I have been to SQUASH, held at Squash Cipres in the Santa Maria la Ribera neighborhood, in between the Morisco Kiosk and a carnitas place that I went to the other day where the chef was dancing to loud disco music, twice. The first time was maybe a year and a half ago, an exhibition of paintings and sculpture, maybe drawings as well. The second time was a couple of weeks ago, to see a performance made by Valentina Díaz, danced by Olmo Cuña and Jorge Lopera, and presented by Sébastien Capouet. The program notes mention that this performance is the seventh SQUASH exhibition/event. I don’t know if the exhibition I went to was the first or the second, the fourth or the fifth. But eight events in two years is a refreshing pace, a pleasant counterpoint to the morbid and manic tempo of, well, everything else. The performance was also refreshing: site-specific, bare, and funny.
For the performance, the audience was asked to head upstairs, to the balcony. Squash Cipres is set up like this: the walls on three sides are two stories tall. On the fourth side, the wall is half the height of the other three, ending at a sort of balcony level where players can sit, watch, and/or keep warm on exercise bikes. The door to the squash court, on the fourth wall, is a comical four feet high. The view from the balcony begins about six feet into the court, vanishing the physical fourth wall and evidencing a theatrical fourth wall, the altitude of the balcony acting as a sort of reverse proscenium. Cuña and Lopera began seated, at the front edge of the stage, facing each other, their cloaks in front of them. When Díaz walked on stage, the performers stood. She placed the cloaks—form-mystifying black cloaks with embroidered triangles in primary colors—on Cuña and Lopera. A clacking, metronomic soundtrack played as they walked from the front of the stage to the back of the court, tracing incomprehensible lines defined in an incomprehensible score provided to the audience. Every once and a while Cuña and Lopera would bump into each other. When this happened, they stopped and yelled.
I don’t know if anybody cares about site-specificity anymore. I’m not sure if I do. I used to—I was enamored with Richard Serra and obsessed over his site-specific sculptures in the Bronx and the debate over Tilted Arc in undergrad and I nod my head approvingly, as a kind of reflex, whenever anyone mentions Miwon Kwon. But when I write that her performance was “site-specific,” I don’t mean that Díaz researched Squash Cipres extensively on Wikipedia, drew some kind of connection between that history and the Morisco Kiosk and made a mentally and visually exhausting installation with, oh I don’t know, two or three projections of hourlong videos and wall of drawings hung up in a way that sort-of-but-not-really suggests a narrative with a novel’s worth of wall texts. I mean that the periodic whacks of rackets and grunts of men and squeaks of their shoes wove in and out of the clacks and squeaks and yells of /A Å Æ ) A(; the measured, weirdly logical pacing of Cuña and Lopera was a baffling counterpoint to the usual frenzy of a squash game. The piece fit the space: its dimensions and its ambiance. Attempting any kind of site specificity beyond “this sculpture only fits here” or “this dance only fits here” seems trite at best and pseudo-anthropological—and thus usually classist, racist, colonialist, or all of the above—at worst.