to be longing
I am writing you because I think we share certain values and a sense of solidarity, that there is a connection between us that transcends borders, class differences, religion and ethnicity - no matter for how long we haven’t heard from each other, or even if we lost contact. And this awareness is not limited to the art world.
"In the current climate of arrested utopias, attacks on cultural heritage, assaults on imagination and knowledge, the Imago Mundi global art project breaks the silence, transcends differences, and aims to raise awareness on the power of contemporary art beyond geographical and political borders." (Imago Mundi)
The declared goal of Imago Mundi is to map the global contemporary art world and there are already 20,000 artists from 150 countries involved in the project. Now I have been invited to the Imago Mundi Highlights project. Each participant is commissioned to work with a pre-fabricated small canvas (10cm x 12cm). We are allowed to remove the canvas, and only use the frame. The final object can be up to 7cm deep.
With my contribution I want to mirror the idea of the Imago Mundi Project, on a smaller personal scale: to highlight that there are networks based on friendship, no matter how close or distant we are from each other - and that we all operate within them. No-one is just a self-contained ‘Self’. To visualise this very basic thought, I am going to make a piece that consists of several smaller bits that fit together like a puzzle (physically held in place by the frame I have been given by Imago Mundi). Each piece will be cast in resin. Remove one piece and the puzzle becomes unstable, remove too many pieces and it falls apart.
For this puzzle I would like to invite each one of you to send me a small sample of dust, dirt or soil from a place that has a personal significance for you. It is meant to be just a small amount that fits easily in a standard envelope to be sent by post. Please email me a few lines about why you chose to send me a sample from the particular place you chose - if there is such a place. I am interested in a sense of ‘belonging’. If such a place does not exist for you I would still like to invite you to write me a few lines. Please feel free to email me your text in the language that feels right for you to write in. It could be English, but I am also very happy to receive the text in your mother tongue (Danish, Polish, Spanish, Arabic, German, Korean, Russian, Hindi, French, ...). All texts will be collected on a website, sort of a digital counter-part to the physical object.
THIS PROJECT STILL IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. EACH ONE OF YOU ALREADY IS REPRESENTED BY A CLEAR PUZZLE PIECE. AS SOON AS YOU SEND ME A TEXT OR SOME DIRT OR SOIL, I WILL CAST A NEW PIECE TO REPLACE THE PIECE THAT NOW STANDS IN FOR YOU. I WILL SEND YOU THE CLEAR PUZZLE PIECE AS A GIFT, A TOKEN OF OUR CONNECTION THAT TRANSCENDS BORDERS, CLASS DIFFERENCES, RELIGION AND ENTHNICITY.
I’d be very happy to hear from you - I am curious to know how you are doing.
Irgendwie werden die Zeiten immer finsterer. Es passieren immer mehr Dinge, die man nie für möglich gehalten hat, jetzt hat jeder von uns einen Freund verloren und wird mit der Endlichkeit des Lebens konfrontiert. Als meine Großväter gestorben sind war das eine Art Normalität aber jetzt mit meinem Studiumskollegen Robert und Niklas, den ich jeden Morgen an der Bushaltestelle gesehen habe als ich noch mit dem Bus in die Schule gefahren bin. Wir werden sie nicht vergessen und sie werden mich immer daran erinnern wie wertvoll unsere Zeit im Leben ist und wie wenig wir eigentlich davon haben.
Mein Plan war, dir ein bisschen von dem Flussbett zu senden in dem ich praktisch meine Kindheit verbracht habe. Der Gehweg neben dem Fussbett ist auf dem Weg zu dir und sollte heute oder morgen bei dir ankommen.
In the spirit of collaboration, which I know from experience you are an excellent participator in, I enclose a foil of 24kt gold. This shows the remains of a work I made for Lindsay Seers, a response to her 23sec film made for us, 'Peer Sessions', on the occasion of our collaborative exhibition 'Future Refrains'. I feel that this little piece of gold, and its short history, reflects the intention of your piece made for 'Imago Mundi' well, in that it links us, and it is sent in the spirit of collaboration and friendship. I envisage that you can remove some of the gold and it into 'my' resin puzzle piece - which should look nice I hope. It is up to you of course, but I hope you will be able to weave it into your project somehow, and I look forward to seeing the results. I hope this will do instead of a sample of soil or dust... I don't feel that attached to any places that have soil or or dust - but gold is another story!
