This Friday I head off to Chile for 5 months. It’s funny how long we can harbour a dream for, and how they grow and develop over time. Everybody wants to know why I am going to Chile, but there is no simple answer. It’s a succession of steps backward, an untangling of threads, which have finally led to this realisation: this flight I am taking across the world, to Santiago.
I have always wanted to learn Spanish, and I have always been an adventurer. But my fascination with Chile has its seeds in the stories other people have told me as well as an exhibition at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid on the Valparaiso Open City Group. On the 5th January 2011 I have recorded my plans to go to Valparaiso here.
‘The relationship between public space and collective life’ was the idea that struck me, the Valparaiso School used architecture to create spaces which encouraged a particular kind of lifestyle. An artistic Utopialand was made possible through the aesthetics of everyday life. Valparaiso thinking lives by the maxim that an artistic philosophy can inform a way of life.
Finally I will head out along the coast to Ritoque by the sea, and see the Ciudad Abierta – the utopian architectural realisations from the 60s and 70s still living and breathing alongside new constructions. I am even going to be writing an article about it, for beautiful T-R-E-M-O-R-S magazine.
In the process of dreaming our plans evolve. I have spent many tube journeys in London reading books about Chile, or by Chilean authors, fuelling new passions and motivations. Roberto Bolano’s novels have filled me with a sense of Latin American literary culture, a curiosity that only travel can eventually satisfy. Here’s a beautiful passage from the literary epic, The Savage Detectives:
“Then everything turned into a succession of concrete acts and proper nouns and verbs, or pages from an anatomy manual scattered like flower petals, chaotically linked. I explored Maria’s naked body, Maria’s glorious naked body, in a contained silence, although I could have shouted, rejoicing in each corner, each smooth and interminable space I discovered.”
Of course, all dreams include cliches, and my cliche has been Pablo Neruda, who seems to have owned houses all over Chile. I’ll be able to mark out a starry-pointed pilgrimage and read his poems from windows facing the sea, or set into hill-tops. Here is his Discoverers of Chile to fill me with an overblown sense of the epic narrative of my wonder voyage:
Descubridores de Chile, Pablo Neruda
Del Norte trajo Almagro su arrugada centella. Y sobre el territorio, entre explosion y ocaso, Se inclino dia y noche como sobre una carta. Sombra de espinas, sombra de cardo y cera, el espanol reunido, con su seca figura, mirando las sombrias estrategias del suelo. Noche, nieve y arena hacen la forma de mi delgada patria, todo el silencio esta en su larga linea, toda la espuma sala de su barba marina, todo el carbon la llena de misteriosos besos. Como una brasa el oro arde en sus dedos a la plata illumina como una luna verde su endurecida forma de tetrico planeta. El espanol sentado junto a la rosa una dia, junto al aceite, junto al vino, junto al antiguo cielo no imagino este punto de colerica piedra nacer bajo el estiercol del aguila marina.