Last week in London, spring was fizzing through branches of willow and lime, leaves unfurling in brightest yellow-green. I got off the train at Kings Cross and took a bus up the hill to Angel, through the blossom and the new leaves. I met my aunt at the top of the hill and she led me to a pub with a high-ceilinged back room, out beyond the bar and the noise, where we could talk. Sunlight striped the dark wood floor and the almost empty space was a relief.
My aunt bought us drinks and we sat at a table in the corner. She sat beneath the window, a dark figure against the sun, but light fell also from a smaller window at the opposite diagonal of the room. We were talking about death and of people close to us who found themselves suddenly in its shadow.
If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? … I went to wander in the woods at the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. T-shirts to snow and back again. Tiny saplings were pulling themselves out of the undergrowth, bluebells hesitantly unfurling their petals, deer footprints still fresh in the mud. We walked for a few hours with the sound of birds whistling in the air above us and the river rushing underfoot. Every 10 minutes, the air was punctuated by gun shots. Louder and louder they came in a cascade of rounds fired with deafening precision. The explosive noise of slick bullets raining on targets or beer bottles or whatever was propped up on the back porch of the house next door barricaded by pickup trucks parked on the front lawn. Wishing it would end, we walked to our car in silence.
April. It was Passover, it was Easter. Then it was Orthodox Easter.
We spent Passover week travelling, setting out on the first day and taking the long train north through Scotland, from Glasgow to Inverness and on to Thurso, the furthest point of the Scottish mainland. I had been invited to a seder but had had to say no as we would be travelling. I was curious as I have never been to a seder, although a friend once shared with me the hard boiled eggs in salt water and bitter herbs, one April in the Hebrides.
I saw a huge form, rounded and shadowy, and shaped like an egg… Its outer layer consisted of an atmosphere of bright fire with a kind of dark membrane beneath it… From the outer atmosphere of fire, a wind blew storms. And from the dark membrane beneath, another membrane raged with further storms which moved out in all directions of the globe. Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias
Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic and nun, had a vision of the world as a Cosmic Egg. She depicted the earth as a chaotic ball of confusion, contained within an egg-shaped universe. The four winds blow through this universe, concealing and revealing the heavenly bodies. Hildegard believed that the winds would eventually articulate a harmony with this chaotic world and the people in it, establishing calm and clarity, inside and out.
On Easter morning we painted the eggs that we had hard-boiled, then placed them in a box, and drove with our children to the nearby cliffs where the lighthouse stands, on the most northerly point of Scotland. The winds were blowing hard from all directions. The islands of Orkney were hidden by mist and the curved horizon was all sea and sky. We pushed our way through the fat and tearing gales and rolled our painted eggs at the edge of the world, through the slopes of heather, putting our hope in ritual, repetition, and the force of the winds.
When I made this series of anthropomorphic hammers I saw them as weapons rather than tools. To weaponise, the weaponisation of, Easter and egg — a free association of words circling round my head and not finding any order.
THE UNTOUCHED- Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, 2023.
A primary forest is a virgin forest, which has remained identical over the centuries without the presence of man transforming it. It has therefore never been exploited, fragmented or cleared by human hands and has remained intact over time.
L’intensité lumineuse augmente ou décline. La couleur et le volume des touffes d’herbe et de bruyère varient selon l’inclinaison des rayons du soleil. Le ciel se brouille parfois de nuages. Depuis vingt heures, la steppe patagonne défile sous nos yeux. Le spectacle est envoûtant. A l’avant du pont supérieur de l’autocar, il est panoramique. Un routard assis à côté de moi commente : c’est un film mais c’est mieux qu’au cinéma. Illusion d’optique : nous ne sommes pas assis dans un fauteuil immobile, c’est notre fauteuil qui se déplace dans une steppe d’une monotonie fascinante. La route coupe en ligne droite selon un axe nord-sud un plateau d’où émerge rarement un relief comme une bosse sur un crâne dégarni. L’autocar double un poids-lourd qui plafonne à 80 kilomètres-heure. On voit venir de très loin le camion qui remonte en sens inverse. Les chauffeurs se saluent peut-être comme des caravaniers. En train, il arrive qu’on se croie en mouvement alors que c’est le train voisin qui bouge. On s’en assure en regardant de l’autre côté. La pampa n’offre aucun repère.
