It is this time of night when my camera finds it hard to get things in focus but my head is clear. There is a big ship on the horizon, bright lights, people floating over the ocean. I sit inside the spaceship, the round building from where I’ve been observing the day ending and starting. The seagulls are out already and the first blackbirds are singing.
Earlier on, around 3, when the hour of the wolf was starting, I walked to the sea. I realised I’ve never walked to the sea in the night. The sky was cloudy but in the start of summer, just after midsummer (and in the words time gets mixed up, the middle is when the summer starts) the nights are light and they make my thoughts light. The sea was a dark blue, as dark as the sky and the waves carried the light of the houses on the right side of the beach into my direction. Bats were flying around my head as I sat on the rocks. In the far right there were still traces of the sun, the edge of the sky a pale pink and yellow. The sun never really leaves here these days.
My silent witness had disappeared. The one-eyed man who sat on the edge of the field staring up at the sky has vanished. The chair he has been sitting on is still there and some left over bits of his skin, his hard skull. I wonder if the kids took him apart or if the big amounts of rain dissolved him.
My companions have left as well. Yesterday they all went. Joakim, the king of the fishing pond, the mad professor. Therese, my fellow hunter, the dreamer who talked to jellyfish. Judit who has been slowly turning rough wool into beautiful wearable objects. Balint who captured our sounds when we were loud and made us silent when we were listening to his magic noises. Valeria who moved inbetween us, who moved us. Some of them are home by now, telling a daughter about gracious see-through creatures, a girlfriend about hundreds of blue fragile spheres, others are still on the road, laughing with friends, dreaming about what will come, waiting for an airplane to take them home.
I am still here. The one who is always leaving has stayed. It won’t be staying for long, but for now I stay. And I sit inside the silent spaceship and look a the sea and my thoughts take me back and forth.
Posted by monique besten at 04:54
Today I remembered the dragon Aiden drew on my father’s coffin shortly before christmas last year.
It is Aiden’s birthday today, my father's oldest grandson, he turned eight.
It is also my father’s birthday, he was born on the first day of summer 64 years ago.
He will never be older than 63 though.
When I started a new life in Barcelona this year I thought about getting Aiden’s dragon tattooed on my back, as the last of my father’s gifts to me. Only hours before my father died my mother gave me an envelope with money for my birthday that had been three months earlier but I hadn’t celebrated with them. We had originally planned to meet for a family dinner that same afternoon, the afternoon after the night I was rushed to the hospital at the other end of the Netherlands. And we did share a meal together that afternoon, kindly supplied by the nurses who kept an eye on my unconscious father. My mother wanted to make sure I received the gift in his presence, that I received it like I was supposed to receive it, being together, sharing food, drinking coffee. Being alive. And at that moment we all believed he would live. I believed he would live. But I saw he was dying.
The difference can be subtle thought. We are all dying in a way. And there is nothing that frightens us more. At least as adults. For children, dragons might be more real than death.
When I was Aiden’s age I had my own dragon.
It was living in the attic of our house.
At night, before I went to sleep, I always made sure the hatch was closed well.
The dark square in the ceiling frightened me, intrigued me.
At daytime I loved spending time up there, surrounded by books and dusty things.
The dragon was never there in daytime.
Today, June 21, the first day of summer, I divide my time inbetween being in my own thoughts and being in my new and old friends’ energy.
I spend time with my family in my head.
Real time with my partners in crime here, five beautiful artists I really enjoy working with.
Time inbetween with my friends in the virtual world.
Lots of time with myself, lonely time.
Earlier on I saw a blogpost on my facebook feed posted by a Barcelona friend.
It quotes Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” and talks about lonesomeness and solitude.
I love those letters and they give me solace and advice often.
There is a dragon in one of the letters too, in my favorite one, the eighth letter he wrote in Fladie, Sweden, where I started a walk one day, without knowing that Rilke had been there, writing his letter about sadness, where I arrived at my temporary home in the evening after my Fladie walk and collected the book, Rilke’s book, I had unknowningly ordered from the library across my house. I opened it and searched for my favorite letter and only then discovered it had been written right there. It says:
“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
There are no dragons here, I don’t believe in dragons anymore but earlier today Joakim found a snake in the middle of the hall leading to the music room. It scared us but it also excited us. Therese said it might be poisenous and we observed it, we tried to find a snake book in the library and searched for images online. We discovered it was a grass snake, growing up to 150 cm, coloured in a shade of green with short black vertical bars and spots running across its sides, a white collar behind its head. They are often found near water and are harmless to humans.
We decided to catch it and armed ourselves with the objects we had used for our midsummer rituals, the fishing rod with the funny saw blade, the lonely pink shoe we had found on the sidewalk, the left over water balloon from our midsummer battle, the plastic box we use to keep jellyfish in, the hunting knife I never used for hunting. We were like kids.
