Four Entrances to a Yanira Collado Exhibit
Ernesto Oroza, 2020
I’m going to begin a poem. The page is blank. Everything—anything—could be written. The poem doesn’t exist. The page is blank and I’m going to begin writing. What am I going to write? I don’t know. Anything can be written. But when I write the first word, I’ll reduce the possibilities. Probability will decrease when I write the first word, the second word… When I’m writing the second verse, little by little, I’m reducing chance; probability stops being infinite. I begin necessitating what had merely been chance. At a certain point, the poem will be structured in such a way that it will determine what fits and what doesn’t. So, what had been chance turns into necessity; it becomes a necessity. And only the word that fits there can go there. This, then, is a process that the poet carries out half-unconsciously, but it’s a game between chance and necessity. That’s how this all comes about. (Ferreira Gullar)
The format I’m writing on is a rectangle. It was the same when I wrote by hand on a sheet of paper. The format we all write on has not ceased to be a kind of bed seen from above. A blank page is like the frame of a charpoy, just before it’s sewn over with vegetable fibers. Across this frame, I’m supposed to write some idea—to stretch it taut, I mean to say. You begin with the first line and there’s nothing left to do but follow it. That’s why I thought of Ferreira Gullar: chance becomes necessity. A charpoy is a bed for day-sleeping; its very existence over 40 centuries proves that this kind of sleeping can be done without an epidemic. The charpoy is much esteemed in Southern, or Subcontinental, Asia. It came to India 2000 years ago from Greece along with Alexander the Great’s troops. In today’s India, the charpoy and the monobloc-plastic-chair reign supreme—both are ubiquitous, cheap, light, stackable. It seems that these qualities have been important for at least four millennia. Translatable as “four legs,” charpoys are woven cleverly, so that the addition of a mattress is unnecessary. The twisted fiber is stretched from one side of the frame to the other; it forms rhombic patterns that are open and tight. The geometry of the weave seems inherent and unequivocal, but its coordinates are flexible; they elongate like springs and submit to pressure; the lines approach one another or separate as they accommodate bodies abandoned to a nap. Nowadays, they’re made with metal pipes and woven with plastic ribbons—the kind that squeeze the shipments of the global market. When the nomads of Rajasthan make a charpoy, it’s as tall as a dinner table. The long legs make the object extremely polyvalent. By day it’s a spacious, elevated bench; by night, a bed away from the scorpions, lizards, and venomous snakes. It’s a roof when, away from the trees, the sun makes napping impossible. Throwing them onto their carts upside down, the Cobra gypsies of Rajasthan cover them with printed sheets; in this shade sleep both children and the weary. The lengthening of the leg, which is nothing more than a small design gesture, promises to make a house out of a bed. A house in which you live crouched down.
The pollen of destruction floats in the air. (Antonio José Ponte)
The foundation of a house can be contemplated twice: at the moment it’s laid, and as a ruin. In order to collapse the time between one image of architectural space and the other, the utopian architects of the 20th century devised transparent houses: ruins in a display case. One doesn’t have to live in a glass house to witness how life courses, dries up, and ends there. A glass house can be pierced with a look. A ruin, as the Cuban writer Antonio José Ponte reminds us, can be entered from any side. Breaking suddenly into a ruin—in this case the ruin of the bourgeois theater—and agitating its dust, was the radical idea of the Soviet theater director Vsévolod Meyerhold. Designed by Lissitzky, the new revolutionary theater would make use of a bridge-passageway that would begin in the city, going from one of the building’s sides through to the other. The pedestrians of the city would be able, with lesser or greater indifference, to cross over the proscenium with the ramp he would provide, and exit on the other side to get bread or whatever else the shortcut was good for. The people walking on the passageway would be neither audience members nor actors—or at least they wouldn’t have to pay, or be paid, for appearing in the scene—but they would participate in it; the audience and the actors would be able to see and interact with them. Meyerhold dreamt of a spontaneous workers’ march that would burst into the scene with their cheers and slogans, and then leave in search of their own dreams. Behind them would follow Walter Benjamin, lost.
