On Saturday afternoon, we went to the Thames outside Tate Modern and boarded a boat for Plouf! as part of the UBS Openings: Saturday Live - Characters, Figures and Signs. This is what happened in this re-enactment of a 2006 performance originally carried out off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
A boat approached our boat. We stood on the deck, bobbing lazily on the chilly river, the sun in our eyes. The other boat came into view. There were two men, with a megaphone, a washing line, coloured flags and a flashlight. Our boat was silent. The other boat was busy.
There was an evocative, enigmatic text read out by megaphone by one of the artists (Flavien? Bismuth?), as the other (Flavien? Bismuth?) pegged flags on the line, rapidly putting them up and taking them down. So much to say, so much to do, so much to do in order to say it all... We followed the 'transcription' of the piece in our programmes, glancing between the flags on the line and the translations in our programmes. Each message was suggestive, extraordinary, moving out of context and in this context...
I am drifting
I have a desire to communicate
I am not in my correct position
I require a tug
your signal has been received but not understood
keep clear of me, I am manoeuvring with difficulty
The performance ended when their boat was too far away to see them. And our boat turned back towards Tate Modern, wondering what it all meant, what the two men were trying to say, what they were trying to do and what the difference was anyway between the two. And we disembarked, quiet, thinking of all the things we could have said back to them, all the things we could have done in order not to pass like ships in the night, as we just had.