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ALEPH

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participatory project + installation presented at the group-exhibition ‘Out of the Attic’, at Sint-Mariastraat 112b, in Rotterdam.

Viki Semou invited the visitors of this exhibition to search for the ‘Aleph’ as J.L.Borges describes it in his short story with the same title. In order to see it, they should follow the instructions as given to Borges.

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Aleph

  • It is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Mother letter, the beginning.
  • In mathematics, it symbolizes the numbers of which every part is equal to the whole.
  • For Cabala, it represents the divine, the infinite, the air.
  • In Tarot, it is related to the fool, the unknowing. It is a null-signifier, symbolizing what is beyond thought.

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In 1949 Jorge Luis Borges wrote the short story ‘The Aleph’. In the story, Carlos Argentino Alvaro says that Aleph is a point in space that contains all the other spaces of the universe. He claims that it is in his house cellar. Borges verifies that he saw Aleph as well, following Alvaro’s instructions. This happened shortly before Alvaro was evicted and before his house was demolished for the expansion of a bar-salon.

Rumors say that, although this story is true, Borges intentionally changed some crucial details in his story to protect Aleph from misuse. For example, Aleph was not in the cellar of a house in Argentina as Borges implies, and it was not demolished. It is said that Aleph still exists and that it is in the attic of a house in the Netherlands that is threatened to be demolished again and again through the years. There are reasons to believe that this house is at Sint-Maristraat 112b.

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Instructions to see Aleph as they were given to Borges

First a glass of pseudo-cognac,” he ordered, “and then down you dive into the cellar. Let me warn you, you’ll have to lie flat on your back. Absolute darkness, absolute stillness, and a certain viewing angle will also be necessary. From the floor, you must focus your eyes on the nineteenth step. Once I leave you, I’ll lower the trapdoor and you’ll be quite alone. You needn’t fear the rodents very much — though I know you will. In a minute or two, you’ll see the Aleph — the microcosm of the alchemists and Kabbalists, our true proverbial friend, the multum in parvo!

[...]

“Of course, if you don’t see it, in no case your incapacity will invalidate my witness. And now, go down.”

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Sint-Mariastraat, a chronicle

1892- the houses of Oude Westen in Rotterdam are built. Rumors start about a particular house in a street of the neighborhood. The street is named Sint-Mariastraat, to consecrate the ground.

1940- the german nazis bomb Rotterdam and they stop the bombardment just before they reach Oude Westen.

1927- Alvaros come to live in the Netherlands on Sint-Mariastraat 112b. Borges comes to visit them very often.

!947- Borges sees Aleph, following Carlos Argentino’s instructions, just before the Alvaros are deported to Argentina. They have no access on Aleph anymore.

1949- Borges publishes his short story ‘The Aleph’, to make its existence public. However, he changed some crucial details to protect Aleph from misuse.

1970′s – The local authorities decide to demolish the houses in the Oude Westen neighborhood. The action group of the residents succeeded to prevent this from happening. None of the houses were demolished and they were all radically renovated except from the houses of Sint-Mariastraat.

2010- Rosa Montero, a resident of Sint-Mariastraat 112b, confided to Viki Semou that she saw Aleph in the attic of her house.

2012, May. Montero disappeared just before a court-case for her eviction took place. She was one of the 8 people still resisting displacement against the plans of the owning company to renovate the houses by demolishing them and keep their facades. An argentinean friend of hers took her place in the defense of the house.

2012, June. Viki Semou taking advantage of the exhibition ‘Out of the Attic’ invites people to search for the Aleph in order to convince them about Montero’s claims. As Montero said: “If people know about Aleph, then, they will protect it from demolition”.

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LOCOMOTIVE PROP in Street Blogging

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sculptural media platform, archive and street actions,
in collaboration with Mara Karagianni, February 2011 and on /////

Interventions on protest for social housing against the governmental budget cuts and the housing shortage,
+ on protest of residents’ collective of Platanenweg against the speculations of the houseowner
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

More info at the blog of mlff.org and at the Paper : “Digital and analogue recordings as repository of memory and vehicles of interjection”

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A platform with both digital and analogue media of announcements, hijacking two  shopping carts, creates and presents an archive of opinions and demands.

