you are there
and I am here
but what if you were here
and I could be there
Welcome into Being Here for You.
We are two artists living and working far apart:
Hannah Loewenthal in a rural part of South Africa,
Rita Hoofwijk between The Netherlands and Brussels.
We asked ourselves:
Do you have to see something with your own eyes,
hold it with your own hands
in order for an experience to be considered ‘real’?
can you experience the world through another?
can you experience your everyday for another?
would it be possible to be here
for someone who is there?
The nights are much quieter here lately than they were before. There still aren’t many stars to be seen though. I would love to look at the stars from there, without the light pollution of the city.
The weather is getting colder now so it was different going outside to what it had been only a couple of weeks ago. You put on a warm jacket (it is red) and a light green woollen hat. The interesting part about stargazing on this night you realized quickly was that the moon was full, which meant the stars were not at their brightest. Your gaze kept coming back to the moon and then wandering out into the sky. You could still see the Southern Cross and some other stars which you couldn’t identify. You thought you could see Venus too. You could see the craters on the moon and found it impossible to ‘understand’ how this bright ball hovers there illuminating the night. The light is hard to describe, a kind of ‘dark light’.
There was hardly any electrical light; a world almost entirely lit by moonlight. And so you were looking at the landscape and tempted to take a walk but the quieter you got the louder the landscape became. You stayed still and listened. Birds, insects, animals which only exist after dark were all waking up, growing louder.. …singing, chirping, calling, communicating. You wanted to lie down in this soundscape.
The exchanges you will find here are explorations of this question.
We will be sharing them with you as they take place over time & across distance, in varying forms.
We are inviting two presenting partners who link two associated artists with two working sites.
The artists take this question into their practice by Being Here (on site) for one another.
This brings into further question, considerations around distance (& proximity), travel and working in-situ.
The exchange happens in both places consecutively.
Emke Idema is there
on Terschelling, The Netherlands
Naja Lee Jensen is here
in Fredrikstad, Norway
Østfold Internasjonale Teater invites Emke Idema.
In order for Emke to be here, Østfold Internasjonale Teater hosts Naja Lee Jensen.
Naja is Being Here
I have chosen to work on a site that – as I presuppose – doesn’t contain so much beauty-in-the-way-we-know-it. I was told that it is an area which is rapidly being gentrified, in which people with money live in newly built apartments at the riverside. It seems to be a site that has changed or is changing character. Or….I wonder….what is the character of this site? That is my question, I want to find strategies.
Today I would simply like to go there. Open. Intuitive, without forcing anything on a place that I have never been to before.
Today you arrive at Trosvikstranda a bit past noon
The sky is grey and the air feels quite damp
Autumn has arrived
You enter your area
from a car bridge that crosses Glomma
The sound under the bridge
of tyres on wet asphalt
and it follows you
as you walk into Trosvikstranda
What strikes you upon your arrival is the lack of tall new buildings and the feeling of money
Instead there are parked cars on a gravel site
a turquoise wall with the word fear written on it
on the river is a raft
in green and blue colors
floating carefree on the surface of the water
You decide to take a walk
as a strategy to map out the area
and see if you can find its’ changing character
But what you find is a pile of Euro pallets beside a shop selling stuff for boats
One of the shop windows
facing towards the riverside
two large sized men in checkered shirts sit very close
each working on their computer
By the quay
five smaller boats are tethered
hitting the water with their hulls
In one of them
yet another man
standing in the wheelhouse
misted by his breath
While you try to figure out whether it is a tiny fishing boat or not
the city ferry docks at the other side of Glomma
just beside the gigantic recently build football stadium and the high school
A diverse crowd of people board
and take off
You take a break
– like the area
the parked cars
and the dilapidated buildings –
waiting for something to happen
Your eyes wander off to the other side of the water
taking in the newly built condominiums
used for living and working
these buildings are taller
than the factories lying alongside the river
Sitting on the quay at Trosvikstranda
you can easily imagine
how new architectural plans could fit here
Creating a whole new residential area in glass and concrete
– with soundproof materials the people living here might not even hear the cars
only see the water
You wonder about Holmen
the area behind Trosvikstranda
an old working class neighborhood with cosy wooden houses
today one of the poorest areas in the city
Will there be a lot more shadow there
if the city development plans are realized?
Somehow Trosvikstranda is filled with future money
It is just not visible yet
– to you anyway
What you see is:
one car shop with an auto repair shop
a place that sells kitchens
a co-operative called Rebel
one open space with three benches and two tables
a tall white empty building – you look through the window
a lower yellow building where somebody might live (fake flowers in the window)
a hidden wooden house where somebody might live (looks cozy but no windows on one side)
piles of wet yellow leaves
a lot of men
295 parking spaces
and one parking space for disabled people
You wonder if knowing more about the past and future of Trosvikstranda is interesting or not…
As you finish off your day
you take a walk around your area
1000 steps precisely
and you are back where you started
Yesterdays exploration was interesting. The place felt quiet in a way, breathing in before manifesting something. I enjoyed looking at the old buildings, in the way a tourist does, because they are different from my ‘normal world’.