The machine that Christopher Columbus hammered into shape in Hispaniola was a kind of bricolage, something like a medieval vacuum cleaner. The flow of Nature in the island was interrupted by the suction of an iron mouth, taken thence through a transatlantic tube to be deposited and redistributed in Spain. (Antonio Benítez-Rojo)
Since this is a moment of irruption, an entrance, I’m going to take advantage of it to throw, suddenly, into the center of this text and this event these early notes of mine for the Repentista Manifesto. I borrow the term (repentista) from a long-standing rural musical practice in Cuba and The Americas, whose basic resource is improvisation grounded in a metrical system and in rhyme. All of this is intensified by the competitive atmosphere of some of the forms of live performance, as in the cases of Controversia and Seguidilla; it’s the audience that suggests, at the moment of the lyrical battle, the words that must be used obligatorily, or the “forced lines,” which constrain the possibilities of meaning, creating a critical situation from which the rural poets can only escape by means of cleverness. But I should clarify, as I listen to Controversia Imaginaria by the great repentista Leandro Camargo, that this text is not a musical manifesto. It’s an urgent declaration about necessity, about disobedient improvisation, about critical re-use, about the existence in material culture of a repentista mode of survival. Repentismo is a productivist vanguard because it flows in relation to objects that are open, transformable. It’s panoramic; it doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t matter how much you turn your head, everything you see can be re-used. Repentismo is cannibal Cut-ups, provisional agreement, vertiginous and inventive montage that gives meaning to existence in a vital rhythm (of Andalusian and African roots). I’m not trying to split the improvisation of rural lyrics from the improvisation of survival; both forms are cast in the same mold and with the same mix. Both often live in the same marginalized spaces; perhaps that’s why there is a deep connection between musical Repentismo and the productive forms that I’m collecting for the Manifesto. Both practices have shared elements and are conditioned by some kind of urgency. The generative principle in both is improvisation; the constructive principle is an astute control over meter and pairing—in Repentismo, through the octosyllabic décima form; in bricolage, through metrical coordination. The success of both creations depends on the complexity of the mental index and the variety of resources they place in relation to each other. The repentista poet must have a vast knowledge of the language, of the rural culture and environment, of the politics of the day, of the history of Repentismo itself, as well as of poetry in general. The individual that appeals to improvisation in order to face the urgent problems of daily life spreads out their experience with objects like a map of their resources and their material culture. In other words, their knowledge of what they have at hand is completely filtered through necessity, and they come to understand their world as a vast territory of forms, principles of technique and use, solutions of combination and coordinated metrics: things assemble themselves together as if the designers of both pieces had agreed in the past for them to match up in the future. As if the Cuban designer of the INPUD pressure cooker had planned the meeting of his device with the tiny cap of a penicillin bottle, designed by a German. The original safety valves on the pressure cooker would disappear when they popped, and replacements were continuously needed. Their place, through reparation and kairós, was always taken by that small cap from the bottle of antibiotics that has a similar profile and dimensions. Rhythm is a notion shared by two edges, Deleuze would say. Repair, like re-use and reinvention, might be a repentista activity. I’ve already said that re-use should be considered a rhetorical figure; repair is one without a doubt. I conclude these notes of mine by declaring any improvisational productive mode that extracts, from an unjust reality, just the right fragments—which, articulated through a gesture and an instant, become meaningful in relation to our urgency—repentista.
¿Puede la voz “repentismo”
ser útil para nombrar
el pensar y el fabricar
del que vive en el abismo?
Sin tiempo para el lirismo
partes en un gesto implica.
La necesidad le explica
cómo tiene que acoplarlas.
Las rima para empatarlas,
y un nuevo objeto fabrica.
Can “repentismo” be it—
The name never mistaking
The reasoning and the making
Of him that lives in the pit?
