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Wandering Echoes

rounds and litanies as performative maps under confinement

Kone Foundation Home-residency 2020


"the attempt is a process"

(Deligny, 2007: 706)


"On parle de rituel pour ces gestes-là. Cést un abus de mots, c'est un abus de termes. Il y a tout simplement un quiproquo dans le fait que nous, parlants, nous reprenons des gestes de cet ordre et nous leur donnons une dimension rituelle parce qu'ils ont une signification symbolique. Mais cela ne veut pas dire du tout que, venant d'eux, ces gestes-là soient des rituels. Ça ne prend force de rituel que dans la mesure où il y a rite, et le rite est social ; il est dans l'air du temps. Cesont les rites qui héritent des gestes innés, et ce n'est pas par hasard que l'on retrouve les gestes de Janmari (balancements, danse) dans des rituels formalisés comme la messe. Si ça résonne tellement en nous, si ça persiste même par-delà le rite, c'est que ça a un écho dans l'inné de chacun."

(D, 2007: 707).

Un eco innato en cada uno, en la disposición de piedras sobre la playa, en el trazamiento que se despliega en el instante de un gesto para su connotado desaparecimiento. La in(s)t(it)u-i-ción de un proceso, de un caminamiento, que se diluye, y en tanto que tal esquiva a la institucionalidad de su procedimiento.

Este desaparecimiento innato, intuitivo, que traza, que toca al mundo, en ese relacionamiento con-stitutivo, en el que no hay sujeto que traza ni sujeto que se traza, aquello queda para lo ritual, su necesidad social, sino un trazamiento que diluye la disposición de una intención, incluída la misma, de las piedras o la mano, o la de la arena y el mar detrás.

Como lo que traza Juan Luis Martínez sobre el nombre en la portada de la Nueva Novela, o la llaga en la mejilla de Raúl Zurita, o los ojos vendados de Lumír Hladík, o las mejillas abultadas de Adrien Piper.

Wandering is forbidden. The human population is confined, and public spaces are empties. I have been working around the concept of wandering as the main object of my artistic research since 2017. I understand the act of wandering as an operative loss mechanism, which, in its declination, occurrence, forces the given context by enacting a possibility of an uninscribed phenomenon. Some of the questions I will explore now are: in what sense the act of wandering now, at home, with my family, could be seen as an echoic embodiment of something lost? Could it be possible to think of the wandering action as an uninscribed methodology of visibilization of that which doesn't have visibility today? The main idea behind the production of these gestures, rounds and litanies, is to see a common territory without subjects or language, for seeing what happens to be invisible to language. Examples of cultural wanderings are the Situationists' dérive, Adrian Piper's actions in the '70s, Jiri Kovanda's acts, or the poetic acts the School of Architecture, Catholic University Valparaíso, did in the '60s. We have, of course, the wandering of nomads, the wandering of children, the wandering around of tourists. But all of these wanderings were occurring in public spaces, in the open air. That is not possible anymore. And even though we will recuperate our usual motility, the current crisis will have changed our recent social behaviors.

I will explore a physical and philosophical approach to the mechanism of wandering in current circumstances and its capacity for building echoic networks through its operative loss. I will work through daily life rituals, precarious and ordinary actions that today take prominent importance: reading out loud, singing, exercising, drawing, painting, sculpting with everyday objects, displacement of furniture, talking and reflecting with others, conversations, and video recordings. These wandering echoes will form an echoic landscape for a memory to come.



“Une fois que les choses sont formulées, c 'est plus des choses.” Fernand Deligny, letter to Issac Joseph, July 8th, 1975.


Once upon a time there were three circumstances that appeared in a park, or was it a garden? I don’t know if that garden was private or public, I wasn’t sure that it was actually a park until I counted some shadows’ leaves running away during a winter day in a southern border. In fact, I owe the discovery of this text to the conjunction of these three circumstances in that pale park, in a December morning. A park again that I wasn’t sure of being one at all, except by the fact that some Quaker parrots were flying around and talking in tongues.

The raft was in the mountains at first. The map was in a dusty desk, not hanging but lying there, and the spider was, as you can imagine, indistinguishably in different parts of a place at the same time. An oscillatory movement had captured their sights, at once. Their sights conformed a conical interference, like the one you can see throughout a hole made by Matta-Clark in an old city, throughout time and space. An oscillatory trajectory doubled by its shadow and by a hyper-object composed by the sudden assemblage of two different forms seemingly connected. Who was connected to whom? You may ask now. Difficult to say, I will reply.

