The Day of the Stranger
Pinturas Del Fin Del Mundo is Patricia Iglesias’s first solo exhibition at Sears-Peyton Gallery. This installation of recent oil paintings and accretive ceramic sculptures is on view through February 23, 2019. With “paintings of the end of the world” apocalyptic visions born from the recognition and residue of personal and political anxiety manifest into tremulous abstracted masses of color and form. These paintings and ceramics were in part inspired by the story "The Day of the Stranger" by Gonzalo Senestrari.
Patricia Iglesias, "Pinturas Del Fin Del Mundo" Installation, 2019
The Day of the Stranger, From “Goodbye, Humanity"
The 17th of January 2019 humanity will say goodbye to that which it has known as its existence. A black hole known as L170-C0, will enter direct contact with planet earth. The result is unknown, although many have theorized. The most rational ones are calling it the last day of humanity, while others think it is the making of a God, and that after this day they will know eternity.
Something is certain, on the seventeenth day of the month of January of the year 2019, rationality will abandon humanity, once again…
Barbara had two very efficient ways of waking up in the mornings. The first was to program the alarm of her cell phone to the specific time she needed to be up, to the sound of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. In those occasions when she would lose the battle and give in to sleep a couple more minutes, she would do it without any guilt, since she knew the sun would be in charge of finishing the job. She had placed her bed in a way that the glimmer of the morning would come through the enormous window and hit directly on her face. The curtains didn’t exist; it had been long since they had existed. Michel had been in charge of destroying them, with his feline claws and his underestimated tenacity. Barbara had wanted to live with a cat since she was three, but it had been twenty-one years later that she had felt ready enough to adopt Michel. She had assigned him this name because the cat had arrived in her life during a phase where she would only listen to Michel Polnareff; for six months all other music had lost its meaning. Michel was about to enter his eighth year of life. He had been a very slim cat in his youth, agile and extremely grumpy.
Patricia Iglesias "Pinturas Del Fin Del Mundo" Installation, 2019
After he had been fixed he had started to get fat, and started to slowly lose his agility, however he had been able to keep a good dose of bad temper.
That morning the sun had been completely in charge of waking her up. The night before Barbara had decided not to set the cell phone alarm; music had once again lost its meaning for her.
It took her twenty minutes to get up, and then she called Michel, even though she knew there was a good possibility he would not appear.
Michel had escaped the night before, even though ”escape” had not been the right word. Barbara had left the kitchen window open, she had wanted to give her roommate the chance to live the last day of freedom, and that was what the cat had chosen, to live some new adventure while his nine lives could still serve their purpose.
Freedom, that was the excuse she would repeat over and over as not to feel guilty for spending the last day away from Michel. After all, she hadn’t been ready to live with a cat, she thought before getting up from the bed and heading towards the bathroom, to get ready to live her last day with a stranger.
Given the circumstances humanity was facing; there were different social groups that had come up with ideas on how to live that last day in a special way. Weeks before, during an existential crisis, Barbara had decided to sign up for one called The Day of the Stranger. The idea was to spend your last day with a complete stranger that had been selected at random; and it wasn’t the worst idea humanity had for that last day.
Patricia Iglesias, El Recuerdo, 2018
Barbara had already made up her mind, mainly because she didn’t wanted to say goodbye to the world alone, but mostly because she didn’t know anyone whom she wanted to die with. She thought that was the real definition of loneliness: not to know anyone whom to want to die with. In her desperation, she had let destiny chose for her, and that is how she met Hervé.
Hervé‘s motive was exactly opposite to Barbara’s. He knew exactly who he wanted to spend that day with, who he wanted to spend everyday with, it was only physically impossible. As impossible as it was to get away from that black hole which his life had become since his memories had started making more sense than his present.
Trying to get as close as possible to the impossible, Hervé had created a social experiment with the name of The Day of the Stranger. A total of two thousand three hundred and fifty two people had signed up for it. The only rule was to submit a photograph, a phone number and area of residence via email. From all the photos submitted, Hervé selected Barbara’s to be his accomplice and his victim. He chose her for her eyes, her gaze that caressed the impossibility he wanted to reach, and he was determined to reach it even if that meant to control chance.
They met a little after 9am at the meeting point destiny had assigned them; a small country house outside the city, with a field so vast it seemed to never end. Barbara drove till the gas tank was empty, she then took down her bicycle from the roof of the car, she crossed her bag on her shoulders and she pedaled until she arrived to her destination. Hervé was waiting for her there, standing at the door, with a cigarette in his fingers and a glass of wine in his other hand. At a distance Barbara thought the stranger was not even thirty, but as she got closer she started to notice details that made him older, like the purplish shadows under his eyes, or the bunch of white strands that where running through his blond hair.
Patricia Iglesias, "Pinturas Del Fin Del Mundo" Installation, 2019
“Living this morning as it was the last one?” Was the first thing Barbara said when she had him in front of her.
