–– knights of the rueful countenance ––
– FEVER –
– PRELUDE –
Come, spirit, help us sing the story of our land. You are our mother. We, your field of corn. We rise from out of the soul of you.2 ––– THE NEW WORLD, TERRENCE MALICK
We commence by entering.
We, like the about-to-be born infant, gaze into an unknown, yet ever-present, heard and felt world that lies on the other side of the crack; a world overexposed to light; a light, which appears as violent and inquisitive, burning into those undeveloped eyelids that make it impossible to block or reject…this is a light that sacrifices the inhabitant of the womb to life, a shepherd that before guiding, needs to blind the object that will be soon directing into the multiplicity of paths offered by this newly entered world.
The light that overwhelms the eye, an entity that floods in out of control, the vision of ecstasy, of rapture and enlightenment – isn’t this light the gate that signals the entrance and the exit? What is blinding brightness but the painful true liberation of spatial enclosures, of limits, of the body – a journey towards the eternal? It is said that when the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was about to take his last breath of life he expired, having previously asked his companion to open the shutter so more light could enter, the famous words ’Licht, Mehr Licht!’ (Light, More Light!). After that, death took over, nonetheless light swept through another crack.
There is something hidden in this desperate yearn, a cry that equals in intensity to the one emitted while being born; the despair (despair is the master of impossibilities) and at the same time the opening of doors, which slowly give way to what lies behind, beyond… a new world conception; every time Light transmutes an ideal, previously lived in world, there is a great and enormous vision of the entire complexity and infinitude of the stellar universe being unravelled in front of the eyes of the new-born, of the new-comer, of the stranger. A quince tree illuminated by the sunlight of late September holds nothing but the world and the worlds to come in the eyes of the one that paints it, in this case Antonio López, which was captured in Dreams of Light.
Here, in this introduction, which goes by the name of Prelude, as if sounding music was what is being
read, the idea of a journey that transitions from the Old World to the New World is a main question and concern. What is a world first of all? How is a New World entered and more importantly articulated by the use of mediums (such as language diluted in text, film, speech) that become redundant once fully immersed in a place that lacks all precepts set in a previous, by now subdued, dream-life? How can one make sense of an encounter that takes place in ones soul, heart and mind; total and complete warfare between the senses and their perception, which lead to exhaustion, then asphyxiation, fever, and finally back to a life that is set to re-discover the ontical concepts of the Nature in man and man in Nature.
The thought of history has taught us that life is somehow subjected to a series of conditions of intelligibility. In the Old World, we were thrown into those conditions of knowing and perceiving a priori. This idea of world has been imagined as a field or horizon that sets the conditions for appearing entities, an ever-flowing river that bathes the solids that plunge into it, defining them as volumetric entities, spatial obtrusions that determine the continuity of water flows and tribulations between the liquid and the solids. In order to fully see the consequences (here is where architecture will exist) of the immersion into a New World that has eaten away most of what was previously conceived as truth, one must understand, first of all, what we mean by the ‘world’ as a creature that violently quakes and subdues any desire for colonizing order, harmony and morality. A self-referential body, indifferent to the plights of men, the burden of dreams and the torments of time; here Nature overwhelms the senses.
‘Nature is itself an entity which is encountered within the world and which can be discovered in various ways and at various stages’ –––BEING AND TIME, MARTIN HEIDEGGER
What happens when one descends into a landscape that acts as a universe of its own, a place where creation is an ongoing and unfinished procedure of growth and murder, making it hostile to any finalities or coherent reductions. The encounter with a New World originated as an image trapped in dream, which was then perversely carved into a constructed faith, so political control and moral regulations could be imposed over the latter, preparing it for a future colonial appropriation. The legendary imagination of the place came before confronting its brutal, yet fascinating world complexities. Once embarked into its discovery, the undertaken voyage towards this legend helps to slowly unveil the peculiarities of an imagined new land, where existing-in has developed its own protocol. In order to become part of the fabric of a New World, which previously belonged to unreachable imaginary flashes always constrained by factors fabricated by Old World parameters, one might have to fall into a whirlwind that shakes and dispossess all beliefs, constructed for the sake of social and even existential ‘good manners’, of their moral and human legitimacy. For the first time, I will introduce the idea of the fever-dream: this is the preliminary step towards the door that opens up to the inner workings of this new place, which slays the old with decisive and final blows.
What was the Old World then? This is where the faithful traveller comes from, a land already built over pillars erected by a God, its justice and its promise for redeeming salvation. A life that seemed more and more like a dream, and where individual beings were transcending mere flesh and bone…they were such stuff as dreams were made on. How could the curiosity of men stay contained and trapped in a space where the physical or even visual fulfilment of those intuited new places was not achieved? There was a real need for fantasy, for expansion, for wealth, but more importantly, a burning desire for all those dreamt dreams, even delusions fuelled by the idea of the Epic, to be the part of a future conception of ‘world’ as a space of confrontation and ‘real’ articulation, not exhausted by centuries of ideological erosions.
This New World became physically real in 1492. However, only the most impenetrable and turbulent of the worlds within this New World remained indifferent to the maniacal murderous appropriation the Old World tried to impose over this newly found land not deformed by the ‘selfish desire’ of spiritual and economical wealth. The found land that defeated and still defeats any urge for advantageous overtaking spans all over the heart of a continent split by a mighty ocean of sepia water flows, and a jungle that riots out of control towards a sky dominated by colossal cloud formations, which once unified into a terrible mass of immense darkness, powerful lightenings aimlessly fall upon the leafy canopy of trees. Sporadically, darkness gives way to light; the only thing to be seen during those rushes of brightness is the imposing magnificence of Nature displaying its scornful indifference towards the fragility of the one that seeks its compassion and refuge. This is the land that never gave up to us, neither to them. A land bathed by the Orellana River, as it was first called: Now, after centuries of doomed attempts for human appropriation, is known to us as the Amazonas.
