A Faint Thud Towards the Future



A Faint Thud Towards the Future

Haytham El-Wardany

 

A strong wind rushes through the entrance of a residential building, causing its glass portal to slam violently back and forth. Currents of air run through the corridor, carrying with them broken branches. A bike leaning against the wall falls to the floor, amidst disposed paper cups and swirling tin cans. Bursting through, with each blow stronger than the last, the wind reaches the back-yard door making it rattle heavily in its place. It sweeps through all the crevices of the building, storming around its interiors. The tenants rush to close their windows and doors, in fear of their belongings toppling and falling down. Near the portal is a lamp connected to a movement sensor. This delicate sensor detects the smallest movement in its vicinity and lights the hallway. Throughout this day the windows squeaked, the doors shuddered, and the entrance lamp flashed on and off, as the sensor detected thousands of invisible movements. This building is located in a neighborhood, which has a museum commemorating a crushed revolution that took place over twenty years ago, not before killing thousands of people’s lives.

In the same city where this building stands, sits a woman in a hotel room thinking about the future, while reading a novel called Happy Moscow, by Andrei Platonov. The introduction of this novel tells of a woman who felt lost upon her arrival to Moscow in 1935. This woman was the mother of the famous German historian Wolfgang Leonard, who, according to an anecdote told later by her son, bought a map of Moscow, only to find with surprise that many of the city’s buildings were not indicated, and that the street names have been changed. She would come to realize that the map she held, was an old map from the twenties. After days of meandering, she was momentarily excited to find new maps suddenly appearing in shops, but to her disappointment, these turned out to portray a future Moscow – one to be realized with the completion of the ambitious General Reconstruction Plan. The map represented extravagant buildings, and streets carrying names of people yet to be born. The communist mother drifted in Moscow for many days, lost between the map of the past and the map of the future. The translator in his introduction states that Platonov’s view on the Bolshevik revolution in his novel is equally disoriented, equally lost between a dark past and an impossible bright future.

In front of the museum commemorating the revolution stands Wind looking towards the opposite street, carrying a bagpipe, and attempting to make the voice of history audible to passersby in the rumbling street. Wind thinks that the voice of history which he blows rises clear and loud, but not one of the passers-by appears to notice it. He decides to increase the power of his blowing by grabbing the bagpipe and filling his chest with all of the air around him. Wind mobilizes all his strength, and blows a powerful breath through the pipe. One passer-by feels something passing through her body. She thinks that she might have heard a sound, a faint thud, but she is unsure. A distorted clank of sorts that has been crushed into parts. It sounds like a cry or a hum issued by an inhumane throat. What could it be? She asks herself. The message coming from afar is no longer decipherable, but a call of a pure language, so pure that no one understands it anymore. The passerby examines the sound which she suspects she heard again, hoping to understand what it might carry. She neglects it after failing to, and continues her way towards the future.

The woman sitting in the hotel does not have the strength to walk into town. Everywhere she goes she sees ghosts of a future yet to come. In every city she visits, is a museum, and a memory of an aborted revolution. For a short moment, there had flashed a future in the city skies, before vanishing away again. It took with it all the various reconstruction plans that had been dreamt by many, and had paid its exorbitant price. Exhausted by the scene of all these ruins she sits in her room thinking about the deadlocks of her life and of the city she comes from. She wants to go down to the streets of the city in order to bind its failures to her failures, but she does not know how to. So she goes back to the book she is reading. The young heroine of the novel, whose name also happens to be Moscow, loves the air and likes to listen to the wind. One of her lovers suggested that she should then study aeronautics, because it is the science of the future. Moscow followed the advice, and became a skilled parachutist. Excited by flying, she had tried to light a cigarette in the air, which put a quick end to her new career. Her chefs considered this a breach of the morals of the work. Moscow, who searches for communism of love, ended up working for the Moscow Metropolitan Construction Project. One day she slipped from the scaffolding, which made her fly briefly in the air, one last time, before landing on the ground crushing her leg.

