The Funambulist – Paulette Jonguitud responds to Iris Epstein’s ‘Pájaro Funámbulo’

by: , April 19, 2018

© Iris Epstein

The funambulist walks on the rope she has stretched between two mountains. Not regular mountains. Hills of decaying female corpses. Ravage. Her outstretched arms help her keep her balance and she sways as if waving hello to someone in the distance. But there is no one. And no one is her.

The mountains wage war. Not the mountains. There’s a conflict going on in the valley above which she walks. Darts fly in every direction but it’s hard to predict where they’ll land, when they’ll hit. There’s no logic in the battles. They seem to her like an ongoing wind of violence. The darts sometimes scratch her skin. She’s never the target but she carries the wounds.

She won’t run.
She won’t stop.
She comes and goes keeping her balance.

The war is impossible to ignore. How could she when she feels it on her nose and the back of her head? The war is impossible to ignore but she knows the bloodshed is not hers. She won’t own it. It’s a male war. Of course. One can tell by the number of female carcasses.

The baby in her belly makes her walk harder. Her personal struggle is simple: keep herself and the child alive and in balance on the wire. The wire is a cable she braided with the hair of her dead; a line she hardened with a paste of their ashes. Each step she takes is an affirmation and a challenge. When she frees one of her feet from the weight of her body, lifts it up and puts it in front of the other, that movement is all that matters. She wonders where everyone has gone. But there is no one. And no one is her.

She likes to think her fate depends on herself, but she knows it’s not true. She could fall. She could be hit and become another body in the pile of rubbish. Her only purpose is to keep her balance above her homeland. So she moves in the loneliness of Prometheus.

But the birds like her and only by accident do they splatter her with their faeces. When the wind or the rain are too strong she stops, leans forwards, one hand on her growing belly, one knee on the cable, and shifts her weight to her buttocks. She lays on her back, one leg around the wire, the other one hanging down like an anchor. And she knows she’s a sitting target but trusts the wind or rain will keep the darts from the baby inside her. A girl. A girl like those dismembered down below.

She has to keep her balance. She has to continue her perambulation on the rope until something happens, until women are no longer prey. Landfill. An ever-shifting tide of discarded breasts and bellybuttons.

She’s by herself. No one cares if she moves or if she falls for she’s only one of many. If she could look around without risk of falling she’d see them all, struggling to keep their balance on so many ropes around her. Some are old, some are girls. But there is no one. And no one is her.

She learns to keep calm, despite the darts and the murmur of female voices she doesn’t know if she hears or imagines. She presses on in defiance of the shouting. Hide! Run! You can’t keep walking forever! She walks in order to be a moving target and she knows that letting panic sway her is the best way to fall down.

She’s not there because she wants to be there but because there is no other place to be; she has no mask, no makeup, no desire to let them take her down. She carries what she needs and what she needs is the life inside her, a life she has named María. A baby that lives in water and red light and can hear her mother’s breath stop when she loses her balance for a second. The girl stays still as a rock and tries to be light so her mother can keep walking. On they go.

She won’t run.
She won’t stop.
She comes and goes keeping her balance and when she moves her arms she imagines, for a second, she’s a bird. There’s no safety net but she reckons the detritus of the war could act as some kind of cushion. It doesn’t matter. She’ll keep on walking, back and forth. She knew when she started there was no safety net. Under her line lie the faces and remains of a carnage she won’t be a part of. But she knows something of hers is there too: her waste, torn flesh darts have ripped from her body. She isn’t there out of boldness. She wishes she could come down without a dart going through her head. She’s not frightened by the height but by the valley of fallen eyes that look up at her.
She won’t run.
She won’t stop.

Iris Epstein is a Mexican photographer and writer. She studied at the Universidad Iberoamericana and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is featured in the Double Tree in Bogota, Colombia and the Hilton Garden Inn in Veracruz, Mexico. She lives in Mexico City. Instagram: @irisepstein

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