The clay ball was in fact hanging from a thin cord tied to a fragile branch, near the stonewall. A dancing clay-body was loved by two child’s hands. We have a photograph to prove it. Yes, you will say, that is the inscription of an event, so now we can have a testimony of both the boy and the ball, opening a space and a story of love. And yes, in some sense, this is just another ex-scripture of it, another morning anamnesis searching to receive a sudden running echo from somewhere else.

So, the raft and the map, and of course the spider too, were all mesmerized by that oscillatory figure the boy and the ball formed. As if they, as a dancing apparatus, could swirl the entire perceptual cone to its pivotal point, like Borges’ aleph.

A bouncing body and a hanging oscillatory ball, made by clay, traced a solidarity encounter woven between a raft, a map and a spider. That is how and when they saw each other, sorry, they touched each other for the first time.

The boy’s name was Janmari, at least that was the way Deligny named him.

Janmari touches that ball and Deligny repeats the words written by the psychiatrist: “Here's what she says, Psychiatry, of these children, that there are many, and about this one in particular, not to say in person. That's what the psychiatrist can say, who tries to tell the truth about what he sees and what he knows. He was 12 years old in 1967.

Unlivable, it is true, because of the damage, because of the neighbors, because of all that we can say about all that can be said, and then nothing to do. They said it right: Uncurable, unbearable, unlivable, uncurable, unbearable. So, society has everything planned, even the places to invite you, everything planned… And it turns out that this planned place-here, I know it.” (Deligny, 2007: 1040).


I found Deligny sitting next to me one day. He was looking at me with the blindness that evidences the thickness of his glasses. His clothes reeked of wet grass, of chalky soil. His beard was semi-white, as if it had been painted over occasionally. His blue cloth trousers were creased in the right folds. By my side, he was breathing and saying words. He said them, the words I mean, and then he repeated them. I lost consciousness of the moments in which the spoken word gave rise to another that also disappeared. It was like attending a cadence of veils that were falling apart. Rather, I was thinking more of curtains. The spun curtains that are left to hang halfway out the window. Or even worse, sometimes it seemed to me that they had not, these words, but the heavy nature of front curtains or white crocheted woolen blankets. Deligny smiles at my word in French: Ricochet!!! (a shot or hit that rebounds off a surface) he exclaims, and gets lost again, behind glasses that do not let me see his eyes, which appear as two white squares softened at the vertices, as if two screens had been left to nestle on his cheeks.

Thus, Deligny and I in an atonal conversation that only belonged to the realm of drawings made on folds of craft paper. Wrapping papers. Thus, a spider's web made of wrapping papers, so dear to Deligny's spiders and their webs, to wrap around in its unfolding, in the disappearance of its folds. Our conversation occurred only through echoes and whistles: Ricochet!!! Bounce!!!, I say. My voice comes out high, it bounces at the same time. Bouncing is what the echo does, it extends, until its own extermination, which does not belong to it properly. Chevêtres! Then he says to me and laughs alone as Deligny laughs. When Deligny laughs, it's as if there were clouds in the room. What's that? I tell him. He doesn't comment. He indicates something, makes a gesture, sits down again, because he had stood up as if he wanted to reach something in the air, and I try vainly to decipher a sense that allows us to think in exact concomitance.  But everything is lost suddenly. 

Now I sit on the pigeon-couch, that's how we call it, pigeon-couch because of its pigeon color. Think of you sitting on a pigeon, which does not fly clearly. There I see myself now, with myself, alone, without Deligny. I draw him in a notebook, next to some scratches and some letters. It was me who had drawn in the air a gesture as if I wanted to portray a cloud passing, a small one, through the house. I look at the mirror in front of me, I have never been able to stop thinking about Borges when I say or write the word mirror. I sit down again. Deligny's gone. All I feel is an echo. His close presence is installed like an artistic installation is installed in the texts I read, in the images I visit, in the words I say and translate.


“Je ne crois pas aux activités intentionnées. Du moins pour les gars présents à La Magnanerie, qui vivent hors le langage. Toutes les finalités, causalités et autres motivations que nous trimbalons en bandoulière, sont rarement évidentes pour ce qui les concerne.” (Lin, 2004: 110).


An attempt then was born, it appears in Cévennes. Deligny was forming non institutional platforms: “the attempt is a walking” (Deligny, 2007: 706). His materials were social relationships and networks formed by and in-between humans and non-human entities: institutions, objects, places, forms of lives, unattended events. Encounters that suddenly occurred, like the finding of the house where the attempt began: “When I say that Janmari leads the attempt, it's not a playing with words at all. If we're here in these houses, for example, it's because Janmari led us here. Why here? Because there was a fountain” (Deligny, 2007: 705).

