Not long after don quixote arrived in Barcelona and saw the sea for the first time, “broad and vast,” a gentleman showed him an enchanted head with “the property and virtue of responding to any question spoken into its ear.”
Damià Díaz, like the creator of the “head that responds,” also “determined the bearings, painted the characters, observed the stars, looked at the degrees, and finally completed this with all the perfection that we shall see.” In collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes of New York, Díaz, a native of Valencia, has used don quixote to prolong “the abyssés of silence” about which our character speaks in the secret chamber where the head is revealed to him. Multiplying cervantes’s creation, the díaz heads respond “in a quiet voice” to silent questions, with sealed lips and glass faces that are perhaps reminiscent of the licenciado vidriera, cervantes’s “glass graduate” who answered all manner of questions after hallucinating that he had been turned into glass-one imitation more of this writer who enjoys concealing himself.
“Tell me, you who respond: was my account of what happened to me in the cave of montesinos the truth or a dream?” This is the question Don Quixote puts to the talking machine. We are not masters of past, of that incandescent labyrinth that Damià Díaz has placed within the head suspended in front of the mirror in the institute’s garden. Its distant truth possesses us and speaks to us, just as it did to the mad knight, transforming us into an incessant flow of verbiage that poses questions to an unidentified listener, an unidentified viewer.