Seeing Without Seeing
Site-related construction at P.S.1 in Long Island City, New York. "Special Project Program".
We were very often at my grandparents' house in Alicante, a small city in Spain near the Mediterranean Sea. They lived on the 5th floor of an old walk-up on the Paseo near the harbor. Everything was very old in that building and in that apartment in particular. One of the rooms was taken by my uncle Manolo and it was full of papers with the name of his company in green letters on the top. He sold thousands and thousands of lamps throughout his entire life, all kinds of lamps. I liked to touch the bunches of paper piled up on the shelves.
In the living room of that apartment there was a medium-sized frame with an old photogravure on it. It was so old that the image was totally faded away. All that remained was an empty frame hanging on the wall, you couldn't really see anything in there. I guess my grandparents were keeping it because of the frame itself or because they still could recognize something on the wavy surface of the paper, who knows. It was in front of this frame where my brother and I used to play a particular game.
We both stood in front of the blank frame without saying anything, and after a few seconds of staring intensely inside there, we closed our eyes and tried to figure out what image it could have been. With our eyes closed we tried to describe to each other the image. Very often we agreed on what we were seeing, and it was almost always me who described it to my brother.
Sometimes we didn't like each other very much, and we disagreed on what was there and pretty often that was the beginning of a big fight. Other times it was a very scary game. When we were seeing weird things, ghost-like images with faces of people, dead people presumably. And then we both had to open our eyes and we start yelling and laughing nervously. But we had to repeat the game if we wanted to have more details of the image and we scared each other with the things we said we were seeing. And when the game got really scary we had to close the door to the room and make sure that the windows were also closed so nobody could get into the living room while we had our eyes closed and eat us up, so we thought.