A child + Cévannes’ forest + fountain = an attempt.

Within this series of knitting dots, an attempt happened through a bunch of decisive actions avoiding any conditions toward a fixed regularity, without salaries, without a detailed plan, just some words, as remembers Jacques Lin: “solidarity... companionship... He's offering me to be Janmari's companion.”

Deligny answers us by avoiding the ways we regularly presupposed for having a form. It departs from an abandonment, “mais surtout ne pas retourner à Paris…”. And it continues through enacting non-disciplinary solidarities. Abandoning the university, Armentieres, La Borde, escaping, detouring, deriving.

What sort of solidarity exists-resists between a raft, a map and a spider? A solidarity of bare nearness, co-presences sharing shadows. A confident participation without a contract. You can’t search for solidity here, on the contrary, there must be plasticity. You must always be prepared for a sudden happening, l’avenir. And that preparedness can’t be that of an awaiting for a change to happen. It will happen “malgre tout”, despite everything. In the meantime, you continue forming your lines of errancy.

At some moment, Fernand Deligny says the word “guerrilla”: “a small gang that organizes itself, if only to escape direct employment, finds the old vein of libertarian communism. Its existence, if it lasts, is a mirage. It is a bravado which I still think is a good thing.” (Deligny, 2007: 1023) A guerrilla of autistic children, adults and environments. A guerrilla formed by a raft, a map and a spider. A guerrilla is an apparatus, within which a raft, a map and a spider collaborate without any specific means or aims. A raft, a map, and a spider conform an attempt, a territory upon a territory, a net of actions, gestures that aren’t productive. The attempt is a staying mechanism of an echoicity without inscription. The attempt is its own apparatus of inscription, intelligible only through its echoic trajectory.

In the attempt a dense sedimentation of trajectories unfolds, apparently nested in the hyper-relationship constituted between the environment, or environments, the bodies, the movements and the very contingency of an insistent repetition. An echoic landscape is formed by a continuing sedimentation of trajectories in action:

“It seemed that in the lines of wandering, traces of journeys from which any project seems to be absent -the child no longer having to be supposed to want to go here or there-, the trace only revealed that the action was a reaction to what, from “us”, was leaving traces, these traces dating as much from three years ago or more as from the day before, or from the previous moment; which shed new light on what could be of our presences.” (Deligny, 1980: 112).


Deligny’s net, “le reseau”, was an invisible shelter of figures that wandered and crouch in different uncertain zones. Destitute rooms, adjoining walls, areas with no thickness, vacant sites, houses or just workshops abandoned to the violence of a daily nature. The images we have of this network present us with an open space where shadows permeate to one another. Unnoticed events, unattended events. “L’agir”, which was different than “faire” for Deligny, could be translated as “the act”, is an involuntary activity without a pre-stablished end:

“It is clear that the gestures of one are not of the same flow, the same way, as the gestures of the other. Isabelle links her gestures to those of Anne, either to hand her a stone, or to remove the stones in front of the hands of the other. It is indeed the other, and she helps or hinders her, and Anne’s gestures stumble upon this obstacle, trying to recover her own line of wandering, the wandering coming from this impulse where the other does not exist as such. We can “understand” what Isabelle does: she plays. Her gestures resemble ours. Anne doesn't play. In this kind of action, which is to have fun, the other one is there, in the front row. In Anne's acting, it's not about having fun. She's not acting. In acting there is a role, and often an "around a role". Young animals play, and pretend to play, while an autistic child seems to have no role to play. This is what is surprising: that an animal plays while an autistic child does not. To say that Anne plays, alone, would be wrong, and doubly wrong: there is no role played, and a point of solitude which would be the absence of any other. The non-existence of all others is not her absence." (Deligny, 1979: 11-12).[1]

The difference is that “le faire” is articulated around an objective, it supposes a utility, meanwhile “l’agir” is what escapes that order, in fact “the excitement of ‘l’agir’ is not of the order of the fault” (Deligny, 2008: 219).

This is probably one of the most important elements proposed by Deligny’s thinking: an action without destination, without a project. What does it mean to act without means, without aims? Is this not, in fact, the condition of the playful before any competition or competence? When a child plays “alone”, what is really happening is an action without objectives outside of its very act. The action of the game does not take place in itself as a learning process, but as a reflection of the act. A thinking in action. In that act, and through its unintentional occurring, a proper territoriality is formed “a la dérive”.