P.s. Of course gold is also a great metaphor for friendship - it is indestructible and so rare - always worth its weight in gold!
Moving to a new place, a new city - it takes some time to get connected to people and even to the surroundings. It takes time to create a history that you are a part of. In the last five years I have lived in four different cities. The soil I am most connected to is the one in my flowerpot. My flatmate shared an offset of a plant with me, years ago. Now it moves around with me. Even though I haven´t seen my flatmate in years, it reminds me of the good times we had. Soil full of roots.
Staub / Schmutz aus meinem Wohnmobil: Mein kleines Wohnmobil ist der Ort, in dem ich ganz bei mir und mit mir sein kann, Es bringt mich zu Begegnungen mit Menschen, Landschaften und Kultur. All dies bereichert mein Leben.
Pyritstaub steht für meine Leidenschaft. Steine haben eine ewige Geschichte hinter sich und werden noch länger existieren.
The claim of the Imago Mundi project to transcend differences and borders and to highlight the power of art is a compelling one, and echoes a widespread belief about the inherent virtue of contemporary art. Contemporary art in the West is a heterogeneous and shifting construct, broadly based on notions of inclusion, liberality and progressiveness in addition to an engaged or imminent criticality. Yet, there are places where Western contemporary art stops short, forms its own boundaries, refuses admittance. Boris Groys, in Art Power, has written on the exclusion of propagandist forms of art from the arena of Western art discourse. Artistic forms of proselytism, including not only political but religious works, are excluded from the canon, deemed to be antithetical to the singular, diffuse and radically open nature of contemporary art.
I lived in Sheffield from the age of 19 to 30. I was involved in a large church, which, during that time swelled in size to over 1,000 members, a large proportion of which were young people. It was led by a handsome and charismatic pastor, who galvanised his congregation through exciting and inspiring preaching with a vision to win back the city of Sheffield for God by reaching out to the homeless, vulnerable and spiritually lost. Services were held on a Sunday evening in a disused nightclub. These events would be highly charged and spectacular, with loud music, emotive messages and hundreds of bodies dancing and singing on the darkened dancefloor. Over this period, the pastor encouraged us to meet together during the week in ‘clusters’, groups of like-minded people. I came to lead a group of artists, to which misfits of various kinds (those who didn’t fit in to the generally homogenized culture of the church) also gravitated. We called this group Home.
I now live and work as an artist in London, and am beginning to research forms of collectivity for artists. I have yet to experience in this city the sense of community we found in working, living and making art together in Home. Evangelical Christianity may be problematic for a raft of political and social reasons, (not least it’s exclusion of non-normative forms of sexuality) yet in its’ literalism, through its embodiment of building community, being in relationship, working together, it offers models that might reinforce the fragile and shifting alliances experienced in the competitive and individualized culture of much of the contemporary art world. Home was a manifestation of difference and singularity, bound together by a commitment, a mythos in common.
