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la cité des ânes

«La Cité des Ânes»

text by Inês Lebreaud

 For a few hours, Rui Catalão stayed at the same room. A common room to all the artists and team was an early preference which made him choose the Forum, where the everyday meeting happens, to settle. That way, everyone that came in was affecting and being affected by his actions.

Miguel Borges sat next to him. A relaxed conversation converged in Rui’s idea about how hard it is to be unable to do what one wants and how easy it is to just turn the back at something unpleasant. It pulled a trigger.

Someone from the Archeological Office told Rui that the Montemor-o-Novo’s Castle used to be like a “back pack city”, to be used in case of attack. Inside, would born a city without a warning, as fast as possible, in the most simple way, not exactly organized, just practical, with a really wide variable of change, that made it easy to use and transform according to upcoming needs -“la cité des ânes”.

This room where they were sitting had similar qualities. Its elements were put there for this Tryangle’s two weeks laboratory and were easily changeable, depending on the function required.

Rui got up. Trying to create a different level of organization, slowly, he ligned up every chair and every puff. However, although it looked clean, soon Rui understood that that revolution on the space layout was conditioning the options and movements of the ones who were passing by. Instead of improving the space, he’s action did exactly the opposite, creating an hostile place to be, to live, like a wild nature. A false organization, a practical chaos.

At a certain point, people started to force a way through the new structure and, as in a natural landscape – Rui said it himself -, where the simple walking causes the nature to create a path, he moved the chairs to create that open space, as if he was the Nature himself or even a god, building his world.

Still in his search for order, another transformation occurred. In a new experiment, he picked the chairs he had ligned before and disposed them in parallel lines of the same length – at last, “la cité des hommes”.

Alma Palacios, being in the room for a while, isolated from the happening until then, joined them. The tidiness of the lines, attracted her to walk alongside and between the blocks of chairs.

In their previous conversation, Rui and Miguel had also talked about the feeling of reaching a high place, becoming a man, and then being forced to come back down and live with the donkeys. Be confronted with that unpleasant thing they mentioned, but not being able to escape.

Miguel and Alma used the puffs and raised a mountain. Miguel climbed to the top, and Alma handed him a chair, so he would get even higher. Something was happening inside her and she felt a need to exteriorize that change in herself, running across the room, dancing. Perhaps, as a donkey, she wanted to go higher as well, to become a woman, flying to elevate herself.

Miguel came down, almost fell, but he could not stand it. His eyes wouldn’t leave the ceiling; every detail of his actions was part of an effort to get there. He started towering chairs and climbing them, with a clear desire of coming back to the top, go even higher. And if, in a way, Rui was a man, creating “la cité des hommes”, managing it, adding a decoration detail to the room – a zoological garden to his city-, being affected by anyone who would destroy or modify his utopia, trying to keep Miguel on the floor, on another way was an act of a donkey, denying the evolution.

In a chain of increasingly frenetic movements, Alma, letting herself fall on the floor as if frustrated by not getting to an upper level, resigning to her donkey condition, joined Rui in his attempt to imprison Miguel with the donkeys.

There’s a moment when this chaos slows down, but not for long. Alma reached for a window, singing, dancing. For a while they watched her, but immediately their inner purposes came out again.

Their behaviors became feverish. Miguel jumped to the window, wild in his movements, more and more emotional. There was anger, there was frustration, there was a desperate wish of freedom. On reverse, Rui kept cleaning the room, organizing the elements, madly focused. The intensity inside the room became almost agonizing.

And then it stopped. They stopped. Just one last detail. Rui picked up a plastic stork and set it on a windowsill. He let him free. Evolution was embraced by this final element placement. Or else, it’s a fallacy. Perhaps, they just gave up trying. The city of men was finally concluded, but is it really the organized civilization that detaches men from donkeys?