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I count on you

26.06.2015 by Elena Cabrera

Photo by Julio Albarrán (cc)

Report of Belén Gopegui Audiovisual Source Code: The Pitfalls of Fiction. Original language: spanish («Cuento contigo»)

«She learned the notion of commons at the ’Prosperidad’ Popular School» as Lucas Tello pointed out in Belen Gopegui’s biography during his introduction. It was the second time the Popular School appeared at the 17th ZEMOS98 Festival. A while earlier Silvia Nanclares, mediator of the Fanzine Group at the Hackcamp #ReclaimtheCommons, had taped a sheet of paper on a wall of the Seville Arts Centre. On that paper I had drawn a plan, freestyle and not respecting scale, of the ‘Prospe’ Popular School. All this happened because Nanclares had asked us to think of our favourite place in a city. And I thought of my city, Madrid, and my neighbourhood Prosperidad, and of the place where I currently have the best time cultivating the commons: the School. And as in the case of a loom woven by different weavers, it seemed like we were touching common places and the image of the tapestry started to make sense. I could already see the ship come in.

Tello spoke of other «places» of the commons where Gopegui had learnt things. For instance, Juan Blanco. When a person dies, I think, his name stops being private and what he was becomes public domain, a bit like the bodies on a merry-go-round, though in that fiction a voluntary death is asked for commons sake which turns out to be false. «Juan Blanco avoided writing, he wanted to be illiterate» Gopegui described him in 2013, «because he thought, like Socrates, that words on their own are incapable of defending themselves and incapable of teaching the truth clearly enough». In that text, Belén tried to imagine her late philosophy professor «on the other side of boundaries, in the place where things have weight», encouraging us to remember that «a single life has been conferred to each man and each woman», with the purpose that’s not just living it, or «not even living it well», but as Blanco said, «a good life in common».

Lucas and Belén have a friend in common, Álex. Lucas told about her in his introduction. Álex is going through a bad patch lately and she and her daughter Marina have had to return to her parents’ house. I know them too. Álex saw Guillermo Zapata talking about Copylove, I know because she herself told me about it. Moving his hands profusely and stretching his sweater, Zapata explained in front of a scene of Spartacus: «when community exists, even Kirk Douglas cries, no small deal». «I am Spartacus!», «I am Spartacus!» different voices shouted from the screen. «Change Spartacus for Anonymous» Zapata encouraged [1] . My friend told me that Guille referred to Martian Chronicles , a book by Ray Bradbury we both love, which tells the story of the colonization and decolonization of Mars. The black slaves buy themselves a rocket and take off to Mars in order to be free. The slave owners don’t like this idea at all and tell them: “one option was to submit and the other one was to rebel and wipe us out, but you can’t just leave, because we’re nothing without you”. «Of course» Álex told me, «neither were Spartacus and friends allowed to leave, nor do we have rockets now; we don’t even have planets to go to». That was also mentioned by Guille, we don’t have a place to leave to. «Our problem is we have to grow the commons from right here, where we stand» he suggested. And Álex answered him that «all right, a solution would be to mutate, which is a way of leaving while staying where you are».

«Ok Álex, and how do we do that?» Lucas and I asked her the last time we met. What game do we play? How do we manage? How could we, instead of tearing down the pillars, start building right here, where everyone can see? «Being sensible and prudent, as well as astute» our friend answered, «as in a kind of ‘Mother May I’ game in which you’re moving though it seems like you’re still, and at last, when the opponent turns around, you’ve already arrived». Marina, my daughter Eleonor and I play it a lot, so I know exactly what she meant. Mutating right before their very eyes.

Excerpt from the film «Batteries not included» screened at the Belén Gopegui’s Audiovisual Source Code

And now Belén comes and says that it is like in that film she used to watch with mothers and daughters Batteries not Included . We can’t hide our giggles. Are you serious, Belén, the author of Lo Real, are you really bringing us a tacky film from the 80s as an example? «I like nice films» she answers. At this point, Lucas, Álex and I can’t restrain laughing out loud. «But nice like The Princess Bride , pal?» Lucas spits out. «Yes, yes, exactly like that», the writer answers, trying to speak over our laughs. «Let’s see» she says, «Batteries not Included is about the fact that in order to rebuild what’s destroyed we need almost a miracle, which is the miracle of what we could do in common». But it is the flying saucers who reconstruct the building destroyed by the landlord who wants to kick everyone out and speculate with price of land. And that’s when Álex said that we should start to build everything from right now onwards, «the communities, the cooperatives, the squatting, the expropriations, the networks, the new relationships» as we watched her enthralled, with that Copylove face that sometimes comes over us. «If we could get them to desert from their armies» said Álex, «from their police stations, from their safe boxes». Or if we were so many that defeating us meant razing the whole country to the ground, every one of its streets. If we managed to build catacombs on the surface, but not imaginary ones, real ones, streets overlapping the streets, like dance floors made up in waste grounds». «Reclaim the commons, girl» I told her, dying to give her a hug.

Excerpt from the film «The Princess Bride» chose by Belén Gopegui for her Audiovisual Source Code

Conflict is not only a matter for teenagers. It’s possible at any age to feel an acute pain deep in our intestines. Nerves, unease, anxiety, a fear to re-enter life. Maybe we need some cheering up. Maybe we want to manage conflicts including the «nice» factor. But the thing is reality doesn’t sound nice at all, Belén, it sounds more like Rotten Waters, not like The Bride Princess. «Does fiction have to contain truth?» Gopegui asks me with one of those questions that… Well, let’s see, maybe, I don’t know, yes? «The grandfather wants to make the child’s flu more bearable and tells him a tale of a world that could be true», she answers. My power, my truth resides in this great craving I have to start dancing in the middle of «Prospe» Popular School’s hall with Eleonor, Martina and Belén, and my neighbours and my mothers and even Lucas Tello, if he drops by Madrid one day. And if one day the School falls, we can rebuild it again.

«Sometimes the things that may be true or not are those in which we need to believe most», says Robert Duvall to Haley Joel Osment in Second hand Lions .

The full-length Belén Gopegui’s Audiovisual Source Code

[1] Play this part of the Guillermo Zapata’s Audiovisual Source Code at the 14 ZEMOS98 Festival -spanish-:

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