On Easter Sunday at 7:36 am, a loud alarm sounded on the mobilephones of the residents of Hamburg. It was a warning that there was a major fire in the area. Residents were asked to avoid the city, stay at home, and keep their windows and doors closed as dangerous toxins were in the air.
It was difficult to extinguish the fire. It took days until the wind dispersed the toxic clouds that had spread.
I do not know if and how much of the invisible water under our feet, which we walk on every day, was used to extinguish the fire. I had never really paid attention to the small numbered blue ‘water’ signs until now.
On avait tellement parlé, j’avais l’impression de connaître toute sa famille. Le jour d’avant, on jouait aux cartes. Quand on a l’aviation ennemie au-dessus de la tête tout ce qu’on peut faire, c’est jouer aux cartes. Si la bombe tombe à moins de 5 mètres, la tranchée s’effondre et tu meurs dessous, si elle tombe plus loin et qu’elle atterrit sur une pierre, c’est bon.
Tous les deux, on était décidés à quitter la tranchée sans attendre les ordres. Abandon de position, c’était la cour martiale mais on n’avait pas le choix, il fallait sortir de notre putain de tranchée. Finalement, on est sorti tous les cinq. A ce moment-là, on ne savait pas que la première ligne s’était déjà retirée et que les gradés nous avaient laissé tomber. On a attendu la nuit. Avec les fusées, c’était éclairé comme un stade de foot. On a emporté nos fusils même si on avait plus de munitions. C’était bête mais dans la guerre, sans fusil, tu te sens nu.
Hypothèse : si le sentiment de liberté trouvait dans la brume les moyens de s’exprimer? Pendant plusieurs journées, nous avons expérimentés ce principe, ma fille, ses amis et moi-même. Nous avons dessiné un avenir flou – libre dans le flou, et nous l’avons filmé. Nous avons dansé l’invisible, chanté dans les ombres, éprouvé la nouvelle ère trouble qui nous entoure, nous avons respiré, ensemble, dans le futur.
I feel the need to mark this house that I have lived most of my life in; for what else do I have left as testimony that I once lived here for many years between several other occupants. I wish for something tangible to identify this house as my home, albeit a temporary home. A mark is personal, like a scar that holds memories, something to tie my living body to this cement body.
When I say goodbye to my home, soon not to be, what I would reliably find beneath my feet, a firm ground of concrete mosaic, suddenly turns to water.
Women-Lighthouses – from left to right, shadows of Anne Brunswic, Eleni Wittbrodt, Alisa Berger,Catherine Radosa, Natacha Nisic, Cornelia Eichhorn, Katja Stuke, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, 18/2/2023.
Je suis devenu un spécialiste de la peur, la verte, la bleue, celle qui paralyse, celle qui te fait galoper, celle te change en mouton ou en assassin. Je connais celle qui fait battre le cœur si fort qu’il te soulève la poitrine, un chien blessé à mort. La peur qui renverse l’estomac, tu dégueules, celle qui tord si fort les boyaux, les tripes, tu vas te chier dessus, les crampes, les jambes raides comme des piquets, tu ne mettras plus un pied devant l’autre. Je connais aussi les jambes en chandelles, tremblantes, flageolantes, tu tombes à la renverse comme une quille. Je t’ai dit que j’étais un spécialiste. Il y a la peur spéciale la nuit quand tu n’entends rien, celle quand tu crois entendre quelque chose mais c’est peut-être un copain qui se faufile dans le noir, il y en a qui se sont fait abattre comme ça, le bruit des bombardements, tu es assourdi, c’est la fin du monde, en un sens c’est comme un film catastrophe, on est tous ensemble, le bateau chavire, la tour s’effondre, tu peux crier, pleurer autant que tu veux, tu peux te débattre, il n’y a rien à faire, même Dieu ne peut rien pour toi.
