In August 2021, Carmen Romero from FITAM (Santiago de Chile) called me to commission, on the occasion of the Chilean Constituent Process (the drafting of the new Constitution), a second part of the Displacement of the Moneda Palace. Instead of a “second part” we proposed a Re-constituent Process.

  • SHOW: A room full of cots. A boy arrives, puts on his pajamas, and goes to bed. A person sits next to the headboard, opens the book, and begins to read. From then on, the spectators take turns reading to the child throughout the night. The others listen or drift off to sleep until it is their turn to read. In a corner, a musician weaves a soundtrack. On reaching the last page, when the dawn is already breaking, the child wakes up. The end. Applause.
  • THE BOOK: A few days before, the poet and medium Nuria Martínez Vernis, along with other poets from the city, tell a wax child a long poem that lasts all night. The encounter, simultaneously an invocation of the ghosts of the past and divination of the future, is recorded. The text, resulting from the performance, is transcribed and corrected. It is printed and bound so that the crowd can undertake the collective task of reading to the child.
  • SOUNDTRACK: At the death of a child, a party is organized, people sing and dance in the presence of the decorated body. It is an invocation for the child to ascend to heaven and become an angel. Pep Gimeno “Botifarra” tells that, in the Valencia of the early twentieth century, such parties were still held, where they sang songs that first alluded to death and then became festive, amorous, and even spicy.
  • ROOTS: In ancient Greece, communication with the dead was performed in necromantic sanctuaries. The shamans invited the attendants to sleep. Then they would rattle unearthly props and disturb the sleepers so they would enter the state of half-slumber that allowed contact with the ghosts. The next day, the dark messages flowing from the dream, like poems, could only be interpreted by the same shamans who organized the ceremonies.

HYPNAGOGOGICAL ASSEMBLY, by Roberto Fratini

There are bedtime-stories, and a History to keep you awake. Between the former and the latter lies the mystery of all of us who call ourselves dreamers so to continue raving as we please. This is what the Re-constituent Process is all about. Throughout the night the audience is visited by the ghosts of the past to imagine the future in the only place that remains re-constituent: the night, the dream.

Maybe being exhausted is the last way not to give up. And it might be that, upon awakening, one can freshly write about the tomorrow. Perhaps the night brings advice. But it may also be that, just as language distorts dreams when it describes them, the positive letters of the law distorts utopias when it formalizes them.

The state of slumber never lets you know at what moment you fall asleep, at what moment the truthful show begins, the revealing lie. At what point does the voice of the story turn into dreamy music. At what point does the story fade into myth. As if History was a story. What we do know is that the dream is the state of exception from which the law is dictated.

From which lie to which lie does sleep take us? The daytime characters of the law are very clumsy when it comes to translating the visions of the future that inspires it. Only poetry, which contests without refuting, which affirms without asserting; only poetry, which affirms the futility of truth; only poetry, which is a sacred fraud; only poetry, which being low cuisine pretends to be divine, keeps intact the ambivalence of the dream.

We thought we composed our Constitutions as collective poems, believing ourselves to be poets and believing ourselves to be part of collectives. We forget that believing ourselves to be poets is the main activity of true poets, and those true poets are honest in lying to themselves. They know that the dead have to be invented.

We have the vice to ask the dead for winning cards. Of asking No more sensitive information about Not Yet. For the bad habit of believing, as in the old necromantic sanctuaries, that the dead visit us preferably at night when we most resemble them.

Before going to sleep, we numb our children with tales, and we numb ourselves with stories, waiting to see what the night will transform so much junk into: into what beautiful dreams will it turn yesterday’s horrors, and into what nightmares our best intentions. We would not give so much credit to the ghosts if we did not know that we are only dreaming. It is our Nightmare on Elm Street. And still, it is a comfort.

It is comforting to dream of a revolution when the revolution is not coming. And it is a relief that children know how to do it when dreaming when we adults are unable to do it awake. We have to accept that at the very moment the child falls asleep, the dead who speaks is you, the storyteller, the mummer, and the puppet, the letter carrier, and the message. You are the one who has kept awake to hide a cradle. You are the ghost of a child’s reverie.

TEAM: Poets and mediums: Núria Martínez Vernis and Martín Bakero, dramaturgy: Pedro Granero and Roberto Fratini, music: Joan Solé. 

Image: Jesús Monterde.