Friday Night in West Ealing / #IS7
I'm trying to write this on the train to work again, feeling disappointed that I won't be able to finish it off during work as I'm supposed to be doing a handover to the new me today - it made the day go loads quicker. I'm having one of those weeks (or fortnights) where it feels like all your time is divided up into little slots and all of them have been filled and you're going to have to be extra on the ball to make sure everything hangs together except I'm not sure I am functioning at full capacity as this weird illness that everyone seems to have has been hanging around for so long that I've almost forgotten it's there, but then every so often I think about it properly and realise I'm feeling terrible. I'm very sleepy as S was doing a lot of snoring and snorting last night and I haven't seen him for a couple of weeks and I always need to get used to sleeping next to a noisy sleeper again and yesterday was also kind of a busy day - I got up early to finish and send off this proposal I've been writing, then C came round so that we could work on this workshop we're doing at this thing next week, then S arrived and we went to Ealing so that I could go to the dentist (I had an appointment a couple of weeks back and completely forgot to go, which isn't like me. "I said to reception, that's not like you", said Dr M, the dentist - side note. I just had to look up wether or not its correct to call dentists doctors or not as I'm always correcting my mum who alwys calls our dentist Ms M, but apparently it's optional... I need to pay more attention to what she actually calls herself), which has moved to this fancy building which dicombobulated me a bit as I've been going to the same dentist my entire life, then we walked back to my parents place where my mum gave us a massive sack of pears from the garden and then we headed back into town to go for a birthday dinner for T, who's my mum's godson. J was driving so we got back at a reasonable time but I'm still feeling groggy and sore-throaty and generally like I really can't be bothered to come in for the last day of this job that I couldn't be happier about leaving. Damn my obedient and employer-pleasing nature. I keep catching sight of my hair in the tube windows and it looks crap. I should have washed it this morning. I'll have to duck into loos at Stamford Brook station to do an emergency hairdo, which will be a nice bookend to my time at this job - on the day of my interview I turned up really early and was super happy to find out that Stamford Brook is pretty much the last London underground station with a free toilet so I could kill time fiddling with my hair which looks awful 90% of the time but I can't think of any options that wouldn't just make matters much worse, so I guess I'm stuck with longish and straggely... all I have to do is get through today, which promises to be slightly more painful than usual as we're meant to be finishing slightly early to go for leaving drinks which I couldn't be looking forward to less and am seriously hoping will be cancelled but at least I've got a decent excuse, which is that I'm going to a jazz gig tonight and so can't stay any longer than an hour. So once I make it through the day and the drinks, I can have a nice jazz time and then tomorrow I don't really have to get out of bed until the evening. Next week is going to be another time-partitioned-off-into-tiny-slices-and-filled-with-pressing-tasks-and-activities-to-maximise-efficiency kind of week, so the more lying down that happens the next two days, the better.
*leaving a shitty job fuckyou/euphoria playlist * 1. Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues
I am on the tube heading back into town, having just finished the job I've complained about for the last 3 and a half years. It feels kind of surreal and also completely brilliant but also a bit like I've walked off a cliff edge. I have had this job for the entire time I've been writing this zine. Life looks less and less how it looked when I started (although in this case, is clearly an improvement).
2, 3, 4 and 5 - I was enjoying the McClusky does Dallas (No, New Wave Fun, Collegen Rock, What We've Learned and Day Of Deadringers)...
6 - ...before I moved onto one of the biggest bangers Of All Time: Fuck Y-Self by The Bug ft Wayne Lonesome. If you have never heard this, or indeed any of the album it's from, Pressure, I implore you, go find it online now and prepare to have your brain blown open.
7 - The Blacker The Berry - Kendrick LaMar
We went to the pub after work and it was fine, - my least favourite person wasn't there hallelujah - I had a glass of wine and could make pleasant enough chit chat and they gave me a card and presents -
8 - Darling Nikki - Slow Process
- this cutesy new adventures bag with a bunch of Good luck charms in, a posh key ring and a bloody enormous candle. My bosses did seem genuinely sad and grateful and well-wishing and I found myself saying all this stuff that totally wasn't true, like "it's been a pleasure!" and "I'll miss you!" and "of course I'll keep in touch" which makes me feel a bit weird and dirty now that I'm safely out of Chiswick and have no reason to ever return. I always had this slight fantasy that the day I left would be the day I told everyone what I really thought but in the end I just fake smiled and kept my mouth shut like I have for the last three years -
9 - The Day The World Turned Day Glo - X-Ray Spex - I'm self-preservationist, cowardly, lazy and a hypocrite.