Today I would like to look less from the outside with my tourist eye. I would like to find out whose fear is sitting on the turquoise wall. Like in a detective: Who wrote it? What is the perpetrator afraid of: what is the word on the wall telling us? Is it coming from the man in the wheelhouse? From someone living in Holmen? Probably I won’t find the direct source, but looking for it in the most serious way will hopefully facilitate a different way of moving through the area.
Fear, as I understand, is always in between the now and the future of something, probably related to a history of loss. Trying to find the source of fear I hope to get to know the character of the area better.
I would also like to take care of the fear in a way, don’t know how yet, maybe with a small ritual?
ps: I also realized that I was the only non-man walking there, of the human beings, maybe there were more amongst the doves.
Today you are talking to people to get another entrance to the area.
Inspired by yesterday’s discoveries you follow the blue wall to figure out if anybody knows how the word fear ended up there. Since not a lot of people are using the area in their daily life, you decide to enter some of the smaller shops to talk to people that actually spend a lot of time here.
First you enter a boat shop. Behind the counter there is a man. He looks friendly but also a bit hesitant. When you open your mouth to ask him about the wall he changes to looking scared. You are wondering if it is you, your language or the situation that causes his fear. You decide not to follow up, since you feel it would be too confrontational to ask the reason for his fearful look. Instead you leave the shop.
Outside you notice a laminated paper attached to one of the small boats. To read what it says you have to stand fairly close to the quay. It is a message from the commune informing that the boat has been parked illegally and that the authorities have the right to remove it at the expense of the owner. Did this message hang here yesterday?
You wander off to a yellow building with the world’s lowest fence guarding the only lawn in the area. Two men are having a chat in front of a car. One of them has a lot of tattoos. The other not. You ask about the wall and the tattooed guy recommends you to go inside and talk to Emil. You do as you’re told.
When you arrive at the top of the staircase Emil is on the phone and you get a possibility to take a look around in the space. It somehow reminds you of an office at a creative tech company in the valley with a pingpong table, plants and a big sofa and tv setup.
Emil hangs up and tells you that The Rebel Collective is a co-working space for smaller companies. He himself has been wondering about the blue wall. Why it is there and the history behind it, but he doesn’t have the answer although he seems to have a lot of knowledge about the area.
Emil’s optimism and enthusiasm is infectious. He hopes for Trosvikstranda to be a place for families with children to hang out and that the area gets rid of its status as a forgotten part of town. He is dreaming of a festival next summer, a wall that people can paint on and something about parkour routes, as far as you can understand. This summer they had a food truck but no one came by except the alcohol abusers who usually hang out under the bridge.
You follow Emil down to his shop on the ground floor. Sustainable t-shirts and some tired locally grown plants on sale. It is difficult to run a shop in a forgotten part of town. Through the broken entrance door you can see the well-kept lawn. When asking Emil who broke the door he replies: ‘the area’.
Leaving The Rebel Collective you notice a man standing beside the small boat. His energy is nervous and that somehow makes you curious. You stop and pretend to take a phone call to see what will happen. It seems like your stopping makes his pacing back and forth even more edgy and you feel like your presence is causing someone to feel bad. That is not a good feeling so you decide to go and visit the car shop instead.
Here, a middle aged man excels in understanding Danish and communication is no problem. He tells you that the blue wall is a remnant from a building worthy to preserve. When you ask him what happened to the rest of the building, he says he doesn’t know. He also doesn’t know who wrote fear, but he guesses that it is just regular tagging.
Beside the wall, an autocamper is parked at the gravel site. In five years he says, everything will look different. The building of the car shop will be torn down, that is certain, but as far as he knows the shop hasn’t got a plan for its future. He doesn’t seem afraid, but resigned, and says that ‘it’s more realistic’. They are just waiting.
What surprises you when you enter the kitchen shop, is that it is a woman who is running the store. She says that the blue wall has been built as a support for a little yellow boat house at the quay, since it was falling apart and the building is worthy of preservation. She corrects herself, was worthy of preservation. Today the foot of the boat house is completely rotten. Now the kitchen building is the only one that is going to be preserved when the area changes.
This information makes you wonder about the information you got earlier. The stories of the people with whom you have talked almost feel mythological: what was here before, what is going to happen and what is going to be preserved – everyone has their own interpretation.
The woman in the kitchen shop doesn’t know who wrote fear on the blue wall and she doesn’t seem very interested in neither the tag nor the term. Instead she lets you know that the area burned down 40 years ago. She was a kid then, but she remembers. Before that, there were a lot of smaller shops. After the fire, Trosvikstranda was more or less forgotten in the public eye.
