“Shhhh… she’s working”. Or not—it’s hard to tell—what is she doing?  Standing there, barely occupying space, staring at that little ball as if nothing else in the world existed.  What is she thinking?  Nothing?  Everything?  Is she passing the time, or killing it?  To be more conscious of it, or less?  Hit, miss, hit, hit, hit, miss, hit… Nothing else can happen, the ball doesn’t get away, it doesn’t fall, it’s attached.  It can only fly and collide, fly and collide, collide and fly.  Like she does.  Like we all do.  Hers seems more like a prisoner’s stripped-down creativity than an inner exploration.  Maybe she’s trapped, but it could also be that she’s seeking refuge.

As we watch scene after scene, it’s hard to detect whether or not her play improves, or if her sanity begins to stagger.  In the midst of such a long sequence, it’s hard to compare a before and after, it’s difficult to retain more than the previous scene, the current one and the next with enough clarity for that, sort of like what happens with yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Very discreetly, she begins to play with the space and its lines, with the rebound of the sound, with the things there, almost all of them borrowed.  Its everything against her, her clothes and her paddle.  The apparently innocent paddle blows turn into muted commands: look, take this, pay attention…

But over time, don’t the poles begin to invert?  Instead of being contained by her efforts to dominate the ball with the paddle, it’s as if she were mesmerized, reading it, listening to it, as if it were a precision instrument capable of revealing vital information to her about the essence of these spaces.  The paddle becomes a sounding board that calls out the level of heat or cold, the form of the space, or the nature of its light.  The ball is an indicator, like the jittery needle that traces a heart’s beat, part of an impressionable machine that speaks of habitability.  And at particular moments, the little ball seems to take on a life of its own, frantically rebounding against the walls of her ribcage, desperately looking to escape.  But that’s no more than a mirage or momentary delirium. 

No.  She begins to play, but taking great pains to be sure that no one notices.  Is it because she’s being observed that she never stops working?  Or is she using us to those ends?  Does she monitor herself in her little wooden mirror, or are we the ones doing the monitoring?  We never see her abandon her task.  She brought her own tool, like a divining rod. And she works like crazy.  She conscientiously tries out every possibility, every corner, every angle, height, hour of the day and day of the week.  From the lofty, luminous and designed sectors to the lowest, standing upon the ruins of the work of all those who were there before her.

“I work, therefore I am”.  I’ve known so many people who didn’t survive the first years of their retirement that I have to believe that this phrase is the one that speaks the truth.  Otherwise, the only thing left to us is the list of “things to do before I die”.  Whether work dignifies or enslaves, I have no idea.  Maybe it saves us from getting tangled up in deceptive arabesques like trying to find some meaning in life (or art).  Once we reach the horrifying discovery that nothing makes sense, that there isn’t a single reason why that resists analysis, in the end it’s good to know that our existence doesn’t really need to have a meaning, as long as it has a routine. That’s what work—that elastic thread that allows for a calculated give and take, a fly and collide, quantified and counted out—is there for.

That’s it, I’ve completed my task; 3000 characters for the 3000 endless, comforting and disturbing seconds that Alejandra complied with to keep the entire world from coming undone.

Tamara Stuby
Avellaneda, August, 2009