Written by SACHI MIYACHI
This text and drawing are written as clues to consider the urban development of the Amsterdam south area during my Artist-in-residence at Virtual Museum Zuidas. These are in a book 'Intimate Stories on Absence' published by Onomatopee. ISBN: 978-90-78454-40-3
If I Let a Bird Fly into the Space
There is a man who works as the care-taker of a corporate building. If something ever goes wrong, he must fix it, being on call 24 hours a day. He warned me never to cross the smoke detector beams of the fire alarms. If I did, the sprinklers would spray water into the space.
He made a coffee for me. The space - a lobby with a high ceiling - became like a private dining room for his coffee drinking and story telling. He was talking about being homesick and missing the smell of his country. I felt a bit rude, being only half awake whilst listening to him. In the other half of my mind, spurred by his warning, I was overtaken by the idea: IF A BIRD WOULD FLY INTO THE SPACE, IT COULD RAIN INSIDE. It sounded like some legend or miracle. Yet, a peculiar realization of this miracle through interrupting the building’s security system. Plants in the space that had only had just enough water on their roots would have water dripping over every leaf; the marble stone floor might also shine more under the rain; the water would run like rivers between all the black leather couches.
This bird would never imagine that it could make it rain all by itself, flying around the space so innocently. If the water would completely fill the building, it would become like a giant glass aquarium. Then, perhaps it might wash over the dry economic climate! Or, at least this could represent a security system so fragile that it could be imperilled by a bird.
IF I LET A BIRD FLY INTO THE SPACE...
With this idea, I started my residency. I often see a flock of parakeets fly onto the roof of a nearby chapel. They are quite exposed out there, with nowhere to hide in this glass environment. They are exhibiting their freedom with such a tropical green brightness. I have often thought of asking them about the best birds to attempt the mission - to fly into the building.
But I daren’t do it, and have a clear answer why not. It is not an issue of art or the stupidity of society; neither a lack of courage nor fear of being caught by the police, the practical risks or potential damage to the building. It is merely due to the man who has a 24-hour commitment to the building. I dare not instigate such disruption to the person who kindly made me coffee and shared his stories about life.
This has created a line between us, a boundary marked by my conscience not to do something I would so wish to do. This line of caution has become my primary way of mapping the area, yet it becomes a useless quantity when applied to the totality of an urban structure, regulated by the repetition of an algorithm. This depersonalisation has created pockets or voids on my map, but nevertheless I continue. .