a bovine procession

itinerant performance
Festival La Xata La Rifa, Asturias, October 2012

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Where is our meeting place?

Meeting place is a point you define for at least two lines to meet. The place where the lines meet becomes a node. A concentration of energy, an event. This is typical of main squares, city centers or what are defined as kilometer zeros. Meetings are intrinsically happenings. It is as much a meeting place as it is taking place that consists of a choreography of occupation. And they happen everyday (with the everyday). It is in the occupation that the everyday could become uncanny.

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When I arrived in the small village of Piñeres, I wanted to observe what was happening everyday. So I made a routine of staying and walking through the village and observe. What got my attention was the daily movement made by a group of about 40 cows from the grazing field back to their stables, which took a distance of about 100 meters.  The cows are owned by a local farmer whom I also got to know during my stay. Punctually at dusk, the bovine creatures return to their house to be fed again and stay there for the night. Both exodus and re-entry lasted for about 15 minutes. For about a week, I spent every afternoon with the cows, being with them, and observing how they let their time pass. I had to gradually adjust myself with the cows’ distinct energies, at the same time that the cows gradually got used to my presence. With the collaboration of some of the villagers, I mounted a dining table in the middle of the field of cows, with flowers and a salad starter plate complete with knives and fork, both prepared for me by new village friends I made during the week. I invited the public, consisting of both villagers and outsiders to meet me at the grazing fields. They arrived as I was eating, and the cows did pretty much the same. One of the villagers noticed that I had nothing to drink and shouted at me, ‘look, the poor kid has nothing to drink, pepe, do you want a bottle of wine?’. I joyfully said ‘yes, why not!’. Shortly, a bottle of wine arrived to my table. I was dressed immaculately, in white shirt and bow-tie, a cowbell necklace, and black boots. The cows ate, peed, pooped around me, and many times even tried to take some of my food. I spent a good time protecting my territory. After eating, I rang the cow bell. The stable owner opened the gates of the grazing field, and let out the cows. One by one the cows came out, followed by me, and without so much instruction, the rest of the public. A short human-cow procession occurred. This ritual was accentuated by a group of musicians. I felt like a bride getting married at the high council of the cows.

When the guests reached the stable, I was waiting for them, and the cows were being fed by the owner. I held a bunch of paper in my hand. Another friend and artist Pablo installed ultraviolet lights so that the most prominent objects visible were the cows’ white skin, my white shirt and and the papers held in my hand. I drew the paper sheets one by one and started introducing each cow’s name. Each sheet was an official Spanish document, containing each cow’s registered name, lineage, identity number, barcoded, signed and sealed by the State. After reciting the cows’s names, I read one last sheet of paper, which was a document granting me official permission to reside in Spain. It arrived before I came to the village after having waited for it for five months. I scattered all the papers on top of a stack of hay for the people to look at, as I went into another table that I had set up in the middle of the stable to continue eating with the cows. We said goodbye to the human guests. Minutes later, the stable’s owner handed me a glass of freshly squeezed milk from one of the cows and I drank.

Photos: Agustine Pilarte

more photos from Irma Collins >>>

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