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Emotions and art in Madrid 2017/11/1

In the short time I’ve had to explore Madrid, I already like it. Every time I step out the door I see something cool. A melting pot barrio, Lavapies charms me with abundant art, diverse cuisine, quiet side streets. I am consumed by writing since I got here. Writing about crying. I miss my new friends from Barcelona... and I think I'm in love. 

I'm besotted with someone who's is already in a relationship and lives far away. At times like this, it's challenging to travel solo, but luckily I'm not the kind of person who sinks into deep depressions. I remember that I'm on a big adventure... and I still get hungry. On my first few days in Madrid, I stumble out into the daylight about lunchtime, to dine outdoors on a street with beautiful murals.


Yesterday was a Halloween public holiday, another intense morning of crying and writing. The emotion is not not all sadness and loss but also gratitude, excitement and warmth, because we still have a connection. It's bittersweet and overwhelming, but I feel very alive. At lunchtime, I take a different direction and discover a huge Tabacalera art complex just around the corner. I get a thrill from the art soon as I walk in... my emotional clouds and fog dispelled by magically dancing laser figures, sculptures, illusory moons. I am entering a world of ideas and imagination.

Both the space and the art in inside it are impressive, free entry and not too busy. The main exhibition is called Cambio de Rumbo. The themes are deep, the execution excellent.

The room with portraits of goats and video portraits of goat herders whistling and chirping in their mysterious goat herding language. The video that captured surreal artificial environments ... an indoor ski resort with skiers slipping and sliding on man-made snow under a painted-on sky.

I walk down a spooky corridor and slowly around men with guns appear, life-sized. There are about 6 landscapes projected along the corridor, sequentially fading in and out from the darkness, along with nature sounds. Each scene has a hunter, armed, gazing at you. One is so still, you can just watch him breathe while dry grass twitches in the icy breeze. You imagine him waiting a long time for prey, and wonder how he can stand in the snow without gloves. In another landscape snow is falling. Another scene has autumn leaves, the crunch of footsteps. The calm natural scenes contrast with the potential violence of the gun. Otherworldly, intimate, intimidating.


Another wing of the Tabacalara contains an exhibition questioning the concept of home. One artwork juxtaposing the stereotypical IKEA-style family home with various alternative domestic settings. It is proposed that the more separated the home is from the workplace, the more it is idealised and depoliticised. The stories of different domestic settings are told in the video montage of about five screens showing people living in various homes: a suburban family home/hair salon; a cosy urban apartment of two gay couples; an urban shack. Instead of paying rent, the man in the shack tends an urban garden and sells found objects to passersby. Another is the home of an old lady who lives alone and feels most at home when she's with her local theatrical choir group. They are creative, dressing up and singing satirical songs. They celebrate their birthdays together.

Another artwork explores homes with alternative sexual activities. A stately home with a pond dedicated to a water lily that changes sex during its flowering season and is pollinated by a beetle that spends a night inside the flower, copulating with other beetles. The female flower is white, the male is pink. And stately homes in London which host gay porn photo shoots and hook ups.

This questioning of the concept of home ties in with my experience of being hosted in many different homes in the last 4 months, making a temporary home in each new place. Also going further back, many years of living in different kinds of share houses – always adults, not always likeminded, not always easy.

Eventually hunger got the better of me and I left the Tabacalera to find food. I chose a bar with a handwritten Menu del Dia and a crowd of local diners. The backroom restaurant featured career waiters in a red and black uniform and canteen-style furniture and lighting. I confused duck (pato) with turkey (pavo) so found an unexpected beast on my plate. This leg swam in tasty juice, none of the usual dryness of turkey. As usual these bars, the $15 three course lunch includes a whole bottle of wine. I’ll just have a glass, I said. "I’ll get you more if you want it," my kindly, silver-haired waiter with the handlebar moustache assured me.

If I had more time here I would check out the library, and find company to visit the big park in the day, Lavapies at night. Also there's another Tabacalera nearby with regular contact improv and a garden. Not to mention the frequent social dances and big tourism/ culture attractions such as the Casa Encedida, Prado. I'd spend more time in Tabacalera, and in lovely Parque del Retiro.
Swing is so happy, one must be happy. When I'm sad, I can still dance Blues. 
Helios, Big Kick Swing, Spain.

My last night in Madrid was great... I danced blues in the Big Mamma ballroom for €3 from 22.30 till close, drinking water all night, like usual. I was welcomed by a few familiar dancers: Leo (Policoro); Claire, Joao (Mountaintop); Ulysse, Alma (Cave of Blues). Also Alba, one of the international teachers stopped by to say hello, on her way from one event to the next. Leo danced amazingly, and Ulysse too. All good, lovely friendly crowd. The atmosphere was just right, good vibes but plenty of space. And I loved the two minute walk there and back from my Airbnb. 

Given the amount of people I know here though, it's been surprisingly hard to find a dance community host, or even someone to meet for coffee in the day. The only strangers from the dance community in Europe who have offered me free hosting are American or half-American. And among non-dancers, there was the friendly Dutchman that I met in Valencia and a very cosmopolitan, anti-French Frenchman. Maybe it's like Celia told me – that hosting is not really part of the culture in Spain?
Photos by Deirdre Molloy.
Video artwork with hunters 'El Cazador' by Alvaro Laiz, 2016.


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