Formica and wood box, miniature printed circuit board (PCB), MP3 players, audio sockets and earphones, power supply, metal leg, two sofas from Casa Argentina, Jerusalem Text: João Delgado; music: Yarden Erez; electronic system: Amir Markovitz; programming
Exhibited in the frame of  Recalculating Route at Petach Tikva Museum of Art, in the frame of the 4 Mediations Biennale, Poznan, 2014 | 2.10.2014-24.1.2015
Curator: Drorit Gur Arie
The spirit of João Delgado has been haunting Diego Rotman and Lea Mauas, members of the Jerusalem-based Sala-Manca Group, for fifteen years. A Portuguese poet, writer, playwright, and essayist, Delgado was, in all likelihood, born in Lisbon (date unknown) and disappeared in Argentina in the second half of the 1970s, in the dark years of the Generals’ regime. Like the circumstances of his disappearance, his life was equally shrouded in mystery, and little is known about it. Years later, his post-realist poetry has had a vast impact on late 20th century Latin-American literary avant-garde, but Delgado himself did not live to see it, since the political circumstances—the censorship placed by the military junta in Argentina—and his own choices interfered with the reception of his works by the public at large. His writing was confusing, and he often used fictive aliases which further blurred his identity. In literary terms, Delgado was a modernist who addressed the formal questions of writing (like Georges Perec and the Oulipo group): the author’s identity, the gap between the text and the world, and the illusions of fiction and reality. In this he joined other, more senior, contemporary modernists, from the Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges and Portuguese Fernando Pessoa to the Hungarian Lajos Kassák, whose Cubist poetry from the 1930s and 1940s had influenced Delgado when he lived in Central Europe.
The members of the Sala-Manca Group, in their joint work as artists, curators, and activists, often revisit Delgado’s figure, publishing translations of his work and incorporating excerpts from his unfinished plays into their performances. The return to Delgado, the eternal migrant who wandered until he disappeared, is linked with Rotman’s and Mauas’s personal immigration experiences and the need to discover new territories through language and the act of writing.
The work La Maquina de Hacer Pájaros (‘The Bird-Making Machine,’ as the name of an Argentinean rock band which formed in 1976, in the dictatorship days) is yet another chapter in the quest after the Portuguese-Argentinean writer. The viewer-listener is given the opportunity to wander amid excerpts of text by Delgado and other writers of his alleged circle, such as Juan Mestre, Regina Handeke, Irina Pantalova, and Arturo Maure, who may well have been none other than Delgado himself. This wandering is akin to a journey through the soundtrack of a literary microcosm, comprised of fragments of texts, sounds, and linguistic images. The listener is invited to try to compose the narrative as s/he pleases, to believe the story in whose making s/he took part, or disbelieve it altogether.
One of the legends associated with Delgado maintains that he made his way from Portugal to Argentina with the aid of a map of the Atlantic Ocean which he adopted from a Lewis Carroll book. Whether and how he arrived at his destination—no one knows. João Delgado is, in fact, a fictive entity, a figment of Rotman and Mauas’s imagination; at the same time, like them—who create in-between the splinters of their Latin-American and Israeli identities, in-between the language from there and the one they have adopted in Jerusalem—he is totally real.
Drorit Gur Arie
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