“Well it's always hard for me to choose the right bit. The right snippet that will encapsulate the idea. It's so important to choose the concept as close to the bone as possible. I always end up with hours and hours of footage. I could create ontological continents, if I didn't narrow everything down to my precise needs.
I found these guys in a theatre of the oppressed amateur group. The first time I heard about theatre of the oppressed was in a street in Quito. This lady who looked like Jackie Brown, like a ’60s feminist black actress, not a blaxploitation one, or wait is it, I get confused… She had a short afro and jean flares, tight around her round thighs, small breasts, a pale complexion, almost Asian eyes, clicking short heels with a leather satchel swinging on her shoulder. She'd just arrived from Rio, her hometown, and somehow sensed I could be interested in theatre. She simply started talking to me at a zebra crossing. South America is just magic like that; things seem to happen out of the blue. Sometimes I feel like things get more spontaneous the moment you step out of Western society.
When I arrived in Baku to start this project, the first thing I looked for were amateur actors, I needed to film them cleaning the window panes of the flame buildings. I went straight to the nearest theatre of the oppressed centre. They're great aren't they? Their faces... You can’t see them here, but their faces are so striking. This one is the only cleaner in real life, the other two are programmers but I think they’ve studied theatre for a while. David Cronenberg said: 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 all over the world... I want to touch them with my little finger. Men at work, up and down the window panes, caressing, exchanging with the glass and steel monsters. The heat is absorbed from their palms, the flames become three blocks of ice again. Isn't it moving, the futility of their effort? It reflects our own existence, mankind watching its own ephemeral blip in the narcissus pool. ‘And the eyes saw sight’, the building sees another building, empty, innocuous, absolutely conscienceless. Isn't that what fascinates us the most? The fact that these structures which supposedly we plan, wash and worship, 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’re just passing through. Entering and exiting lobbies, staircases and rooms, gazing through thick surfaces of transparent sand paste, from inside and outside, feeling as alien to the window no matter where we stand. The window is - we witness. You know the Bill Hicks story about the squeegee? About the 3rd eye and consciousness? The single blade squeegee was invented in 1936 by E. Steccone, an Italian immigrant in Oakland. His company is still leading in the field. I want to tap into our meagreness as actors of nature, yet reveal the beauty of our entrepreneurship. Nothing can stop us. Even not understanding the buildings we erect ourselves. We just do things. It's never over! Steccone’s company’s slogan is ‘We Do Windows’. You know what I mean? Look again, the dirt is everywhere. They will never get that building spotless. Here is Sisyphus, defeated, unrelenting: the rock is the victor, undisputedly. I guess in the end, we dust to pass the time. I could talk about this forever. Is there any need to finish anything at all? Perfection is our plight. And our saviour. Even if they do get one façade clean, ridiculous really, look at the size of the thing, it’s already time to go back to the one before! With all the maintenance needed in the world, how can we still be struggling with unemployment? Baffling. We are so obsessed with creating structures to compete with nature's beauty that we end up soiling everything, spoiling it all, making more junk that cannot look after itself, or not in the way we want it to. And so the earth, Pachamama takes revenge, and starts breaking laws we never controlled really. We are creating the demise of our society, the final unifying algorithm that will pop us into oblivion in a deep stainless steel sigh... Hopefully. (She pauses)
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 interwoven and read by my hungry eye. I can decipher it on my own, it’s enough already. My eye, my hand, the lens, this erotic dance. Making love to the image, to each loop, even to the actors. Sorry women, I am making love to your men. I am the little hammer to your TV screen, the disturber, the destroyer of a frustrated amateur theatre group dream. I am the utopian gust of wind and it smells of sex. These buildings need to die a little in order to relate to us. We built them as sexual organs, they need to ejaculate. Sex them up and down. 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 the spirit/sperm. Have you heard my spirit/sperm theory?
(She looks up at him, catching her breath. And smiles, satisfied.)
-You been here long?
-Where in Baku? I come and go.. A good two years I’d say.
-Do you regret?
-Leaving, travelling all the time…?
-It’s my life; you have to follow your practice. I am lucky in so many ways.
-Initially… I met someone. (Giggles)
-Are you together now? Sorry If this is getting a bit personal…
-It's fine. Let's go there. I'm enjoying it actually.
-Ok, so are you?
-(She looks up slightly startled) No. Hehe…
-Do you think you're looking for love?
