Would you mind playing a guessing game? I’ll be asking, and you’ll try to answer.
Imagine a dark space. There is a kind of construction, an alien lighting machine the size of an elephant. Nothing is revealed yet, but it already has a name: Bruno. Or perhaps it’s a title: BRUNO. What does it mean? Could it be an abbreviation? Like Blazing Roaring Unidentified Night Object? Unlikely. It must be a name, at least it sounds like a European male name. You may even know the guy. He may be one of your relatives, your friends or acquaintances, former classmates, he may be the one you heard of, and may be somebody else – if so, who? A flutist, a magician, a candle kindler, a star accountant? Bruno may also be a surname, and then you definitely have a guess – it must be that famous monk, a philosopher and a poet, burned in Rome in 1600 due to disagreements with the Holy Inquisition. He believed that there are innumerous worlds in the universe, believed in other earths orbiting other suns, inhabited by other life forms and probably other people. But people are always other people, aren’t they? Among them there could always be someone named Bruno. So who is he?
Hard to say. Not enough light. The lighting elephant is dormant, dimly silhouetted in the night. Suddenly someone (Bruno?) kindles the sun, the white alien sun hanging low above the horizon. Its bright spotlight pierces the space, casting sharp airless shadows. The alien day has begun and you see two human-like creatures go about their business. What are they doing? Looking for Bruno?
You say there is too little information to suggest an answer, but alas, there is nothing I can do about that. Innumerous worlds contain innumerous possibilities, which means nothing can be said for certain, but anything can be guessed. Did those two have an affair or were they just trying to adapt themselves to the unfamiliar conditions on another planet, lit by another sun? What brought them there? Who made their fancy costumes?
Throwing a guess at a situation of uncertainty brings with it a strange kind of pleasure. Not all riddles necessarily have solutions, but all are subject to interpretation. Back in the 1960s, Susan Sontag warned us against interpretations, and we are free to interpret this historical fact any way we like. What it comes down to in the end is a certain kind of jouissance – making riddles out of almost nothing. Why has this creature stopped moving? What is that sound? Is this a spacecraft? A possible answer may suddenly emerge as a glowing picture on the cave wall: several sacred figures in a ritualistic round dance. Gods? Animals? The image only appears for a short moment. Was it a key to the whole?
Maybe it was, nobody remembers anymore: night is succeeded by the next day, and another anthropomorphous creature has joined the other two. The group seems to be conducting sensual experiments, exploring potentialities of their bodies and the environment. They are curious. They try different things but never go far, always stopping shortly after having started, as if in fear that something could go wrong. Like regular explorers, they start to dig the ground, trying to get underneath the surface. They try to hide and pretend that the situation has nothing to do with them. That they are in fact somebody else. But who?
Did you say “Bruno”?
At this moment, night falls again and suddenly the lighting elephant awakes. He lights up his eyelamps and starts singing. His tubes and spotlights sound like a hypnotic bulb orchestra. Can you understand what he is trumpeting? Maybe he is the one? Bruno, I mean.
But you don’t seem to be interested in this anymore. You don’t feel puzzled, do you? You seem to be indulging in another pleasure, that is, letting the uncertainty remain uncertain. But my game is not over yet, and now it’s your turn to ponder and make a guess: who is Bruno?
Of course, there’s an infinitesimal probability that Bruno is you, and then – bingo! – you didn’t even have to start reading.
But in case your name is different, what would it be, then? Hugo? Paul? Cécile? Mark? Alix?
Whatever, you say? Doesn’t matter, you say? Wrong direction, you say? Nomina sunt odiosa, you say? Let them just be what they are, you say?
No way. After all, this is my Bruno, not somebody else’s, and sooner or later I’m going to find out.
Ruthia Jenrbekova was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and graduated from the Kazakh State University as an ecologist. Since 1997 has been involved in various types of activist, artistic, literary and curatorial initiatives. Employee at the imaginary art institution krёlex zentre. Author of texts and films, educator, performance artist and researcher. Often collaborates with artist Maria Vilkovisky.