“Going up the river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of the sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against the shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once – somewhere – far away – in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence.“
–––HEART OF DARKNESS, JOSEPH CONRAD
So, if the Amazonas is seen and understood as this self-referential world-organism that has deprived the pilgrims that ventured into its depths of any point of reference in relation to their previously learned codes and protocols, it should be considered to be impossible to convey its complexity within any articulation that pretends to impose a systematic rationality over it. The importance of comprehending the shock of confronting what started as a dreamt, imagined and
fetishized world of fantastical abundance and pre-historical forms of growth, is the possibility of extracting from the ‘individual cries for articulated expression’ (here I refer to diary entries dating from the XVI century onwards to films trying to capture the impossible), which even distancing themselves in time, they are framed within the same set of environ-(mental) conditions; a certain form of language or language of form that is original and unique to the fever-dreamer; a voyager in despair that struggles between belief, imaginative delusion and the infinite character of the jungle in relation to his own, futile intentions of naïve appropriation and immortal life . 5
What is the product that is born out of this tremendous duel? A duel? Fighting against what? Against oneself in relation to a world of entities whose meaning is undecipherable, thus it remains unknown as long questions expect for answers. Then, entering this place, the Amazonas as world, does not mean observing it as a visual spectacle. In order to access its complex meaning, hence in order to compose and visualize the possibility for an architecture that speaks what the jungle can hear and respond to, one must tediously expose the madness of a search that only leads towards some sort of self-annihilating despair, later culminated into the fever-dream that turns into a reality in this jungle. To make all these rambles clear: the entrance into the impenetrable world of the Amazonas really happens as a consequence of a dream that has been digested by this previously dreamt place, then regurgitated in order to poison the sanity of the civilized pilgrim that came in search for the impossible. Entering is a curse. Fever is a reaction of the body. The articulation of this jungle wanderer is the product that comes out of this process of entering, accessing, loosing and sacrificing all individual perceptive intelligence to the will of the forest and its intimidating roar. Architecture arrived to the Amazonas with the articulations of the doomed fever-dreamer; its space transitioned from the imprints of wet ink over paper, to the translucent stains of processed celluloid strips, to the grand expression of jungle frescos and other neo-classical motifs painted and carved on an Opera House built in the very heart of the jungle. I believe architecture was necessary in order to humanize and articulate the multiple, seemingly impossible situations encountered while existing in the land that over the course of history, has dispossessed all men that entered of their human sensibility and sense of being. Architecture as a presence that is constantly relating back to the body and to life is also the common thread that allows for a unitary knowledge, which transcends time and period. It provides all those forgotten asphyxiating pleas a place where they might be understood as a common expression, not as an irrelevant set of cryptic delusions that lead nowhere. It may be a consolation that stands still, overlooking…silently answering. This entire essay is an edifice of architecture.
The following sections, are aiming to trace and depict the journey that enters and articulates what is confronted through a series of examples, which belong to completely different time periods, however they express the same emotional drives. Each of them shares that strangling despair towards the shattered dream-idealizations, but also, the creation of a new-world-conception rooted in a feverish set of jungle deliriums.
1. theEPIC– theARRIVAL
Is not this inward Don Quixote that I spoke of, conscious of his own tragic comicness, a man of despair (desesperado). A desperado – yes, like Pizarro and like Loyola. But despair is the master of impossibilities as we learn from Salazar and Torres (Elegir al enemigo, Act 1),
and it is despair and despair alone that begets heroic hope, absurd hope, mad hope. Spero quia absurdum, [translates into: I await because of absurdity]
it ought to have been said, rather than Credo. ––– MIGUEL DE UNAMUNO
It is the fifteenth of March 1493, a man, which regards himself as chosen, as charged with a divine mission, and who sees divine interventions everywhere, in the wavering oceans as in the golden sunbeams caressing the deck of the carrack he captains, named after the Virgin protector of the sailormen at sea, the Santa Maria; observes in his journal:
“ By many signal miracles God has shown himself on the Voyage.” ––– CRISTOBAL COLÓN
This was written on the way back, after a new and unknown land was sighted, for the first time, on October twelve 1492. This encounter will change the course of history. The dream of expansion and conquest will take over and change the mind-set of the Christian and his faith in an immortal, omnipotent and omnipresent God. Now the workings of ‘Our Lord’ could be fed into this New World and its savage peoples and places. The hope for a spiritual and economical expansion was now seen as real, possible and necessary. The nostalgia for the crusades against the Moors and the glory obtained by knights depicted in Epic historical poems, help to shape the ideological drive of conquering this new land of opportunities and redemption. Redemption from what – Guilt, remorse and sin could be cured from the soul of men if they were willing to spread the words and image of the Cross, most of the time at expenses of their own life. Bear in mind that the first trans-Atlantic voyagers were nobleman that had lost everything but their petty title, as a consequence they were betting it all on them finding precious metals to bring and offer to the Crown. The conquest of the New World started as a series of crusade-like expeditions. The sword, armour and cross were weapons that combined with a blind faith in what was being promised by the legendary fantasies of New World expeditions, which circulated at the beginning of the XVI century, shaped the obsessions of this pilgrim that started searching for Gold and ended finding Go(l)d.
However, I will not be dealing with the conquest of the ‘Americas’ as a whole; the main focus of this section sits on a landscape that defeated that burning desire for appropriation and conquest, the Amazonas, as I stated previously in the Prelude, the world where all those dreamy legends turned
upside down and fell into a despair overlooked by the ever-present jungle. This place, which rejected any type of colonial (spiritual or political) power, is where the wandering pilgrim that eagerly aimed to tame in order to take, struggled with the impossibility of stepping over the obstacles found along the river and its ocean-like immensity; this frustration regarding the dream that drove all those early explorers into perdition, found a clear form and content in the graphic descriptions of the journey. I will be taking two particular first hand tales of voyages and feverish jungle deliriums, and at the same time, will contrast one another with the actualities of historical records set from the outside and imposing a kind of civilized sobriety over its blasphemous character. Officially, these people went mad. One of them, Gaspar de Carvajal, a Jesuit taking part on the very first ‘successful’ voyage (captained by Francisco de Orellana) into the river and the mysteries there trapped; the second tale is being told by a prisoner, according to some loose evidences, of Irish origin, that went by the name of Gaspar Chillán el Irlandes (some records and the signature read Jasper Dillon), his diaries were found while researching in the Archivo General de Indias, in Seville, and date from 1631-1633.
Before engaging with what they say and how those articulations exist in a space of their own, where the workings of architecture, not as form or content but as a reminder of a possible future access into the new-world view of the desperado, haunt them as the quill slides across the paper, leaving imprints of inner and outer struggle that are going to delimit, one day, an architecture of their own, once all their voices echo as one; I want to make understandable the tradition of the Epic and its way of narrating and expressing events of historical and human importance, by the use of poetic freedom, and many other imagined visions. Truth will not be factual. Hence the substance and intelligence of these articulations can be accessed through a different entry point, not labelling them as invaluable and useless.
