Shut inside my apartment, awaiting better days, I bead the cans before I eat them.
To be continued.
Shut inside my apartment, awaiting better days, I bead the cans before I eat them.
To be continued.
The following is some of what I wrote while, and directly after, spending 10 days in total darkness. The pictures was taken the last day, when seeing the walls for the first time and slowly getting my eyes used to light again.
I know when I wake up the first time in the room that it’s still night. And then, when I wake up the second time that it’s morning. The darkness is the same around me, but my thoughts have a lighter contour, almost like a cloud that the sun is hiding behind. I lay under the duvet and look around me. For a second it surprises me that I can’t see anything, despite still remembering where I am. It’s like I was expecting dawn to come with light, even though I’ve made certain it can’t.
I move in three dimensions. What the movements look like is not important, only how they feel. They expand the room, that could continue forever. They expand my body out into the emptiness. Gravity is apparent here. But the part of my body that is not in connection with the floor sometimes seem to hover. I’m flying, and I’m anchored at the same time. The ground lets me know I exist. It keeps me with it. No matter how I stretch out or land, it is always on the ground. It lets me know that I belong with this specific matter, this collection of atoms that’s lumped together to form a planet. I am part of a living system, and here in the dark, the ground defines the meeting point with that system.
Sometimes the darkness is like the ocean, when I’m sitting on the bottom without my mask. It wants to push inside me, flow in and dissolve the matter I call me. The pressure of all the water in the Atlantic against a tiny bubble of air inside my nose. I have to force myself to breath slowly and calmly through my mouth where the regulator is feeding me oxygen from the cylinder on my back. Such a small action: accidentally breathing through my nose, or just not resisting anymore, and the living cells that make up my body will be turned into dead matter.
The darkness is a foreign element, but it is not threatening like the ocean. It can’t suffocate me, it is outside of me. I can breathe calmly. My cells are not filled with darkness. But they must be, because they are not glowing with light. Underneath my semitransparent skin there must be relative darkness, even when my body finds itself in the light. And it has to become progressively darker the farther in you go. The inner-most core of me should have never seen the light. Except for that time when a surgeon cut some holes to peek in, and some light fell through as well. And then she cut off, and took out, some of my living material. Living material that was killing me. Now that material is dead instead. And it’s no longer part of me, or my darkness. It’s out in the light. It has become visible and harmless. The nurses leaned over me, like knights in blue and silver radiation safe armour. A strong light behind them. The same light that fell through the holes in my body. I was on the table. The centre of everyones attention. A piece of living meat in their hands.
And then darkness.
And it was over. And I was alive, even though every part of my living body was still made of dead atoms.
If I had not survived, I could not ask you: If we don’t radiate light, does that mean we radiate darkness? It is so very quiet, because your can’t answer me. The silence presses against my eardrums and keep them still. Keep them stuck. The darkness is deeper when I open my eyes. It reaches far outside of me and my eyelids. It’s mind-boggling and terrifying to be erased and return to matter.
Sometimes I see myself in the dark with a tiger suit. My striped arms move across the floor or sneak along the walls. I can see my tiger ears listening and my tail unroll. Like an interactive, striped pyjama.
I lean against the radiator and pretend that it is the last rhino in the world that lets me come close. With my ear pressed against its side I can hear a choir of monks sing, in the wheezing and fizzle of the pipes. I have promised to never tell anyone about the rhino. No one will believe me anyway, the last one died too long ago. I remember that I read “The one who sees everything as material will never be free” and I thought “I don’t want that kind of freedom. I don’t need more freedom than I already have.” And I’m so wrong. For later on, when I’m not at all afraid and the floor is the floor of a forest of frog-trees where I’m lying on my back, in my striped tiger pyjamas and look at the stars, I’m all of a sudden much more free. And that is better. That is more. And the black panther-fox leans down over me and picks me up and together we run across the starry sky with our eight legs.
Sometimes the room is dark. Sometimes there is Nothing there. I’m looking at Nothing until my eyes become nothing. The last night in the room I dream that I see myself. My skin is pale and colourless, my hair is dirty and lank and my eyes are black, bottomless glass spheres.
I’m standing in the doorway of a room I’ve never seen. I have no idea how big it is, what shape it has or what can be found inside. A compact darkness fills the room, as if it was matter. It is as solid as a block of stone, until I take a step into it and it doesn’t hold me back. My feet feel the floor, my skin feels the temperature and dryness of the air, my nose picks up smells and I can hear the faint echoes of my movements bouncing of the invisible walls somewhere in the farther in. I raise my hand and move forward until it hits something. Until this moment, the object I’m now touching has not been part of my perception of the room. It grows and takes shape, as my hands move across its surface. I get to discover it slowly, almost like if I was removing the block of stone piece by piece until I sculpted the room from inside, without having light filling my head with preconceptions.
How will my thinking and writing be effected by the absence of light? Who am I without everything my eyes let into my brain and the safety of being able to judge my surroundings with sight? What will want to be written? What will come after the boredom, that I’m sure comes first, as a result of the absence of distractions: no computer, no phone, no book, no knitting, nothing to see? Who am I in that situation? With only a pen and a paper in the dark.
Tomorrow I will step into this room to start to find the answers to these questions. I will spend ten days in the absence of light, assisted (with food and other things) by artist Meri Linna who, as a part of her own practice, has created the space I will inhabit in the kind of darkness that your eyes can’t get used to.
Meri Linnas page about the project: http://re-treat.info/home.html
Outside Border, part 2: the objects.
1. All that lost potential
Even without violence, time slowly shuts you down. It deposits layers of leftovers from the borders you couldn’t cross. Rust spreads, corrodes and buries you, makes you useless. Not crossing means you are stuck, closed out and closed in at the same time.