Upstairs there is a cake shop where you can order cakes for your wedding or other celebrations. The woman in the shop doesn’t know anything about the wall, the fear or the area in general, but tells you that each Friday they sell cupcakes in this store. You ask her if they have enough customers and she says yes – people with allergies who love cupcakes know where to go.
On your way to your bike you have the feeling that fear isn’t so present with the shop owners in the area. In the conversations you had you were met with hopes, wishes, realism, gossip, autonomy and resignation. Despite that you decide to try out a small ritual to take care of the fear. You place yourself where you met the doves yesterday and take five deep breaths while you feel how the pace of the world slows down.
Passing the small boat on your way home, the laminated information from the commune has been removed and you think you know who did it.
Yesterday was a day filled with stories about the history and the future of Trosvikstranda, told by the shop owners. Not one of them recognized the fear on the wall, most of them were not even interested. They seemed to be very different characters, yet sharing an unconcerned feeling about the future. The fear belongs to someone else.
I had presupposed that the imminent changes of the place would come with all kinds of difficult feelings, but, at least with the shop owners, these were absent. Almost automatically I make up myths about future (mainly) and history, and before entering these myths again – I would like to understand what the place is NOW. I would like to get to know it better without projections. I need to go there again, be present. As a strategy to enter another character layer of the place, I would like to use other senses besides sight and hearing: I would like to feel the touch of the place, smell the smell and taste the taste of it. In order to catch all these things I will probably be moving around very differently, probably closer to the ground. I might need suitable clothing.
The sun shines and Trosvikstranda feels quite warm despite an actual drop in temperature. Compared to the other days, the area seems buzzing with life and not that forgotten.
Trosvikstranda has become a part of your daily routine – like drinking a cup of tea in the morning. Today you notice how your body recognizes the geography of the place when walking the 1000 steps. Due to your longing for knowing the place from other angles you open your senses: smell, touch and taste and end up with these impressions:
Hard unsteady // car oil // Sundays
Organically soft // something you might eat // sun rays
Soft hollow // old lake water // cold mud
Black hard // autumn death // organic mouth
Hard long // exhaust hug // no taste
and you’re back
You write not under fear on the blue wall with your index finger and have the urge to write a lot more in visible ink but you don’t have a pen. Instead you sit down by the water in front of the little yellow building (no longer?) worthy of preservation.
Although you have decided to use your senses of smell, taste and touch, you cannot stop looking at the stones that are lying here. They look like conglomerates with seaweed growing on them but when you touch them you are surprised. The seaweed is small, pieces of metal curled up like permanent hair from the 80’s. You take another look at the place and realize that the stones are residues from the past, held together by a brown compact mass of unknown origin. Porous metal and glass are peeking out into the presence.
You try to break a ‘stone’ to do an archeological study of what has been, but they are too hard… you need some tools that you don’t have yet.
The small boat from yesterday has gone. You don’t know who is responsible but you sit down next to the blue and green raft. You place your feet on the raft and feel the breath of Glomma as it moves past you and Trosvikstranda. You breathe in and out together with the river as time goes by.
Oof, that was a nice day in Fredrikstad yesterday. I had the feeling that I really ‘landed’ in the place. I enjoyed simply being there, with my feet on the raft. This morning I woke up thinking about the stones. I am so curious what they are made of. I felt it was a mysterious moment: the moment that I discovered that they were not what I thought they were, that they consisted of something else.
Imagine that they are not the only things around that appear to be something, but are made of something else. That other parts of history – maybe even of the future – are clumping together in something that looks like a stone, a moss, a flagpole, a rain barrel!
Today I would like to do an exercise. I would like to try to re-see/re-imagine Trosvikstranda in this way. To carefully re-see some of the things there. What snippets of history or future could they also be made of? And how would I discover these? The ‘stones’ changed when I touched them. They felt different from how I expected them to be based on my sight.
To inspire myself and collect ‘possible material’ I might feed myself with some reading on the history or future of Fredrikstad, but, as I know me, I should keep it extremely limited! This could be something to spend too much time on. (Plus: history is so much more than is testified about.)
Today Trosvikstranda is a labyrinth. Despite the beautiful autumn weather you feel quite tired when you first begin.
Sitting in the atelier you wonder what it means to re-see and re-imagine a place and how one could do that through other means than the ones of a city planner or a historian? You take a look in a book that tells you that Trosvikstranda was one of the first streets that got an official name and one of the first areas of the western part of town that was populated. In the end of the 18th century a shipyard was founded here.
You close the book and with this in mind you cross the bridge and enter your area. You decide to taste the taste of the place and visit the cake shop for a sugar-free low-carb cupcake with vanilla (the caramel ones are sold out).
