I woke up having forgotten which way to turn the key to my door.
It was as though somebody had taken apart pieces of me while I had been asleep, only to put me back together, like a puzzle; and in the process had misplaced one of the pieces. So irrelevant it had been, that the puzzle looked complete enough without it, and the solver just walked away shrugging.
Or maybe it was an accident on a microscopic scale, concerning a couple trillion neurons and synapses, and a single fallen martyr.
I returned to Saint-Etienne after a year’s absence. My old studio used to have a municipal alarm system like the one in the image, above. It would blare out with deafening wailing sounds like clockwork on the first Thursday of every month. I usually put on ear protection and worked through the noise. If the alarm test day coincided with a morning when I brought my newborn into the studio, we had to go out of the building and down the street to escape the noise. I can’t imagine living somewhere where air raid sirens are an almost daily occurrence that actually indicates real and present danger.
That evening, when I had finished the drawing, I walked down the hill by my house. I stopped by a tree at the bottom of the hill. It is a tall oak, with arms raised up as if in greeting. You could not hide in this one’s skirts, but her head is almost heart shaped. A plaque says that this is a Hungarian oak, planted in 1918 to celebrate the granting of votes to women. I think of it as a tall woman. Young, by oak standards. Oak trees can live a thousand years. Two thousand, according to Pliny the Elder.
I had hoped to go back to Prague for the last month’s residency, to see what remained of my memories, but it turned out that I could not. I had wanted to approach the city by train again, from the other side, thirty three years later. There would be no radio chiming the hours, no polished wooden corridors or jars of tea in metal holders, perhaps no mystery. A journey of nostalgia, of curiosity?
I covered the couch with a Qashqai rug, a worn runner that my mother no longer wanted, but which was too long for my hallway. It fitted just right. I added some cushions and a blanket. It made a pretty good near relative of the couch in London, at the Freud Museum. It was somewhat creaky, being over a hundred years old, and had un-sprung itself in places, but I like to lie there and stare, out of the window, along my bookshelves, daydreaming.
What use to me the clarity, the lucidity? Classification continues to elude me, and the re-arranged papers form a new pattern on the carpet covered couch, in this endless circle of losing and finding.
The gallery attendant has left the room, a clipboard with her list of visitor numbers lies on her chair, and a book, Instructions fora Heatwave. It looks like a novel, not a handbook. Although we could do with both. The heatwave is much hotter than the one thirty years ago.
Il arrive qu’au cœur des tourmentes et des guerres qui englobent tout de boue, de sang et de mort, on puisse s’arrêter de faire face quelques moments qui deviennent sacrés. A ce moment-là, l’apparition d’un monde en paix reprenant ses couleurs et sa grâce sont sources d’apaisement. A la brutalité viendra toujours s’opposer la douceur dans un interstice de ce qu’on regarde.
It happens that in the midst of turmoil and wars that encompass all mud, blood and death, one can stop to face a few moments that become sacred. At that moment, the appearance of a peaceful world resuming its colors and its grace are sources of appeasement. Brutality will always be opposed by softness in an interstice of what we are looking at.
Letter from Berlin: Ghosts
We were late for the film and the box office had just closed. They said we could have a drink instead. And so we ascended the stairs into the wide space of the bar of Kino International, which was completely empty. Kino International was built in 1961, the same year as the Berlin Wall. It was the main cinema for premieres and award ceremonies under Communism. You could picture it, the slightly sweaty dignitaries in brown suits and fake leather shoes of turgid grey lined up for speeches under the extravagant chandeliers. But this evening there was nobody. The huge yet undaunting space, the rippled wood walls, shiny black tables and red chairs were perfect. This enormous empty room was proportioned for optimism, it was a place to be happily human, for a while at least. I was glad we had missed the film. I looked across the street to the high Soviet scale arch of a metro exit, the only lit building on the street, and watched a couple pause, pace about, embrace. They were tiny under the space of the arch and yet every small gesture was legible.
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J’ai rencontré Lucia en mars 2023 à Rio Gallegos, petite ville sans attrait touristique du sud de la Patagonie. Elle est comédienne et metteuse en scène de théâtre mais, au premier regard, je ne l’aurais pas imaginé : sans apprêt, taille moyenne, cheveux châtains coupés court, rien qui attire la lumière. Elle m’a fait comprendre qu’elle avait quelque chose à me raconter. Je suis revenue le lendemain avec un magnétophone et un micro. Son récit coulait comme une large rivière au cours paisible. Elle s’exprimait dans un espagnol simple et fluide que je pouvais suivre sans grand effort. Ce matin-là, elle portait un petit pullover à col roulé rose, elle avait l’air fatigué.
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Rues de la Fraternité·e, Participatory performance and sound and visual installation
Photographed 3 June 2023, for the Nuit Blanche 2023 and the curatorial project “actes de langage” (acts of language) by simona dvorák & tadeo kohan. The project takes as its subject a place and its name: rue de la Fraternité (Street of Brotherhood) in Montreuil. The aim is to deploy, question, appropriate, update and set in motion the word ‘fraternité’ and what it inspires and evokes.
Through interviews with a group of women, I composed a polyphony of words and testimonies, questioning representations and alternatives to this symbolic and gendered term.
Find a corner on the floor and start building a house of threads.
Think about what it would be like to make a house of threads, sit with the idea for a while, think about the (im)possibilities.
Construct a house from memory, an old home, a part of a home, an imagined home or any other place that comes to mind.
I am obsessed with the texture of tree bark in the wild. Nooks, crags, and crannies constantly beckon the lens of my camera as I lag behind my family of hikers, documenting every strange shape that catches my eye. I am fascinated by the impulse to mark-making on a living thing. Yesterday, I came upon row upon row of vandalized trees in a State Forest.
The idea of tattooing a person against their will evokes images of slavery and genocide but maybe my metaphor means I am too shocked-sensitive to violence. The ritual scarification of nature is benign for many people. Cutting through cork is a form of proof: a testament of love from Robin Hood to Maid Marian, a memory engraved in a blackboard that will outgrow your body, a permanent way to state ‘I was here.”
Birch trees seem to like railways, you travel through them as you enter Glasgow, and Berlin and then east to Moscow and Siberia. An endless shuttering of birch trunks through the train window, their verticals marking the space. It isn’t monotonous, it is even reassuring. They accompany my journeys, anticipated and remembered. I look them in the eye.
Recently these tree trunks have begun to people my paintings and drawing. They sit about a dining table. A felled tree between them like a family secret, or a dead man laid out. What do they do with something that is part of them?
Ma chronique du 25 octobre 2022 (Crown Letter week 120) revient sur une visite au cimetière de Darwin en décembre 2018. « Argentinian cemetary / Cementero argentino », indiquait le petit panneau à l’entrée de la piste cailloutée mais aucun drapeau argentin ne flottait sur le quadrillage de croix blanches dominant le vallon de Darwin. Une centaine de tombes anonymes portaient alors l’épitaphe “Soldado argentino solo conocido por Dios“. L’armée argentine avait abandonné à l’ennemi la charge d’inhumer ses morts. Deux fois abandonnés. Deux fois trahis. Ils reposaient dans une steppe glaciale balayée par un vent féroce. Faute de normalisation des relations entre les deux pays, les premières visites venaient seulement d’être autorisées, trente-six ans après la fin de la guerre. Les fleurs et les rosaires en plastique que je photographiais étaient tout neufs. L’épitaphe avait quelque chose d’une prière. Comment ne pas en appeler à la grâce du Seigneur ?
Letter from Glasgow: A bed of lichen, a table of moss.
It’s going to be a Bibiliotheque Imaginaire, she writes, an imaginary library, to wear on her head. Can you send me the title of a book, real or imagined? The first thing that surfaces is moss. My book would be a bed of moss, but I need another syllable. A mattress of moss? No, a mattress feels too awkward and practical, a table then. She likes it. A Table of Moss and Other Stories? Yes, it might include Un Lit de Lichen, I text back.. Something solid and permanent like moss, or lichen. But my predictive text wants to write libido, not lichen. Although it is true my devotion to lichen might have something libidinous in it. And I have long dreamed of beds of lichen and moss, and sometimes trees are asleep in these beds.
As I was day-dreaming titles I had not been thinking of the camps or of the actual, not mossy, but decidedly urban mattresses that are left behind after each clearance, the one thing that people cannot run away with. The mattresses are always the first things to be brought, dragged over pavements, and the things that remain after everyone has been moved on. The beds of moss, or lichen, indicate a world where it is safe to lie down anywhere, where nobody claims possession of the territory and where you can gently dream. A sort of permanence, old as lichen, as libido.
I flew South like a migrating bird, towards the Atlantic Ocean and the petrochemical plants. Between the storied buildings of academia and the strip malls of urban sprawl, there was a carefully curated swamp, complete with do-not-feed alligators and roving turtles.