The Epic poem relating the deeds and adventures of a heroic figure that aims to fulfil a future vision and ultimately immortalize his cause in history, was a form of expression that dominated the language used in order to describe and articulate the sensations encountered during odyssey-like voyages like the ones mentioned above. This tradition of the epic poem, which was heavily influenced by obsolete (I am situating myself around the XVI century) stories of chivalry, characteristic from the High Middle Ages, and by well known Greek and Roman classic poets such as Ovidio, Homer and Virgilio; was being transposed into the discovery of new worlds, pioneered by the Portuguese explorers, being its obra-prima The Luisíadas, a historic poem written in Homeric fashion by the voyager Luís Vas de Camões.
This decasyllabic poem consists of ten cantos and four main sections: The Proposition, Invocation, a Dedication and the Epilogue. Camões starts with a glorifying cry in honour of the grand adventurers that will set the key stone for a new age:
Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes
Who from Portugal’s far western shores By oceans where none had ventured Voyaged to Taprobana and beyond, Enduring hazards and assaults Such as drew on more than human prowess Among far distant peoples, to proclaim A New Age and win undying fame;” ––– LVIS VAZ DE CAMÕES
Those introductory verses illustrate the way language was used to express what was being felt and encountered along the discovery. This way of narrating pre-dates the discovery of the Amazonas by the Old World, as said before it is found in chivalry and classical literature, but also in other forms that were not written on paper and with characters. Such unwritten forms were founded on religious ideology and the teachings of prophetical voices that communicated through figures of speech not grounded on the ‘real’, but on the contrary, in the impossible, over-human and ethereal. The knowledge over those two main ‘forms of expressing’ is decisive when looking at written documents that aim to communicate, translate, frame and ultimately articulate life-sensations that transcended the medium they were trapped in. This will set the pitch for future expressions. According to Padre Carvallo, a Benedictine monk and historian that in 1602 wrote a treaty about the art of poetics and history titled Cisne de Apolo (Apollo’s Swan), ‘pretences are lawful and very convenient in the work of the poet: they do not harm truth nor they obscure it, rather they clarify and adorn it’ . This was 9
how constructing a contextual narration was conceived back in the XVI-XVII centuries, and resulted in epic poems like the one above, which are trying to express an eventful story filled with fabulous invention and literary ornamentation where the heroic walks along the severity of the tragic and the flourishing beauty of the lyrical. The zenith of this take on the narration of reality is well signalled by a quote found in this 1611 book called De historia. Para entenderla y escribirla, written by Luis de Córdoba. He points out that the best historical poets cover facts ‘with fabulous pretences, placing fables over truth like enamel over gold’, as Homer and Virgil once did, and he follows, ‘the principal part of the epic is a beauteous context of history, with wars and exploits of heroic kings and captains’ . Hence the poet conditions himself to the historian 10
and to history.
Now, I ask, what happens when the so-called poet, looses this structured civilized sanity, yet keeps his voice and pulse as one, unchanged? The manner he learnt how to transmit and capture sensations of enormous intensity is through the use of adorned narrative, formal opulence and ideological fervour. What happens once all this melts into the humid asphyxiating tribulations that are fermenting inside the ‘heroic’ errant pilgrim attacked by the condescending look of the tedious and monotonous jungle, always present, never offering; silence prior to execution?
Miguel de Cervantes noted this exhaustion of the mind in extremis. The one causing the exhaustion 11
was something as dense and perverse as the Amazonian world; the chivalry genre and the words of Feliciano de Silva that twisted the sanity of a ruined nobleman, Alonso Quijano, later known as Don
Quixote. Don Quixote and his imaginative, delirious madness is the prototype of fever-dreamer; a civil man that gave it all up after overdosing on his own dream-like obsession. There is something to be taken in order to start constructing a cohesive and coherent idea of the architecture that exists bridging total and complete detachment from what is meant to be and what it seems to be, from the story that by the use of tragi-comedic sarcasm broke and re-invigorated the ideas of the epic and the hero described before. More importantly, there are a series of questions that always deprive me of giving up this search for a glimmering intelligence overlooked by architecture as a solid where to echo aimless screeching desperate yearns: How did the Amazonian voyagers do it? Why did something, anything come out of this affair? Why is it so crystalline, clear and at the same time inaccessible and redundant? Ultimately, why is it more human than anything if it was violently deprived of its human character by the starvation and shattering of a dreamt obsession? Here I may conclude that, even in those dreams prior to the Arrival (once again, arriving is not venturing into the river, its not visual… Arrival is the moment when the Amazonian World can be seen as a tremendous body that disintegrates the rigid old
allowing reverberations, encompassing it all, and it remains unmoved due to its oblivious stance in relation to the opposition of forces (the two world views), the more the pilgrim enters, the stronger they get…until that last desperate yearn, loud enough to leave deep scars on the walls of this edifice of architecture, that from an embryo, which was created in the dreams prior to the arrival, it swallowed into a colossal giant, asleep until now! this is what gives consolatory strength, this final echo, needed to articulate the unreal, the AMAZON in Man.
Now, I shall go back to the literary prototype of fever-dreamer, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The beautiful naiveté of this man lies on the fact that all ‘his fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer’. It wasn’t the density of a natural landscape what drove him into madness, but an imponderable quantity of books. Either way, the Amazonian wanderer, driven by that obsessive desire for fame and fortune, in the eyes of God and his nation, does not differ at all from Don Quixote and his rambles, searching for dead ideals. Both of them signal the termination and fall of the idealized knight that overcomes and conquers with such easiness, always accompanied by the cross and the sword. Cervantes killed it in the literary fiction of the epic poem, and the Amazon subdued its real, physical vigour and character. The dying Don Quixote dictating his will, found in the second part of the book, is a crucial link to the Amazonian desperado in order to appreciate the breath-taking lucid intelligence that arises from a set of eyes that see what logic often defeats in inquisitional fashion:
‘Item: it is my will that with regard to certain monies held by Sancho Panza, whom, in my madness, I made my squire, (…) and if, when I was mad, I was part to giving him the governorship of the insula, now when I am sane, if I could give him the
governorship of a kingdom, I would, because the simplicity of his nature and the fidelity of his actions deserve it. (…) Forgive me, my friend, for the opportunity I gave you to seem as mad as I, making you fall into the error into which I fell, thinking that there were and are knights errant in the world. (…) I depart this life with qualms that I have been the reason he wrote them.’ (…) ‘ Here lies the mighty Gentleman who rose to such heights of valor that death itself did not triumph over his life with his death. He did not esteem the world; he was the frightening threat to the world, in this respect, for it was his great good fortune to live a madman, and die a sane.’ ––– DON QUIXOTE, MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
Said this, immortal passions, the vision of those two, previously referenced, diary entries are set in a mental context. The epigraph of Don Quixote makes explicit the contradictory character of the struggle between a madness inculcated by the over reading of honorable conquests undertaken by the heroic knights, and the utter absurdity of the deed, an odyssey lost in time and space. Here is where the Amazonian early conquistador this chapter aims to look at, fits right in; in the idealization of infinite abundance engraved in a heart (because they did not go into the jungle by the workings of their mind) moved by passion and faith, which get swallowed and cruelly digested by a place where the absurdity of their dreams appear to be in the presence of an indifferent creature offering no compassion, no God, no wealth… only FEVER.
