Chord number ten is the name of this composition that began as the soundtrack of a piece of the same title. In that piece it was about a performance, a video and scattered documentation. I’m talking about 1998 and then I already repudiated the police sense of the word archive. The main gag consisted of hanging a hanged from a giant IUD that, as a public sculpture, the Basque artist Juan Luis Moraza had installed in the hall of the Hacienda Foral de Álava building. The intentions were clear and straightforward: Moraza wanted to point out how unproductive public money is managed as capital, and to make matters worse, on behalf of the same people that pay their taxes. By hanging someone there, the hanged man –it was in a long series of hanged men– he wanted to underline this discourse, obviously, but also to make it even more complex, if that fits into an already rich work like the one of Moraza’s. His piece was called Lilith, indeed. Well, here, with my hanged, this myth was also used. On the one hand, the spiral rocking of the bracketing followed the pattern of the DNA chain that the sculptor had hinted at. IUD vs. DNA seemed like a good scientific match. And of course, all the hanged die spliced, and that was indeed our thing –we hanged the dancer César Arroyo, whom I still thank for the suffering of those days– he not only spliced himself but cummed alive, if it can be said that way, and his semen ended up dripping in the center of the room. Indeed, there was a possibility of reproduction, at least we had been able to produce an intercourse and, now, let’s see what happened.
If I’m telling all this, it is to understand that possibility, that potency. Those of us who work in the plot of art, an institutional and capitalist fabric where museum and bank are even, those of us who work in this, I repeat, know how little fertile, ungrateful gestures, displays of things and cases here and there and, nevertheless , without being capable of anything, potency is still admitted. We could. The same Lilith, in short, contradicting the myth, we cannot say that she has not had offspring. Blessed and cursed offspring. Every dance is a revolution and every dance is at the same time the dance of death. That is why the gesture, the spiral, the irony and the learning of science –I say this now that it seems that scientists are going to become the masters of the world, with or without a pandemic– the voluptuousness of the gesture had its importance. We left it there, the seed in the ovule, under the shadow of the intrauterine device, on a milky shoe, there, as a possibility, as a potency.
In some way, this small composition has dragged that potency along, at least that is how I would like to think about it. It was an electronic piece that stretched three seconds from the song “En el puente Nicoba”, by El Niño Miguel, an impressive guitarist whose career got frustrated by heroine use. Miguel de la Vega Cruz was a gypsy guitarist that Paco de Lucía admired, and that only two albums served to mark a whole generation of flamenco guitarists. As I say, three seconds from the beginning and three seconds from the end were electronically stretched to the limit, that is, until I considered that his character was lost, and there the digital processor stopped. The pieces are spliced over and over again establishing two indifferent sequences. The texture many times recalls that of the double bass because in those seconds we can appreciate well the string and the wood with all their materiality, that the flamenco touch tends to drag. This “Chord number ten” was released in 1999 as a CD that accompanied the publication El fantasma y el esqueleto that I made for Arteleku in that same year. Well, ten years later Israel Galván listened to the piece without identifying its origin and put it as a musical curtain on his website. There Paco de Lucía heard it, who discovered it as soleá, “Israel, what a rare piece of soleá you have marked”. Israel called me on the phone, “but then, quillo, that’s a soleá!” Paco de Lucía’s fine ear had detected the mark of origin, the DNA of the composition. At the same time, Proyecto Lorca, a contemporary music ensemble performed this piece in their concerts and in that version it also passed into Galván’s repertoire in memorable works such as “The end of this state of affairs”, “LO REAL-LE RÉEL-THE REAL ”or“ Fla Co Men ”. The piece was recorded in thousands of ways and was played on the piano and in various musical ensembles. It is a rare soniquet that serves as a march –thus it accompanies, as a walking fanfare, different political demonstrations– but also, thanks to the fact that the piece is on a royalty-free playlist, a soundtrack, music for elevators –a Sevillian hospital used it as a musical background for COVID19 patients– what would Brian Eno would say?
I saw Niño Miguel play shortly before he died. Some guitarists had managed to get him back and he was still fit. In that concert they talked about the life of a junkie and how he was able to get chords out of a stick and two strings. The fate of his pariah life, as a gypsy voluntarily given over to heroine, his biopolitical dimension, became evident before a curious and amateur audience that, beyond condescension and paternalism, was capable of appreciating the teacher. “When the natural data is capable of presenting itself as a political objective”, I think I read in a post quoting Agamben, which hung in the piece. All the while, selfishly, I expected him to play “En el puente Nicoba” like a secret wish. And he played the soleá but with a different introduction without hitting the wood of the guitar and without the unchained curl at the end, that is, without the vestiges with which I had wanted to understand the life of Niño Miguel, a life where everything is the same, to be gypsy, flamenco and heroin addict, a whole political portrait. In a certain sense, in order to disarm the coming totalitarianism –what Agamben was commenting on had to do with the genesis of Nazism– it will be necessary to reconsider those biological linkages that deduce a politic from our lives.
Finally, of all that work –the piece “Chord number ten” currently belongs to the Artium collection in Vitoria-Gasteiz, where the video and the photographs and texts that accompanied it are still in custody–, which was an enormous work of production, inserted in a large-scale project with workshops, mediations– Agustín García Calvo and Giorgio Agamben even participated under the same tree– exhibitions, publications, etc., I already said it, of all that effort that lasted almost two years, nine months on the road and the rest of the time occupied by this totality, of all that, it turns out that, at times, the only thing I remember are these chords of the “Chord number ten”. And yes, I think that, for once, the trace was right, the vehicle, that place, a certain way of understanding what could be possible, what is still there, potency.
– Pedro G. Romero