John Etheridge's Zappatistas,
Pizza Express Jazz Club,
So I turned up ready to watch John Etheridge doing the Zappa thing feeling kind of confused and ineffectual and met S, J, F and my mum and dad at the venue. We had a pizza (I have had to do a lot of explaining of the weird Pizza Express Jazz Club, which is pretty much what it says on the tin, except ot's a proper, legit jazz venue which sounds kind of strange combined with a high street chain pizza restaurant. Jazz and pizza is a pretty undeniable combo though) and then John Etheridge and the Zappatistas - tonight the line up was Steve Lodder (keys), Annie Whitehead (trombone), Rory Simmons (trumpet), Theo Travis (sax), Rob Statham (bass) and Mike Bradkey (drums) - came on the stage and launched into Hot Rats and instantly put me into an outrageously good mood. Turns out there's not much more cheering than a ridiculously banging horn section playing Frank Zappa songs. I'm not really a Zappa connoisseur or anything although I'd say I was a very casual fan - my dad is a massive Zappa devotee, as is S, and my both of parents were (are) totally obsessed with the song Take your Clothes Off When You Dance and put it on a ton of mixtapes we used to have in the car (since J has semi-stolen my mum's car, we've given some of the car tapes a pretty heavy rotation and its definitely on at least 2 of the ones that were in the glove compartment - but this was one of the best things I've seen all year, both in terms of the music and how much fun it was. The highlight for me was their version of Montana - which the next day S and I went online and watched a live version of which pretty much melted my mind. I'm going to post a link here and suggest you go and watch ASAP.
Good huh? Afterwards I spent a long time reading Zappa's Wikipedia page (its extremely long) and then had that weird experience when you don't really know that much about someone, and suddenly you know loads, both good and bad, and don't really know what to think. The good mainly being that he was a genius musical polymath and the bad mainly being sexist lyrics and his insistence on justifying them via his obsession with freedom of speech, which is something that probably feels very different to someone reading in 2017 when freedom of speech gets wheeled out as a defence to being offensive and not wanting to acknowledge that you might be wrong about something with increasingly frustrating regularity. I guess this is a strange and inevitable by-product of suddenly finding out all of the information about someone with a moderately long and detailed career in a very short space of time, but on the other hand, kill your idols, I guess? I don't know if anything will ever diminish my love of the Smiths but I still vocally admonish Morrissey for his love of Nigel Farage every time J and I listen to the Smiths tape in the car - "HOW CAN YOU UNDERSTAND SO MUCH ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION AND LIVING IN THE SKIN OF ANYONE WHO'S EVER BEEN CONFUSED AND YET BE SUCH A FUCKING DISAPPOINTMENT MORRISSEY? HOW? and whenever I hear one of his new songs on the radio, I'm hyper aware and scanning it for subtle (or not so subtle) hate speech (I heard Spent The Day In Bed and cringed when I heard the words 'emasculation' and 'castration', not least after all the stuff about not watching the news considering Morrissey's recent outburst that the reason professional Islamophobie Anne Marie Waters didn't win the UKIP leadership was a conspiracy. Imagine being so fixated on UKIP that you think that someone who's whole public persona is based around the persecution of a religion of billions of people not winning the leadership is some kind of left conspiracy?) "Don't use 'freedom of speech' as an excuse to be a jerk Frank", I think as I watch Frank Zappa playing a face-melting solo whilst Napoleon Murphy Brock pretends to ride a tiny horse along the borderline, perhaps unfairly as I start to mix up 1974 and 2017 in a big mind stew (though I don't think thinking hard about something is really a bad thing...).
As I travelled back to the past I am now sending you ethereal dirt. It really is dirt - but not yet manifested in any physical dimension. Therefore I send it to you before its materialisation and just with my intention to give the closest patch of dirt near you. Here is its energetic signature, sent to you, but then again not. The ethereal space is an ambivalent one, may this dirt prove otherwise.
I am very happy to be part of this project because I do believe that values such as empathy that can be trigged by art and can eventually lead to better relationships in life obviously much beyond art and the art world. Not only that, this year I have witnessed thanks to a collaboration between Academy Now and an established firm of business consultants that art can trigger new ways of connection with other people also in business environments.