2. All those dreams
In the game of acting yourself every day, where do we keep the things we save for later? The ageing dreams and the abandoned plans. Where do the unused end up when we forget about it? When we give it up.
3. All the perspectives
The cost of sorting is paid by the sorted – placed in a category that shapes who they can be. But also by everyone else, when all the problems they could have solved go unsolved.
New project, made in response to an exhibition invitation from curator Winnie Pelz. Part 1: the process.
“The European colonists created an egg without a chicken, a logical absurdity repeated across the continent and one that continues to haunt it.” Tim Marshall, Prisoners of Geography
What is this island I stand on? And what is the rescue I’m hoping for? I’m waiting. To be useful. To cross the border. To be whatever “me” is.
What is the cost of drawing a line?
Without the right key
you’re stuck between doors
rusting while waiting.
all the doors we could have opened
no longer apply.
In early October it was time to take down the “In the periphery” exhibition. The weather had changed and aged the pieces in interesting ways. The wax had gotten sunburnt, some of the jars was filled with water, little algae and rust was climbing up my grandmother’s mazarines, only her hat acted as if nothing had happened while the moss grew around it.
They live in the window of my studio for now.
As mentioned in the previous post, I used some of my grandmother’s everyday objects as starting points for my contribution to artist-group FIUYMI’s exhibition “In the Periphery” this summer (up until 29th of September) in Koster’s sculpture park in the (kind of) south of Sweden (but very close to Norway).
I did this to talk about the kind of periphery dementia is.
When my grandmother started to disappear into a state of ambiguity and mixed reality it was very painful to watch this highly capable and strong person starting to forget how to take care of herself. I lost the possibility of having long, meaningful conversations with her, since the timeline was constantly reset and cut off, and started to become a stranger to one of the most important people in my life. But even then, mixed in with the sadness, was amazement. At how strange our brains are and how creative they are, constantly. She had entered a world of dream logic. To her all the people she had ever met and all the places she had ever been were in reach all the time. Her mother, dead since at least 20 years, could come visit, and Spain, her favourite country, was sometimes on the second floor of her house. I especially remember a conversation I had with her the last Christmas we celebrated together. She both knew and didn’t know who I was. In her mind she was there to interview us about what we thought about the big news that we, as a family restaurant (something we are very much not), had gotten the job to make the Nobel-prize ceremony dinner. She asked many questions about this, but was at the same time a bit confused every time she remembered that she was part of the family. She also kept coming back to the question of when someone would come pick her up. At first I corrected her every time, explaining that she was going to stay with us and celebrate Christmas, but it felt so sad to have to tell her she was wrong all the time (that can’t be fun to hear over and over even if you forget it two minutes later) so I stopped, and followed her lead instead, to see where we would end up. We ended up in quite a few places actually: The North Pole, Spain (always on her mind), together with her dancing uncles many years ago, and back again at the family restaurant, to mention a few. It was not the kind of conversation we used to have when I was younger, and that I still miss, but we kind of had an adventure and travelled in time while the Nobel-prize dinner was being made in the kitchen, and I think we where both happy for a while.
Off course this is not “the solution to dementia” and off course it doesn’t always work to just go on an adventure instead of handling the problems in front of you. But I am really glad I have memories like this together with her.
Back to the exhibition. Here are the finished pieces, placed in the sculpture park.
“Grandmother bakes (and forgets to stop)” 104 concrete mazarins (her speciality). In the background the other two pieces.
“Grandmother sorts in strange ways” 18 jars of wax keys that no longer open anything.
“This hat was given to me by my daughter’s mom” Silicone cast of one of her hats, and direct quote.
Thank you everyone who came to the opening and told me about your own experiences of dementia! A hug for each of you.
When we emptied grandmother’s house 3 years ago, I saved some of her everyday-things. Keys, shoes, her cane, the hat that was hanging by the door. This summer I’ve made casts of some of them for the exhibition “In the periphery”, in Koster’s Sculpture Park at Sydkoster, an island on the west coast of Sweden.
Here is part of the process of the keys.
Some of her keys, nobody knows what they once opened.
Dementia can be like opening doors with the wrong keys. Everything gets mixed up, all the places you’ve been and all the people you’ve met behind every door, or behind no door anymore.
First test: concrete.
Result: a fossilised feeling, time has stopped.
Second test: molds for wax casting.
Result: ghost key, fragile and blank like her fading memories.
Ghost keys stuck in concrete.
Saved in jars the keys loose their function even more.
I have been four people in this project. The explorer, the introvert, the organizer and the corpus maker.
The explorer is the one traveling the ocean, looking at the world with curiosity and deciding to own it. Ruthless science and colonialism: to do because we can, or to do to find out if it can be done.
One of the most common questions I got during the exam exhibition was what material the branch is made of. When I answered “raw hide… skin”, the asker’s look changed and they just had to ask “human skin?”. I wonder how we can be explorers without being colonizers.
“The travelable distance”
The introvert is the one remembering that we might sleep half a meter away from another person, but a wall of concrete make us exist in different worlds. We are only aware of the neighbours upstairs when they are disturbing us, we co-exist at a distance and agree to pretend that someone else will save the world.
“The apartment next to theirs” (left) and “If they weren’t made to be empty” (right)
The organiser is the one documenting and collecting. Sorting the world and combining the fragments into our preferred version of reality. Ideally I would like my work to meet an audience slowly and quietly, like the way you find lost things in the attic and you wonder who they used to belong to.
“Our preferred version of reality”
The corpus maker is the one placing the borders around pieces of emptiness, the definer of inside and outside. Possibly even the creator of inside and outside, since neither of them can exist without the meeting place that is the border.
“The only other piece of land”
Exam presentation set up.
Exam exhibition with cast concrete floor and 4 of 7 pieces.
Done. Next project.