-Hahaha! No? I don't know anymore. It seems so hard to believe in it now, doesn't it? It's so fast. Pif paf it’s gone. Even when you're abroad. Everybody's attention span has become so short.
-Do you think staying in love is about attention?
-It definitely helps hahahaha!
-But whilst you're in love, it's true, right? I don't understand why people have to then disregard the whole story because it’s over. It was just an end, but it happened. Why dismiss the whole thing? In many ways, it's best we don't cling to each other.
-Maybe. It just seems so much rarer nowadays.
-I don't know… The real thing, the nice thing, when you're not in control, when you're like a kid, not lying, laughing endlessly… Maybe it needs shared culture, a common ground.
-You know very well that still happens all the time, don't you?
-Well it must happen in some places.
-Or between some people.
-It's fine I said. I guess with time passing, I got more cautious, and less cautious in a way. You just care less, so you go in more… For shorter spans, maybe. It's terrible to say you care less but it's true isn't it? It's so rare. To meet someone who sustainably grabs your attention, nourishes it, makes it flourish, takes it somewhere unknown…”
He lies on the satin coral coloured cover, pulled tight on the single bed in his ’60s hotel room. He feels like taking the foetal position but knows it will get him a bit down, so he stays as he is, legs straight and slightly open, his hands crossed behind his head, like a cowboy, kind of. The window is too high to see the view. The Flame Building is probably reverberating the low clouds today and droplets are maybe sticking and sliding on its façades, 'never clean', but shimmering, beautiful really. I like those three buildings, he whispers. He imagines himself curling up, bringing his knees closer to his stomach, and says it again, his words spilling over his elbow: I like those three buildings, yes. The way they stand bold and light amongst the tower blocks, beloved hated remnant monuments of Soviet living, and above the mosques and Azeri palaces, minarets drawing sticks on their surreal silhouettes, the blue glass cutting away from the ochre shapes. There is maybe an ecology of love. He holds his self a little tighter. His flight is in seven hours. No one’ll be in when he arrives. For a week, then he leaves again. He wishes he could be as detached as Jack. He can’t call Jack even when all alone in the house. Who knows where Jack is? Who knows who Jack’s with. Jack’s gone. Jack might want to come back. Jack can never come back. Jack killed his pure soul. He killed Jack’s long lost heart. They’ll be happy now. A little less. Better. Something they won’t get again. He should edit the interview before falling asleep, but he’s so exhausted. He stays away from the laptop, it’d keep him awake for hours. The filmmaker's voice echoes in his head. He disagrees with her on almost everything. She finds ways to accommodate her needs. She does not sound sorry one bit. Sorry for what? Maybe he should be sorry. The roots of his lashes feel the veil of four tender possible tears, reabsorbed in an instant. This is home. The lost soft grumble of his love’s voice comes to replace the filmmaker's squeals in his ears. ‘We caught each other. -Just about, yes.’ The stranger’s smile in his kitchen, familiar already. Then he smiled too, brushing off all possible fear. There shines their exciting new ride. He always knew it would end in tears. How else does it ever end? A temporary catch, fast forever words. They meant well. They tried. The look of their cheeky surrender punctures his soul once more. He feels like jumping up. He feels like smiling. He does jump up. His knees on the satin coral coloured bed cover slide slightly in his brown corduroy trousers; and he holds his cheeks on his knuckles, his elbows against the dirty window pane where the wind is drawing raindrop deltas. They escape each other now, just about. Four crows on the balcony, just there. Two on the balustrade, two on the floor. The big one on the floor is brutally pummelling the smaller one next to it. The smaller one has nowhere to hide. He can hear their screams. See their tiny heads full of scars. Their wings are too big for the space they’re leaving each other, and they hit one another every time they move. It’s almost unbearable. Why does the bigger one destroy the other? He always watched crows as a kid. A third one flies down and inserts itself between the other two fighting. Unexpected. Is it going to save it now? The attacker stops. It folds its wings and leaves, limping. The two smaller ones stand side by side, awkward in the vacuum of violence. The defeated now defiantly opens its big black wings and flies up like a helicopter, to settle on the balustrade as well. After a few seconds, the attacked, head still bleeding, flies upwards to join it. The third one, vacant, trots away on the floor, looking for non-existent crumbs. Until it gets bored, and flies away. He’d been a kid again with Jack. Becoming young, becoming wild. Falling from grace so gracefully. Every atom burning towards its independence. Then he looked up, looked in, and his adult life had arrived. It’s all about how we eat each other, he said out loud.