Going back to the issue you are addressing, so the sense of belonging, I cannot think of an object that can represent the place I am more connected to, maybe it could be a collection of different objects from different places, funny enough, not really “earth". I am one of those people with mixed background so I can easily feel home in different places. When I was younger, so let’s say until I was around 20-23 years old, I had to live with a strong sense of displacement, so not really feeling home where I was living which was not where I was born and not where I wanted to be.
The sense of displacement then evolved into an awareness of being able to feel home in different countries (UK, USA, France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria) and with different people. In the last 10 years I have started valuing very much the quality of the relationships I am able to establish with people I am surrounded by as the basis for a successful personal and professional life.
I am writing you because we do share certain values and a sense of solidarity. There is a connection between us that transcends borders, religion and ethnicity. And for sure our connection is not limited to the art world either.
With this letter I send you a small amout of soil from my mother's garden. It actually feels weird to do this as I wouldn't really say that I belong to this particular soil. I did not grow up in my mother's current flat and in addition I have the feeling that the soil around these blocks is anyway imported from somewhere else and it still is somehow alien, as there houses were only recently built. The thing is: I just don't know what other soil I might belong to. My relatives are spread across the world and I am living abroad. Even though I don't want to think about nationalities, your request for a bit of dirt from the place I belong to triggers such thoughts.
When I talked to my mother and sister about a future boyfriend choice they mentioned three characteristics he should have:
1. He should treat me well.
2. He should really like me the way I am.
3. He should not come from the same country as me.
The last point was told as a joke. But still I might heed this advice. It has become a family tradition to spread and to build families with people of other origins. This is a statement I'd like to perpetuate. We all belong everywhere.
So how could I send you a piece of dirt from a particular place I belong to? But I still did send you some dirt. I do belong to my hometown as I'm a child of its spirit. And I belong to my mother as I am her child in spirit and flesh. Her apartment is the one place in the world that will always and unconditionally be open for me as long as she is alive. I really cannot express how lucky I am to have such a place. In that sense SHE is the place I belong to.
This year I have moved my parents from their house in the village to an appartment in the city, where they would have more help in the household and for my father who could not walk that well anymore. My mother was very happy, it was a great appartment. After I came back from my holiday in Nepal however my father’s health became worse, he was just too old. So I had to visit them a lot. All the time I thought of picking up soil from the river the ‘Maas’ in which I played always as a child, I was curious if the soil from the Maas in the city would smell different from the Maas in the village. But I never had the time to visit the river, even though my parents lived nearby: I simply had to help them with so many things that I never got the time. Last month my father fell on the floor, my mother who wanted to help him fell as well. They both broke their hips. They had surgery in the hospital, which went fine, but than my father got a lung infection and he had to breathe through an oxygen mask. He died in the bed, in hospital, next to my mother. This was expected, and he died quietly, he was already very old. The next day my mother also got a lung infection, but she was OK: she was much younger and in good health. However, one day later she appeared to have the after affects from a minor heart attack, from the stress, and she also had to put on an oxygen mask. The combination of things appeared fatal: she died two days later. I had to arrange a cremation and goodbye service for both my parents, who died of the same causes, next to each other.
Both my parents have always lived on and near the Maas. The ashes from both their bodies will be thrown into the Maas, exactly at the point where I always played as a child: a barrage in the river from where I would jump into the water that would drag me along for a few miles, passing the very village in which I lived. Soon the ashes of my parents will also follow the rivers’ course, very fast in it’s wild waters. The smell of the river is just as wild, I have no idea if you can imagine it: a rotten muddy smell, combining French, Belgian and Dutch waste from cities and villages, factories and farms, children playing in the water and boats, with stones and sand, but also freshened up by the oxygen with which it gets mingled through the turbulence of the barrage. As soon as I am able to pour the ashes into the barrage I will pick up some mud and send it to you. It marks the beginning and the end of my childhood, as I am an orphan from now on.
