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Formal Economy

The Beggar

  • May 24 2020
  • Liv Schulman
    Whether fictions, films theatrical performances or diaries, Liv Schulman's work is centered around the practice of writing. Language, often enacted by interchangeable bodies, seems to spin out of control to the point of blurring and blending stories, creating absurd connections, and giving light to a paranoid yet acerbic and parodic vision of the social world, based on the alienation of bodies, the devaluation of identities, and the complexities of desire for meaning.

Llega una mujer vistiendo un trajecito gris y una bolsa de feria de arte. Zapatillas Nike.  Saca el texto de la bolsa, se pone cómoda, deja la bolsa en el respaldo de la silla que está en el escenario. 

Woman (tratando de llenar la voz de deseo): 
If I look closer, squinting my eyes I can see a beggar in the corner of the room, wearing a football team t-shirt and a pair of black plastic bags instead of shoes. I understand that is a statement for fashion not for poverty, obviously. His soft and muscular body is made of clay. A beggar made of clay, and black plastic bags and eggs instead of muscles. (moverse en el escenario de derecho à izquierda) Eggs, the limit between food and sculpture I would say, so soft that it looks like a muscle, so democratic that it creates life and so mysterious that it rolls across the rivers of financial speculation.

Vincente Manssur, Ovnis, 2017

In the beginning of 1492, a beggar came with an egg to see the queen of Castilla. The egg, was there to signify the shape of the earth which was round. That didn’t come across as clear to the queen of Castilla who looked at the man with a form of perplexity and mental disorder. To her, the earth was a flat hard surface lying over the back of a group of elephants standing like cheerleaders in equilibrium over the carapace of a group of turtles.
 But the egg was there to signify an opportunity for infinite commerce. It contained a piece of information. The beggar wanted to arrive east by traveling west. Does this sound crazy? It was!
To signify his intentions, he smashed the egg against the table. And how do I know this? Because this beggar was Christopher Colombus, and because I saw this scene in a movie about his life.
 At the end the man never really arrived East, since standing in his way there was a whole new continent (empezar a llorar). But was that really a problem?! Was a little mistake going to be an impeachment for commerce? Never! So swimming in denial they decided to call the place and the inhabitants of the place Indians.
The egg became a symbol of the Americas, and being the Indians victims of a very refined form of Stockholme syndrome, they worshiped the eggs and used them as a form of money before money. And since they were very fond of symbols, they found no problem in accepting imaginary regulations as regulations. Because, what did they care about money! Their business was Imagination! 

(Mirar al horizonte) I can see the beggar has moved on now, he has abandoned me and my performance, his soft body made of soft dough. 

500 years later, but in the same place a small trader invented the Infinite Egg. This was a cylindric long infinite egg to be used in wrapped food that has to be produced in industrial quantities. The infinite egg, (Sacando la primera imagen plegada de la bolsa, desdoblando) The infinite egg is to be cut in equal slices in order to integrate elaborate foods. (Sacando la segunda imagen plegada de la bolsa y desplegandola) As you can see in this picture there is the same amount of egg in all the parts of this meat roulade. Is that normal? It is when you have a fair society, a society that has inherited a love for eggs and social justice and how do I call that? I call that communism! Yes! That’s the infinite Egg, a long, constant, cylindric egg. an opportunity for commerce one would say, a muscle, of our economy in latin America. The Infinite Egg had a name, it was called “Eggolino” a semantic heaven for the word Ego and the word Egg to collapse. Un hombre grita: CAERSE! Cayendo al piso, respirar. Desde el piso:

When I grew up in the liberal economy of the nineties it was decided that one peso would become one dollar. In order to backup such some phenomena a country like mine had to hold as many dollars as PESOS. That was our desire and that was the case in 1992.
 What took us to want to create such a phenomenon? Many reasons, like the fact that we suffered from low self-esteem. So, in order to put up that was called convertibility, we asked for a loan in dollars (poniéndose de rodillas). We begged the Americans, and the international monetary fund, and someone finally accepted. 
The next morning we were flooded with dollars in concept. That doesn’t mean that our sad note bills with the faces of the Conquistadores had become the green papers. But in the theory, the one was one. That meant that if a bottle of coke costed one peso, I could pay it with a one dollar bill. We wouldn’t but in the symbolic statement lied the beauty of the thing. And that form of abstraction marked my life, one would be the other one forever. So, when I see a beggar in the street and I want to give him or her ten pesos, I will know that I am giving the beggar ten dollars, that is not a mirage, it is a phenomenon called convertibility. (Ponerse en la posición del Niño, extender la mano hacia la audicencia) I outstretch my hand with an out-of-circulation bill note from the past. Because in the reality how could my poor dirty ten pesos equal ten shiny dollars? (Ponerse de pie, respirar). 

Vincente Manssur, Aji de Seco, 2017

A Little Mistake 

My name is Liv Ullman.
 This might sound confusing or as a joke, but it is not, I was named after a Swedish actress called Liv Schulman. I am interested in things that have to do with me, like being Swedish. I love Swedish people, I look for Swedish objects and I send letters to the Swedish embassy every month, telling them what I am becoming and the progresses I make.
 So, I am Liv Ullman. I have never questioned this piece of knowledge because it came from my parents who were big admirers of her movies and wanted to use the fact that I was already gonna be called Schulman to the fact that they admired Liv. So, I was called Liv Ullman and at home it was almost as having an already famous artist under the shape of a baby. So, I never questioned this piece of knowledge. The other reason I have never questioned this piece of knowledge is because it’s esoteric. And what is esoteric is the knowledge that comes from within. So, I wasn't going to base myself in Wikipedia if I already knew something that came from within my body. It was more than esoteric, it was my name! Who governed in my body? I tried to naturalize myself as Swedish, saying I had a vast filmography. I contributed to the Film market. I had been a pillar of the movies industry. And a turning point in the history of drama. But in my father’s surname on my birth certificate there was a spelling mistake that made it impossible to prove that man was my father. So, my surname started looking like an invented joke. And this year I learned that Liv Schulman is in reality a Norwegian actress. Things looked even more slightly wrong. The Swedish embassy didn’t do anything to fix it, they wouldn’t even answer my letters. They remained silent. I was like a slightly wrong unofficial copy of someone else, coming from an undetermined country. How could one differentiate things if they look the same in grammar and in theory? One wasn’t one anymore? What was one? A number? A person, a being?
 I looked at my slightly wrong clothes that was all HERMES, PRADA and Luis Vuitton and Dolce And Gabanna. What had been formal, was informal now. The Swedish embassy wouldn’t understand. If one was one, official or fake, why didn't they do something to fix it? What did they care if one thing was the other?! Life was energy, life was electricity! 
I came back to my imaginary dollars, I had cumulated during the nineties. 

I knew what we were as a society (levanter la mano con tenor religioso). It wasn’t Sweden. 

We had the dollars. (Ir hacia la pared lateral, apoyar la cabeza contra la pared, darle la espalda al publico) This happened in the 90’s but in many ways we were ahead of our time. Because...was it money our problem? No, our problem was fantasy. We had too much of it. Our lives were based in executing a series of imaginary equivalences that started changing all the time, unable to face reality. Our business was desire! We were pure abstraction! Before the crisis everyone did what they wanted: (Hablar mas rapido, girar sobre su propio eje contra la pared, avanzar hacia la puerta en movimiento rotativo) One day a peso was worth three dollars, we were rich! The next day there had been a mistake, one dollar was now seventeen pesos, we were poor! The morning after one peso was 23 dollars- we were even poorer! In a sprint of libertarian economy we sold all our national industries, we looked around, everything in the country was imported or a home-made wrong copy of everything that existed in the world and was imported. Prices changed all the time. Stickers with prices started piling up in shops, every day every hour, every second they were different. The price stickers accumulated on the walls.
 The walls started to look padded 
just like the padded cells in a turmoil. (Dejarse llevar al piso).