The shopping cart, a symbol of consumption, multiplied and distorted, it is turned into a semi-absurd object attracting the attention in order to support the voices that struggle to be heard in the public discourse. As in the case of homeless, it serves a totally different role, becoming something more than a storage or a transport. Announcing and propagating our messages or the messages of the people whose cause we support, it is used to create a kind of street blogging. In demonstrations, in public spaces, in public events.

So far, half of our sculpture participated in three demonstrations. While marching, there were played pre-recorded demands in 4 different languages. People added pickets on our cart, put brochures on it and used the megaphone for slogans, speeches and announcements. We took interviews of some attendants and, whenever there was a free wi-fi, we broadcasted them in an online radio during and after the demo.

The material collected forms an archive that stays active and plays a significant role to every future action. In this direction, the demands for better social housing for everyone from the first demo joined and strengthened the voices of the residents in the second.

We aspire to use it as an info-kiosk for issues we-as individuals and artists- want to address and as the setting for more and different public actions. Please, contact us, if you are interested in any collaboration. We are also open to any suggestions.

We have received a grant by xminy to further equip the platform.

 

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PALIMPSEST: a Game of Reading and Writing

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a game for sharpening our communication through objects

a book for exploring the richness and the limits of such a communication

 

///// ongoing project since 2010. See also the project’s website: www.palimpsestbook.net /////

 

The project ‘Palimpsest: a game of reading and writing‘ is a game played with a box that looks like a book that contains objects. The players read the story that the objects of the book-box tell to them, continue it by adding one more object, write their complete story on the project’s website and give the book-box away to someone that wants to play the game.

The life-story around the objects of the box is recreated from the fragmented traces left in the present, and like a forensic scientist, each player is challenged to solve the enigma behind a scene of crime, where miniscule details become enormously important. The players reconstruct the systems of value and meaning reflected on objects and they have to imagine the events, actions and the time passing that have been inscribed on them. This ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ of stories through objects aims to make conscious and reinforce the creative and communicative processes that take place in the practice of our everyday life.

[More about the project here: palimpsestbook.net/the project and here: Reflections on the Palimpsest Game]

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‘Palimpsest’ has been presented so far in the:

‘KunstXBuch’, group exhibition, Künstlerbund, Tübingen, 17.05.14 – 21.06.14

‘Rosa Lux’ Buchhandlung, Tübingen, June 2013

‘Kunstvlaai: INexactly THIS’, art-exhibition of the independents, DAI, Amsterdam, November 2012

‘Lost Objects’ Summer School, NICA, Amsterdam, June 2011

‘Unbound Book’ conference, Amsterdam, May 2011

 

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CLOWN INTER-VIEWS

clownInter-views

art-research and videos, presented at the Symposium “communi(cati)on of crisis”, PI Institute for Live Arts, Nafpaktos, 20-25 june 2011

“Clown interviews” is an artistic investigation initiated by viki semou and catherine grau. It looks at the potential of the CLOWN as a figure of reading, reacting to, and embodying crisis. In the frames of the project, clowns are asked to respond as clowns and as people-being-clowns to ‘what is crisis’ and ‘how to deal with it’.

performers:

#1 Rosy de lux / Raquel Rives, #2 Clolonel / C., M., and Y., #3 Psychopath / Ian

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Communicating with their bodies, actions and gestures clowns operate on the periphery of the power structures of language, offering new reading through marginalized forms of communication. Maybe this is a reason why they are usually perceived as figures on the edge of the society.

Like the fool in Shakespeare’s work, clowns are in a position of ‘commenting’ the ‘main’ action. They mirror it with humor or tragedy. How can this mirrored image be enlightening for the understanding of this ‘main’ action? Could it be a starting point for the interaction with or reaction to or even subversion of it?

A clown is also seen as a figure in a permanent state of crisis, directly linking situational readings with personal experience and always taking the plunge in facing inherent failure. So, how can the clown contribute to a discourse on the theme of crisis? What does crisis mean for a clown? How can the clown connect with all the different scales in which a crisis can take place? Could they maybe show us the way out of a society/situation of a permanent crisis? And how can we begin to understand crisis within a crisis continuum? Could we learn how to deal with crisis using clown techniques?

We asked a professional clown, a clown-activist group and a clown-performer-artist to reflect and respond to these questions as clowns and as people-being-clowns. Their responses resulted in 6 videos.