the story for
part of a project curated by Fani Zguro for Taller 7
First you have to be in Medellin. Get a card from Taller 7 or Fani Z, call the sound art taxi, take a ride and ask the driver to play the CD. On the card you will find the link to this page. After hearing the sound piece in the taxi, read this story. If you can’t make it to Colombia, you can click on the sound link to the right.
I’d been out of town trying to get healthy for a few months, with some success. Funds lasted longer without the self-destruction tax, but the rewards for good conduct I had to grant myself as reinforcement could be expensive too. It was time to think about reentry and cash flow. Eri-Ka had sent me a postcard with an old picture of Atlantic City, inviting me to stay at her loft in SoHo. I went to the long-distance phone cabins next to the post office in Lugano and set up a few work appointments. Then I got a cheap one-way to New York via Belgrade.
Eri-Ka had an almost legendary loft on Wooster. Its walls were scrawled with doodles by artists who were all getting famous, partially thanks to her. She wrote about them in really sloppy underground ‘zines of her own invention, though to her credit, perhaps, she had never made a penny from their shows. Actually her disinterest was not such a rarity in those days. If and when real cash came in, paintings got sold, advances on books arrived, people usually spent it all on restaurants, champagne, clothes and drugs in the course of a few days and nights. Then back to poverty. Rent was nowhere near as expensive as it is today; food was obtained at openings and parties.
Eri-Ka told everyone she was from Thailand, and she did look vaguely oriental. Her strange flat face seemed more Inca or Filipino, but she could have been from anywhere. Once I found an old driver’s license of hers when I was helping her to clean out an incredibly messy storeroom in the loft. She was born in Minnesota, ten years earlier than she claimed, and was actually named Sally. I said nothing and hid the blasphemous document under a pile of Artforums.
Her trademark was a sort of pageboy or Louise Brooks haircut that hid large portions of her face, of which she was justifiably not proud. Heavy make-up and big glasses did the rest of the job on her iconically recognizable mask. Her body was painfully skinny and completely without tone or suppleness. But she had a very sexy brain.
At first she tried to put me to work on her loft, joking about the fact that she “finally had a man around the house”. She wanted to take advantage of my stay, which was only natural. In New York hospitality always has a price tag. The only problem was that I am absolutely inept when it comes to plumbing, carpentry, electricity and climbing ladders. She took it cheerfully enough and insulted me freely as I tried and failed to reassemble the rotten recycled 2 x 4 boards of a completely skewed almost amorphous cabin someone had built around the toilet to provide some small sense of privacy. The shower was out in the open, and when I bathed she never failed to sit nearby and converse, commenting on my no longer emaciated physique. When she took a shower she invariably forgot something, soap, washcloth, towel, conditioner, and summoned me to bring it. I would scurry away to avoid the sight of her bones.
In spite of my lack of skill, after a few days of work the loft did look much better, almost like a real dwelling. After a work meeting that promised to lead to something, I bought some wine and cooked a respectable dinner. Eri-Ka lit candles and put on music. The atmosphere was jarring but enjoyable, improbable but possible.
“You know what’s missing?” she asked me. “Flowers. I love flowers. But in this big place they have to be lots and lots. One little bouquet looks cheap, it gets lost in here.”
I hadn’t thought about flowers. It was one thing playing the man around the house, quite another to seem like I was sliding into courtship mode or something. I served the fish and we ate quietly, enjoying the first decent food we’d had in days (Eri-Ka lived on salads and ice cream purchased at Korean all-night grocery stores).
As I cleared the dishes she started to noisily rummage through closets. She piled work gloves, shears, a couple of old raincoats and big black trash bags on the table. “Let’s go get flowers.”
A couple of blocks to the north, we entered the big gardens of the University Village complex, a group of modern residential towers that has always seemed rather out of place with respect to the rest of the neighborhood. Wearing our raincoats and carrying our gear in shopping bags, we strolled through the breezeway unchallenged. It was late and most of the lights were off. Now I understood our mission: there were literally thousands of blossoming and budding red roses in flourishing plots that ran along the sidewalks of the park set aside for tower residents. Eri-Ka got right down to it, spreading our raincoats on the pavement, snipping dozens, then hundreds of roses and piling them up neatly on the coats. She had a method, never decapitating an entire bush or patch, selecting the best blossoms without perceptibly destroying the beauty of any one portion of the garden. My job was to watch for movements of the security guards. If a guard was making the rounds, as they did every so often, she said our only hope was to pretend to be lovers who had sought refuge here for a romantic tryst. Looking at the poorly concealed mountains of roses, I cringed to think what a guard might do to us if we were caught. Eri-Ka worked fast, but in spite of my urgings she didn’t stop until she had snatched literally hundreds of blossoms and buds. Just then a big security guard started to prowl near the entrance. I hissed and she stopped cutting, then suddenly hugged me and started to kiss me passionately, telling me to play along, to make it look as real as possible. I tried to keep one eye on the guard. She was right… he looked us over and then just slouched back to his booth near the door.
