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
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.
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.
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.