The last pears in the world

Last part of my memories of “Memories from a parallel future”: PAYING THE PRICE OF SURVIVAL

I collect cans, shoot them and gather the shells in jars. I enclose. To protect and hide. To keep, portion and ration. I put the beetroot’s broken bones in a cast and shoot it to pieces that wither and dry. I plant seeds in cans of glass and water them with saturated salt water.

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Beetroot in cast, just shot.
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The same beetroot, a week later.

The thing is: we are the descendants of the survivors. In every catastrophe, every time in history when humans have done horrible things to stay alive, our ancestors have survived. Every last one of them. Somehow that doesn’t cheer me up.

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Reliquary for the last pears in the world, memories from a better time.

Ritual survival packages

Part 4 of my memories of “Memories from a parallel future”: SURVIVING

Depletion of resources always leads to violence. We know this, but still we keep nibbling at the earth a little chunk at a time. What do we plan to do when there is nothing left?

During crises rituals become more important to people, we cling to the known and safe. The thought that something has been done the same way, over time, by many people, fill objects, movements and words with meaning and function. We become actors and participants in a wider context, we don’t have to choose – the ritual is already set in its form.

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Survival for two weeks (plus an onion for some taste).
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Each package contains a daily ration for someone of my size to survive (not thrive). Rice, beans, grains, etc, in waxed cloth.

How do we survive today in a way that is worth its price tomorrow?

Mostly harmless

Part 3, of my memories of Memories from a parallel future: DEFENDING

I’ve never been a threat to anyone. There has never been a reason to kill me. But if I sit there, on a pile of food in a world unable to produce more, I can see three choices: share it and die when it runs out, kill to keep it, or be killed for it. Who do you want to be in that situation?

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Defending 1, 2, and 3
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Defending 1: glass can with used cartridge shells.
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Defending 2: burned can, glass lid, red velvet, used shotgun shells.
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Defending 3: burned can, glass lid, red velvet, used cartridge shells.

Next time: SURVIVING

The life and death matter of salt

Part 2 of my memories of Memories from a parallel future: PRESERVING.

What has been collected needs to be preserved. Salt is an edible stone that is soluble in water. You sprinkle it on your food and in disappears into it and completely alters the taste. Once a culture has discovered salt, there is no going back. Salt has long been used for preserving food, next to drying and smoking. It preserves life (our’s) because it kills life (what would otherwise live in our food). Kind of like hand sanitiser.

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Preservation 1, 2, and 3.
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Preservation 1: keeping it airy and dry.
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Preservation 2: salt crystals covering glass, keeping it clean.
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Preservation 3: salt crystals growing on thyme, preserving and killing it.

Memories of memories from a parallel future (that is now the present)

This whole situation reminds me so much of my bachelor project (Memories from a parallel future) that I did back in 2014, that I just have to share a few pictures from it here, even though it’s a finished project! As you can see, I’ve always liked cans…

The project took its starting point in a real global environmental disaster that happened the year 536 CE, that changed the course of history in many ways. Here in Scandinavia, for instance, about half of the population died, the survivors started building forts in places that had never needed them before and they buried their gold in the ground, and new, more violent religions took over from the old ones.

The idea was to imagine a parallel future in which something like this happened again, in a world that was not prepared for it in the same way — since we are farther away from our food sources nowadays and have less wilderness to fall back on (the wild has historically always been a backup when harvests have gone wrong).

The project imagines the survivors of the disaster, and their changed relationship to food that follow from its scarcity.

According to the research I did for this project, there is a kind of timeline to these kinds of disasters, that I simplified into groups of objects focused on: Collecting, Preserving, Defending, Surviving, and Paying the price of survival. Over the coming days I will share one group at a time, starting with:

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COLLECTING. A state between control and craziness. Remembering The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, I see the riches in a pile of cans. Riches that you have to constantly consume to stay alive. I calculated that to survive the disaster of 536 (that was most likely an enormous volcanic eruption in El Salvador that lowered the temperature of the whole earth for more than two years, and (among other things) erased two year’s harvests here in Scandinavia), a person of my size would need 4 500 cans of food to survive. So I started collecting cans, and dressing them in velvet and silk, to show their right value. The picture show a few of them.

Next time: PRESERVING.

After a summer outside

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.

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They live in the window of my studio for now.

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In the Periphery

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.

Tilda1“Grandmother bakes (and forgets to stop)” 104 concrete mazarins (her speciality)In the background the other two pieces.

tilda3“Grandmother sorts in strange ways”  18 jars of wax keys that no longer open anything.

tilda2“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.

Memories of my grandmother, part 2

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.

IMG_6285Some 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.

IMG_6292First test: concrete.

IMG_6299Result: a fossilised feeling, time has stopped.

IMG_6320Second test: molds for wax casting.

IMG_6335Result: ghost key, fragile and blank like her fading memories.

IMG_6344Ghost keys stuck in concrete.

IMG_6384Saved in jars the keys loose their function even more.

 

Memories of my grandmother: day 12 (last day)

Dear grandmother,

Do you remember that time when I helped you to move? I was so efficiant in packing away your kitchen things that you had to call me for months afterwards to ask where things where hidden. We are right by that house now. Your last house, with the amazing view. We reached the sea finally, crossing half this country on foot to get here. I remember you walking slowly in this place, your hip hurting more and more. But you never stopped picking away the weed that wanted to live in your driveway. You brought a foldable chair with you, sat down and picked away, then moved the chair one step foreward, sat down again and continued. You had plans when you moved here, even though you somehow knew you where moving back north to die. Someone else live in your house now. They are not as good at picking away the weeds, but I’m sure they love the view. We slept the last night at that museum you liked so much, they have cottages for hire now in the middle of all the historical buildings. We had dinner at the same table where you and I ate. We talked about you. We will continue to talk about you.

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Fragment 13: a piece of weed from her driveway, since she is no longer there.

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The sea at last.

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The cliffs fall apart like cubes here.

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Detail from one of the sets at the museum Mannaminne.

Memories of my grandmother: day 11

Dear Grandmother,

I doubt that you remember the last christmas we spent together. It was the last time you went south, but for you geography was just a matter of convinience. By then Spain was on the second floor of the house and the kitchen was preparing the Nobel-price dinner. You where apparently there to interview us about our family restaurant, not at all to celebrate christmas, even though you got confused every time you remembered that you where also part of the family. I tried to correct your thoughts and bring you back to reality, until I realized that being corrected constantly is no fun and what is reality anyway? So we embarked on a journey through your mind insted. Every time you asked the same question I gave you a different answer, to see which one you liked the best. We ended up with plans to go to the north pole by hot air ballon. All those plans gone, offcourse, five minutes later but you liked them while they lasted. The next five minutes was a different adventure.

I wanted to tell you that it was one of my best christmases and I will never stop being amazed of how the mind creates reality, even though I will never stop missing having a long and continious conversation with you.

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Fragment 12: a piece of fir / a bit of christmas tree

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In this house the christmas candles where still in the window.

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A farm with a view.

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A wonderful but closed down roadside restaurant called “the Swan”.