In the darkest depths of the Amazon rain forest, there lives a spider that eats birds. Its name is theraphosa blondii, more commonly known as the Goliath birdeater, and it is the biggest spider in the world, measuring about a foot from end to end. Its body is roughly the size of a tennis ball, and its fangs are about three-fourths of an inch long. But don’t worry; this spider’s bite isn’t deadly to humans—it just hurts a lot.
In spite of its name, the Goliath birdeater doesn’t eat a lot of birds. An old 18th-century engraving by Maria Sybbilla Merian depicts it in the act of killing a hummingbird. This gave rise to its reputation as a bird predator, an idea that stuck around in the collective consciousness. Blondii is a burrowing spider, and so its food tends to live on the ground as well. Mostly, it eats earthworms, which according to top scientists are very nutritious, as well as frogs, lizards, small rodents, and the odd snake, though if it came across a bird, it would definitely eat that too. This is a very hungry arachnid.
Speaking of hungry, local villagers consider blondii to be a very tasty meal. To prepare it, the hairs are singed off first, as these can cause itching and irritation, then the spider meat is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked to perfection. Our sources tell us it kind of tastes like shrimp.
We introduced bureaucracy to a group of 7th graders from Walsh Elementary (somebody had to do it and better us than some soulless clerk at City Hall). The induction took place at the Chicago Art Department on February 12, two days before Valentine’s day. That’s right, the love was flowing, the ink was fresh, and the documents official. Furthermore, Nat Soti shot and produced an awsum video about us. See it here.
Our performance paid tribute to Rodrigo Lara’s exhibition, “Deportable Aliens.” Few Americans are aware of a mass deportation of Mexican-born persons during the 1930s euphemistically called repatriation and we appreciated Rodrigo’s efforts to bring this shameful event to light.
Putting the oft-repeated motto of Documents Bureau to work we employed the path of most resistance. Our event at the National Museum of Mexican Art included numerous steps that aimed to expose the absurdity of repatriation.
In the time before the main speaking event, Documents bureau assigned people new identities and “repatriated” them to faraway or not-so-faraway lands.
Attendees spontaneously formed an enormous line, further adding to their misery and the illusion that bureaucrats held their fate.
When they reached the front of the line they were made aware of their fate and advised to make use of the document services provided.
They were given a travel fortune.
They met with our team of clerks and addressed their new problem head on or else denied their fate and worked to better their lives in other ways.
We’re not here to incite any violence against flies (or dragons). This image merely shows the presence of flies in art (look along the bottom edge to see one that’s landed on a bone).
In Soledades. Galeríar. Otros Poemas (1907) Antonio Machado offers an endearing and philosophical take on the pestiferous insect.
by Antonio Machado
Old familiar flies,
plain flies of everyday,
you bring back everything.
Old flies with appetites
as keen as April bees,
or running those tickly legs
over my infant scalp.
Flies of my first tedium
in the parlor of our house
on bright summer afternoons
when I first began to dream.
And in the hated schoolroom,
funny zooming flies,
hounded from sheer delight
in everything that flew
(flying is all that counts),
buzzing, bumping windowpanes
on autumn days…
Flies at every stage—
babyhood and teenage,
golden days of youth,
and now this second innocence
with nothing to believe in,
Plain old things,
you’ll never find your singer—
you’re far too commonplace:
I know that you’ve alighted
on the charmed plaything,
on the shut schoolbook,
on the love letter,
and on the rigid lids
of the dead.
you never work like bees,
nor glitter like a butterfly,
you tiny little gadabouts,
you’re old friends just the same
and bring back everything.
Amidst the objectionable weather of February, Documents Bureau returned to 2nd Floor Rear. Our hearty clerks aided the public in producing over 150 documents some quietly attesting to personal convictions and others bellowing defiant statements against life’s annoyances.
New this year was The Climatic Cathartic Confessions Desk. Behind our red curtain we offered intensive therapies to help visitors shake off seasonal affective disorder. Fortunes were invoked by Miss Annie and her famous W.A.S.P. divinations and Remedios served as spiritual guide rousing weary winter travelers to revolt against “dibs” and other winter iniquities.
Special thanks to I Am Logan Square gallery.
Here are the fabulous clerks and guests who were on hand:
We’re busiest when it’s freezing! This will be our third year participating in 2nd Floor Rear Festival, the 24-hour celebration of Chicago’s vibrant community of alternative and DIY art spaces. The festival has been key in our development. In 2013 we presented Unsuspicious Activity Around an Attended Package, a roaming, improvised performance that included carrying Clutch on the El, picketing against bigness, and carrying a typewriter. Typing in public places became a thing. While lunching at Penny’s Noodles in Wicker Park, we typed a pardon for a worker who broke a glass. This, and other clerkish gestures since, have laid the groundwork for Documents Bureau, an interactive performance using bureaucracy to playfully co-create with audiences.
Bundle up and come get documented! We’ll be spewing red tape at I Am Logan Square Gallery. Here’s the skinny:
February 7, 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm
February 7, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
February 8, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
February 8, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm