System Error

Dance & Dare – Essay on Siri Loves Me

© Wild & Thorny

Nothing much doing on Pieter Vreedeplein in Tilburg (NL). It’s Saturday afternoon, the sun is shining and the roses are on special offer. The people doing their shopping wander from shop to shop, from Xenos to Kruidvat and from Sissy Boy to Hudsons’s Bay, at the same time trying to avoid the canvasser collecting for the Heart Foundation. Underground, opposite Mediamarkt, a large piece of cheese is being projected onto the floor. Intermittently, a mouse appears in one of the holes in the cheese. A young girl, a child, leaps onto the virtual creature for ten points. Outside, a preacher rolls out his banner. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

A shrill beeping sound suddenly interrupts this mundane scene. Children start emerging from every corner. More and more of them appear. More and more boys and girls in grey trousers, skirts and jumpers. They run to different places on the square and stand there, stock-still. All of them engulfed in the weird, shrill beeping. I know that sound. It’s the beep of a system error, a short circuit. The sound that your ears can make and devices too, when something is wrong. I can’t stand the beeping for long myself, but the young dancers in front of me look peaceful and serene. They stand quietly and their eyes are closed. They have stepped outside the course of things. (Just turn off your iPhone and there’s nothing wrong with the world.)

The people going about their shopping have stopped now and stand encircling the mass of children, wearing expressions somewhere between fascination and confusion. Silence falls on the square. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, the children move through the circle of people. This is reminiscent of a solemn funeral ceremony. The monotonous beeping has now turned into a short staccato sound that marks the pace at which the children move. Every movement is made in synchrony and in time with the beat. They even blink their eyes simultaneously. “Where’s the exception?” a man next to me whispers. “Surely there must be someone out of synch?”

The knees of the girl in front of me start to tremble. I can see the muscles in her neck contract while she stares straight ahead. I can see beads of sweat coming through her foundation, while the highlights on her cheekbones shine in the sunlight. I observe the precision of her movements. Static. Mathematical. Just like the others. I can tell how hard she has worked to be able to stand here today and – although I have never done anything like this myself – I can’t help but sense recognition in all I see. Yes, I know what it feels like to want to do everything to perfection, exercising the greatest possible control.

Sometimes I wish I knew for certain which steps to take and when to take them. I wish that someone would explain to me how to move and would rehearse with me for days on end so that – whenever the time came – I would be certain to get it right. Sometimes I wish life was a simple algorithm. And that, since my actions were predetermined and always optimized for everyone, everywhere, I would no longer need to doubt anything. Sometimes I long to be a child in Siri Loves Me. Yet a life in which every form of unpredictability is suppressed outright is not a life at all, but a death march. I can see that and I know that now.

“Is this walking meditation?” A boy in harem trousers looks at me questioningly. I shrug my shoulders. I’ve never heard of walking meditation. I feel like throwing myself across this square. Like scouring over the paving stones with my bare back, like stretching all my limbs and laughing and crying out loud – that kind of thing. I feel like doing everything differently.

Essay by course member Ingrid de Rond on Siri Loves Me by Katja Heitmann at Pieter Vreedeplein in Tilburg, the Netherlands (14 October 2017, for Oktober Dansmaand). Written within the scope of the Writing Course Dans & Durf (Dance & Dare), a project for creative writers who dare to seek new words for dance, by Domein voor Kunstkritiek (Domain for Art Criticism) & DansBrabant (Sept. 2017 – Jan. 2018).