Text 1 on two wood boards on the floor:

(My recalling of Kleist short story "Earthquake in Chili" 

 

1.

This was a cruel, macabre, anarchic tale

about two hapless lovers. I read it in my

youth.  It was written by Kleist.  Josepha,

an only  child of a well-born family, loved

Jeronimo to distraction.  This  displeased

Her old father, who locked her up in a

convent surrounded by gardens and

protected by a  wall which, however, had

a breach in it.   On  Corpus Christi  Day,

Josepha broke the neat procession of the

nuns to give birth to a son right on the

cathedral steps. The scandal shook the city.

The authorities took the baby into their

custody, the pretty convent harlot was

thrown into one dungeon, her  Jeronimo

into another. The request of the Abbess, the

 

2.

wailing of the nuns, the pleas of Josepha’s

father could do no more than commute the

sentence passed on the sinner from burning

at the stake to mere decapitation.   This

caused much indignation among the matrons

 and virgins of the city; to appease them, the public execution was to be carried out at once. Pale as chalk, Josepha stared into the crowd filling the square,  while Jeronimo, driven to the brink of insanity, tied a rope around his neck, prayed

fervently to the Holly Virgin and readied

himself to embrace death.  Just then,  the

earth shook horribly, and a roaring noise

arose as most of the city crashed to the

ground.  I   remember Kleist  having  written

 

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something like “ as if heaven had fallen

apart.’ What ensued was an inferno. It

took  an  a u d a c ious  architecture  of

demolition,  such  as only  Kleist  could

manage, to promptly extricate Jeronimo

and  Josepha  from  the  ruins,  safe and

sound I can remember his olympian imp-

-patience, his summoning all his ambitious

virtuosity to the rescue: he cleaves Jeron-

-imo’s prison house with one decisive blow,

then brings down the building opposite just

in time to prevent another threatening ava-

-lanche of rubble. The prison floor is heaved

up and sharply slanted, hanging momentarily

from a surviving arch. He has engineered,

in fact, a sort of a slide on which Jeronimo

 

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rides  down  to  freedom, to scenes of havoc

and  destruction  and  into the waiting arms

of   his  Josepha,  saved  by  means  no  less

miraculous,  whose  exact  nature   escapes

me at the moment. But this slide is a work

of  genius,  truer  and  clearer  than  justice

itself. It is the reason I remember this story:

How  the  earth was made to quake in Chile

for two lovers to come together. I cannot

remember  what  that  other  building  was

before  it  turned  the  prison  floor into an

emergency slide.   To   judge  by   Kleist’s

heightened alertness, it ought to have been

the  courthouse;  but the story  takes place

in  the 1640s and I  have no  idea  where

they   used  to  put  their   courthouses   or

 

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whether Kleist gave this any thought. Be

it as it may, the earth does quake. Eager,

but cool and collected, Kleist can now turn

to a systematic settling of accounts: first

to go is the Abbess, along with a complete

row of her perfect nuns, whose merciful

hearts he causes to be squashed by a gable

of their monastic abode. The Archbishop;

he irons flat under the cathedral. The

Viceroy’s palace is swallowed by the earth.

Oh, yes, the courthouse; he burns it down.

And Josepha’s father’s house; he drowns in

a boiling lake. The whole city of Santiago

lies in ruins. A single church is left standing

reserved for the worst yet to come. Goethe

loathed all this. He warned the Republic of

 

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letters and society at large against the

ennervated sentimentality emanating from

such inventions. Art does not tolerate

adolescent hysterics, he thought. Kleist

was of quite the same opinion: in short, the

baby, too, is found unharmed. Jeronimo

hugs Josepha, Josepha hugs little Phillip,

and all retire for the night to a nearby

valley. There is soft grass, bonfires, idyllic

solidarity among survivors, class and rank

abolished, white bandages under the

moonlight. It is utopian reconciliation all

around, and Josepha’s finely-rounded

breasts have milk to spare for the child of

some wounded noble couple. These act

more nobly than ever. Thousands of

 

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refugees are lying around, resting. And

then – zeal, the working of the religious

imagination, the need for expiation. The

crowd is united in a desire to pray in the

one remaining church. Jeronimo and

Josepha decide not to make for the Old

Spain, but to put their trust for the future

in the New Chile. The nobility approves. The procession of the survivors struggles back up to the city, where they are awaited by a priest, left intact in his splendid vestment. He gives them the sermon of a lifetime. In brief, the culprits must be found. There they are, of course – the happy believers amid the congregation of the

faithful. That’s it then.  A  lynching.

SPLIT  1998  ​Passage De Retz, Paris 

room-installation within Beaux Arts,

L'ART dans Le Monde, Tendances Critiques 98 

                                                                                                             Curators: Ulrich Loock, Jacqueline Klugman