Sweetened by the pitstop you decide to listen to the past while looking at the presence. You find a sound clip of boat building and go for a walk in the area. With the sound in your ears you try to re-imagine the place but the soundscape quickly turns into uninteresting white noise and your re-imagining becomes imagining because what is the woman hiding from the police doing and why is she hiding…?
You stop walking and (maybe) then something happens between the sound and the space. The place suddenly deepens and a presence of something absent arrives. After a while you change track to a sound clip of playing children with their families and somehow you have the same feeling. The future and the past intertwine with the presence? Or is it just the many hours of research on site that fucks with your brain….?
Before you go, you for some reason want to visit the empty white building again. At the container in front of the entrance door a QR code is placed. You pick up your mobile phone and scan the code. A test page for Norwegian recycling comes up. Dead end.
A white feather falls in front of you and you look up and suddenly you see all the doves that usually hang out at the open square, sit on the roof. The sun rays make the green/purple spot on their throat shimmer and you find yourself captured by the beauty of the colors. A seagull eases from the roof and then another and it feels like the birds have a secret life up there in the sun.
As you are ready to leave, you notice one dove walking a couple of meters from you. Is it the one with the thin neck that stayed with you the other day when all the others took off? You decide to stand still to see what she will do. Slowly and quite hesitant she walks around you in a circle and you feel part of a choreography you haven’t made. If you move she will fly away but that might also be a part of the dance.
On your way back you pass the stone sculpture in front of the white building. Micro 80 it says in black granite. You pick up your phone and google Micro 80 Fredrikstad. The white empty building was a software developing company with its heyday in the 90’s. Later the company was acquired by Visma – Europes’ leading software company. It seems like Trosvikstranda was not only first mover on official street names, it was also quite hightech in the 90’s.
You leave the area with an image from the local newspaper in mind. In ‘city planning language’ this small area with the circumference of a 1000 of your steps is a tenderloin.
I noticed that I found myself in Trosvikstranda with a lot of thoughts in my head yesterday. I had a plan to begin with, but I got slightly carried away by the philosophical implications. Past, future, now. The birds offered some consolation.
I’ve been exploring Trosvikstranda in different ways during the last few days. Again and again I am reminded of my expectations and assumptions, as things appear differently to what I initially believe them to be. On the first day I have expectations about the ‘changing place’. On the second day I had an assumption about the fear, but the reality was different, I didn’t find fear of the future there. Then I discovered the past of the place in the ‘stone’ by touching it – something so different to what I had been looking at.
Although a part of me loves to keep my meandering mind, my open presence, I feel that I found something when I saw the stones: a thought in a physical form. What if more ‘things’ that I see around me are in fact made of a material other than what I assume? And the material comes from past or future? The stone as merely a metaphor of the place. I would still like to do an exercise where the expectation, the assumption, the past and the future come together in the now.
Today, I imagine a walk through the area, passing different ‘objects’ that I’ve come into contact with during the past days, that seem one thing but could be another. Trosvikstranda as a 1000 Steps Museum – ‘I am also something other than what I appear to be’.
And now, thinking of the immediate future: tomorrow, when there will be a shared moment at 2pm. This might be a tryout for the future audience?
Today you have been at the 1000 steps museum of ‘I am other than I appear’ and you feel excited. It seems like the last days of exploratory and imaginative work has created a new map of the tenderloin of Fredrikstad.
Since you are going to share your process with guests tomorrow (the weather forecast predicts rain and gusts of strong wind, so you are hoping there will be guests…) you decided to re-see the area in the optics of the days that have passed. Through a short explanation you turn each thing into something other than what it appeared to be.
As you take a round, you name the objects in your museum as they are now:
Car shop // A building that will disappear
Trosvikstranda // One of the first official street names
Granite sculpture // Software Company elected company of the year 1994
Empty white building // Home of mould
Parking space // One of 295 parking spaces
Low bushes // Shortcut for someone to somewhere
Open square // Dinner table for doves (possibility to dance with birds)
Pavement // The river Evja (running under your feet)
Terrace in front of the boat shop // Hang out for people who like sun with others (occasionally a place to meet the police)
Blue wall // Somewhere to write your inner hopes and fears in invisible ink
‘Stones’ // Remnants of the past
Green/blue raft // The movement and passing of Glomma and time
It didn’t get as sci-fi as you might have hoped for and maybe not a novelty for people knowing the area more intimately but you still feel quite excited.
Attracted to yesterdays’ sound clips you find a sound bite of houses being demolished. The sound is so vivid that you decide to bring it with you into the museum. Sounds of the future that will accompany the guests’ last steps in the area as the circle is being closed.
To be Here Now
Today I woke up feeling the excitement of yesterday.
During the week I had been wondering: what is my role here? What can I offer, being a stranger here, now, in this place? What can I add?