Starting with Gaspar de Carvajal, a man of religious fervour, a man of images and prayers, a believer after all. He, as it was mandatory to have a man of God in at least one of the expedition vessels, embarked into the heart of darkness, of the mythical unconquered land of the Amazonas, the women warriors. Following the orders of Francisco de Orellana, the campaign, in search for the legendary ‘Land of Cinnamon’, succumbed to the miseries brought by hunger. Ironically, growth could be seen everywhere; death, consumption and murder were a constant vision, however, no food was to be found, no life to be taken, hence no tribes to be looted. The historical accounts of that voyage are of no importance here, what is astonishing in the words of Gaspar de Carvajal, is the bright descriptive quality of his articulation (writing, ink on paper). Like when Don Quixote returns to sanity in order to finely see himself in relation to the world his delirium had built around him, this Jesuit evaluates his self, confronted to a landscape where prayers do not gain a voice. Here, in the painful moment of gazing from inside out and being able to articulate a New World view which was forced in by torrents, washing it all away, a past, now mere traces; is where the purpose of the whole journey is hidden, in the calm breath, in the moment, not of sanity but of clarity; here, the immortality they, and also we, have been dreaming towards since we fell asleep might be found.
Stretching this observation, and putting it in perspective of an architecture that exists not in words or form, but as a silent provider; I see it as a temp-less temple, as a cathedral-less cathedral, allowing the aromas of lives lived previously to linger endlessly; finally I see the swinging thurible, unstopped, smoking it all, caressing the bodies that dip into it. The words of affirming despair felt and captured by Cravajal, and which were written in preterite, go like this:
‘To the second day we departed and left behind our peers, we were to get lost in the middle of the river, because the boat hit a stick and a board broke away, so we ended our day there as a consequence of being not close to the shore. (…) Because day after day no food nor people were to be spotted, by orders of the captain I gave mass like the ones given on a stormy sea, entrusting to Our Lord ourselves and our life, supplicating as unworthy, to be saved from such an impending voyage and doom; because, even if we wanted to go upstream, it was impossible due to the great water flow, for try to go on land was unconceivable, so that we were in great danger of death as a consequence of the great hunger we suffered, and looking for advice on what to be done, we talked about our afflictions and duties, it was agreed that we should choose between two evils the one the captain felt to be the least, which was go on and follow the river and die, and see that in him, trusting Our Lord would be accepting on preserving our lives until we could see our remedy. ‘ ––– GASPAR DE CARVAJAL
The landscape presents an inaccessible abundance of life, which is always present, always harming, never accepting or embracing. This extract from Gaspar de Carvajal diary depicts, very graphically, the exact moment when the civilized pilgrim that I have been so obsessively writing over, gives up to ‘Our Lord’, being the latter discharged of any previous meaning because what ‘Lords’ over life and death here is nothing but the vileness of Nature, never stopping and never looking back or forward. This is the start of the fever-dream; now once this lost soul has accepted the visions the jungle is presenting, fact or fiction matter no more. A specific outcome, or destiny is of no importance, here the voyager/pilgrim/wanderer embarks in the real odyssey, a journey not bounded to space or time restrictions, there is no past and no future, only visions, images of delirious character, total and crystalline, innocent and childishly cruel. Once the one that aimed to find and acquire what he most desired is seized by the intoxicating Amazonian nature, the way he engages with this new world is not restricted to his body, or individual being, finally he has become part of a grand play, tragic, also perfect. The cruel affairs of living in despair have become operatic in form, axioms of emotions, which cannot be deduced by rationally reducing their manifestations to legible theorems. In this jungle, growth and decay are displayed so intensely and violently that the only way to make sense while in feverish madness, is by the use and abuse of the impossible and the axiomatic. Hence, my next example, which is the link for the upcoming chapter, does this, again by the use of writing over paper. Gaspar Chillán el Irlandes, constructed, with the help of circulating popular stories, the existence and geographical position of a mystical city, lost in the middle of the jungle. Even though this legend has
been taken over many times, as El Dorado, I would rather look at the construction of an idea that suddenly sprouts in the middle of the jungle as an urban mirage, a tangible and liveable mirage, as I will later show. What is interesting for the progression of this text is the transition between articulating the forms of struggle of man as a civil being with the Amazon, and the realization of them as a product. This product is, after all, an articulation, which has lost all kind of ground, where values have been transmuted completely and where life as an individual term has been defaced and erased by the context. When I say that values had been transmuted, what I mean is that even though (wealth) Gold was still desired, now, once the fever dream caught on completely and God had succumbed to the delicacies of what lay hidden underneath dense layers of jungle, the value of the desired object was fixated on the story, on the fiction-image, on the possibility of enlarging its shine; not mere wealth, but obsession with its grand presence. The Amazon as a world is all about overwhelming presences. He, who ventured, has finally become a stranger to his own past, and ceased to be one in the eyes of the jungle; he has knelt down, fantasy-dream is finally inhabited. But now another stranger seems to want you to ignore his dreams As though they were the burden of some other (…)
––– THE STRANGER, LEONARD COHEN
– SLEEP-WALKING LIFE – THE LION’S MOUTH –
‘The Spanish have sought, what is a great continued province, with the Kingdom of Granada, discover el Dorado and the lake or large pond of Parima that is below the equator in whose Rivera is said to be the great city of Manoa, from whom they refer by such notable traditions, things of greatness, wealth and abundance; and in this, it has been lost many people, finances as the Council has seen; without up to now have been found more than a few Indians, who certify the Spanish, of having been in the city of Manoa and the greatness of it.’ 16
––– GASPAR CHILLÁN EL IRALANDES, ARCHIVO GENERAL DE INDIAS