Built between 1925 and 1926 at a cost of $30 Million USD, the Avon Lake power plant was shut down in 2021. The power station processed over 4,000 tons of coal a day and was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for emissions violations.
The nonprofit Clean Air Task Force’s study from 2010 concluded that death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Avon Lake power station include: 29 deaths, 47 heart attacks, 440 asthma attacks, 21 hospital admissions, 17 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 23 asthma ER visits PER YEAR.
WSMR is the largest military installation in the United States. It was the detonation site of Trinity, the first atomic bomb on 16 July 1945. The road to the Headquarters includes road signs prohibiting the use drones and forbidding the use marijuana, and warning drivers not to take photos, not to leave their cars due to potential traces of radioactive contamination, and not to remove trinitite, a mildly radioactive light green glass formed from melted desert sand in the seconds after the first nuclear weapon was detonated (I was tempted). This image was taken from Aguirre Springs Road, just west of the Range visible on the upper right hand of the photograph.
As I write,
33 000 lives
on the border
In these days
and the starting
of this vein
and as I
I see this
in the earth
A fortnight ago, Dettie and I each chose photographs we had taken of imaginary mountain ranges for our contribution to the week’s Crown Letter. It was a surprise to us both to find this echo — our miniature details, imagined enormous. Her mountains were made of ice and mine were shadows. Both were subject to the passage of the sun for their fleeting life. Impermanent mountains pointing at the return of the sun after a long winter.
The following day I met Dettie in my dream. I said to her, I can’t understand why I am so tired. Then I remembered. I had given birth to a child in the night. And it had taken ages. A long slow labour, like an endless drive in the dark.
L’amphithéâtre de plein air où va se tenir notre simulacre de débat est aménagé dans un jardin public qui descend en gradins vers la mer. Derrière la petite tribune, deux tables, quatre chaises, rien moins que la Côte d’Azur dans sa splendeur printanière. Au centre, Antoine et son assesseur, un critique littéraire auquel je n’ai pas été présentée, aux extrémités, les auteurs invités. Cette mise en scène inhabituelle évite toute proximité physique et même tout contact visuel entre les challengers. Je m’avise que je suis la seule femme en face de trois mâles chenus et, en fin de compte, la seule autrice à l’affiche de ces rencontres. Un, deux, trois… les micros marchent. Antoine commence par Maurice ; ce n’est pas élégant mais j’aurais dû m’y attendre.
I find dioramas mesmerizing. The Immel Circus contains 2,620 hand crafted pieces: thirty-six elephants, 186 horses, 102 assorted animals, ninety-one wagons, seven tents, and 2,207 people. A miniature embodied postcard from another era, it restages and celebrates the past with an impressive fidelity to detail. The effect is uncanny: I imagine myself as a child among the crowds of plastic figurines, grasping for cotton candy and bursting with laughter as clowns take over the horse-drawn squad car.
This still is from the film, The Intergenerational Struggle for Collective Territories, (11 minutes, 2022) directed by Karen Pamela Huere Cristobal & Anyely Martínez.
“We dream of being the generation that raises our voices and are heard; we dream that our generation speaks up for our territories and that more young women join forces to understand our mission as indigenous women. Just like the Congona tree that stands firm and provides food for the cibuaco bird with its ripe fruit, so our mission will grow tall and will nourish others who would normally follow our parents and authorities. We want to be heard so that communities and organisations are informed about our rights and issues, so that they might give us space and help us to strengthen our resolve; heard so that the state recognises and acknowledges our agenda and our proposals as young people, as women who are part of a community and a people.” – Karen Pamela Huere Cristobal
I met Karen last week at a screening of her film, alongside four other films made by a group of young Indigenous women activists in the Peruvian Amazon region of Junín.
