It appears that the challenges of site-specific projects lies in the second part of its
hyphenated name, ‘specific’, which is of course where Plǝt- ran into its first bump on
the road upon arriving in Madrid, fresh from Amsterdam, cards in hand, ready to gift
Siete y Medio to the local community. Named after the card game commonly played
in Spain, Plǝt- was ready to slip contemporary art into the little blank spaces of
every day life. But putting contemporary art into the hands of those mildly amused
at its existence doesn’t take hold as seamlessly as we imagined.
Tucked at the bottom of a 20minute descent from Atocha train station, Casa del
Reloj hosts the neighborhood’s elderly community in its hazy, warm sunrooms. The
frosted glass defuses the Spanish winter light throughout its two-spaced room.
Marble-topped tables and dark-stained wooden chairs are arranged in neat rows
across the tiled floor. Laminated stickers reserve half the tables for playing cards.
I know that I am not really meant to be here. The 20cent price difference on my
coffee tells me. The 50-year age gap between the youngest patron and myself tells
me. The Spanish sign saying ‘only for those with a community card’ tells me. And yet
I am still made welcome. The staff cheerfully misinterpret my only Spanish sentence
and as I sip a variation of my desired beverage, singles sip hot chocolates and read
papers; groups of friends drink light coloured beers and play cards, tongues out,
fingers licked to pry well-used, well-known Spanish cards from hands to table to
play their part. I take to the table I’ve been occupying all week, my French playing
cards laid out in a game of solitaire. And while the most noticeable difference of my
card deck is the painterly fragments of Heidi Howard’s work across the deck, the
crucial detail separating them from this context is the French symbols.
Despite the discrepancy, Siete y Medio starts its slow dissipation behind information
desks and into the cracks of translation. The seven decks gifted to Casa del Reloj are
not taken away, but do disappear. And the 7 editions of 20 we have in our bags
begin to follow suite. Each deck used to bring attention to Casa del Reloj, seven
fragmented artworks begin to play themselves across Supersimetrica and Madrid.
In Japanese culture, the handing over of business cards has a specific ritual played
out every time a card is given or received. At Supersimetrica, Siete y Medio acquired
a similar response. Upon sharing the project, each hand receiving a deck
spontaneously began to open the box, mid-sentence, fingers excited to explore the
parcel they suddenly found. And as conversations about community, unity,
integration were told, eyes began absorbing one art piece or another, piece by piece,
cutting through the deck in conversational pauses and cracks. Our own experience
of Casa del Reloj, in which we played every afternoon, becomes a part of our
description of the project. We describe the activities, the atmosphere, the people.
We describe its particularity to Madrid. And all the while, fragments of artworks are
flipped through, or laid out in rows on tables and flat surfaces, humanity’s tick to
find connections spurring on each potential moment of recreational collage.
I’m back at Casa del Reloj and I’m generally ignored. As are my cards, my phone, my
ereader and my fast-paced writing. I don’t disturb them they don’t me. Siete y Medio
is around but not seen. I’m a guest and as long as I make no demands, clean my table
and try rudimentary Spanish, they leave me be. And why shouldn’t I leave them too?
There is nothing lacking here. The cards they use are functional, invisible, a tool to
keep their friendships in motion, propelling them out of their houses and into small
talks. The few who want, shuffle 20 metres across the car park to check out the
contemporary art before returning to their usual paths, the ones their feet know so
well that they navigate themselves, minds and eyes spared for the faces of friends,
for topics tangling the tips of their tongues.
The image of Fina Anjou, Lennart Constant, Jack Matthew Heard, Heidi Howard,
Elias Nijma, David Ostrowski and Alexander Tillegreen’s works spotting across
this sunlit room fades, isolated to the occasional game of solitaire. But while this
image fades, another appears, of slow, time-treading activities seeping across
Madrid, Spain, Europe, the Globe. I imagine decks of cards dispersing into bags and
drawers, into rarely visited corners of minds. And while this community in Delicias
Madrid continues, day in day out, to meet, play cards, drink chocolate, drink beer; I
imagine that on unexpected empty afternoons, in electrical blackouts, at the gates of
delayed flights, that Siete y Medio reappears, across the world, in pockets of time, as
a work presenting the invitation to play.