At home, we had a form of nervous depression, the dollars were all gone by now leaving in their place a bag of anti-psychotics. Because it is by slipping into objects that desire finds its way in the material world. I’m really hot right now. (Ir hacia la plataforma, adopter una postura vertical, quedarse vertical)

Vincente Manssur, Metrovia, 2018


Spinoza’s project was to enhance everyone’s self-esteem by making them believe that in the world’s saddlebags there was no place for mistake. (Desplegar imagen de Spinoza) Pure positivity! he said and that scream of pure positivity sounded like a “do whatever you want! Follow your desire”. What Spinoza meant for real I have no idea, since I have never read Spinoza. But in his wikipedia article it is insured that Spinoza understood God, and by God he meant “The Totality of the Things That Exist on Earth” as a concept that didn’t have place for negativity. As long as there was offer he said, there would be demand. Not the opposite. So, if there is offer for pain, there would be demand for pain and if there is offer for boredom, intensity, mistake and frustration there would be a demand for boredom intensity mistake and frustration. All coming things would jump into the existent flow of offer that created its parallel and always thirsty flow of demand. So that was God, and that was my idea of international commerce. 

So, there is Spinoza, creating positivity, and all the things that existed doubled their existence for the fact that they existed in the reality and they existed in desire. Because now God was pure desire

Desire, a very important thing to get a job and love going. Or love for a job if one considers love to be a job, which it is.
 And in this orgy of positivity. A nurse heard him and stuck a needle in a patient's eye. And the patient had to sue her and the hospital for outrageous practices and hired a group of lawyers that lingered around in the hospital corridors looking for a job. They lingered for a job opportunity, the lawyers, wearing shabby suits with their clothes in tatters. So there was work, there were offices, photocopiers, employees secretaries. And so there was the job market there were recommendations, start ups, photocopiers, precarious contracts, parties at offices, where everyone did what they wanted and charged for that, a woman walked to her but and charged for that, the Americans took off their clothes in an act of psychosis and charged for that, a woman kissed another woman by mistake she discovered a new sexuality for her, and with that new sexuality came new needs and with those needs a whole market took over. 

(Take a thicker accent) Garage churches were created by mistake tithes and blessings and transes and newborns were created by mistake and the world kept spinning. The Americans sold used cars by mistake, they took off their clothes, they cut pennants, they crossed the Andes several times to put mini-markets in all the posts by mistake.
 We all learned English by mistake, the minister of economics and the minister of education, the minister of health and the minister of national defence stood in the posts, becoming the new comedians, waiting for a commercial opportunity, a flow of informal commerce, that would rule the new world as it had always ruled it, by mistake.
 And all this happened because of Spinoza in the background,
 all error was an opportunity for commerce.
 Not so for capitalism, that was critical and lethargic, and regulated the quality of things: good and bad, official and unofficial
 but Spinoza with his goodwill!
 Disarmed the Puritan principles
, a drug dealer heard him and sold the residue of the cocaine he was cooking 
and what was a mistake at first became a commercial opportunity,
 a business plan, for all abilities.
 For the ruling classes the cocaine, and for the working classes the crack. And sometimes it could be the other way around: crack for the ruling classes in search of new experiences. For the middle classes, the pharmaceutical industry. And for the working classes, plaster dust and hard bread. 

How to Build a Country

One year ago I was walking with my mother in the little Israeli town that has absorbed her and my sister first as immigrants and now as citizens after the crisis with the changing prices put them out of the national turmoil. We were walking in the street and we saw a man begging for money at the bank’s gate. He was very attractive. And knowing that the activity of begging is by nature the purest form of staging a successful business in the art of building a country, we understood that the town had grown and that now it wasn’t a town anymore. It was raising as a city. We had a system of elections, social security, death wish, war, war merchandising, and injustice. Because begging is the pure essence of accepting whatever comes as a resource.
 My mother looked at the man with pride and said: “Now we’ve finally gotten our own beggar”. 



"Formal Economy" was published in print issue 7, "The Exhausted Land"

  • Cover Image:
    Vincente Manssur, Gran Escape, 2018



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