The work takes place outdoors.
Each participant remains at a distance of at least 3 feet, and often more.
Participants are masked.
All participants will begin with a ritual handwashing, with wipes and hand sanitizer, so that everyone in the work will have and demonstrate clean hands.
All the objects will be cleaned and sanitized before the work begins.
There is no actual physical contact between participants, only the passing of objects.
This is how we imagined it.
But it was not at all like that.
We said Remolino de Suerte “imagines” because we could not know until it happened. We have, all of us, for so long, been living with our hands out in front of us feeling the way. We had been in Brazil — quieted. By summer of 2021 all of us had learned to tamp down our optimism. There is no reason at this point to believe anything will work out the way we hope it will. I use the present tense because this is still very much the case as I write. Everything is subject to change; it always was, but now we live explicitly according to that conscious understanding. I used to make elaborate plans with complex itineraries that hinged on precise connections in faraway places, far into the future. And when those plans unfolded, time after time, just as I had intended, I began to question the reason for their remarkable success rate. How can it be that these projections materialize so consistently? It cannot be just that I am an avid researcher or a meticulous organizer; nor can it be just that I am a tenacious dreamer, there has to be more to it. Diligence and desire still need fortune to cooperate, and that apparently infallible complicity became so confounding to me that, in 2020, when all possibility of planning was obliterated in one stroke, it came as a strange relief. Now the wished-for event materializes suddenly, if at all. We sense its volatile potential hovering but we know not to attach ourselves to it. When we sketch out a proposal it is padded with contingency provisions.
The work took place on Saturday October 2nd 2021. The day itself was extravagantly auspicious, one of those exquisite autumn days in New York of clear blue skies and golden sunshine, warm on the skin, rich on the sidewalks and cobblestones. It was one of those days that is, on its own, a lavish feast for all, so generous for so late in the season. The block party would unite people from all over the city. People of all sorts, all ages, converged on a blind alley in Gowanus to partake in a day of festivities. The event was originally intended as a gesture of outreach to the local community on behalf of the Van Alen Institute, newcomers to the area, but really it provided the opportunity for a demarcated zone of joyful unity, mixing communities from across the city, with the singular purpose of pleasure in common. As one of the free things to do in the city that day, the most gorgeous of days, families made of it an outing, while passers-by were drawn into the revelry, lured by the abundance of food, drink, and music offered to the people, blessed by the sun.
This may sound like a sentimental embellishment of a fairly typical public event. Yet anyone who was present that day can attest to the unusually acute sense of collective euphoria. What we had, every one of us, endured in pandemic isolation, in deprivation of communal life, of crowds, of bodies, of contact, we had no way of measuring until we were suddenly and unexpectedly in touch again. We were starving for each other the way, in winter, we crave the sun.
(At the onset of the pandemic, in the darkest days of April 2020 — an exceptionally cold and grey April — when we were all holed up and locked down, I made a piece called Sun Sun, a domino-logic card game of eight words (SUN, SHINE, RAY, GOLDEN, LIGHT, BEAM, BRIGHT, WARM). Ideally four players, but three or two or even one solo player, lay down two-word combinations (sixty-four in total), linking matched words (according to each individual player’s given supply), forming a two-headed word chain that snakes in both directions across the playing surface, until it hits a dead-end or exhausts itself perfectly. Adding to the visual domino is a spoken layer. After each addition, the players read aloud in unison the entire construction from left to right, or right to left, depending on which end the new word combination is placed. As the total word formation increases, the players recite, again and again, the evolving string of same words, backwards and forwards in a reiterative chant. Regardless of the resulting order (the random sum of each individual play), the same eight words are rhythmically repeated in staccato couplets, only the intonation of the doubled words shifting with an implied syntax. The game was/is an invocation of the sun. United in a ritual of endurance and faith, the players call for the warm rays of bright golden sunlight to beam down and shine upon us as we cross the time of darkness. We played it together in our hideout and eventually with friends when we tentatively began to gather; and we sent it out across the world to be played by others, who, no matter where they were, were also in darkness).
Because the pandemic never ended, has momentarily faded only to explode again, and again and again, we count on these precious moments of truce that we have learned to recognize only as passing intervals and therefore do not squander. Everything conspired to make the block party a zenith of jubilation and solidarity. The comfortable lull in the positivity rate combined with the Indian summer made for an instinctively mask-free encounter for all attendees. Faces were bare and bodies adorned (see gold and silver bangles, coral and jade beads, stone bracelets, leather watch bands, studded rings, brass buckles, pins, pendants, tattoos, embroideries).
The action, on paper, is a neat pattern, sinuous but consistent. When it is reproduced in space unrehearsed (which is the way we work) there is naturally, and inevitably, some degree of confusion, especially in the beginning, and depending on each individual participant’s ability to grasp the pattern. As a general principle, the disorder or irregularity that occurs in the pattern is absorbed into the work. Neither the process nor the outcome is adversely affected by accidental deviations; if anything, the mistakes add a layer of improvisation to the underlying structure and reinforce collaboration through mutual assistance. This sense of alliance in the face of complication was particularly apparent in the performances of the Colloquy Series, but Remolino was helter-skelter beyond correction. It worked, but it was a jumble. Objects did not move steadily and rhythmically in synchronous stages from all four directions to meet in symmetrical inverted crossings. Participants did not instinctively pivot towards the intended recipient (in an acutely non-linear sequence), but were often drawn to a beckoning nearby other. Objects moved at different paces, pooling in certain hands before dispersing erratically. Unintended connections led to little jams and subsequent bypasses. There was plenty of milling. Yet every object was handled, was held, was touched, was considered and conveyed. The influence of every object was felt and shared among the participants. At the final object distribution, the invisible boundaries of the square dissolved and a buzzing marketplace was formed, where a chunk of lapis lazuli was weighed against the feather of a wood thrush, an Egyptian scarab against a silver key. When the swirl finally stilled, all one hundred objects had settled in good hands.