour of traffic. Not even inside a large urban park where listening to a bird beating its wings becomes a poetic delicacy out of reach for most people. In Donostia or Wroclaw, the noise of ongoing works never ends during the day; often, also, during the night. Cities dress up for the occasion but we suffer their complaints when pulling their corset or tie too tight. Meanwhile, the sea and the river never stop moving. What lives under the bubbling holes that remain on the shore when the waves move back? And under the wake left by ducks as their feet wade in the water? Is this where we find the gaps, the space, the time, the rest where we can breathe in oxygen? Is this where they live?
In “Desire as cement”, a sound collage formed by field recordings of Donostia and Wroclaw is manipulated live using two cassette players and filtered through an analogue tape echo machine. The natural sound of my voice becomes interwoven with the sound of objects and textures, acting as binding materials. They mold around the sounds of the cities, adhering to them, accepting moments of silence and creating them artificially. I suspect such moments are when the city allows us to think of what we need, to invent those stories we wish will come true and, in short, to strike a conversation.
A dialogue with each other and with the city, using the language spoken by cities and stories: a language that is clumsy at times though always welcoming; made up of shortened words whose meaning we can only partly grasp. In this way, the cement that is desire helps us to continue building fictions and to fill in the gaps that we don’t quite understand in our lives.
Some of the elements used in “Desire as cement”:
-A splinter of beech wood found in Garoa Kultur Lab (Donostia) on 27 March 2015: a sound poem of the axe hitting wood, the cuts made by the aizkolari Patxi Larretxea singing as he stands on top of the wood and as his son Hasier recites stanzas from “Niebla fronteriza” (“Border fog”), the fog that the Basque population traverses as we try to bring together our lives in past and future tenses: http://www.ainaralegardon.com/2015/06/la-poesia-de-la-vulnerabilidad/
-The sound of my fingers turning over each and every page of the book “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rilke, in Garoa Kultur Lab (Donostia) on 9 June 2015. Owing to my friendship with Ines, the bookseller, I ask her to turn the volume of the music down so that I can record the sound of the pages, enveloped by the ambience created by four customers.
– Sand collected at Ondarreta beach (Donostia) on 9 June 2015: http://www.ainaralegardon.com/2015/06/mis-pasos-en-busca-del-liquido/
– Shells collected at Zurriola beach (Donostia) on 12 June 2015. Beach treasures: perhaps not the ones that look the prettiest but the ones that sound the best; the lighter and higher-pitched ones, the more rugged and versatile ones, the ones with holes to blow through their carcass. With every wave, a new treasure.
– The sound of my steps walking towards the shore on Zurriola beach (Donostia) on 12 June 2015, gradually covered by the sound of the waves: http://www.ainaralegardon.com/2015/06/proyecto-wroclaw-donosti-9615/
– Sound of tram 2496, line 24 to Osobowice, recorded in Wroclaw on 21 June 2015, the driver’s beauty and expression, the hunters’ story and other passengers: http://www.ainaralegardon.com/2015/06/cuervos-lluvia-y-tranvias-wroclaw-210615/
-Sound of La Bretxa market (Donostia) on 12 June 2015: the blend of languages, the machine sawing through marrow, the axe ripping meat apart, cash registers, flowers, kindness.
-Sound of Hala Targowa market (Wroclaw) on 20 June 2015: the birds stealing birdfeed, phones, berries, voices, laughter.
-Sound of Cristina Enea Park (Donosti) on 12 June 2015: dogs panting, bunches of keys rocking as they hang off the necks of passers-by who whistle to grab their pets’ attention, bicycles.
-Sound of the Odra River around Paula Wlodkowica (Wroclaw) on 18 June 2015: soaked pigeons taking off, the wooden bridge shaking under the passing tram.
-The sea entering fiercely under the Kursaal bridge (Donostia) on 9 June 2015.
-Sound of the park on the banks of the Odra River (Wroclaw) on 20 June 2015: children playing on the swings, the wind on the bushes, my steps on the gravel.
-Children playing football in Plaza de Cataluña (Donostia), on 9 June 2015: under the “ball games forbidden” sign, a ball bounces off the walls of the Parish of San Ignacio, inside of which people are praying the rosary.
-A rosary found on a seat of the To Tu Theatre (Wroclaw) on 30 June 2015.
-A broken cassette recorder, purchased at the second-hand shop “Gauza Onak” (Donostia) on 12 June 2015 at one third of the asking price. It doesn’t work perfectly but it makes its own particular and interesting interpretation of whatever it finds.
-A glass vase and a cassette recorder (also worn down), purchased on a street market behind the train station in Wroclaw on Sunday, 28 June 2015.
-The sound of rusty springs of different shapes and sizes, as well as a piece created using artefacts used for special effects in movies in the 50’s at the Wroclaw Feature Film Studio (WFF Wroclaw), currently the CeTA- Centrum Technologii Audiowizualnych (Centre for Audiovisual Technologies). Recorded on 26 June 2015.
-A round of thin paper on which the polarity patterns of microphones were written down, found in the former special effects room at CeTA- Centrum Technologii Audiowizualnych (Centre for Audiovisual Technologies) (Wroclaw) on 26 June 2015.
-Green traffic lights, with a percussive sound indicator for the blind which is reminiscent of the sound of the txalaparta, traditional Basque instrument. Recorded in Wroclaw on 26 June 2015.
-Trusting pigeons, elusive ravens, hungry ducks being fed stale bread by a young girl. Their flying. The rain.
-Traffic, sirens, hustle and bustle, voices changing in the underpass.
-Wind, which I allowed to have fun with the recorder’s microphones. Sometimes, not even the best windshields can silence it.
Inspiration taken, more or less directly, from Eneko Gil, Jaime de los Ríos, Antonio Onio, Braulio Bandeira, Hasier y Patxi Larretxea, Adam Zagajeswski, Marta Eloy Cichocka, Eugeniusz Get Stankiewicz, Bruno Schulz, Malgorzata Haduch, Maria Mavridou, Dariusz Jackowski, Álvaro Barriuso, Rafa Rodrigo, a tourist guide named Simon and the histories of destruction and reconstruction that have left a mark on both cities.
Thank you to the staff teams at DSS2016, ESK Wroclaw 2016, Etxepare Euskal Institutua, CeTA- Centrum Technologii Audiowizualnych, Księgarnia Hiszpańska Wrocław, Garoa Kultur Lab, Kris Cwik, and to every person whose expression I have been able to capture or with whom I have shared experiences during this artistic process.