This is the final installment of a 4-part series. You may read the first, second, and third installments here.
After almost two years, nearly 50 events, and perhaps thousands of attendees from all walks of life, Cultural Center MUTA is now set to host one final event – a demolition party. And yet, with five bands, three DJs, a jam poetry session, a destruction room, and all the pizza, guiso, and adult beverages that a starving artist could desire, no one can argue that Mati Lastra & Co. are riding into the sunset quietly.
Showing up relatively late (at least by my standards) on the evening of the event, I find Mati, Sasha, Alejo, and Malén putting the finishing touches on a festive, colorful, and fully interactive environment. Instruments, amps, and microphones litter the living room floor – long gone are the numerous piles of rubble, dust, and brick from earlier in the week. A fully enclosed tunnel installation now connects the three main rooms of the home, providing guests with the luxury of streamlined North-South travel. I take note of at least five new murals since my most recent mid-week visit, plus the addition of a kaleidoscopic inspired, blacklight equipped, drawing/painting/do-whatever-the-F-you-want creativity room. Michael Jackson remixes have already begun to stimulate both my body and mind, and I decide it’s best to heed the shrewd advice of an unknown, yet hilarious guest:
“Under-the-influence imaginations are preferred, Brendan, although not technically required.”
Cold beer in hand, I sit down to watch and observe.
Guests soon begin to arrive in waves, and the majority start their evening off with a methodical room-to-room stroll. For many attendees, tonight marks both their first and their last MUTA experience. For better or worse, it will be an unnerving, passionate, and impressively expedited relationship whose only tangible constraint will be the finite currency of time.
While some guests begin to bob and weave to the music, others opt for the “wait-and-see” approach, resting their backs firmly along MUTA’s colorfully decorated walls. I meet a wide range of interesting characters, including a young Paraguayan filmmaker named Rodrigo. Here to document the night’s many activities for a MUTA documentary short, we get lost talking about proper night-time aperture and the best tasting Paraguayan river fish. After about an hour or so of some truly laissez-faire people watching (and quite a few beers), Rodrigo turns his attention and his camera to the increasingly violent hip gyrations of the now unhinged living room guests. The King of Pop has transitioned to some deep-house funk, and it appears that the crowd is capable of going full-blown Footloose at any moment in time. Figuring it’s as good a chance as I’ll ever have to sneak off and leave my artistic mark on MUTA’s walls, I enter the free-for-all blacklight room, select my weapons of choice (neon green paint and a medium-sized brush), and begin painting beneath the watchful gaze of more artistic eyes.
A few fleeting strokes later, I’ve finished my masterpiece in prosaic ingenuity:
Stelli M. Franklin
Taking a moment to admire my work, I hear Mati and Sasha summoning me to the destruction room.
“Brendan! Let’s go! We are about to start breaking things!”
Moving my way through the now immense crowd, I enter the destruction room and come face-to-face with a construction supervisor from Villa 31. Both a friend and coworker of Mati’s, this nameless giant has been tasked with the unenviable job of managing the safety a bunch of dudes foaming at the mouth to break some shit. Relieved to have been offered a pair of safety goggles and a construction helmet, I position myself directly in the line of fire, hoping my sacrifice will result in some high-quality action shots. In what was probably the biggest hit of the night, countless partygoers unleashed their stress, frustration, and destructive proclivities on innocent electrodomesticos and household items (including legacy iMacs and flatscreen TVs). Although I manage to courageously snap pictures through the first four chaotic rounds, once razor-sharp ceramic mug projectiles start to explode in unpredictable directions, I decide it’s best to quit while I’m ahead.
Tagging in Rodrigo with an exaggerated dap and pound, I pass him my goggles and helmet in exchange for an ice-cold beer.
“Cover up the sensitive parts Rod,” I say, “you never know which angle it’s coming from.”
Making my way to the terrace, the entire house is now filled to the brim. Familiar faces are few and far between. Scanning the crowd, Mati gets my attention to let me know that the poetry jam session will soon begin. Moving to an obscure, closet-sized room hidden alongside one of the terraces two winding staircases, I’m excited to witness what is sure to be an intimate reprieve from the prevailing anarchy of the night. Now settled close to the front, with 15-20 people packed tightly behind me, four Buenos Aires-based poets read, collaborate, and create in what is the most empowering moment of the night. Even the curators participate, with Mati reading an original reflection piece on what MUTA has meant to him. The emotions of the moment are palpable, as Mati thanks everyone for the parts that they have courageously – and vulnerably – left behind. With each attendee now left to inscribe whatever they desire on MUTA’s last remaining blank walls, I speak with a local poet and MUTA collaborator named Florencia Savarino.
Me: Flor, tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get involved with MUTA?
Flor: I’m a licensed professor of literature, having studied at the University of Buenos Aires. I dedicate my time to writing, reading, and reviewing books. I came to know MUTA first as a friend of Sasha’s, then as a participant, and finally as a collaborator in a creative writing workshop.
Me: What are your thoughts on MUTA? As a cultural center, a vehicle for community empowerment, a metaphor for life, etc., etc.
Flor: MUTA is completely open. The curators do not charge anything. I think that is one of the most amazing things about MUTA, the fact that artists collaborate solely for the sake of art, to share in a communal experience. Maybe you pass a hat, but it’s symbolic. We meet to have a good time, but above all, to facilitate the exchange of ideas.
Me: Is it that exchange of ideas that propels you to create?
Flor: Absolutely. Everyone has something to offer, big or small. From murals, to writing, to participation, everything is a give and take.
Me: How would you define MUTA?
Flor: It’s an incredible and extremely open space, one that will remain long after the actual home is destroyed. It’s like the phrase we wrote one the construction scaffolding outside: “Todo relato es un relato de viaje, una práctica del espacio.”
Me: How would you explain that statement?
Flor: It has to do with the difference between place and space. A place is designed, it’s static. A space, however, is one that is walked, practiced, and lived. Above all else, MUTA is a lived space, a lived experience. Each one travels their own way. Very soon the home will be destroyed, but they will never destroy the community of lived experiences.
As Flor and I finish our chat, the party has moved on without us. Returning downstairs, I begin to document the comings and goings of the night, trying my best to capture the organic beauty of the many intimate scenes unfolding before me:
Hugs, laughs, and spliffs exchanged over some beers… friends of the new and old variety… family, an ever-evolving medley of both blood and art.
With the impenetrable crowd of 500 plus guests now shifting, moving, and celebrating as one unified wave of inspiring euphoria, I see no sign of Mati, Sasha, Alejo, or Malén. Although only midnight, and with the party set to rage until the early morning light, I realize that my time with MUTA has come to an end. No longer fighting the pull of the crowd, I solemnly move through the foyer and towards the front door. Exiting where I first entered only one month prior, I stumble directly into a jovially intoxicated Alejo. We take a moment to exchange a smile, a head nod, a fleeting glance of praise, appreciation, and gratitude, before finally speaking.
“Gone so soon?” he jokes.
“Just like MUTA.” I respond, with a laugh.
“Don’t you worry,” he says as we embrace, “we’re just getting started.”