The Liquid Country of Memory
Those who were born near the water will always live with it close to them, even if it is only in the liquid country of memory. Marguerite Duras was fond of saying: "I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of water. My hometown is a town of water." For this reason, even the phenomenal destruction that water can cause is seen through a fascinated artistic eye. With its attentive beauty, the tsunamic water transformed the exotic landscape of the castigated Japanese geography, turning it into a storm out of a painting by J. M. W. Turner, a notable painter of tempests. For several days afterwards, from the liquid epicenter itself, we saw over and over live shots of the anticipated end of the world, with television crews flying above in helicopters to capture, right from the start, the newly occurred disaster, trying not to miss a single detail, since the worst catastrophes also bring the highest ratings. It is clear that when it arrives, the "end of the world" --- the material apocalypse that has been announced so many times --- could be covered on open television, which not even in these circumstances would transmit without commercials. Even those without cable or satellite television will be able to see it.

Japan is such a mysterious land that water wants to get in so that it can get to know it. A liquid ghost surrounds it. Japan is an archipelago of water surrounded by islands that do not suffer from thalassophobia (fear of the sea). This Nipponese territory is one of the ruins of the sea in all of its possible forms. It is water self-taught epidemic, like a force governed by uneasiness. During the Japanese cataclysm, and to show the ease with which the visual abolition of words can be achieved, the intrusion of technology with panoptic aspirations --- aided by stationary cameras and the proliferation of cell phones (today every citizen is a universal witness, a thief of instants with visual posterity included) --- allowed us to observe the gradual unfolding of nature's actions from different angles, with images coming from a vacuum in the making, images that were filmed both during and after the destruction.

They were images at the disposal of the remote control, but not to have them under control, since the visuality that they favored did not include explanations, or expiations. Dramatizing the results of its mortal crossword puzzle, the sea came forth, motivated by the fact that it was being seen in its roiling state through an electrode screen, angry with those who were about to die and who were in its movie. This film was in the horror category, not a B movie but rather a triple A, a blockbuster along the lines of a reality show. We learned, if we did not already know it, how fast, how very fast the transition can be from the indifference of agitated water's noise to the difference it produces when it is heard and seen.

This time, just like always, nature, in its renegade insanity, brought about a locus that, as might be supposed, was not amoenus. On the crust of Japanese territory, a salad of islands adrift, a physiognomy in movement felt good, just exactly as it was. It was a watery Hiroshima, a liquid atomic mushroom. Its entry into reality was of a peremptory nature and there was nothing to do but give in. During its coastal voyage, the colossal wave created kilometers of swamps as it went. The water did not only make it to the river; it included it in its trajectory. Given the seeping circumstances, it could not have done any differently. The sea swallowed up all other bodies of water in the vicinity. With its tide, which can be viewed as ironic, it bested the technological advances that attempt to guess the very thing that is about to happen. When it puts its mind to it, water can do such things. From time to time, it shows its bipolar condition with wrathful brutality. It is even capable of being cannibalistic.

The hegemony of the water arrived without a slogan, as the stimulus and disorder of acceptance. Its genealogy felt spite for everything around it. With its hypotheses in retreat, normality did not really know what to do. When the earth turns into a machine of insubordination, it accumulates liquid cracks, it establishes mute speech in visuality that is always on the verge of saying the last word, forcing the use of the logic of "save yourself if you can." In these cases, reality cannot be blamed for not having done enough. After all, ignorance tends to make accurate predictions; it comes to depend on "the certainty" of its mistakes. Not without reason, as if the very life of the disaster had silently been at stake, reality spread its effects, indications of uprooting. It came to ask questions, all that which English speakers call afterthought, the reflection after the empirical goings-on and the coincidence of situations. The corollary was a posthumous cosmos, its war loot, which arrived without prior notice.

These phenomena "cannot be predicted, not even months ahead of time; in this science has failed," stated a scientist, implying that we are still at the mercy of the neurotic behavior of nature. It was this same nature which fulfilled, exaggeratedly, the wish of certain people: "We lived 4 km from the coast, protected by a forest and some rice patties," said Aoki Sekimura, an optician from Sendai, one of the most severely affected cities. "We always complained about not being able to see the ocean. After the quake, we walked out of the house, and instead of the garden there was the Pacific."

It was a case of loci horribili, and of a nature that was ignorant, Jurassic, sidereal, and telluric. It was also, therefore, sublime, a Godzilla of water and foam, capable in its untamable fullness of moving the world from its place, of introducing speech into that which does not appear like anything, and which was nothingness in full swing. In the disorder of acceptance, indications were imposed that carried a sensation of being uprooted, a sense of haphazard confabulations. That which remained to be said regarding this receding hypothesis, which was that of the waters returning to their deep natural channel, could only be said by inventing expressions and modes of intervention. So that it would not come up short, language needed to be helped, forced to exaggerate. In the end, everything exists so that words can express it.

---From The Milli Vanilli Condition
Eduardo Espina
©2015 Arte Publico Press

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