Ciudades Paralelas (Site Specific)

October 24, 2013

“You may be approached by security, who might ask you some questions – they may even ask you to leave. But whatever you do, please don’t mention you are with Cork Midsummer, or the whole thing will just blow up.” As the woman assigned to give us instruction does so, I wonder what exactly it is I have gotten myself into.

I’ve been bussed with a number of other punters to a shopping centre on the outskirts of Cork City, as part of Shopping Centre: The First International of Shopping Malls, one of eight site specific pieces programmed as part of the festival under the title Ciudades Paralelas (Parallel Cities). Over the course of the week I will witness performances by real life people on the roof of a civic office, outside people’s homes, in a quintet of hotel rooms and in the cities court house (but not in the Library or Factory as the former was sold out and the latter was flooded). This was a festival like no other which taught me about what it means to be alive, the series complemented perfectly festival director Tom Creed’s own Berlin Love Tour, which made us look at a city’s secrets through its architecture.

From these points we got to see what our life has made invisible – the routines and people we consume and consign without any consideration to the back of our mind, which this programme helped liberate, giving eyesight to the blind.

Nowhere is this made more explicit than in Stefan Kaegi’s Review, which starts with a game of 50/50 and ends in a serenade a top a civic building, after a personalized guided tour from Robert Creed. Robert started life with poor vision and now has none. As he taps his way around Cork City Hall, he illuminates the physical challenges he must surmount every day while spinning a tale of survival, of hope, hardship and unwavering faith. His belief and charm make the most solid case for us not throwing the Catholic baby out with the bath water, no matter how dark a shade the church has turned it, and was an intriguing counter to the growing expression of disdain such faith often elicits in people.

This cynicism towards our former faith is one of the main things to distress one of five workers in the Maldron hotel to share his story in Lola Arias Chambermaids. Through a variety of forms- video, voice over, letter and Polaroid, the ghosts who move discretely around our hotel rooms when we’re not around share their experiences, and as we move from room to room, a sense is got of who they are and who we are based on our behavior when we think no one is watching. From the relief of having transgressed the line between legal and illegal professions to the fear of entering a room left by ‘hens’, one wonders how anyone could leave a mess – or a measly tip again, having glimpsed those left to cope with our excess.

In Dominic Huber’s Prime Time, we peer, literally, through the windows of the residents of two opposing houses on St Patrick’s Hill. Divided into six separate apartments, as we look in, the residents look out, bathed in light, revealing their separate thoughts on nationhood, couplehood and privacy, through the headsets we wear. What has lead them to the gaff, what keeps them there and what will drive them away is divulged as similarities and noted differences subtly slip out between their takes on their own life.

Christian Garcia’s atmospheric In The Name of The People utelised the Cork Court House, using the ethereal airs of the Cork Chamber Choir to evoke the ghosts of cases previously held in the building. Noted for their absurdity, importance or relevance, the choir both chant and sermonize the details of past actions, some we recognised, others we projected upon, as the choir moved from above to around us, using the buildings wonderful acoustics to arouse the sense that what went on between these walls reverbed beyond them.

The most exhilarating piece I experienced was The First International of Shopping Malls by German activists Linga. Another audio tour, this one broke us out of the prison of convention enforced by the design of these buildings. Ducking in and out of doorways, following, observing and mimicking shoppers, trying to remain inconspicuous while all the while trying to shrug of the zombie like spell punters have been cast under, it aroused a sense of revolution in my spirit by simply having me walk a little faster or slower. The stakes were high. If we were caught we could ruin the experience for any shows to follow, while there was also a sense of collusion in the secret signals and notes we exchanged. The whispering voices of the floor, roof and air animated the sinister and inescapable force that is consumerism and opened up our eyes to the tricks deployed in a plot we’ve been duped by.


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