To arrive in Bonn had this bittersweet feeling. We had waited long and things had changed in so many ways, that to finally arrive, meant we were also losing something that had become a future to look forward to. We had had an upheaval, a revolution, then the pandemic. We were not the same people that would have been in Valparaíso in 2019 when the original project was to take place.
Valparaíso was a ghost in Bonn. At least for a while it kept floating as a presence and became a reminder of its absence. We were supposed to be there, in 2019, listening to dogs, and all the other sounds from the port city.
Instead, we arrived in Bonn in the summer of 2021, and we were eager, confused, and excited.
I had asked Michel and Fernando to bring me a stone from Valparaíso. And as a transitional object, I carried it with me wherever we went. We took it to all the sites from Sam Auinger’s map, in the back of my bicycle, and eventually bathed it in the river Rhine. The stone from Valparaíso now hangs at Maurice’s flat.
The shore of the Rhine is full of stones. I took some of them, which is a habit of mine. I think of stones as if they had memory, as if they had the capacity of keeping information, as archives, of all that has happened in the place where they rest.
I kept a small notebook and wrote my thoughts on sound, on the places, the people. I wrote about sound and gender, about what it means to listen. I became increasingly uncomfortable with field recordings. I wondered if recording a sound was an attempt at possessing a place, and why would I do that. I decided then to just be there, not to disconnect listening from the other senses, from the feeling of speed while riding a bike, or the experience of new people and friends. I had not met new people in such a long time because of the lockdowns, and now it was full of these wonderful beings. We became friends in a minute, rode our bicycles in a storm, laughed nonstop, ate a billion pizzas.
I decided that the project I would develop in Bonn had to work as a constellation of gestures. These would vary in medium but all would be grounded in the relation with stones and the river Rhine. I also decided that all those gestures would be connected as much as possible with the other participants of the project; this aspect was fundamental to me.
Working in a constellation mode meant that all the parts of the project would be affected by each other, ideas migrating from place to place, material to material. All parts are intertwined and indivisible. The writings became a poem, the poem used in a performance by the river, the collected stones became a sculpture and props for performing, and so on.
I took stones whenever I was by the water, in different places between Mondorf and Remagen (more or less). These stones were used to create a hanging sculpture. Part of it was also used as a prop for a performance that I rehearsed a lot, and only lasted 5 seconds when I made it for real.
All the stones taken were (or will be) returned to the river at the end of the project.
I found three tree branches.
The first one was by the side of the road and Stefan helped me carry it because we were cycling. On a different day we went to the river under a bridge to test Michel’s work. He was in the water when I saw another branch. It was floating, moving fast towards Cologne. Michel got it for me.
The third one I found later that day. Maurice and I were talking by the river near some sort of underwater fence and we saw the tree branch stuck in the gate. It was smooth because of the water’s erosion. I used the tree branches to “play” a fence by the Viktoriabad pool. Michel recorded it.
I wrote a poem that I wanted to read by the river. The first time, I lied back in shallow water and performed the reading while small waves moved me a little bit. It was recorded with the help of Michel, Karima, Fernando, and Stefan.
The second time I read, it was in the singing dock.
Maurice had performed in the singing dock a while back, and though the memory of his work was still fresh in my mind, I performed my text lying on my back and holding one of the sculptures, dipping it in the water. Maurice sang in tune with the dock when he did his work. I read my sentimental text for no audience but Fernando, who was recording with the camera.
As part of the process of developing the works, I also collected other things I found mostly by the river. They were displayed in a glass vitrine, together with the remains of other parts of the project, like pieces of fabric and rope. The vitrine looks almost like a fictional archeological display, but I think of it as storytelling through objects, as the physical trace of the narration I just shared.
When I was back in Santiago I saw in the news that there were huge floods in Germany and the Rhine had risen and flooded many of the places where we rode our bicycles and I performed. I thought how strange it was that all of this happened after we left. How places change in contrast to how we keep them in our memory.