The raft, the map and the spider were playing without roles. They were de-institutionalizing themselves by the activity of a collaborative gesturing. Without solving or dissolving the limits of their intelligible individual forms, they were forming another nomadic social-architecture in solidarity besides the possible measured distances you can imagine between bodies. A touch was being made that transcended fixed temporalities. And through this touch, a world was being e/merged. Like Deligny’s wet hand near, closely near, the surface of the lake:

“and I had felt the beginning of one of those endless gestures where the “my" in that hand-here was being lost.”[2] (Deligny, 2008: 219).

That is a new diverse functional institution, based on a solidarity sustained by actions that you may not be able to see at all, and that you do not need to check: "It often seems to me that action (l’agir) resonates (echoes) in art and, in a completely different way, in the ritual gestures of religion." (Deligny, 1979: 94). It is sustained by echoes, remnants, vibrations, trajectories in detour, coming again. “Le réseau est un mode d’être” (Delingy, 2008: 11).

The raft, the map and the spider are communal gestures. They belong without authority to the presence of the other, like the image of the river our eyes can’t capture in any sense, like the passing by of an entire day with you just seeing it, without eating or drinking, just letting the passing by of the light to come to be, and then, the raft and the map and the spider will tell you the same secret you have just learned from the same passing by of the light, which was not just one light, like the raft, the map and the spider are. Limitless, the raft, the map, and the spider (but, I must say, especially the spider), become beyond a thought, they make love to each other, tenderly, slowly, infinitely.

Finally, the raft loved the map, and the spider loved the raft. The map loved both of course. They all became a gestural commune of memories in absolute dispossession. They hung a clay ball from a fragile tree’s branch, and they heard the cicada’s summer’s noise.


[1] « Il est clair que les gestes de l’une ne sont pas de la même coulée, de la même venue, que les gestes de l’autre. Isabelle enchaîne ses gestes aux gestes d’Anne, soit pour lui tendre une pierre, soit pour enlever les pierres devant les mains de l’autre. Il s’agit bien de l’autre, et il y va de l’aider ou de la gêner, et les gestes d’Anne trébuchent sur cet obstacle, tentent de reprendre leur propre ligne d’erre, l’erre provenant de cet élan où l’autre n’existe pas en tant qu’autre. Nous pouvons « comprendre » ce qu’Isabelle fait : elle joue. Ses gestes ressemblent aux nôtres. Anne ne joue pas. Dans ce genre de faire qui est de s’amuser, l’autre y est, aux premières loges. Dans l’agir d’Anne, il ne s’agit pas de s’amuser. Elle ne joue pas. Dans jouer il y a du rôle, et, bien souvent, un “à tour de rôle”. Les jeunes animaux jouent, et se font la comédie, alors qu’un enfant autiste semble dépourvu du moindre rôle à jouer. C’est bien ce qui étonne : qu’un animal joue alors qu’un enfant autiste ne joue pas. Dire qu’Anne joue, toute seule, serait erroné, et doublement erroné : point de rôle joué, et pointe de solitude qui serait l’absence de tout autre. La non-existence de tout autre n’est pas son absence. » Fernand Deligny (1979) Les détours de l’agir ou le moindre geste. Paris: L’Échappée belle / Hachette littérature. 

[2] “and if I come back to the way I made waves, with my hand flat in a puddle of water, it’s because when I evoked this memory several days ago, the real of the gesture followed in its wake, several days later, as if aspirated. That hand, flat against the cold surface that lets itself be pierced and then reforms itself above, my hand however suddenly lighter, and, when I raised it back out, it seemed like it was aspirating water, but barely, and I had felt the beginning of one of those endless gestures in which the “my” of that hand was being lost. It was about making waves in order to see, to see how waves made themselves, since they indeed have to make themselves or be made, but in the same wanted and even reasoned gesture, acting was occurring, and it led me to feel something like shame, at being there, hunkered down, a few dozen steps from the North Sea, and all alone; shame? More like turmoil, and as for what I think about it now, it’s that my hand was outside, a human hand and nothing more, abandoned, or almost, offered to the risk of experiencing the real, and if I was at fault, it was in believing that I was capable of understanding how waves were made. And I was conscious of that fault, or almost, whereas the turmoil of acting was of a completely different order than that of fault. Quite simply, I lost myself, which can also be written as: I lost itself. Something perilous was going on.” (Deligny, 2015: 227).

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