When we came down the snake was gone and we searched the closets and found it hidden inbetween a stack of mattresses. It slipped away, we chased it and cautiously caught it. We brought it outside and marvelled at how graciously and swiftly it disappeared into the bushes.
Today is a beautiful day. A sad day, a happy day. A day to stare at the sea and smile and be fearless.
Posted by monique besten at 18:45
i fell asleep in our installation last night
on a table that is a shelter
you can sit under it and open the blinds
you can lie on top of it and someboy might come and measure the lines of your body
write them down on paper, like i wrote the measurements of my small house on my body
when i woke up this morning, the straight line of the table, its flat surface, was still in my lower back
i could feel it, i couldn’t bend my back
i walked the lines of the dance floor valeria created
a floor within a floor
we are not allowed to wear our shoes inside
i like to walk on the border barefeet
on both sides there are traces of people who walked on these floors before
next to valeria’s lines there is the line of balint’s cables
they connect the machines that catch the soundwaves and turn them into new ones
i walked around and around in squares until my fingers could touch my toes again
until my thoughts shaped circles
and when i went outside
the horizon threw out a line and caught my eyes
Posted by monique besten at 09:38
i’ve been dragging the chair around for the last couple of days
and whenever i get a bit anxious, being in this crazy, wonderful process with 5 other people
i stand on the chair and stare
sometimes i see other people stand on the chair
i leave it behind at odd places
i found the chair a few days ago
when i collected things i liked
the things turned into a room
i set the room up outside the abandoned house where i was collecting things
an outdoors room
later on i moved the room inside another room
inside the salon
the social space for the people in the Folkshochschule
there is a library in the basement
it has mainly swedish books and a small collection of english ones
they are all donated books
inbetween mainly not very interesting reads i found vriginia woolf’s “a room of one’s own”
i put the book on the table in my room
i put the chair in front of it, to sit on it while reading
i liked the shape of it, it fitted
but the writing on the seat annoyed me
i didn’t know what it meant
i thought i could sandpaper it to get rid of it
the morning after i had set up my room a woman approached me in the breakfast room
she told me she liked the room i had set up and especially the chair
“a chair to stand on!” she said and i didn’t get it at first
my puzzled look made her explain
en stol att klivå pa, a chair to stand on
i was delighted
so now i own a chair to stand on
and while standing on it today, i looked out over the white waves
the sea was dark today, a blueish stale grey
there was a cake in the oven, a chocolate cake
and i was wearing a t-shirt with a green heart, a heart of green leaves
it was a windy day and i turned around to have the wind in my back
to look at the clouds
above the round shape of the school there was a heart shaped cloud
i stared at it until it started to change its shape
ran inside to catch the moment that had already passed
i stood at the chair once more and looked at the other clouds and suddenly they all looked a bit like they could have been heart shaped only minutes earlier
because it is warm and the inside is soft, it has a hood and a big pocket in the front
so your hands can touch while they rest, while they warm up
it also has a text and a big heart printed on it
the heart has a hole in it
i guess that is why it was thrown away
but i like the hole best
it makes me think of a quote by one of my favorite writers:
Christian Bobin, The very lowly. A meditation on Francis of Assisis.
“... love does not fill anything, not the hole you have in your head, not the abyss that you have in your heart. Love is an absence much more than a fullness. Love is a fullness of absence. This is, I grant you, an incomprehensible thing. But this thing that is impossible to understand is so very simple to live.”
and it is.
meet my new collaborators. partners in crime. inspirators, idea providers. dance partners. meal sharers. soundboards, sparring partners.
meet therese, who shows us the sea and will take us to the forest.
meet joakim, the mad professor.
meet judit, who makes us stroke soft fabrics and joins our hands.
meet valeria, who moves us.
meet balint, who collects our sounds and comforts jellyfish by letting them listen to the sounds of the waves.
they don’t fill the hole in my barcelona heart. they create new ones, new holes, they create space. endless space.
Posted by monique besten at 09:50
my down to earth brain invented a metal spine today
in the basement of the Folkshochschule, in the treasure room
with all the left overs, the things that have been discarded
we discovered big bags with hundreds of jeans
jeans and jean fabric clothes
i am intrigued by clothes, by how we are perceived differently when we look differently
and i sifted through all of them
taking the ones that fitted me in some sort of way
that fit my body or my mind
i wore a white jeans suit when i performed being a map yesterday
white jeans, a white jeans jacket, a white shirt
and today i wore a dress i liked a lot
nice length, nice details, red stitching, buckles
pockets, i love pockets!
