HOT ACTS (URBAN RITUALS)
I worry that writing about what happened on Wednesday night may somehow break the wondrous spell that artists Joseph and Lalo cast on us all. Since their performance, a warm wind has breezed about Andrew and I, as we go on with our regular life in Berlin. The power of their performance reaches far beyond the event itself.
Joseph (Pepe) Patricio, and Lalo Gomes (from the Philippines and Venezuela respectively), met in Madrid while doing a practice-as-research master program at the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Reina Sofia. Both artists have previously worked with the idea of presenting or performing art inside houses, and also using their own lives as ‘objects’. For MPA-Berlin 2013, they present their work ‘Hot Acts (Urban Rituals)’ which we were very fortunate to have experienced.
Assuming the role of cook (Joseph) and movement DJ (Lalo) they ask the people of Berlin to open their doors and let them create a ‘slightly’ different evening than ordinary. Armed with his kit of spices, Joseph will cook the leftovers or found food in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Lalo provides the music and some cambimba (dance moves) to create a context where the guests can sweat it out. Once the food is cooked, and dancing is over, then its time to cook the scene, where Lalo, Joseph, the host/s and the guest/s decide on how to eat the food and spend the rest of the evening. – Project description in MPA-B programme.
When we signed up to be part of a ‘Hot Act’, this description was all we knew about what was in store. Armed with our leftovers (two small onions, half a head of broccoli, butter beans, almonds and dates) we headed for a flat in Friedrichshain.
Pepe greeted us at the door, where we left our shoes with seven other pairs. Was this already part of the ritual? He is one of those people who puts you immediately at ease; funny, honest and abundantly warm. We were then introduced to the host, Sofia, and told that no area of her flat was off-limits. She invited us to touch and explore any of her belongings. I already sensed that this dinner party, for all its seeming simplicity, would see us subtly transgressing conventional boundaries of social behavior.
We delivered our leftovers to the busy kitchen where the other 9 guests (all between 20-35 years old) were chatting and chopping veg around a table piled with leftovers. There was a half-eaten ratatouille, various bits of fruits and vegetables, rice, a left-over lentil mash, half a bottle of coke zero, banana chips… you get the picture. Pepe was at the stove, mixing, tasting and spicing all the leftovers he added to the pans. The only thing Pepe brings with him is his spice collection. He explained, in a toast before we ate, that the leftovers represented all of our histories, our baggage from the past, and that the spices were what brought all of those disparate flavors together. Within this one flat, the range of nationalities was quite remarkable; German, Austrian, Russian, Canadian, British, Venezuelan, Filipino, French… so, more importantly, Pepe reminded us, the spices were what brought us all together- the spice trade. He also talked about hunger, and the senses. Whilst eating (with our hands, on the bathroom floor), we discussed hunger in its various forms, and the modern world that separates us from each other, and ourselves.
‘I consider hunger, in all its ambivalences, as a measure of what is contemporary.’ Joseph (Pepe) Patricio
After dinner, and a delicious dessert which we ate in a circle, feeding the dinner guest to our right (again with our hands), Lalo entered the room dressed in a black ballet leotard and sunglasses. Lalo and Pepe complement each other perfectly; they are a true artist collaboration, and a comedy duo. In Sofia’s empty sitting room, Lalo led us through a really amusing and enjoyable dance routine that brought us closer than any after-dinner chatting could have. He wanted to bring us back into our bodies and make us sweat. ‘My body is yours’ he exclaimed.
One problem with the attractive hardwood floors in many Berlin apartments is that they are not so quiet. After a few dances, a neighbor was at the door. This meant that the next dance would take place with us all lying on the ground. This next ‘dance’ was an incredibly beautiful moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life. As all of our bodies merged, we naturally began to move together as one, rolling, sliding and touching on the hardwood floor. The room was filled with heat; loving, innocent and sexual. Afterwards I asked ‘does this always happen’?. The answer was no. We had experienced something rare and very precious.
Pepe and Lalo’s art defies commodification. Is there a more powerful way to resist Capitalist alienation than to return to the most basic and pure act of human connection?
“The part of the mind that is dark to us in this culture, that is sleeping in us, that we name ‘unconscious’, is the knowledge that we are inseparable from all other beings in the universe.” Susan Griffin