Centuries pass and we place ourselves in the meeting of two of the greatest rivers known to us; Rio Negro and Rio Solimões. On this location a city emerged, first as myth then as miracle. Manoa, like Gaspar Chillán el Irlandes calls it, before finding its way among the dense jungle and its living creatures, was nothing but a promised fantastical future for the errant Amazonian wanderer, hopelessly cruising river channels that seemed to lead nowhere. It is 1890, the beginning of the Amazonian rubber boom, what used to be a river fortress made out of stone and mud, Forte de São José da Barra do Rio Negro, erected more than two hundred years ago and utilized in order to solidify Portuguese political power over the Dutch and Spanish colonial pressures and to spread a catechesis directed by Carmelites, Jesuits and Franciscan missionaries; is now a self-claimed Paris-of-the-Tropics. More than two hundred years of struggle and doomed faith have now passed without remorse, without any dynamic changes…the spirit of the newcomer evaporated away and his feverish articulations were archived and classified by the Inquisition as blasphemous transubstantiations. The colony has ceased to exist in the eyes of the Kingdom that sacrificed its men to retain it over the will of the all mighty jungle and its incessant overgrowths. Now, on paper, this area belongs to a newly formed Brazilian Republic (1889), however Nature is indifferent to the written word that comes from external political affairs, as it was a couple of centuries back, indifferent to the God that pretended to overlook from the skies. Manaus, before the last decade of the XIX century and the rubber boom, was a village where jungle drifters ended their journey and rich and poor, white, indigenous and crossbreed co-existed in the same place, under no extreme social pressures. This happened because, until then, no one tried to overcome the majesty pouring from the cacophony of wild voices, singing together, surrounding and caressing a town with no ambition of defying the totalitarian yoke of the Amazonian world, burdening dreams, once dreamt, with its terrifying asphyxiating powers. What ignited back the dream? A dream that has lingered the landscape since the latter was first confronted by the pilgrims mentioned up above; while this obsessive desire struggles against the devouring jungle, the one that has succumbed to the fauces of the leafy beast is able to create a ‘childof-despair’ which is in perfect equilibrium with the opera-like pulsations of the New World. If in the previous chapter the diary entry, a gliding quill over creased paper, was what came out in times of doomed discovery; now, two hundred years later, it is rubber and its price in Europe what has
triggered the fever-dreamer back into pursuing the impossible. A delusion of grandeur, opulence and economical and cultural development has substituted the gold for the sake of God that the conquistador so eagerly sought for. Manaus, now in 1890-1920, is to be considered the exotic capital of the southern hemisphere. Naturalists from the British Empire flood in, European industrialists settle in mansions so they can handle newly bought seringais (rubber tree plantations) and thousands of nordestinos arrive every month from provinces such as Paraiba and Acre in order to sacrifice their lives to the extraction of thick white sap. The rubber boom has started and the promise of abundant wealth hidden in the heart of darkness is back into the conscience of the Don Quixotian dreamer. This white Gold, which came in liquid form from the scared bark of the Hevea brasiliensis, had a series of magical properties that were of great use and value in the civilized world, where automobiles and other leisure goods were beginning to appear as mass-produced consumables. During this period, Manaus despatched regular shipments of manufactured rubber products to the growing European and American markets. This was made possible thanks to the lifting of port restrictions by Dom João VI, King of Portugal, in 1808. Speculative trade made Manaus believe in its own miraculous charm, which ended up in a tragic comedy, leaving behind ruins and carnage. A character to be seduced by in this opera is the one of the rubber-baron or seringalista. Not unlike the adventurous conquistador, this personage, that at first sight seemed to be merely moved by greed and capital, tragically drove himself into the doomed business of latex not only for the sake of profit, but also hypnotized by this promised land that gives nothing and takes it all. The desire of bending nature to ones will, tame it, befriend it and stand side-by-side, singing and squealing unisonous was obsessively dreamt, then pursued. Without those human dreams, the Amazon would lack of its self-referential autonomy and its mythical character that make it unique and immortal. This tension between dream and the oblivious stance of the jungle characterises Manaus, then in 1896 it finally became accessible for an audience, witnessing the expressive displays of this tragic struggle in the form of an Opera-House lighted up by the Operatic act (started as an Opera and then Cinema). The architecture, which finally was able to provide a general form of Amazonian-Man intelligence, was first present as a distant fortress, where those first written impressions of the fever-dreamer while cruising the landscape, referred to in the midst of their mad anguish. This architecture does not intervene dynamically in the affairs that were and are exclusively felt and acted out by the two main protagonists, the jungle and its, by now feverish, dreamer; but it simply offers an unalterable presence, which responds in itself, unmovable and unbreakable… this ‘wall’ is part of living. Architecture is not a protagonist here, nor the stage, the columns, the friezes and frescos, the ink and quill, the Vitascope projector and its running celluloid film. Here Architecture has to be an edifice and not a building, not reduced by finalities, otherwise it would have been squashed by the impositions of maddening jungle fevers which weighted over the weakened body. Hence, it is not theatrical; this is life in extremis, immersed into an anguish and despair caused by the impossibility of fulfilling the dream life has promised to be; impending death awaits, the jungle, always looking, never answering,
never offering, always displaying its vertiginous quantity of overgrowths and obscene wealth. Then, once one of the protagonists (the fever-dreamer) has given away its sanity to the terrible splendour of a land in a constant melee for survival, a moment of clarity suddenly breaks in, not unlike when light glides under the door guarding the lighted room. For the doomed adventurers of the previous chapter this enlightenment was, either the good willed words of accepting the rules set by the Amazonas (Gaspar de Carvajal), or the fantastical creation of futures always subjected to the inner madness of the jungle (Gaspar Chillán el Irlandes); both might seem lost and delusional, however it is the one and only moment were man and the Amazonian world coexist and are conveyed in the same product…they rise singing an unexpected duet. Architecture in this New World stands miraculously indifferent to the opera of forces, it provides an echoing surface for the last scene of the individual struggle. Ironically, in the case of these mad explorers, the rubber-baron and the conquering jungle-knight, their troubled yet beautiful relationship with the Amazon ends up like the final sung verse of Parsifal, the last of Richard Wagner Operas: Redemption to the Redeemer! And alas! Indeed redemption to the one that seeks to redeem, conquer and tame, the ending of this opera, that has repeated itself over and over again in the Amazonas, is perfectly applied to the dreamer in despair by the use of those words of Christian pity sung by the later Wagner. Redeeming is nothing but the ability to articulate this new world in the language of the old; when this is finally achieved, a new place is born, and a new future is forged. For in the articulation of the previous chapter architecture was only present as a reflective, haunting solid where the act could become accessible not as a whole, but as a set of fragmented inaccessible forms and images, which are operatic in substance, yet are trapped in hand written first person texts. As a consequence, the architecture of the Operatic Expression has been present in the relationship between man and the Amazon since it was first confronted in the XVI century. But, what do I mean by architecture in this context first of all? In what form does it appear at first? In order to start with the surgical dissection of the Teatro Amazonas as an architectural edifice, I must clarify the role of architecture in all these set of relationships that seem to be disposed from any traditional conception of what architecture should or could be. All along the given examples, I have been elaborating on the idea for an Architecture in the New World; in such a peculiar place like the Amazon. Here as said previously, there is no possibility of understanding architecture as a product created, imagined and thought by somebody that can refer to the world-context in a direct manner. This place emits a fever, whose curse weights over all ambitions that aim to conquer and transform. In this place, architecture as an edifice will stand in between those two already mentioned characters that by struggling against each other intend to give birth to a unique world view, only possible thanks to the extremity of a sensation, triggered from witnessing the erasure of everything thought as real and true. But, once again, what is architecture doing here, where is its stance? Architecture may be the will to move mountains, that presence that only responds once that last burst of passionate fever-anguish resonates all over the invisible edifice that Architecture as life has constructed all around the fever-dreamer and his world. Architecture is always present in our
