El Laberinto

Mark von Schlegell


I’d read and published some of his essays in a zine. I had always thought of him as a Californian, but it was in Mexico City where I first met George Porcari face to face. V. and I took a comfortable enough hotel room in the historical district for what amounted to 35 dollars a day. Was it my first trip to Mexico City? I don’t think so. When a crowd of V.’s friends from California (only one or two I’d met before) turned up, I spotted George right away as if he was an icon. Unfortunately, I had to deny his request to sleep on the floor of our cheap hotel room. It had grown suddenly apparent that I had fallen victim to “Montezuma’s Revenge.” If there was anything positive about such a situation it was that niceties were not an issue. The knowledge came like a thunderbolt of truth. I needed everyone to clear out so I could shit and puke and yes sleep in abject privacy. So I simply said “Absolutely no way. You can’t sleep here, George.” 
There was something I spotted right away, or I tell myself now after all that has happened in between (Paris ‘68, for instance) as something I might specifically recognize. A single almost hyenic gaze out from the paradoxical center of a fluidity of multiplicitous points-of-view. By almost hyenic, I hope to call attention to the hyena’s proven, self-reliant determination to survive – its laughing eye. It is not to suggest Porcari is anything but hygienic. Porcari is usually quite immaculate – especially when the niceties have been abandoned. So on our first meeting, when I turned him away, he chuckled and bowed. Presenting an immaculate grin in the face of apocalypse at both ends, he withdrew. 

Looking back, I seem to see Porcari in characteristic blazer and white shirt, spectacled, arms and legs outstretched, spiderlike against the entire visible sphere of the DF. He’s infinitely tiled, hand to hand, head to head, foot to foot like the motif in an Escher print. Porcari’s lifelong distaste for Escher (an artist circumstances force him into buying) suitably ironizes that image. The man of tastes, the very subject in all its delectable essence, forgoing to paint everyday life at all – rather content to allow it to paint only Porcari repeatedly on the distant film surface of its light-cone. The subject would prefer to have the real projected, un-contained, made sphere by his phenomenology? Fuck Heidegger. Porcari projected outward from the revealed busy stating its own timeless reason behind him. 

Porcari’s films often have this effect on me (exactly like those of his master, Godard) – they put me to sleep. If I go on to dream, it’s with the sense that my dreams are units of exchange in a capitalist labyrinth where the limits of freedom are exactly the same as the dimensions of Porcari’s library (taking into account its film collection). 
Unable to shut out the stamping-out of the paperback revolution in The House of Fiction (1987-2000), I sleep in vain. 

Does the capturing and preserving of total alienation paradoxically preserve the geist of the past? Porcari’s shots of tourists in Machu Pichu Peru tread closely to satire. Yet they have famously revealed secrets of the past that certain authorities deemed unsuitable for public distribution. Because the artist chose to focus neither on the UFO nor on the pyramid but on a freshly opened bag of potato chips in the hands of a tourist, the pictures were taken out of circulation too late to prevent their dissemination. 

How strange to remember that the past was always as pure as a just-breathing crisp after the first fragrant pop of the plastic bag. In the seventies, Porcari’s pictures unfix the soon-to-be-retro -- ovoid disks over gas pads, browns and polyesters outlining an eternal adolescence. The past reaches out full of the commodity’s first most joyous penetration of the real. It moves the heart as a kind of injustice. What was I then, I think. A child? Certain airs and fact come to me with a new immediacy, as if I had been in fact then an adult after all, and simply failed to understand it as I do now. The unfairness of human time.... 

Such cold and intrinsic questions were already dancing in my head, even only as memories of the future, by the time my systems were cleansed of their poisons. My sweat was now cool and my body empty. How long had I been at it? Evidently not as long as I’d thought. For Porcari was only just leaving. 

After a minute freshening up I followed him outside. I wanted to tell him he could stay, after all. After all, he was a writer. But glimpsing him in the City, I held back to see where he was going. 
Porcari walked swiftly. A trench coat wrapped his quiet step in the emerging numbers of the mysterious city. Not quite the man of the crowd, he could have been anyone potentially able to laugh. I had thought it was night, but was surprised to find when he turned the corner and I followed onto Calle Donceles, with its ranks of dark doored bookstores stacked with what was to me the bizarre profusion of an alternate universe’s literary past (more copies of the Quixote alone than there would be volumes in Porcari’s library when I came to work there) that it was morning. Perhaps it was jet lag. I realized it just as I caught sight of George picking through cut-rate utopias outside a used bookstore called The Labyrinth. Perhaps I told myself it was my first night in Mexico City and it was somehow appropriate that it would be in fact a morning. I don’t remember. It was the books that took my attention. And so only now it dawns: Porcari had indeed spent the night in the hotel room.