Today was the first public day at artsdepot. Having arrived quite early, with the idea in mind to still retouch a couple of electronic parts, I met Talitah, who was the invigilator for the day. In a blink of an eye, she completely understood the piece and its conceptual framework, as well the principles and the basics of how to use it, and became - quite amazingly - as good as I am at introducing it to incomers. People get in, say hello and, much corroded by curiosity, ask us about the "thing". I - and during busy times, Talitah - explain to them that the "thing" is called PROBLEM and that it should be punched. Many also ask whether they can kick it, or relate to it in other ways. I always tell them that there are no rules! "You have a body, a problem, and five minutes to spend".
In the morning, we had Veronika, who came with her dad. As I have been noticing, like so many other children, she had a problem with maths and wanted to punch the hell out of it... Fierce and proud, she managed to wake everyone up with a stunning, joyful performance. Eventually, she understood that there was a ton of maths involved in programming the electronic "behind-the-scenes" of PROBLEM and so, realised that the devilish-subject was not so bad after all. Maybe the way it is hammered into young heads in schools is a problem... She returned a second time, which made me so happy, this time around, with her mum, whom she had dragged, in an attempt to show her the "machine that solves problems". Alicia - the mother - made her "troubles at work" be the target for the session but also warned me about her lack of punching skills. In response, Veronika quite promptly delivered a crash course on "how to punch stuff intuitively yet safely".
Katie (the duty manager) came at a point to check if everything was fine. Her visit brought us two invaluable improvements. First, there was this ventilation conduct, high up in one of the walls, which produced a discrete, yet present and unavoidably persistent, pressing, rattling noise; both deep, tinny and rhythmically infrequent which, although many people claimed not to notice, did make everyone feel just a bit more tense, for no special reason. With a little push of a button, secretly kept somewhere in the building, the noise was gone, and at that precise instant, so everyone uttered "aaaaaaaaahhhhh" in relief. The second thing was a health and safety malfunction which was solved for the good of everyone in the same simple way: removing things out of the picture. There were these chords, placed around the installation, implicitly making evident that people should not get too close to the art. Perhaps, even behaviourally conditioning visitors into performing the common reflexive response to "do not touch the art!", which precisely is to suddenly come to want it ever more burningly but to actually not do it. The result was that, today, lots of people were tripping over it, including Ilmė (who is documenting the project), and so I feared that rather than getting rid of problems we could be multiplying them... Gladly, Katie solved yet another problem for us! Everyone thanks you!
In the afternoon, little Billy did a really good job in spelling out his anger from whenever waiting for the things he wants is just too hard. And so did Emma - or similarly - in confrontation with "when things don't go my way". Plastic waste was once again a problem people are desperately wanting to fight against. Marvellous, Mary, Michael, Miriam and Richael made a super effective team that solved problems conjointly, with a strong - if at times slightly uncoordinated - exhaustion management rotational system. Problems such as: "discrimination", "bullying", "hatred", but also "scoliosis" and "fear of death". After the family Meng lost some weight fighting "losing weight", I also discovered, with little Eva, that there is this thing called the Mensch... Strangely incidental in Yiddish and German - descendent from the latter - the term migrated in meaning from generally denoting a human being, to being the informal definition of a person who has good principles and behaves after exemplar moral standards. In some schools, it apparently serves as a distinctive exclusive means to identify and reenforce a certain role-model amongst the classes of children. So, Eva was upset because she was never nominated to be a Mensch. In a germanic sense, this could not be a thought more strange. Amidst the physical expulsion of all negativities, there came the words on the screen: "rewards and punishments are the lowest forms of education" by Confucius. People nodded affirmatively at the fact that neither the negative nor the positive sides of behavioural conditioning appeared to be any good. I smiled.
In the way back, Ilmė showed me the good ways of the London tube system and so I got back to New Cross in a bit of a more comfortable way, whilst hovering through the amazing pictures she took! Now I am in Sara's studio finishing up this entry and getting ready to further edit some sound bits for a perfect tomorrow.
When someone says that they have a problem, you imagine perhaps that they are stuck with a complicated situation, that something is tricky, sticky, or even 'funny'. We feel as though life stops before a problem, as things get entangled and cease to work. It is a blockage, a barrier, an insurmountable impossibility!
However, the idea of a problem is actually based on an action and, in fact, a quite physical one. The Greek verb probállō is composed by pro- (forwards) and bállō (to throw). So, in PROBLEM, Rodrigo challenges you to rescue the proactive nature of what problems should be. Throw some punches at your own problems! In this interactive audiovisual installation, name any problem you may have: "My tea is cold", "Brexit gives me headaches", "Loneliness", "Sneaky pesticides in my food", "I can't find my socks", "Social inequality" etc.
Problem is a call to action, and a reminder, for we often forget we have a body; one that is simultaneously physical, biological, animal, social, cultural, political… From the smallest to the biggest, from the simplest to the most complex, abstract or unfathomable, every problem is welcome to be thrown forwards, towards a sense of unity.