lives; living sensations are conveyed and then expressed within the watchful eye, sometimes repressive others liberating, of the architecture of living. If in this essay architecture is conceived as ‘living’ [‘dreaming’], inhabiting a field, a horizon only responding to the extremity of sensing the impossible; because this feeling of despair, found in the words and the deeds of the timeless fever-dreamer, stretches the notion of living towards this unreachable, ever-present horizon. Here is where the space for architecture in this essay exists, in the action of the desperado trying to reach for the unimaginable resonant wall this horizon line appears to be, so he can make sense of the journey across this new world, the Amazonas, its landscapes, its creatures and their delirious roars. And we then ask… Mother where do you live? In the sky, the clouds, the sea…? Show me your face. Give me a sign. We rise…we rise. Afraid of myself, A God, he seems to me. What else is life but being near you? Do they suspect? Oh, to be given to you. You to me, I will be faithful to you. True. Two no more. One. One. I am… I am. ––– NEW WORLD, TERRENCE MALICK
In this intent is where both, we, him, and Nature Unchained can perform as one and none inside a form of material articulated expression, a traceable material form…an eternal form, then caressed and included in a shared place, which in my particular case, in the case of the Amazonas, is the Opera House of Manaus. Back to this historical period of rubber boom opulence, the fever dream that was captured by desperate plights imprinted on a piece of paper changes form and breaks the personal, individual level in order to allow the spectator understand and enter the intense emotional fervours, now performing in the form of Operas. The previously mentioned 1896 Opera-House went by the name of Teatro Amazonas. Inside this building resonate as one all those past, present and even future yearns that come from an individual heart. The necessity for an architecture that encompasses all feverdreams has finally landed. And by architecture I do not mean the building as such, no, architecture pre-existed the desire to materialize its solid existence. To become material does not mean to turn into a solid and vice versa. According to an English scholar the opera in Manaus, the Teatro Amazonas, is a spaceship, not built by human beings. He simply rejects all reports of its construction claiming they are government forgeries.
How, Walter asked, did the theatre end up in Manaus? I told him it must have landed there. The entire theory is interwoven with the legendary figure of an Indian Prince from Portuguese colonial times. Supposedly this price appeared very openly in those days and still appears, but only secretly, late at night, to stage his sexual orgies there, for only in that location does he succeed in having an erection. The beauty of all this is that a fever dream became a reality in the jungle and is now being transformed back into pure jungle fantasy.
It had to be an Opera House! nothing else could have ever made justice to the relationship men had with the jungle. Its mad opulence, its expressive gestures, all of them frozen on the façade and the frescos, all that European pictorial assemblage of Greco-Roman myths of excess bathed in music are superimposed over the soft image of tamed jungle, used as a backdrop, fake artistic conquest of what looks from the outside, unmoved, only activated once the Opera starts; baritones, sopranos tuning to perform, not only accompanied by an orchestra, which lies down in that Wagnerian pit, of brass and wooden instruments conducted by the spastic, yet melodic, swings of the baton, but above all by the sluggish damper, the Jungle, relentlessly smothering this musical mirage with fever, trapping it, seducing it, then making love to it…this is the Opera of the jungle and the jungle of opera… both axioms of emotions, lovers in contempt.
In 1892, Eduardo Gonçalves Ribeiro came to power as Governor of the Amazonas; he was determined to radically change Manaus, transform it into a cultural epicentre, a Paris of the Tropics. In these times, the elites of Manaus, enriched by rubber, which was sold extensively in Europe and America, were traveling to the greatest metropolises of the world, living in excess, sending their children to get educated in schools such as the Colégio Jouffret of Paris. However, this brutal wealth was coming from places never visited by those exotic decadent elites, the seringal, where that profitable white sap was being extracted; places that balanced between being considered as Heavens or as Hells. The jungle, like centuries before, was being dreamt, passionately desired, even worshipped, but only as framed brushstrokes depicting wild animals and rioting plants; all dissected. With this new government, Eduardo Riveiro started transforming the city, building European ‘fortresses’, opulent palaces only accessed by a handful of rubber-barons, foreigners and politicians. Those hermetic constructions, pharaonic in ambition, created a heavily segregated society, dooming the city’s future. One of these pharaonic buildings is the Teatro Amazonas. Standing tall on a plinth, overlooking the city, fortified stage of the art of music and social gatherings. It started as an obsession of this newly elected Governor, however the necessity to fulfil the European cravings of the elites, madly in Love with the culture of bourgeois leisure, very present at the end of the XIX century, made the project a solid reality. The design and building of this ‘urban miracle in the jungle’ was commissioned to the Italian Neo-Classical architect Domenico De Angelis. He elaborated the plan, based on the European Opera Houses existing at the time, marble from Carrara and Portugal and a large chandelier from
