When I walk into Bloomberg SPACE Eva Recacha appears to be scolding a woman in rapid Spanish. Painter Alejandro Ospina, standing at the far wall, looks over his shoulder unperturbed, observing the performance with a mind full of his own thoughts.
A floorplan of the gallery is painted large on the wall beside him and as time passes he spins a network of words, lines, shapes and images over it. Black, blue, yellow, fluorescent, up and down on an indoor cherry-picker. Hilaire Belloc's children’s poem Matilda is inscribed on the wall. The story of the girl who cried fire, it's a moral tale with a charred ending. The more Ospina paints the more the story becomes obscured, and the more hours that pass in which Recacha fills the gallery with her relentless energy, the less she becomes a representation of this fated girl Matilda and the more she becomes her own, obsessive, lonely and captivating creature.
Ospina and Recacha are in the gallery creating Bitácora's Book for seven hours straight. I'm there for just four and a half and I'm exhausted just watching them. It's an epic journey that they've undertaken, but it's also somehow settling. They are steady – Recacha is intense and Ospina is calm.
I speak to Recacha the day before her dance marathon to ask her where the idea for Bitácora's Book came from. She says that one idea is ‘to search for material that comes from having nothing to do, or having nothing to entertain yourself with. Having to draw information from the past, from yourself, from what you have collected so far.
"When I first came to the gallery I really didn’t feel any stimulus in the sense of ‘I really want to move’, or ‘I must do something specific here’. I felt like it was a very hostile environment and that I’m just going to have to pull everything out of me. Of course that’s not true, but that’s how it felt."
The sheer length of the piece seems to be part of Recacha’s desire to test herself. Being faced with the limits of a "hostile" space is less a barrier and instead an invitation to push other limits. The experience of taking part in a workshop with choreographer Rui Horta also triggered part of Recacha’s process. "He asked us each to do a solo about how we felt. I thought it was the most horrible task somebody could ever give me because I felt awkward. I didn’t want to do anything, I certainly didn’t want to show anything to anybody and I just didn’t want to open up that way; no way. And then something really interesting came out of that process. So I thought, this [COMMA40] is perfect because if I feel that same initial fear something interesting will come out of it.
"Sometimes when you don’t have anything new you can manipulate or that you can get interested in, you're forced to look at what you already have. And that's the sum total of all the things you've done over the years. If you fish around long enough I think some good things will come out. I want to the duration of my residency to find something I've forgotten, that is already there."
The concept of transcription and recording is also central to Bitácora's Book. "I’m interested in how people understand things and how people make sense of what they see; how people read. I wanted to work with someone who would be reading what I do, not knowing what I’m really thinking and creating a complete, parallel thing to what I’m doing. At the end, the only thing you have of what I did is what [Ospina] has done. He's there all the way throughout the whole day, going over different processes of transcription and representation that create a memoir of the day. At the end of the day you don’t have the event, you only have what people wrote about it, how people described it and how people made a representation of it.
"It feels a lot like it’s a kind of a diary. I like that, because I’m giving in to personal understandings of things. They’re not personal stories but they’re very personal points of view. That’s what I’m digging into, my own memory. I’m not the subject matter, but I am the medium through which everything becomes seen or understood or experienced. The leftover is a diary of a person who was there, only I’m not writing it. Somebody else is trying to leave a mark. If you wrote your own diary somebody else could read it and have their own understanding of what you wrote and what happened to you. It’s never what you think."
Some of my personal favourite moments watching the piece were those when Recacha chose to recite multiplication times tables. Sometimes chanting like a stubborn child, sometimes whispering like a prayer and sometimes struggling to scream like a trapped animal. Childhood, obedience, entrapment and rules – all these things are conjured up and the structure of the numbers somehow echoes the rhythm of Matilda and Ospina’s methodical charting of the events.
"I think I felt like a child because [the gallery] didn’t fit my size. I don’t know how, but for seven hours I’m going to fill it with my presence. It’s not a human scale; it’s made for big works of art, not for a human being to be portrayed there."
Recacha seized the challenge and it seems to have worked.