The Mask of the Hunter (2010)
© Pedro Barateiro
The Mask of the Hunter (2010)
© Pedro Barateiro
We’re both in the same room. The scene takes place in a silent room as this one.
There are objects hanging on the wall. Some laying on the ground. There’s a book shelf without books. There are a couple of my personal objects. There’s one painting looking at us. A bed waiting for me to sleep.
There’s an army of shadows inside this room. And I know all their names. You, you, you, you and you.
I can almost see myself laying there, dead. But we continue awake, while some others sleep, right?
- Didn’t you go outside to get some logs to make a fire?
I thought you did, but maybe we don’t need it any longer.
- Yesterday I remembered the conversation we had with that older man the other night, do you remember?
- He said: - I remember very well the day that I arrived here. It’s 43 years of distance, but it’s still very present in my mind. It’s like nothing has changed.
And then he continued - No one from our group wanted to be here. After the first weeks, the nights started to be unbearable.
- Do you remember when he said - Do you know that I’m a crater - a living crater? - he said in such a strange way, I wasn’t expecting it.
I said - That’s a self-evident hypothesis – with a smile.
- He understood the irony, but after he answered agressively: - NO! I’m the crater of a volcano, I’m all aflame and crammed inside with an assortment of words and phrases that have got to have an exodus. I can feel millions of synonyms and parts of speech rising in me, and I’ve got to make a speech of some sort!
- We both looked at each other in cumplicity and I replied - Drinking, always drives me to oratory! - I saw that I was following his flow of thought, but I couldn’t have done any worse.
- And he continued – When I was here, everyday at about this hour, I would scream so loud every word that was going around my head – I would talk about the killing, the masks, the photographs, the letters! I would scream about the trees. I would scream from the top of the trees!
- He continued - I would say something like: We’ll stay on top of this hill and we’ll not be so silly as to venture down. I shall remain in your midst like an animated citadel, and the rest of you will gravitate around me. I recommend you to load your rifles with as many bullets as they will hold…
- During the time spent here, alcohol seemed to stimulate my sense of recitation and rhetoric! - he said smilling.
- They used to give me three gin shots and I’d speak two hours longer than you!
- Finally, they were so tired of hearing me speaking, they would persuade me to take the ‘gold cure’!
- What is the ‘gold cure’? - I replied.
- If you have to get rid of your excessive verbiage – he said - why not go out on the river bank and speak to a piece of stone to see if it transforms itself into gold?
- That’s what they suggested me, and after a while I would go, but not because I wanted to transform a stone into gold.
- Maybe it cames from an old ritual of the natives – I said – and they used it to disincorporate someone from its ‘windy words’.
- You know that speech in the occidental theater is used only to express psychological conflicts particular to man and the daily reality of his life? - I continued.
- Well, yes I do know – he replied – I used to be an actor.
- I’m not only this, you know… this half animal.
- We are not free, and the sky can still fall on our heads. My conflicts are clearly accessible through spoken language, and whether they remain in the psychological sphere or leave it to enter the social sphere, the interest of this drama will still remain a moral one, according to the way in which these conflicts attack and disintegrate me as a person.
- And suddenly, after this moment, he stopped speaking. And I had nothing to say either.
- After a while looking at the painting we had on the wall he continued – No, I must have an audience! I feel like if I once turn loose people would begin to call me the ‘Grand Young Sphinx’. I have to get an audience together! – he said laughing.
- He was back from that moment.
- Then I asked him – What does your desire for vocality means?
- I’m an actor – He said. - Shall I repeat again? I can tell you this: It is because the public are a mass - inert, obtuse, and passive -that they need to be shaken up from time to time so that we can tell from their bear-like grunts where they are — and also where they stand. They are pretty harmless, in spite of their numbers, because they are fighting against intelligence. This was said by a crazy man, not me – he said.
- And continued- I’m equally good and varicose on all subjects. I can take up the matter of the Colonial war, or the poetry of Brecht or Kabyle language from the Berbres in Northen Africa, and make my audience weep, cry, sob and shed tears by turns - he issued with an ironic mood.
- If I could, I would never stop talking! - he finished.
- So - I replied - We are inside a theater that looks like a scenario for something that never happened. Nothing never happens in a place like this right?
- Yes – he said - There are no wars, no fights, no one screaming. The landscape is peaceful. The trees don’t cry.
- And I have three pages in my hand, not trees. You are looking at me. What’s the reason for that?
- I could say - he said – that suddenly a man enters the room and grabs some chairs and leaves running!
- It doesn’t affect the fact that we are still standing here as two sculptures who have always been here.
- Within a couple of seconds we turned to our audience and he screamed - It is u-r-g-e-n-t! - and I screamed even louder - It is n-e-c-e-s-s-a-r-y!
- After all - he said - you’re only a statue, and what can a statue achieve? And no matter how loudly you clame for magic in our lives, you are afraid of pursuing an existence entirely under its influence and sign.We believe that the applause of silence is the only kind that counts.
- That day, I mean, that night, I was standing, just like as I am standing now – he said.
- I asked him – Did you saw the lights getting inside the room that night?
- I was alone that night - he answered – but a piece wood protected me from those lights, those gestures and those words.
- Some people, however their experience or their intellect, are temperamentally incapable of reaching firm decisions – he concluded – that’s what I did, I stayed there. That night I didn’t want to speak.
- I got confused and for a moment thought his eyes were mine.
- He said - I think I’m developing some new seeing skills, you know? I’m seeing better at night.
- Then he reminded me how we call our prey - We call it Game – he said, addressing the animals we hunt.
- That’s what we do – he continued – we wait.
- So we perform this game play with them, right? - I said - One thing that seems to apply to this game-play is that is an exploratory play, we see the change of focus from ‘what does this object do?’ to ‘what can I do with this object?’
- Do you write anything of what you say? - I asked him?
- No, of course, not! - he replied loudly – Why should I do it? It makes no sense – he continued.
- Then I remembered this story about hunting an octopus – I have this story about an octopus that I once hunted – I said, enthusiasticly – and as if he couldn’t avoid it, interrupted me with that strong tone – Did you know that millions of years ago the octopus had a shell? - I said – No, I didn’t – and he continued – Well, the octopus had a shell, but slowly he lost it through the evolutionary process. Since then, the octopus is always looking for a home! They occupy the abandoned shells of other sea creatures, cans and car tires to make their own houses. I call them “octopus architecture” - he mentioned laughing - Unfortunately, they are addicted to the color white like a bull is to red. They can’t control themselves!
All rights reserved © Pedro Barateiro