We quickly bundled the roses into the raincoats and put the rolled up coats in the trash bags. The plan was to head for another exit, as if we were taking cans to the trash bins near the supermarket. No one stopped us and soon we were back at the loft, trying to find enough vases and buckets to arrange and display hundreds of roses, discussing how much they would have cost had we bought them on West Broadway. A thousand dollars? Maybe. And they would never have been so fresh, she said. Soon the loft was overflowing with bouquets, like a scene from one of those films where a lovesick gangster has mountains of flowers sent to a reluctant girl from a good family. We fooled around inventing fake love notes from invented suitors, hanging the little cards from the stems. We drank more wine and took drugs and talked and laughed about our exploit. I told her I couldn’t believe how dangerous that was, that we could’ve been arrested and put in jail. She said I understood nothing of life. And she told me a story.
Once, in Germany, she was in a taxi. She wanted to buy flowers to bring to her dinner hostess. But her German was very bad. The driver didn’t understand. Every time she saw a florist’s, she would shout to the driver: Achtung! Blumen! He just looked at her like she was crazy. Thinking about it afterwards, she realized it was funny. Maybe the driver thought she was warning him against the danger of running over flowers. But that wasn’t so absurd, was it? “After all,” she said, “beautiful things should be dangerous, and getting them should be dangerous too.”
Eventually, late, we went to our separate beds.
The next day she kicked me out, saying I had worn out my welcome. She wanted to go back to single life. It was just too stressful always having someone around the house. I packed my big suitcase and started to drag it down Houston, heading west, pondering my options. A cab stopped and the driver, a big black man with a beard, said: “Hey… aren’t you one of them Lounge Lizards? Where’re you headed?” I said yeah and hopped in. He used to be the door guy at a very popular club. I remembered him. We sat there and talked about old times. Then he said “C’mon, I’ll take you where you’re going, free, don’t worry about the meter.” I had to think of a destination on the spur of the moment. So I said “Penn Station… I’m going upstate.” I got as far as Hudson and found a cheap apartment. With a rose garden. It wasn’t very beautiful, but it wasn’t dangerous either. For a month or so it would suit me just fine.
Jakup Ferri, Bruno Muzzolini, Heldi Pema, Steve Piccolo, Anri Sala, Manuel Scano, Bert Theis, Fani Zguro
Taller Siete, Medellin
From October 7, 2011
As part of the residency in Taller Siete, Medellin, Fani Zguro presents “Taxi”, with the participation of the other artists Jakup Ferri, Heldi Pema, Steve Piccolo, Bruno Muzzolini, Anri Sala, Manuel Scano and Bert Theis. The artists were invited to propose a sound piece for TAXI in Medellin city. “Taxi” is a project that begins from Anri Sala’s site-specific “No Formula One No Cry” which consists in the realization of a soundtrack where the noise of Formula One racers is played along with street dogs barking. A metaphor of the banality of the ‘spectacular’ society. The presentation of the soundtrack is done in different taxi cabs around the world, from Frankfurt to Miami. The project is being documented with the help of visiting cards, which help establish direct contact with the taxi drivers. Anyone interested can order the cab under his mobile number and ask the taxi driver to turn on the sound project for the duration of the trip. Fani Zguro: “I was attracted to this project which reminds me of an Anthony Gormley’s quote: the work at the museum, like the body in the hospital… I have invited other artists, including the Anri Sala piece “No Formula One No Cry”, to make a CD of sounds, to present at Taller Siete Medellin’s opening. “Taxi”. The permanent installation starts on October 7, 2011.
Bruno Muzzolini, Anema e Core, 2008
Fani Zguro, Open The Broken Door, 2011
Manuel Scano, Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, 2010
Bert Theis, Potemkin Lock Venice Rap, 1995
Heldi Pema, Abstinence-only, 2011
Anri Sala, No Formula One No Cry, 2002
Steve Piccolo, Achtung! Blumen, 2011
Jakup Ferri, Nova Aurora, 2011
Address: Carrera 41 # 46 – 67, Medellín (Colombia)
Tel: 57 4 239 5508
Web: www.tallersiete.com | www.noformulaonenocry.net