I feel that the most authentic gift is to offer a portrait of the area as I experience it now, with all its twists and turns, and I guess that is exactly what I am doing. Let’s see now how the weather twists the area again (or not).
For today I would like to see if it is possible to document the 1000 steps museum that Trosvikstranda is, so that it can be a gift to future inhabitants. So that in their now, our now can resonate. Maybe it’s too big of an extra task, then I will drop it ofcourse, because today I would like to minimize stress in order to enjoy as much as I can.
I would like to be here now, be present during the presentation, and also before and after it, as much as possible. That is my biggest longing for today.
Naja Lee Jensen is there
in Fredrikstad, Norway
Emke Idema is here
on Terschelling, The Netherlands
Oerol festival invites Naja Lee Jensen.
In order for Naja to be here, Oerol hosts Emke Idema.
Emke is Being Here
I would like to focus on location ‘Strandpaal 18’ because it reminds me of a landscape I know. I feel confused. Strandpaal 18 seems so far away. I need a focus point.
Can you find a focus point on the site for me today?
Your day on Terschelling started with packing a bag in preparation for being on the beach for several hours. You collected a thermos with tea, a sandwich, suncream, bikini, towel, shorts, water, sunglasses, face mask (you never know) and stepped onto your bike. You chose to work on the location that was the closest: only a fifteen minute ride.
The sun was present but not too strong and the wind was softly stroking your arms. The weather was perfect. Your bike ride went through the forest, shadows of high trees, green leaves, and the sweet warm smell of resinous tree sap. You left your bike at the side of a path that was too steep and too sandy to bike, and walked up the dune. At the top you stopped for a moment to take in the first sight of the sea.
You saw a wide wide beach, little tufts of grass, the sea ofcourse with small waves, and in the sea, maybe a kilometer from the beach, straight along the path on which you were walking, some kind of watchtower.
You walked down the dune and to the sea, almost automatically. With every step you took, you felt an indefinite sadness coming to the surface. Probably it had been there for a while, lingering, not strong enough to express itself. But leaving the dunes behind you, it was as if you were leaving the protection of your life, so that you could suddenly hear this sad and quiet voice. It was not unpleasant, but you could not hear what it was saying exactly. You stopped walking to the sea. Maybe you could stay a little bit closer to where you came from. What should your place be in this wide open space? In front of you was a mini bush of grass, a future dune. You sat next to it, facing the sea. Automatically your hands started stroking the soft top layer of the sand. It felt pleasantly intimate. You imagined having a pet.
You wondered why you were facing the sea. Suddenly it felt unnatural. You had wanted to stay closer to the dunes that you had left behind, maybe you should take the consequences of that. You tried sitting with your face towards the dunes. Now you were looking at where you came from. That was not the right position either. You tried sitting with your face towards the beach, the ‘in between’ land between where you came from and the sea and in a way that felt good, especially when you had the sea and the watchtower on your left and the dunes on your right. You sat for a while, looking at the vast land in front of you and feeling guarded by the tower.
You wondered: why do people go to the sea? What does the ritual of a sea visit mean? Is it this symbolic transition that people make, leaving their lives behind, entering a liquid universe of other possible ways of being?
You put on your bikini.
The water is cold, but you really want to get in. You walk into the sea, slowly, to get used to the temperature, until a huge wave rolls over you and you are completely wet. The currents are strong. You let your body go with the stream and the waves and it is delightful. You walk back into the sea again and again to be embraced by the waves. The water feels warm, until it is suddenly cold again. You walk back to your place next to the small bush of grass to let your body dry in the sun.
You have placed yourself.
I had a lovely day at the beach yesterday. I really enjoyed the vastness of the landscape and the swim in the sea. When I saw the watchtower I got curious. What does it look like inside? Is it possible to enter? How does it feel to stand in an enclosed space looking at the wide landscape and the people at the beach?
From the experiences yesterday I wondered how to create a kind of enclosed bodily feeling at the beach. The feeling I got when I as a child got buried in the sand with only my head sticking up or when disappearing in a tight hug. In this post-pandemic time I recall the feeling and at the same time it feels like I have forgotten it. Could you help me recreate this feeling? If possible in different ways.
You packed your bag in the same way as before and called Aline to hear if she knew about the watchtower. She said she would ask. A couple of minutes later she answered that the tower was a pole for measuring the sea. It measures the water temperature, the height of the waves and possibly also how the coastline is moving over years. No one comes there. You don’t believe that. You imagine someone on a small boat sailing there in the twilight, calibrating the instruments and musing on the small platform that sits on the top of the pole. The beach must look short from there in relation to the measures of the sea, the people are small dots sitting in a line close to the water.
