This fragile waiting
Julio Serrano Echeverría

An exercise in reading the exhibition Región Antes by Cecilia Porras

Walter Benjamin saw in Klee's famous Angelus Novus "a single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurling it in front of his feet." The Angel of History, with his light little feet, seems to distance himself from these ruins; that is, the angel has wings, and whatever he does, however he reads the ruins, he can still fly over it all.

In a land in which earthquakes are part of our daily dance, in which the mountains fall over the villages, over marginal neighborhoods, over highways and even over those who go to help others who have been buried by the avalanche; in a land in which so many things collapse, burn, and break, we have learned to walk in the rubble.

In this sense, Benjamin sees catastrophes pile up in ruins, where probably here we would see mountains, scars of land and stone in which plants begin to grow. It is no longer strange to us to walk carefully among that which has collapsed. We have cultivated this ability in the midst of the material, accumulated and chaotic, that surrounds us: perhaps we are walking every day on the wreckage of our memory.

And I think of the work of Cecilia Porras, of the clay floor as it cracks--dry and crumbling with the passing of days--in a mountain of debris, in which walls survive as ruins, much like the small buildings that children of the past built over the disaster of the tabula rasa. To stack one stone over another, as if playing: this is the feeling. To stay and wait in front of a pyramid of charcoal, with the potentiality of this thing that was fire and at any moment could become fire again; and yet, to know that someone who waited for the arrival of this light has already left, leaving behind an empty seat. And in the middle of it all, there is this matter. The clay, the stone, the charcoal, each with its own history. The thing is, perhaps, in Porras's exhibition, as in the day-to-day lives of people like the Mesoamericans, matter has its own story and, often as not, it is also our story.

To change the scale of the human, it is sometimes necessary to understand that all of this wasn't made for us. How can I say it? it is as if while being crushed in the rubble, we know that our weight will irreparably break the floor upon which we stand; or if we were to experience the universe from a wheelchair, we would necessarily find ourselves rethinking relationships with the environment that surrounds us. To say it another way, listen to the story of something that waits along with us. That is, doesn't the clay also wait to fill an empty, earth-covered bed, with sheets of time and memory? perhaps the pile of charcoal that leaves its stain, its howl on the marked walls, is trying in its own way to sit in the chair embedded in its bowels? and what if it wasn't children one afternoon who placed stone over stone, but instead it was the stones themselves who began building a path to reach, to turn off, the light that hangs from this strange ceiling?

There is a key in the poem tacked to the wall, a sort of chorus to the verse "And they didn't come." The text ends with an overwhelming "and they didn't come," and while we read it, standing in the midst of a room filled with the subtle aromas of rubble, we might imagine that we fell into the trap: that the material possessed Cecilia Porras to put all the pieces there and to leave us standing in front of it, in front of the clay, the stones, the charcoal. What if, all along, we were waiting for ourselves? Was this absence, then, our own?

-JSE