Paris were shipped to Manaus. It was set to be the jewel of the jungle city, a landmark emerging from the bowels of this isolating jungle, fed by the oceanic river. All these extravagances can really be perceived in the way the building tried to present itself internationally and locally, as the landmark of cultural progress in the Amazonas. The plinth makes the building a dominant presence, also indifferent towards all those racial and class tensions, surfacing the city around this period. It is as if it was specially conceived so it could stare, challenge, slay and defeat this jungle that constantly threats the city as a cultural metropolitan epicentre, reminding the latter of its savage past and impending return to where it was born…to myth, to madness. Another peculiarity of the Teatro Amazonas is every single ornamental detail, consciously mixing the natural opulence of the rioting jungle and the musical, tragically expressive European figures. Those characters, mostly composed by muses and satyrs, are dancing in totally unaware of a passive and shy jungle, only there to please the eye of the ‘exoticist’. This reminds me of the preliminary vision those first errant jungle-knights had over the Amazonas, Christianizing it, imposing a condescending catechesis over the distant landscape only known through second and third hand accounts. Now, in the XIX century, Culture has substituted Faith. However the same human attitude of arrogance surges, making the Teatro Amazonas a useless piece of non-architecture. The Architecture only reveals itself while music inhabits the scene, awakening the jungle, as an emotional counterpart, and appropriating all past slumbered dreams of despair into the musical score. Finally, a common voice can be heard… and what allows this to happen is the Architecture, not of the Teatro, but of the individual articulation; they all shared one; it had arrived with those ancient faithful conquistadors, lost in fever and despair. But, let me get back into the Opera. The Teatro was first set to come to life the 31 of December 1896. The entire city of Manaus was talking about the much-awaited inauguration of the lyrical season, performed by the Companhía Lírica specially hired and brought from Europe, in order to fill this Opera with the music that will allow, for no more than five hours at a time, those multiple lost and forgotten voices trapped in the jungle to perform side by side all those outbursts of out-scaled emotions – emitted by the opera act and the jungle presence - . The first great performance of an Opera was done on a Thursday night. The Teatro was displaying a great set of lights, illuminating the façade, make it all dramatically spectacular. The humid weather soaked fancy night outfits with dripping sweat, make it all wet and probably uncomfortable. Gentleman wearing their hats and suits traveling in carriages, which were constantly circulating up and down, congesting the entrance to the building and on the distance the average population, witnessing with wonder the tremendous display of ridiculous European sophistication, forced and feverishly sick. This night, Thursday, seventh of January 1897, the Teatro Amazonas staged its first Opera: Amilcare Ponchielli’s ‘La Gioconda’, with a libretto written by Arrigo Boito and based on a novel by super popular Victor Hugo. Here, lets imagine all this music unfolding, the acts presenting the plot; The Lion’s Mouth at first, set during Carnival celebrations, a state spy lustfully watches La Gioconda as she leads her blind mother across the Piazza. He, the one that overlooked, is then firmly rejected by the young woman; as a result in a fist of frustrating impotence he accuses her old mother, of witchery. Somehow, the accusation lays flat, yet a new set of love entanglements break in and out. Now the main action of the Opera lies
on two characters, Enzo Grimaldi (in this jungle night embodied by Vincenzo Maina) and Laura Adorno (performed by Berti Cichini), wife of a member of the Venetian Inquisition, Alvise Badoero. Those two characters happen to be lovers and plan to scape in order to find a land where their love can be finally fulfilled. Enzo arranges with a gondolier, Barnaba, to bring Laura to him, however this last one sends Alvise, Lauras husband, a letter explaining her infidelity. Like in every good plot they are caught and disgrace falls upon Laura, in part fault of the lover-rival, Gioconda, both fighting for the heart of Enzo, interference with the gondolier that was supposed to bring Laura to Enzo, Barnaba. Once captured, Laura’s husband insists she must die from poisoning herself; suicide, so Hell awaits, but once again Gioconda, which had been following Laura, swops the deadly poison with one that induces the taker into death-like symptoms. In the last act, The Orfano Canal, the madness and emotion of the story unleashes, a whole set of discoveries are made, murders are planned, the two lovers Enzo and Laura succeed in eternalizing their love, and, what is the most beautiful of all, a redeemed Gioconda chooses death rather than giving her body and soul to the traitor gondolier, Barnaba. She stabs herself, to the eyes of the frustrated Barnaba, screaming at the lifeless body ‘Last night your mother offended me. I drowned her’, and the lifeless body showing the same indifference and contempt as nature in the Amazon shows the passionate dreamer.
Music stops after three hours and forty minutes, curtains close and spectators leave. This is the very first performance ever given in the Teatro Amazonas, and the official birth of a New World architecture that had broken the limiting space of the personal expressions found in those, previously cited, diary entries, in order to form part of a choral voice, unifying and articulating all fever-dreams as one. Here is where the architecture of the operatic expression takes a definite form, in an accident enlightened by the expressive plot of the Operatic narrative. The Opera has performed and, as a consequence, the awaking of the Amazonian jungle is heard and felt, presenting itself as a counterpart, both sharing the same emotional drives and allowing for all those useless, blasphemous and mad articulations, which even though they were physical in form no one could access them in any way; to be understood as a set of expressions sharing a common life-sensation, a common language and a common sickness of fever and desperation; all of that made possible by the presence of the total art of Opera resonating all over the landscape this labyrinthian essay painfully aims to place and understand in relation to architecture, previously described in the image of the Don Quixotian man in despair stubbornly trying to reach for the Horizon Line in order to find an answer, only given as an echo by that presence calmly laying on the other side of that Line. Then…
Excess revealed itself as truth. Contradiction, the bliss born of pain, spoke out of the very heart of nature. And so wherever the Dyonisian prevailed, the Apollinian was checked and destroyed. But, on the other hand, it is equally certain that wherever the first Dyonisian onslaught was successfully withstood, the authority and majesty of the Delphic god was exhibited as more rigid and menacing than ever. ––– FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
Under the light of Amilcare Ponchielli’s Opera, performed that night in the Teatro Amazonas , it is 20
necessary to stress that the building is not the architecture, no! the existence of architecture preexisted since the day the first fever-dreamer was able to articulate this New, untamed, world by the use of forms of expression that belong to the Old, cruelly subdued and slumbered, past. In this act, like I have stated previously, exists the space where architecture becomes visible and active, as the wall surfacing that Horizon, compassionately echoing to the plights of men and allowing for an individual expression, that will immortalize the delusions of the errant jungle-knight. However, this date, Thursday the 7 of January 1897, is quintessential for entering and understanding the Amazonian th
human product, because, finally, all those past and even future echoing pleas, which resulted in articulations dissed by the civilized inquisitional world as mad or impossible, and that have been, up to now, aimlessly lingering above the thick impenetrable canopy of trees as unheard reverberations, now, once and for all, on this humid night of January, interlock in order to share a common stage, and to express all of their, previously misguided, passionate feverish emotions as one. Hence, we witness the birth of a shared Intelligence, only made possible thanks to the ever-present body, the slow answerer, the one that disdains to please and is conscious of no witness around it, which lived oblivious of the existence of any opposing forces and which responses in itself; fatalistic, yet never hiding, always presenting a mute surface that does not respond dialectically to anything nor to anyone, however ignites expressive hopeless actions, of Operatic emotional dramatic gravity and overwhelmed forms. This is my Architecture in the New World.