You got on your bike and went to the beach. It was warmer than yesterday. You walked past the small tuft of grass and found a spot a little bit further westwards. You sat down for a moment, but quite quickly started to dig with your hands in the sand. The first layer was warm and soft, and slid back all the time, you had to dig deeper. There the sand was colder and more solid and you could remove it easily. After a while, you had made a groove with the length of your body minus your head. You looked at it and it looked like the beginning of a grave. It startled you a bit. A grave can embrace you, and the thought of becoming one with the earth can be comforting in the end, but this was not the kind of disappearing that you were looking for. The groove should not become any deeper. You stepped into it and put sand on your feet, you were too stiff to cover your toes. You put sand on your lower legs, upper legs and squeezed it until it felt a little bit too tight. It reminded you of someone tucking you in at night when you were a kid. You covered your belly and pushed the sand against the sides of your body. You managed to press some sand against your shoulders. You could not cover your arms, because you needed your arms for that, so you dug a mini -hole for your hands. It was clever to wear a cap: it gave your face some shadow. The sand was cool. It’s weight was soothing. It had been a long time since your body had been touched like this. You felt tired. You lay there in your cool cocoon for a long time. You couldn’t see the watchtower. Your body was relaxed. You considered falling asleep. Would you dare to let go like that? A man in red shorts walked along towards the sea. You could’ve also asked him to cover your arms. You didn’t.
How would you know when this moment had ended?
You walked towards the sea to wash the sand from your body. You dodged three jellyfish. You tried to be a jellyfish and let yourself float in the loose hug of the sea until you got cold.
Once you got home you checked the weather forecast, hoping that the sun would be less relentless in the coming days; it was heavy to be on the beach all the time. To your surprise it will be quite cold and rainy from Friday on. You think of how to work with this change of weather. You doubt whether it is a good idea to continue in the direction you were following today.
After the quite exhausting day at the beach yesterday in the merciless sun I am sitting inside wondering how to transform the tight hug of the sand cocoon into some other material. In a time of distance the material cannot be human arms, torsos, hands which in other times would be the first thought that comes to mind.
Hmm… it must be something different. Maybe something that can be bought for the budget money? Something that can create warm and waterproofed cocoons for the audience in case of bad weather.
I guess plastic is a no go and also life jackets and heating blankets but maybe stretch fabric in the color red? Could you help me test how to make a cocoon that can encapsulate another human body? Torso, arms and legs are cocooned. Head and feet are free.
NB. The test does not have to be done at the beach, but preferably another human person (rather than you) is cocooned.
The island of Terschelling does not have a big shopping centre where you can walk in and out of shops to get inspired, so you call Aline. She suggests going to the big barn in Kinnum, where all kinds of materials from previous festivals are stored, and see if there is something you can use. The barn is far, so she offers to pick you up in her car.
Whilst waiting for her to come, you lie down on the couch to think about cocoons. You see caterpillars, tunnel tents with their frameworks and the baby of a friend. You search on the internet: ‘swaddling’. Babies that sleep badly become relaxed when they are swaddled tightly. Would that approximate the feeling of the sand cocoon? You only need a square piece of fabric and someone doing it.
Aline arrives and you drive to Kinnum. You share your fantasy and she says she remembers having seen big cloths that you could tear in the right size. But she might be wrong, she adds quickly.
The cloths are there, and there is a huge red one! You and Aline make a smaller square and you hesitantly ask Aline if she is ok being swaddled by you. You have only met her a couple of days ago and it might be a bit intimate. It is also with hesitance that she agrees.
She lies on the cloth in the prescribed way and you fold the first side over her body and put it under her back. Then you fold the other side over her, a bit more tightly and put it under her body.
‘And? How does it feel?’
‘…it feels comfortable, but I have to let go of everything, I have to surrender. I am completely at your mercy now.’
‘What if I walk a bit and leave you with your own thoughts and feelings?’
‘Ok, let’s try.’
‘It’s better. It feels like I have a place.’
Afterwards, Aline swaddles you. If it is done tightly enough it feels a bit similar to the pressure of the sand. Only at your legs it is more loose. The process of being swaddled reminds you again of being tucked in at night. Now it is done by someone you don’t know, and that has a certain beauty.
The cloth is not waterproof, but it is quite thick, so if it is not raining too hard you can work with it. The person in it will not immediately be completely wet. It needs to be washed though. It is dirty and it smells. And you wonder what to do with the head sticking out.
The finding of the big piece of red cloth yesterday was exciting. So was the experience of swaddling! It made it difficult to sleep.
When I finally fell asleep in the heat I dreamed of red cocoons on the vast beach of Terschelling. A line of people standing upright on the beach each in their red cocoon connected by a red line of cloth. The wind caught the red line between the cocoons and made the line sway like the sail on a boat.
