Cows Waiting on the Walls of Lavapiés: Openings to the Living

She walks down the street and takes another detour to delay getting to the subway.  She walks and runs into a resting cow on a wall.  Before getting to the corner, she runs into a calf on the next wall and then into another cow on the wall around the corner.  She retraces her steps, approaches the walls, takes the camera.  Black contours, bodies cut on newspapers: small, anonymous  paste-ups on the gray of the columns.  Resting cows.  She imagines smells: grass, cows, manure.  A certain innocence.  Yet the composition of the figures interrupts any chance of getting too comfortable with a pastoral idyll: on the back of one cow she reads  “Siemens” and a serial number.  Near the tail she spots El Corte Inglés’ logo.  On the forehead of the other cow she reads “internet or telephone.”  Resting cows run over by advertisements: cows under a double lens: life and commodity: mise en abyme: a life subject to economic calculus.

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She keeps on walking and remembers “El Matadero” (2009) [The Slaughterhouse] by Argentinian writer Martín Kohan: the story of the encounter of a truck-driver used to hauling steel merchandise with the living cattle he has been asked to transport to the slaughterhouse.  After some hours driving he gets tired, wants to sleep, but can’t.  A rumor perturbs him:  it is the animals’ presence in the truck.  He gets to the back of the truck and there he is able to see the cows grouped together: he can see them up close and in detail. A trembling ear here and there, their eyes wide open, their bodies.  “He saw an absolute wait.”  “He saw a group of animals that was going to be sacrificed pretty soon.  It is that imminence what he saw,” tells the narrator.  The truck-driver touches the back of one of the cows: “the future did not exist there.” In “La vida impropia.  Historias de mataderos” (2011) Gabriel Giorgi proposes that Kohan narrates an encounter between bodies–a “human” body and “animal” bodies–and that this brings to the fore not a rhetoric of compassion but a new proximity: a common condition that crosses the species, a condition that points to the place of the living in general,  trapped as it is in the different modes of surplus extraction (13).  He refers to life in general, captured as it is by the rationality of capital  (11).  Next to the precariousness of life before the politics and economics of death, Giorgi suggests that the short-story simultaneously highlights the strange potency of bodies: a new rearrangement of bodies that points to an other politics of the living, one that displaces the proper, keeping it open, crossed by the rumor of other bodies: “a bond or a link that points to an other imagining of the common”  (20).

Cows waiting on the walls of Lavapiés: facilitating encounters that produce rumors.  She remembers the challenge posed by  Amaia Pérez Orozco: “we should consider what kind of life is worthwhile living collectively and democratically” (2013).  Linked to that question is the consideration of an other politics of the living, nurtured by other sensibilities.

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redesycalles IMG_8720 copyColumns of the exterior walls of  CSA La Tabacalera: Miguel Servet y Embajadores, 9 October 2014.

Visti the web of Centro Social Autogestionado La Tabacalera aquí.

Update from 5/22/2016:  the paste-ups are part of the production of visual artist Dorle Schimmer.


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