In the museum a major art exhibition is inaugurated by the Mayor of the city, accompanied by a group of ambassadors and celebrities. On display, is a fully functioning copy of a bookstore which played a vital role during the revolution. This bookstore had been the meeting point for debates and discussions. The bookstore copy is made of wood, offering old and new books on art and politics. Occasionally, it also hosts small discussions groups. After the opening, one of the discussion groups was taken by surprise as dozens of journalists stormed the place with their TV cameras, followed by a man in a suit with dyed black hair. The journalists were covering what the official was doing. He grabbed the first book he had come across, while absently listening to explanations from the lady by his side. The official wearily walked a few steps through the place, which had become increasingly crowded with journalists. Two minutes later, he left, followed by the crew of journalists, who left behind them an air of apprehension in the place. The gaze of those who sat behind followed the official as he moved to observe another art work. He is an official who has a position in the government, headed today by the daughter of the ruler, against whom the revolution started more than twenty years ago.

The museum consists of two buildings, separated by a big yard. The passage between the two buildings intensifies the path of the wind passing to and from nearby residential buildings. In the big yard stood a group of workers removing the remains of yesterday’s storm. They swept the broken branches aside, and collected the shards of a window which was left forgotten open. They then lowered a flag from its mast which had been torn, and replaced it with a new one, fixing it through its rope. The young man pulling the rope, hauling the flag up to its place, could still hear a dimmed sound of wind. It sounded like a long exhalation, or a combination of a guttural and a rolling R. The young worker wondered if the air had passed through a magic throat which can iterate these two sounds together. This light gurgling sound reverberated in his pinna, connecting two spaces, and building an intimate relationship between two moments. The sound of wind never comes alone, but is combined with all what joins it on its path. The worker raising the flag, heard the gurgling of the wind, mixed with rustling sound of the trees, the sweeping of his colleagues brooms on the pavement’s surface, the clinging of the metal ring that connects the flag to the mast, and the fluttering of the cloth. The flag of the museum finally reached its position, hanging upright next to the flag of the city and that of the state.

Nose likes to drink, and was invited to participate in the exhibition. She came from a distant place, and did not know what to do, so Nose decided to take a holiday. She strolled through the city, and one day she met Hammer. Hammer invited her to have a picnic in the mountain, and Nose agreed. Hammer brought with him his friends Two Things. Two Things were busy all the way having sex. Whenever the group decided to have a break on the way, Two Things would discover new holes in their bodies and start to have sex using them, amid the laughter of the others. On the road, Stone appeared to the group and asked if she could accompany them. They all agreed. Stone was idling most of the time, letting herself get carried along the way by one of the group members. Sometimes they were having fun standing in a circle and throwing the stone from hand to hand. On one junction Hammer had a terrible accident. He was hit by a car and died. Hammer’s ghost loomed in the place, went through a heavy cloud, and suddenly found himself with other ghosts running away from tear gas. Shots flew everywhere, and blood spurted from every corner. And the battle went on. As Nose had a sip from her bottle, scratching her head trying to figure out what to do, Wind appeared beside the body of Hammer. He told the group that there is a missing pamphlet, which was lost before its distribution because the revolution was crushed. Mountain, watching all that was taking place around him, turned to the group and intervened saying that the pamphlet is in a place he knows in the city, and offered to accompany them. Everyone agreed, and set off on their way back to the city to look for the missing paper.

Thanks to:
Cráter Invertido Collective, Walter Benjamin, Andrej Platonov, Jumana Manna.

 

DAYLIGHT
Martin Ebner, Kitty Kraus
Brochure, 84 pages, English/Lithuanian
CAC – Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, 2016

With contributions by Tenzing Barshee, Mihaela Chiriac, Haytham El-Wardany, Monika Kalinauskaitė, Valentinas Klimašauskas, Ariane Müller, Audrius Pocius & Nicholas Matranga