Then the point of view switched, and I was suddenly one of the cocooned people. I was standing in this red cocoon – my torso from beneath my butt up to my shoulders was covered in red cloth. Two meters away from me on my left side another person was standing also cocooned. The same sight met me on my right side. Between us a red line of cloth stretched out, marking the distance between us (the same distance, I think, as in the supermarkets’ queue during these pandemic times).
In our cocooned solitude we were woven together by the red piece of cloth and through this weaving our physical bodies had become one object. Believe it or not the line of weaving was actually made of one long piece of cloth.
If one of us standing in the line leaned away from the others, all of our cocoons would tighten. This was how connected we were. As one long red line we were standing in front of the enormous sea at the endless beach of Terschelling each of us embraced by a red cocoon that tightened when distance between us grew bigger.
Waking up I thought about the dream. If this kind of cocooned interdependence between people were possible to try out… lying in the morning light on the couch I felt that I had to explore the dream, although it might be a detour and I might have to pursue the swaddling.
You were impressed by your dream and needed to think what to do with it. It was such a strong image and you wanted to cherish it. You decided to bring your dream to the beach and imagine it in the landscape where it was coming from. So you packed your bag (extra jacket, raincoat, rain pants, bottle of water, pen and paper) and hopped onto your bike.
At the top of the dune you stood still. The wind was blowing around your head. The beach was grey, the tufts of grass were dark green, the sea was also dark and the watchtower was overlooking it all.
You imagined a red string close to the coastline. And another one, with a curl in it. And another one, a bit further to the east. Now that you were more attentive, you saw that the whole coastline was covered with these strings, as if the sea had washed them up like huge pieces of bright red seaweed.
You walked down the beach to have a closer look. Halfway, the first string looked more like a coral: it was a body consisting of bodies, an elongated organism containing several individual beings. The organism was huge. Its individuals were huge. They were the same size as you. Their bodies were cocoon shaped, no tentacles or loose ends, only a head sticking out. It wasn’t clear where one individual stopped and the next one began; the cocoons and the connective tissue of the organism were from the same material. You noticed that the cocoons moved slightly and in relation to each other, and when the distance between individuals became bigger, the cocoons seemed to tighten, they had to, because otherwise the tissue would tear. The effect was that when others became more distant, the individuals were holding themselves more closely, within that body they were all in.
You realized that you brought into being a species that had some answers to the question about how to survive in this vast, barren landscape. About how to find holding.
You sat down on the sand. You were longing to be swaddled by a stranger. You were ready to surrender to the act of being tucked in, being held by the comfortable pressure on your body, and hearing someone tell you about the bright red coral- like species that had some solutions for the future. But the circumstances didn’t permit swaddling. The wind was so hard that sharp sand strings whipped your face. This landscape seemed to enlarge everything: heat, wind, grains of sand, feelings, other species… only you were the same size again. You, and the watchtower. After awhile you stood up and left. How could you stay?
The beach as a magnifying glass. Today I woke up with yesterday’s question how could you stay in my mind, and I don’t have an answer. To be honest, today I feel quite empty. I love the swaddling, I love the thought of people getting buried in the sand with only their heads sticking out and I love the red strings of cocoons but it seems like the landscape and the short amount of time before Sunday wants something different. I feel split between tomorrow’s sharing and the longing for taking my time in the process and reconnecting with the landscape and the situation – maybe taking a day off to allow the work to settle in my subconscious.
The weather on Terschelling and on Strandpaal 18 is so present and changes so much…. It feels like there must be two options – depending on the weather?
If possible, I want to return to the swaddling. Maybe it is possible to place the person being swaddled on a bedsheet/towel like when sunbathing?
If it’s windy I would like to sit on the beach, maybe on a towel. I will be covered with the big red piece of cloth like a tent listening to a quiet song on my phone. At some point I will leave the tent and draw a circle in the sand. I would like to write the words ‘I will be here for awhile’ and place myself standing in the middle of the circle facing the sea and the watchtower.
I recognize this moment in the process of making, it always comes when you need to work hard and get things together, when there is pressure and no time. You strongly feel that you should lie in bed, do nothing or go for a long walk. It feels like a dilemma: work hard or contemplate, but it’s not. You need to connect again: in the first place with yourself, but also with the material, or with the place where you are working. Work has to be done on the subconscious level. When you are not present and aligned, you cannot finish anything.
You pack your bag – raincoat, rain pants, thermos of tea, big headphones – bind the red cloth on the carrier of your bike and go to the beach with the peaceful idea that it is good to just sit there and listen to some nice music.
When you arrive at the top of the dune, with the red cloth under your arm, and you look out over the landscape, to your surprise it feels a bit like coming home. The beach is lighter than yesterday, as well as the sea, and the watchtower is almost transparent. Here you are.
You walk down and you are almost halfway to the beach when you realise that although it is as windy as yesterday, there are no strings of sand moving across the plain. The sand is wet, because of the heavy rainfall from last night. That means that it is possible to lie on the ground. Suddenly, swaddling people becomes an option again. There are some people on the beach, close to the coastline. You decide to try the two women who are the closest.