One of the very first gestures of Care : to give one’s attention to something, to a thought, or to someone.
On the morning of 31 December, I took the children to the ridge line to observe the snow-covered summit of Mont Blanc, which can be seen in the distance on a bright blue clear day.
On the way, we found a beetle.
For this new year of 2023, besides wishing you all joy, I would like to ask my Crown Sisters to help me to collect gestures of care. Sisters of mine, what would be the gesture of care that you would describe for me, for inclusion in one of the Museum Of Care‘s contributing collections?
I was making paper for a wall drawing for a show in Upstate New York and the steam from the boiler and the hum of the beater began to slowly melt the snow and ice on the outside of the greenhouse that I was working in.
Photography/digital collage made during the long-term film project Campagne de Paris, paysage triangulaire (2017-2023) on the Triangle of Gonesse (Paris region) – agricultural land in the process of artificialization (satellite view source – Géoportail.gouv.fr).
Yesterday I walked from Covent Garden to Whitechapel through the City of London. Not as quiet as I’d expected on a Sunday, but there seem to be a lot of tourists in London at the moment and it was sunny and bright. This tree with its concrete casing stopped me in my tracks: rings the only sign it had lived, trapped inside a small fortress. My eye was then drawn upwards, up the blue metallic cylinders of Lloyds of London, ‘the World’s insurance marketplace’, as it boasts on its website.
The building was designed by Richard Rogers and opened in 1986. Five years later Lloyds nearly went under, but was saved, although many of its so-called ‘names’ (often small investors who unwittingly invested with unlimited liability) did lose everything. Insurance could be one of the ways to stop the madness of funding fossil fuel extraction. Meanwhile the ice caps are melting and the physical world literally imploding, as permafrost becomes former-frost and ice sheets slide faster and faster into the ocean. These shiny towers lean into each other – instead of trees – high up above me, reflecting themselves and the sky, completely out of touch. Of course that is the point. Anything could be going on in front of a screen, inside a steel and glass tube – I’m in front of a screen myself as I write this, looking at the picture of the steel and glass tubes. You could be insider-dealing or investing in windmills, selling mortgages or weapons, or all of those things. The little street across from here is called Saint Mary Axe, named after a medieval church that was destroyed in the 16th century. I’m glad the name has stuck although no one quite knows what it means. Whose axe? What was it used for? A name is a stubborn thing, that can keep on conjuring – haunting, stirring – even when no one remembers where it came from or who first used it.
Je me fourre encore et toujours dans des guêpiers dont je sors confuse et furieuse contre moi-même. Cela m’a inspiré le recueil de nouvelles « Qu’est-ce que tu fais là ? » paru en 2001. La question est toujours d’actualité. Bon sang, mais qu’est-ce que je fais là ?
Un taxi me cueille à la gare de Marseille. Il me dépose une demi-heure plus tard au pied d’un hôtel de luxe en bord de mer. Je pénètre dans l’espace épuré d’un magazine de décoration. Le volume de la chambre est démesuré, le lit de deux mètres de large inquiétant, ma pauvre petite valise noire me fait l’effet d’un cafard dans le couloir l’entrée. Je pressens que j’aurai du mal à trouver le sommeil. La baie vitrée donne sur une crique aux parois ocre rouge qui plonge dans des flots bleu indigo. De la Méditerranée souffle un vent printanier. Le ciel est d’un bleu irréprochable, transparent comme il n’est jamais à Paris.
Letter from Glasgow: Still Refuge
My best friend’s mother, who found refuge in London from Iran in the nineteen seventies, used to tell us how in midwinter, in Iran, the seeds of many pomegranates are extracted from their shells to make a glittery red heap, she told us it was to invoke the light of the sun on the darkest day of the year. I pictured vast metallic bowls of shining deep red seeds under pools of light in dark rooms. We never shared such a feast, but she did share her copy of the Persian poet Hafez, opening it at random to let it fall at lines that might have special wisdom or importance for us, which she would seize on with excitement or a resigned nod.