Also the real thing was created by the theatre directors Boris Nikitin and Zuleikha Chaudhari as a performances component of Insert 2014.
Insert 2014 is a series of installations and lectures that navigate the in-betweenness of our grand, idealistic, metaphoric and harsher, earthlier, immediate realities. It is curated by Raqs Media Collective.
Also the real thing is a pathway, a process. Navigating multiple dialectics, the performance, in which the viewer has no choice but to be complicit, navigates two types of buildings, an auditorium in which stories are delivered with the body and a library in which stories are imprinted on paper. When the actors stand on a bare stage delivering monologues from their real lives for an imaginary audition, the viewer shuffles between fact and fiction. The viewer then exits and winds down a path from the old building to the new building, which houses the library. The books in the library begin to do a similar thing: they turn from real histories to made up ones and the book morphs from an object to a holder of human lives. The aesthetic of the book, Also the real thing, seems to continue with the red canvas and gold print from the bookshelves. A person in ordinary clothes sits beside the viewer – now the participant – and asks to read a scene together. There is a sense that stories are constantly being told, and that a real life for one is a fictional one for the other. And so the stage blurs with the library. There is a sense that the private will be made public.
Here is an imagined or real life monologue by the librarian. This librarian's autobiography is in the third person, the reasons for which will become known through the course of her audition.
This librarian does not know she is an -ian. She reads everyday but nothing has moved her since she was young, and that was maybe many years ago but she could no longer discern when she became not young, but perhaps it was because she did not make choices anymore. She picked any book off the shelf, she labeled it with ink on laminate, never asking for another kind of more permanent pen, questioning nothing, not what the young man over there spent hours writing about, not why he would scour the back room for rejected library cards, not the salary they paid her, which hadn't changed since the days she had been reading what might have moved her but what she could no longer remember having moved her. The only thing that she really took pleasure in was cleaning her spectacles, which her sister had given to her from a trip to Paris, which she knew was far away but could not really fathom how far away. In fact, she lived, largely, without perspective; she could not read maps to scale nor re-orient to tell direction, for what was up was north and right was east because she did remember that people read maps in the opposite direction to the one in which the sun set, which was east to west. And maps started – if maps could start – in the way she read books, from left to right (she did not believe that there were books that could be read right to left, because she knew this from books that were written left to right).
She had a logical head that way – linearly logical – so that she could decipher with few frowns sequences that went from top to bottom and left to right, patterns that did not require dimensionality or imagination, but rigor, and soft, peripheral eyes. She was one of the best cataloguers in the country – in the world possibly, but this story is not so large in its breadth because our librarian really just knows the continuous daily thread of her life through the one library at which she works, archiving one book at a time – so much so that some townspeople told stories about how her spectacles were made of magic, because they too had not seen such foreign utensils, exotic hieroglyphs, and because she could ﬁnd any book, from the new arrivals to rare manuscripts, within minutes. But in between all this, and before and after, she read. She was terriﬁed of writing and she didn't have a television and she ate just what was there in her fridge, vegetables bought without selection, raw (which explained her pale complexion and protruding collar bones), so she read. There was not much else to do. But before she began, she cleaned her glasses, swiped cloth that felt like dry water round and round clockwise and anti-clockwise, and for a moment she would feel like a centrifuge, glimpsing the whole earth and its rotation even as she rotated with it. But then she would open the book, and in it, nothing moved her, not its typeface nor its characters nor their lives, not ancient tablets not history or biographies or dictionaries or poems, so she remained stoic and unimpressed, not pathetic though, never pathetic – that would imply too much and give our librarian much more agency than she would ever want – so she remained, unmoved, only occasionally catalogued, like a book on a shelf.
—Himali Singh Soin
(All images: Courtesy of Himali Singh Soin.)