It took Hervé a couple of seconds to understand she was referring to his peculiar breakfast.
He looked down at his glass and then towards Barbara’s eyes, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Its been many mornings that I live as if they where the last ones” he responded.
Even though he said this words with a smile, Barbara noticed the pessimism that his words carried.
“Do you want to come in?” he asked
“I don’t know,” she answered as she took her bag off her shoulders and placed it by her feet.
“I don’t think so.”
“I am not going to hurt you,” he said before leaning his wine glass towards his lips.
“I am not afraid of suffering” Barbara lied “Not today.”
“So then what are you afraid of?” Hervé wanted to know.
Barbara had to have an inner conversation before responding to his question.
“The unlimited power people have to become bland “
“Maybe your taste buds are very demanding” Herve replied as he got close to the window and leaned his body inside of the house; he brought back a bottle of wine half empty/half full. He refilled his glass and made the bottle disappear again behind the window. He got closer to Barbara and gave her the glass as an offering. She received it in silence as she looked at the purple liquid wondering when had been the last time she drank wine. She couldn’t find any memories of it, not because they hadn’t existed, but because all of her body, all of her organs, all of her neurons and cells where too busy in the intense and determining present as to take a trip to the past.
Barbara took a sip of wine and her taste buds felt at ease.
“My name is…” she tried to say, but was brusquely interrupted by Hervé.
“No! Don’t tell me your name !”
“ You are taking this thing of spending the last day with a stranger too seriously, don’t you think” Barbara said
“Somewhat” he replied.
“Could I at least know your name?”
Barbara waited silently for Hervé to keep on talking, but he didn’t.
“Are you not going to tell me your name?’ Barbara insisted.
“Hervé, are you sure you are not going to kill me?”
He let a smile be seen before he answered.
“Anyways you will be dead before the day ends.”
“Yes but I don’t want to be murdered on my last day of life.”
“I promise not to do it.”
“Good “She said and took another sip from the glass while reflecting out loud. “I didn’t think it was going to be such a chilly morning.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come inside?”
“No, I don’t want to go inside. I like feeling the cold.” She explained him, as she gaze the extensive field that surrounded her. “Fuck, I’ll miss the cold.”
“The absence of warmth.” Hervé whispered.
“That you will miss the absence of warmth. Cold doesn’t exist. I mean, it exists but is a state of warmth. It’s actually its absence. It's only a name used to classify the fact.”
“Like all words are.“ Barbara added.
“And you?” She asked as she returned him the glass of wine.
“Yes, what things will you miss?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I find it easier to concentrate in the things I don’t like about the world.”
“Mainly because they outnumber the ones I do like, although in part because it helps me to confront the idea that I will stop existing.”
When he finished talking, he took a sip from the glass of wine and he then took a couple of drags from the cigarette that was being consumed in his fingers.
“In that case, what are the things you dislike from this world?” Barbara asked.
She frowned as a result of confusion and intrigue.
“You don’t like to exist?”
“Existence is a weight that is with us our whole life. It’s a debt. A loan that sooner or later we have to return.”
“And then…we no longer exist, we only remain as memories in others memories that will also stop to exist.”
“You don’t think there is something else waiting for us afterwards?”
“I think we are too egotistical to completely accept the idea that we might no longer exist one day. But I try to constantly remind myself that, from the moment we are born, our whole life is about ceasing to exist.”
Barbara was silent as she looked at the yellowish field. Hervé gave his cigarette another drag, and then he rubbed it against the sole of his shoe to extinguish it.
“Do you want to lay down on the earth?” Barbara asked without moving her eyes from nature.
“You really like the cold, don’t you?”
“Yes, I really like when warmth is absent.” She replied as she started walking towards a herbaceous and thick patch of land on the planet earth.
Hervé got closer to the window and put the rest of the cigarette on the windowsill, he put half his body in to be able to reach the bottle. When he turned his head, it took him a couple of seconds to find Barbara. She was lying down on Earth, with her eyes looking at the rest of the universe. He sat next to her in a lotus position, and let the bottle between his legs.
“It doesn’t look dangerous at all.” She said
“The universe. “She explained, “It does not look dangerous.”
“Don’t let yourself be fooled, the universe is not a happy ending story.”
Barbara took a look at him.
“I think it's time for me to accept that I am going to spend my last day with a pessimistic stranger, aren’t I?” She joked.
“It could have been worst, you could have ended up spending the last day with a serial killer who had wanted to say good bye to this world with his biggest master piece.”
“I’m starting to hear a bit of optimism in your words.” Barbara said ironically.
Hervé smiled at her, as he got lost in her eyes, and in his memories. His eyes started to be invaded by tears, but he didn’t allow for them to fall. Barbara, observed him silently, for a moment she thought of asking if he was ok, then she realized it was a stupid question to ask on this last day, on any other day.
“Do you want me to tell you what things I don’t like about the world? “ She asked him as to be able to communicate with Hervé in his same language.
