Rodrigo Avil’s passion is film. He talks animatedly of Tarkovsky and Poland, where he studied and at the border of which country he had the confiscation of his passport threatened. He talks of the pitch for his project which is provisionally entitled “Water Men”- he waits for a call from his lawyer.
We talked a lot that day. We spoke briefly about the 1st of May. I told Rodrigo how I had watched a punk set light to litter bin on Oranienstrasse as twenty cops looked on. How the next day Der Zeitung reported this incident with the gleefull, “When will this ritual ever end?” ramping the incident into spectacular evidence of confrontation.
We talked about the politics of water. About how the villages of the High Andes suffer under the mining industry. How water had passed into private ownership and fishermen resorted to catching the clouds in a high net and condensing the rain.
A few weeks earlier in this very spot I, along with a number of undercover cops, had watched demonstrators rehearse their tactics against the G8. A crowd gathering in the sun. A week or so later and I had found myself in Rostock trying to finish a piece on Art Goes Heilegendam for Whitehot and had watched the police stopping and searching anyone wearing black. As five or six Polizei, in the requisite military fatigues and shiny new robo-cop body armour, surrounded some hapless youth they, in turn, found themselves surrounded by a ring of photographers. The image had become the site of contestation.
An opportunist at the edge of the frame slipped into a Stasi.2 T-Shirt and grinned at the cameras. A group of policemen posed beneath a tree to have their photo taken by an artist with a large plate camera. Astrid gave them the finger.
Rodrigo told me that under Pinochet they had evolved tactics, dispersals and sudden disappearances, the city gridded out like a chessboard as tear gas and smoke bombs filled the air. The insurgency had to remain one step ahead of the cops, literally, a matter of life or death.
Rodrigo drew an imaginary map with his hands and the conversation turned to Commandte Marcos, Islamaphobia in the U.K, Kreuzberg and Faust.
Rodrigo tells me that the stakes are higher in Sau Palo, the conflict less symbolic. He studied photography under a renegade professor who delighted in using his rhetoric to persuade combatents to change their allegances – provocation – in the heated cauldron of town square debate.
He tells me about Laffayette and how, in a small town in the American Deep South, he had witnessed a Klu Klux clan rally. The police controlling all access points, snipers lining the roofs as helicopters circled.
I confessed that in this situation, uncertain of the etiquette of providing my own pillowcase I would probably not have let my curiosity get the better of me – that being seen leaving such a meeting might occasion some unpleasant contact.
He admits that here his nerve had also failed and that he felt some relief at being turned away by the cops.
A friend of his had once said to him that he believed that when Germany next finds itself in crises the neo-nazis will come to power. Rodrigo finds the idea that anyone can hold such a view appalling. He has survived Pinochet, Marseilles and Louisiana. He can survive Deutschland. The only revolution left worth fighting for is cinematic.
Rodrigo awaits for a call from his lawyer and we talk some more and share a cigarette. He is not interested in controversy for its own sake. He wants the story to simply unfold before the lense. To observe, to watch and wait.