Ich schreibe diese Zeilen aus meiner aktuellen Residency in Barcelona. Ursprünglich wollte ich dir bereits letzte Woche schreiben, als ich noch in Hof war um meine Austellung aufzubauen. Im ganzen Trubel habe ich es vergessen und habe deswegen gerade mit meiner Mama telefoniert, die für mich ein kleines Stückchen Boden aus unserem Birkenwäldchen (so nennen wir den oberen Teil unseres Gartens hinterm Haus) an der Stelle, wo im Sommer immer die Hängematten installiert sind, ausgegraben hat und dir zusammen mit diesem Brief zuschicken wird.
Wo ich schon einige Zeit unterwegs bin und ständig an anderen Orten unterkomme denkt man automatisch über Heimat, Zugehörigkeit und ähnliche Begrifflichkeiten nach. Mit diesem Fleckchen Erde verbinde ich viele gute Erinnerungen von früher Kindheit bis heute. Ich komme immer wieder gerne an diesen vertrauten Ort zurück. Dort haben mein Bruder und ich rumgealbert, sind aus der Hängematte geflogen, meine Eltern haben das ein oder andere Buch gelesen und mein kleiner Neffe hat dort für Familienfotos posiert. Kurzum, gute Familienerinnerungen an den Ort, wo ich groß geworden bin.
Durch Funde belegt war das Land bei Bad Königshofen bereits in der Jungsteinzeit besiedelt. Heute ist es ein kleiner Kurort zwischen den Haßbergen und er Rhön. Ein sehr fruchtbarer Boden und eine sanfte hügelige Landschaft mit vielen Hecken, Steuobstwiesen, Feldern und Wäldern. Dort, in Bad Königshofen unter einem alten Apfelbaum wurde die Erde genommen. Mein Bruder hat das Haus meiner Großeltern übernommen und umgebaut, zu dem Garten nach und nach alte aufgelassene Gärten dazugekauft und so einen parkähnlichen sehr großen Garten geschaffen. Der Baum trägt heute noch Äpfel und ich kann jederzeit dorthin gehen und ihn besuchen und diese wunderbaren Zitronenäpfel, die es nirgends mehr zu kaufen gibt, mit ernten.
In meiner Kindheit sind wir jedes Wochenende dorthin gefahren. Auf diesen Tag habe ich immer sehnlichst gewartet. Das Entscheidende war natürlich nicht er Apfelbaum sondern allein mein Opa. Mein Großvater war der Anker meiner Kindheit und über seinen Tod hinaus. Auch er wartete auf mich, ich war immer willkommen, geliebt und geborgen bei ihm. Immer erzählte er neue, selbst erfundene Märchen, vom Rübezahl, von Feen und Elfen, Zwergen und Tieren, und jedes Pflänzchen, selbst ein Grashalm hatten ihre Bedeutung und ihren Wert. Es gab nicht Gut und Böse, sondern Bedrohung, Leid und Krankheit und die konnten immer gelöst und geheilt werden. Immer hatte er ein kleines Geschenk, etwas zu naschen, eine Kastanie, einen schönen Stein.... Mein Opa hat mich nicht im konventionellen Sinn, mit Vorschriften Strafen und Tadel “erzogen”, sondern durch Liebe, Verständnis und Vorbild. Während eines Mäuseplagejahres hat er für mich mit dem Suppenschöpfer aus dem Gully ganze Mäusefamilien gerettet und aufs Feld getragen. Er hat mich und meine Nöte verstanden und ernst genommen. Er war das Licht in meiner Kindheit.
Was also diesen Platz ausmacht ist nicht der Platz, sondern die Erinnerung und die Erfahrung die ich dort machen durfte: ich wurde bedingungslos geliebt und angenommen.
ES IST DIE LIEBESERKLÄRUNG AN MEINEN GROSSVATER UND DIE DANKBARKEIT FÜR DAS WAS ER MIR FÜR MEIN GANZES LEBEN GESCHENKT HAT
Nicht der Platz, sondern die Liebe und die Achtsamkeit die ich dort erfahren habe sind wichtig. Und was kann die Liebe besser darstellen aus die Leere die alles möglich macht.