it was too big though
in a way
i remembered the word i had received as a gift yesterday
an untranslatable swedish word
meaning enough, sufficient, just right
in balance, perfect-simple, suitable
a popular folk etymology claims that it is a contraction of "laget om" ("around the team"), a phrase used in Viking times to specify how much mead one should drink from the horn as it was passed around in order for everyone to receive a fair share
the dress was perfect-simple, suitable for the day, almost in balance
so i brought it in balance
i invented a metal spine
a rigid thing, it seems, it sounds like
but i can move it, transform it
a flexible thought makes a flexible spine
an almost perfect dress
i had received the word when i handed in the keys for the four houses on the premises that are about to be torn down
we had inspected the buildings
we had taken all the things we could use for our project
i wanted to take down the blinds, but i wasn’t sure if i could take them
so i asked and i had to explain what blinds were
my hands mimicking opening and closing them
they drew lines in the air in front of an imaginary window
and after some miscommunication we understood each other
the woman laughed and told me she was happy she had learned a new english word
i asked for a swedish one in return
i received “lagom”
and when we returned to the houses to take down all the blinds
i bumped into a man who was taking out a kitchen
we conversed about reusing things, about sustainability, about the impossibility to get the world back into its proper shape although that can never be a reason to give in
we need to believe in the impossible
but we shouldn’t try to be perfect
it would only frustrate us
and he told me he was a fisher and a hunter, he told me he didn’t eat meat often, but when he did, he made sure the animal had had a good life
and i remembered the chicken i had eaten yesterday
and how balint had told me he ate meat but not chicken, because they have the worst life of all animals
and today i walked past the meat and went for the vegetarian option
but i couldn’t resist and returned for a piece of dead animal
a small piece only, but still
we can’t be perfect
we can only do what we can
find the right balance between our own happiness and the world’s
we can be in the almost
look through open blinds
Joakim had spread the blinds out on the grass
until we would find a place to hang them, to project Therese’s footage on them,
to see sea
waves invading the thin metal stripes
blinds on the grass, closed
out of place
resembling big sheets of paper
an aireal view of a strange city
i took off my shoes and walked the streets, the pathways
the blind maze that in no way could get my feet lost
but my thoughts got lost
and i thought of almost everything
not too much, not too little
Posted by monique besten at 11:43
the sky is still my favorite colour blue
the deep blue before it turns dark
the blue that keeps me awake
today i was interviewed by the swedish radio
i stood on my hands
the world turned me upside down
we are small people in a big world
we often want to be in the middle of it
the center of things
but when you look at us in more detail we are usually on its edges
the interviewer asked me why i wanted to be in this project
what i was aiming for
and i told her i applied because of the questions that were asked in the application form
they didn’t want to know who I (capital) was and what amazing things I (capital) could produce
but what i could bring to a group, how i would function in relation to different people
what i could teach them, what i could learn from them
our teacher, coach, process leader hasn’t asked us yet what we make
but we all talked for 10 minutes about what made us different from other people
listening to the other 5 i realised i got most excited though when they spoke about something i recognised
something i shared with them, the things that make us human, make us artists, make us vulnerable
today we stood in two small lines, two lines of 3 people on both sides of a dance studio
we ran towards the person opposite of us, almost bumping into the soft body, almost touching
yesterday we took each others arms and treated them as if they belonged to us
a new arm, a strange arm, we explored it in every way possible
later on we made sounds from deep within our body and threw them to all the corners in the room
we are meeting each other in many ways
and tomorrow we finally present our work
the interviewer asked about my work, about what i want to show people
i talked about walking and being slow and trying to make people look at the world in a different way
about showing them you can do whatever you want and if you find the proper word for it you can make a living out of it
or at least live it
when i was younger i said i wanted to turn the world upside down
but why would you?
you better turn people upside down
i am ill-prepared
i stick with Masanobu Fukuoka’s motto:
the best planning is no planning
instead of ordering digital slides and thinking about words
i explored three empty houses on the premises of the Folkshochschule that is hosting us
the houses will be demolished and we can use whatever is inside
i found a map of the area that is so big and heavy i can hardly carry it on my own
i found an apron and some baking tins
i found a bottle of wodka and some beautiful cups
i went for a walk and collected raspberry leaves to dry in order to make tea
i found a cook book with recipies for sweet things
i found a cook book with recipies for sweet things
i went to the supermarket and bought flower, butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate
tomorrow i will take them on a walk
i will carry the map on my back and they will walk behind me so they can read it
i will have baked a cake from the cookbook i found and made tea and filled my hipflask with wodka
we will be dressed in white and we will stay close together so we will look like a white dot from above
like the white dot that represents the place where we are staying on the map
i might tell them stories
and we will become a story for the people we encounter on our walk
it will be somewhat crazy
normal people don’t drag huge maps through the streets to find their way
normal people don’t call baking a cake or drinking wodka art
normal people don’t get to know each other by squeezing each other’s body (except in violent situations)
or maybe they do
because we do
therese, valeria, balint
Posted by monique besten at 00:28