He nodded, and extended the glass of wine to her. She leaned forward and received it. She drank, and thought of all the things that would make a better world if they didn’t exist.
“I don’t like raisins, or the sounds of construction or destruction I also dislike the dance in which headphones intertwine inside of my bag, neither the subjects of conversation of the majority of people. I don’t like to go to sleep; and I don’t like lies. I think what I dislike the most from this world are lies. Although it maybe a close tie with raisins, I really think they are disgusting.”
“Yes, actually raisins and lies can be very disappointing.” He added.
“Can we be honest with each other, Hervé?”
“You mean in general?”
“You and I, until the world ends. Can we be honest?”
“Its not so simple.”
“Yes it is. It only requires telling the truth.”
“Truth is not something so easy to define, mainly because it has infinite definitions.”
“I am not asking you to talk to me with a universal and absolute truth. I am only asking you to tell me your truth.”
“You are not going to like my truth.”
“Well, then it will be one more thing to add to the list.” She responded. “If I let chance decide who I was going to spend the last day in this world with, it was to be able to experience what it is to be able to interact with someone in a completely sincere way.”
“Ours is already not a sincere relationship, nor it has been decided by chance.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I chose you.” Hervé confessed. “I chose your eyes.”
“Hervé, your truth is being a bit confusing.”
Before continuing with his conversation, Hervé grabbed the cigarettes and lighter from the pocket of his jacket. Took a cigarette, put it between his lips, then he lit it and smoked.
When he started talking, he couldn’t look her in the eyes.
“I only wanted to feel I was living my last day with her, even if it meant only a small part of her, her eyes; your eyes.”
It took Barbara a couple of seconds to digest what she was hearing.
“The day of the Stranger is a lie?”
“Not in its totality.” Hervé explained. “In fact, in this very moment there are two thousand three hundred and fifty people that are living their last day with a complete stranger, and I can assure you they where all chosen by chance.
“And you and I?”
“We are a lie, death and your eyes united us. I am sorry, chance had nothing to do with us. “
“ I guess everyone’s.”
“Hervé, whose death?” Barbara asked again this time with a smaller dose of patience.
“I even thought of asking you if I could call you by her name.” As he finished saying this, he collapsed to the ground and his gaze got lost in the sky. “Something is happening.“
Barbara looked up and she discover what Hervé was talking about. The blue sky had stared to turn a lighter shade of pink in front of Hervé and Barbara’s hypnotized eyes. They remained in silence and let their senses be dazzled by the universe. She was the first to move her eyes away from the sky and towards him. She had to ask him something, she didn’t quite know what; she formed the thought in her head as she said it out loud.
“I want to know about her.” Barbara said.
Hervé tilted his head and looked at her. He recognized that look in her eyes, for an instant he felt understood.
“She…” He paused, and put his head back in the ground. ”In a way it was hers, the idea to spend the last day with a complete stranger. She always used to say that if it were her choice, she would spend her last day with a stranger, because on one hand, she wouldn’t have to say good-bye to anyone, and on the other she would be in the company of someone. That’s how she was; she would think of those kinds of things. And one day she died for thinking too much.”
Barbara lay down next to Hervé and once again her eyes were lost in the pinkish sky.
“I don’t think you had any control over us meeting, I also don’t think something like destiny exists. I see this sky, and I think neither of us had control over this moment, bu that we encounter each other at the same point in space-time.”
“There is big difference between causality and chance.” Said Hervé.
“No, there isn’t.” She answered. “That’s what people don’t understand. The universe is chance, and chance is something one can’t control. You can only flow with it, or be dragged by it.” She paused as she noticed he was staring at her. “My name is Barbara, but this is the last day of humanity, so you can call me whatever you wish to call me.”
Barbara rested the wine glass on her chest and remained silent, with her eyes towards the sky, as she was realizing that she was really saying goodbye to her existence next to a complete stranger, as strange as the universe was, as strange as she herself was.
Patricia "Pinturas Del Fin Del Mundo" Installation, January 2019
About Patricia Iglesias
Patricia Iglesias (b. 1974) was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After apprenticeships with Pablo Edelstein and Philip Pavia, in Argentina and Italy respectively, Iglesias moved to the United States to study first at the Savannah College of Art and Design and subsequently at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Iglesias has participated in numerous group and solo shows, both in the United States and Argentina. Currently, she lives and works in New York City.
About Gonzalo Senestrari
Gonzalo Senestrari was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1989. His first steps in theatre were in 2010 with the play “Los fracasados” (“The failing ones”). He has written and directed numerous plays : “Yo mate a papa Noel”; “Beirut Boulevard”; "Semen en los ojitos”; “Tiernas Criuaturas.” He was awarded the Tirso Molina of Spain Prize, and his work has been performed in Buenos Aires and Mexico. He is currenlty working on a saga of five volumes, Academias de Artes Marcianas”. It mixes present history, magical realism and conspiracy theories about the Illuminati.He lives and works in Buenos Aires with his cat Mapache.