‘Hi, can I ask you something?’
They listen to how you explain what you are doing. How you are in search of a way of being on the beach. Of a way not to feel lost. How you might have found an answer in the practice of swaddling. And how you want to swaddle them now. One of them starts to nod. ‘Yes, I am ok with that.’ It surprises you.
Ans allows you to swaddle her, Marianne is helping you do so.
From a distance it looks like Ans is washed up by the sea, a bright red sea being that also makes you think of an Egyption mummy. Death is still around.
She enjoys it, she could lie there much longer, listening to the waves, she says, and she feels safe and comfortable. Afterwards, both women thank you for the experience.
A bit to the west you sit down, your face directed towards the endless beach, the sea and watchtower on your left, the dunes on your right. You drink some tea. Music cannot beat the rush of the sea. You become silent.
You think about the main questions over the last couple of days:
What is your place here?
How can you be here?
How could one live here?
How could you be held?
How could you stay?
You imagine that your audience in the presentation tomorrow have read every step of your search. You feel that you will only need to remind them of the main questions, swaddle them one by one in a bright red cloth and leave them to the landscape and their own perception and thoughts.
To be Here
How to be here?
Somehow this question grew from last night’s sleep, and in the morning light it seemed at the centre of the last day’s quest. Together with the red cocoons and the memories from the past days.
I guess the task for the day is clear: a question born from sleeping and the experience of being swaddled. I hope the landscape and the weather agree.
I wonder if the question could be written in the sand with UPPER CASE characters before the guests are being swaddled?
Unknown bodies lying as red cocoons on the beach beneath the question How to be here? with a watchtower hovering in the distance.
To be Here
It was the day of the sharing. You went into practical mode. You had to arrange stuff before going to the beach, you had to write a logistical script, you had to make a plan for the day.
The weather was perfect: the sky blue between the clouds, not too cold, and it was dry. You packed your bag – raincoat (to be sure), rain pants, on a paper the possible script, a sandwich, something to drink – and went to the beach. You felt a bit unsettled.
At the top of the dune, you were taken by surprise: the beach looked completely different! Everywhere shallow puddles of water, from the dunes to ten metres from the flood line. The beach had turned into a swamp. Luckily there was a small stretch of sand closer to the sea, where you could place the audience. You walked towards it.
Aline appeared over the top of the dune, in a car. She came bringing nice smelling red cloths, and stones to weigh down the corners of the cloths, so that the wind would not blow them away.
‘And what about high tide?’ asked Marloes, who had joined Aline.
‘What about it?’
You heard the slightly scared tone of your voice.
‘Between 5 and 6 the water will be at its highest, that is exactly the moment of the presentation.’
You speculated about how high it would become, but could not predict whether the stretch of sand would be flooded or not. You didn’t know what to do. Lying in the mud was certainly not an option.
Suddenly you couldn’t think sharply anymore.
You were tired.
You felt anxious.
You felt really anxious.
You felt as anxious as before the premiere of a project you had worked on for years.
You could’t make decisions anymore.
Thank god for Rita who came with you today and talked you into the only right decision in a calming way.
She even massaged your shoulders.
Once the audience came, you were here again.
You welcomed them and gave everyone their bundle of red cloth and stones. You walked down the dune and zigzagged between the puddles to the dry sand that hadn’t been flooded in the end. You sat down.
One by one you swaddled them tightly, with the help of another audience member, on a self-chosen place. You tried to be gentle and thorough. ‘The watchtower is guarding you,’ you said before walking towards the next one.
There they were, five bright red cocoons along the flood line, heads sticking out, on an endless grey-white beach. The sea was rushing calmly. The image was stunning. Aline took a picture. You smiled. You breathed out.
You waited a bit before you took off the cloth of the first audience member. He looked sleepy.
‘Take your time. It was great to have you here,’ you said. He nodded.
After everyone was out of their cocoons they were lingering a bit.
Someone asked if he could give feedback. He had felt comfortable and safe. He had thought of his childhood. He had thought about birth and death, he had felt everything was ok the way it was, that if the sea were to wash over him, that that would also be ok, he had thought about being a tourist sitting on a towel and about the space between all these associations. His eyes were a bit red.
Someone had ended up in the magical space between waking and sleeping.
Someone said she could imagine this to be a full three-hour performance, and that she was looking forward to it.
Someone had to pee and had been thinking of escaping the cocoon all the time.
Someone said she was always quite distracted but that her thoughts had been here all the time.
They had been here.
You were happy and surprised.
You walked back on the swampy beach.
At the top of the dune you stood still for a moment and looked over the landscape. You saw an intensely green landscape of grass, bushes and trees. You imagined yourself walking there,
into some new adventure.