However, this mad affair does not die with the downfall of the performances of Opera as social and cultural agitators in Manaus, this Operatic intensity has been taken into account by the new art of Cinema. Being its first ever projection (in the Amazon) inside this Opera House, now refurbished for an evening as a Cinema, where beams of light had substituted the dominant sounds of musicaldramas.
– BATHED IN LIGHT –
Silvino Santos, a Portuguese immigrant trained as a photographer that lived in the Manaus of the Rubber Boom decadence is the author of the film that gave the Teatro Amazonas the opportunity to transform, and allow cinema to become the space, like Opera did previously, where individual expressions perform as one, gaining that shared form of intelligence. The film was funded by a wealthy Peruvian rubber baron, Julio Cesar Araña, and it was shot with a Pathé camera imported from Paris. The film had a very rough quality, filled with over-exposed images of the river and its fishes, trees full of flocks of birds, that once put on flight they covered the whole of the skies. He travelled the river, up and down to make this film, an arduous job due to the conditions found in the Amazon. In order to process the celluloid strips, this wild filmmaker of the Amazon had to wake up at 4am where he could find the perfect mild temperatures and relative darkness suitable for the processing of what he had filmed. Cinema had to adapt to Nature here. Once finalized, in 1922, it was projected, using a Thomas Edison Vitascope projector imported by by the Edna & Wood Miscellany Company, inside the Teatro Amazonas. The name of the film was ‘In the Land of the Amazonas’ (No Paiz das Amazonas). This, like I said before, was the very first projection of 21
a moving picture regarding the Amazon. However, the way it shocked the audience was not in the same childishly innocent way the moving train of the Lumiere Brothers did, here, the immensity of the jungle was pictured with a crude brutality. If when an Opera played inside the Teatro all the ornamentation came alive, now, in 1922, those jungle motifs complemented what the beam of light was showing on the surface of the white wall or cloth. Even if the show was disliked, it set a precedent for another film that will help to define the formal intelligence of the Amazon in man as an accessible and valuable way of seeing the world, particularly, this specific world.
We would have to wait sixty years for Werner Herzog
to go and shoot in Iquitos, Manaus, the
Camisea River,… in order to revive the real harshness and beauty of a product bounded to this landscapes of hostility and lack of harmony. ‘Fitzcarraldo’ , filmed between 1979 and 1981 is where I 23
will conclude this work. In many ways this film can be considered as the total and final reconciliation between Nature and Opera in film. Every single aspect that I have commented while on the writing of this essay is brilliantly depicted frame by frame. The struggle of making this film shows the real character of the Amazonian World, and the thin line that separates dream from facts. This film illustrates this more than anything, even if it exists as fiction, it was a fever dream that turned into reality in the jungle, and it was then returned back into pure jungle fantasy in order to be revived some other time.
‘Kinski always says it's full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It's just - Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and... growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country. It's still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is - is the dinosaurs here. It's like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever... goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It's a land that God, if he exists has - has created in anger. It's the only land where - where creation is unfinished yet. Taking a close look at - at what's around us there - there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of... overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle - Uh, we in comparison to that enormous articulation - we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban... novel... a cheap novel. We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication... overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the - the stars up here in the - in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.’ –––WERNER HERZOG
Cinema has been the last nook for the fever dream to be articulated within the structure of a crystalline product not bounded to any burdening imposing reality that fails to act upon, appreciate and access the world view that characterizes this Amazon. And, I see that the beauty of this all is that from an articulation pointlessly aiming to convey a life-sensation of immeasurable proportions in written language, chained to the individual soul, and only accessed by this last one, by the feverish creator; the fascinatingly terrible relationship between the dreamer and the Amazon transitions into a place where all those dreams are being Operatically expressed as one and all to an audience, forming a complete new world view, and as a consequence a new conception of the historical role that architecture has in the lives of the ones that called for it while drowning in despair, fever and delusion, henceforth the only thing that gave them compassion was their voice echoed on the fatalistic surface. Operatic is this whole plot, this repetitive madness, this (hi)story; architecture was simply there, present, like it was for the totality of our living affairs. Beyond good and evil, not judging, only affirming its presence, a never-ending sunrise, lighting it all.
–EPILOGUE– THE SPINNING TOP
I made you travel in circular movements around a fixed axis. From one stranger to the other. All are but one. Fever-Dreamers in despair, longing for something solidly real to answer their pleas. Impossible. Mirage. Miracle. All Blasphemy. Grace gave way to Nature. Faith to Fantasy. Culture to Opulence. The errant rack floated, unable to dock, unable to find land. Trees are kings. The river stays sepia. It is, again, impossible. Given up; the harmony promised by God does not respond. Forgotten. Slayed What is despair but losing the eternal? There is no love displayed, nothing to be taken, and all to be given. What is left? Was it all doomed from the beginning? The only way to live is if you render yourself as immortal. How? Starving soul. Prior to total detachment from the world, scream as loud as you can. Stretch your arms, dislocate your shoulders, reach for the Horizon. Keep yearning. At the end of the Line there lies the fatalistic wall. The Architecture of Living. The living of architecture.
Yes! You can hear it now, get the graphite ready, your own voice is coming back. It’s heard in the form of multiple repeating echoes from the silent provider, The one oblivious of the existence of violent Oppositions Disdaining to please, a law among laws. Echo is what shelters the dreamer from loosing his individual soul. Hence, he articulates the world he sees, his destiny and his misery. This in One. Individual expression. Mad delusion, which goes nowhere, keeps reverberating above the landscape. Centuries pass. Unable to spin like the top does. A red and yellow top. So far this expression is clumsy, inaccessible. Insane. Meanwhile Architecture keeps offering. Not changing anything. Not assisting anyone. Just offering. Thousands of individual echoes keep reverberating. Still unable to spin as one. Yellow and Red are still yellow and red. Relentlessly, echoes fall upon the Wall, which surfs across the Horizon. Until, on a Thursday night, the throw of the top is given the right spin. A spin guided by the sounds and rhythms of Music. The metal tip hits the ground and the yellow and red stripes start melting into One. Orange. Solid body, perfect. This image signals the moment when all those aimless errant reverberating echoes, Unify in a common form of expression. They vibrate as one.
Conjoint Intelligence. All made possible by the Slow Answerer. Patient due to fatalism. Compassionate due to fatalism. And in this achievement lies the role and power of Architecture. In its erosion. In its timeless substance. In its eternal projection. In it human character. And a New World is forged. New rules, fresh ways. The architecture of the Operatic expression has finally gained consistence. Legitimacy. A visible imposing stance. Pride. Victory over weight. Immortal. Eternally surfacing the Amazon, which has finally accepted it into its world. We commenced by entering, now, we finish by inhabiting.