Time runs out on lyrics to be spit;
Parts together in a gesture he brings.
For it is necessity that sings
Of how to connect them.
He rhymes to cement them,
And makes a new thing among things.
Relation enferals, lying in wait for equivalence. (Edouard Glissant)
I’m taking on this text without being able to see the works that Yanira Collado will make for her exhibit at Dimensions Variable. She sent me a photo in which I can see the foundation of a structure at the center of a rural landscape that frames it. I’ve tried to respond to that image overflowing with possibility through the first three points of this text. Along with her photo, a paragraph that looks like one of her works was also sent; I understand it as a collage of words: textile, architecture, opacity, hechizo, fragment. She doesn’t want to reveal too much, but I think that in offering me those words she’s given me some materials. If I decided to build something out of those word-materials, it’d be a ramp or an oblique plane like the kind she makes. Her ramp-like sculpture, shown at the tenth anniversary of Dimensions Variable, and her inclining or reclining works, exemplify what I want to say. Why the preference for the ramp and the inclined plane? In formal terms, because an object that is totally vertical or flat dulls the visual tension (and tactile tension, Claude Parent would say) that we feel with gravity. An oblique object, on the other hand, can be read as the formulation of that tension. For the moment, I’m adding the word “oblique” to the list of words she gave me. I insert it as if I were placing just another stone into the interstices of her ramp. The preponderance of inclined planes in her work reminds me of Ferreira Gullar’s text about chance and necessity, a slope made step-by-step, that determinism the poet describes as chance that becomes necessity. Possibility as the path to fate. You flip a coin and it can only come down on one of two sides. In mathematics, they would call this a set of discrete events. And thus emerges another word that I would add to my construction: “discrete.” Right away, I think that it’s a term that could describe Yanira’s visual production. I’ve used the term many times to say that the productive practices in Cuba that made up what I call Technological Disobedience were extremely discrete. At that time, I was interested in saying that the most radical actions, those that questioned consumption and the logic of capitalist industrial products, like repair and re-use, were discrete practices. I used “discrete” in line with its semantic drift, in its most common meaning, as a synonym of prudent, cautious. When I used it, I was referring to manual, household practices. I didn’t notice then how this term, at its very root, could open up, in the best sense, to other meanings, and dissolve the paradox of a radicalness that is at once discrete. In mathematics, the term “discrete” kept its meaning from Latin, in which it meant separate, distinct (here another oblique path that returns to the notion of the “fragment,” mentioned above). In topology, “discrete” is used to designate a group of open objects. In computer science, “discrete” is a group of discernible objects that have their own data structure and behaviors. All of these are concepts that can be applied, re-used, for an interpretation of Yanira Collado’s production. But for now, I’m just pointing it out.
 The exhibition if they knew these things / reliquias ocultadas by Yanira Collado at Dimensions Variable, Miami, 2020.
 In the northeast of Brazil, it’s called Repente; Payada and Paya in Argentina and Chile, respectively. Huapango in Mexico.
 Leandro Camargo on Palmas y Cañas (Cuban Televisión): https://youtu.be/FgxMp4nIWV4
 When everyday Cuban creators, during the economic crisis of the 90s, succeeded in using plastic injection to make the safety valves to repair the INPUD pressure cookers, they did so using the same color as the penicillin bottle caps everyone used—so that the buyer in need would easily recognize the small orange part in the market.
 This verse is not an attempt to translate my poem. It is Yoán Moreno’s response to my invitation to improvise his own décima on the topic of the relationship of Repentismo to necessity.
 Hechizo is a term used in South America to refer to something made by hand, without many resources and quickly. Let’s say that “hechizo” means something that appears to have been “made.” This common usage of the term is the closest to its etymological root: hecho [made] and ficticio [fictitious]. But its use also lends itself to some of the meanings of the word in Spanish; it is a derivative connoting bewitchment, curses, magic.