The drive North requires presence. Google reminds me of what my parents call their GPS, Liesa, because she lies a lot. You cannot trust what an automated GPS device shows as the way for many reasons. Weather is always part of the route, as are unplanned experiences. Aside from wanting to pull aside the road, there are also the short daylight hours, elk, road conditions, and ferry schedules to accommodate. Add at least 2-4 hours onto the travel time, then you are nearing reality.
For whatever reasons ascribed to the matters at hand during 2020, I find myself and others saying the lines between virtuality and reality are blurred. Then I look around and wonder, really? Where is this blurring occurring? While much has changed within the systems and the scene in Bodø from recent developments, this blurring seems to come from the psychological space. The nurses describe in concrete, discernible terms how stressful their jobs have become from the COVID-19 situation has impacted their workloads. Parents describe their children’s programming as increasingly noisy, busy, flashy, disjointed.
A drive from Trondheim to Bodø, then to Kjerringøy ends up being something like 15 hours. Between the car, the ferry and ride- and the shortness of light in the autumn month, the travel across Norway ended up being similar to the flight from Chicago, to Amsterdam, to Trondheim. At the end of the first week, I laugh- going along a country takes as much effort as it is to go across the world. All of this, amidst a viral-pandemic. What on earth would compel me to go?
For one, I am indeed married with a Norwegian man. Due to the pandemic and the risks and costs of travel I was staying with my family in Illinois. After having traveled to California to present at a conference at UCSB (University California in Santa Barbara), the crisis hit Europe, and I flew to Illinois. Then there is the fiscal; as if the past 5 years were not already financially stressful enough, the 2020 year seemed to cause a backslide from the momentum I had been building in my work. A paid-artistic residency, with the opportunity to teach. The combination of things I set out to do 20 years ago, finally! But just at the risk of life. How bad can a virus be? We never know; but I do know in 2016 I faced a great challenge in my health that makes me very cautious and take these matters seriously. Then there is the familial. Truly, it was a blessing to experience the nearness of my beloved parents and regain an appreciation for the home and land I came from. Should I go into the drive? It was the first time in a long while I got to use my Norwegian Førerkort which I had studied and paid for several years ago. What all does this have to do with art? Getting there.
Longing, eros, creative tension. Holding a vision and doing the work to get there. Walking when you can’t feel your legs but must keep going to keep your heart and body warm. These are the kind of choices a hiker knows, and also I found helpful to the path of art making. So many times in the past 6 years I have thought to give up. For reasons of health, stress, finances, family making/biology. These are all very real aspects of our life here on earth. Alas, what on earth has kept me going? I credit the encouragement of friends- and if I am truly honest it is these friends who are echoing and reflecting my deepest desires. I am of a time where I was brought up to believe I can have both a family and my work. It was not until I was in California the last time I realized, about (as described) 10% or fewer find economical and social support for creating a profession in the arts. True, it is most of those I know in this field who have found jobs teaching, running community centers, and/or having supportive partners while they build up. Culture-work in this way is often under the awareness of the wage payers.
This is something else; not as Jung described the subconscious as that which we are not aware and call fate-but something that every step when I am done, gives me another stone to grab hold on. Stones, as you may have noticed are quite important to me now. The geology have led me into a new project-one I will get to describing next weeks ahead.
For now, I wish to share a fun story. Around the pies (fireplace) Gerd and I were up late. Speaking in Norwegian, suddenly she looked me straight in the eye, as I had rambled on about finding my way so difficult for 5 or 6 years, and she said the answer is all my hard work as boomeranged back to me and it is the erotic I must pursue. I sat dazed; hypnotised. Before having gone across the world, I zoomed back to Los Angeles, in my graduate studio having a professor tell me to push the erotic in my work- more and more. I really did not know what that even meant. Because I had just been going on and on about why my art work was related to this connection with nature- Gerd shot up, the connection is the erotic. This erotic is not sexual per-say.
Gerd is an experienced painter from Lapland. As a Sami-artist, she shared a connection with nature- in fact- we all do here up in Kjerringøy. After all, that is the premise we are here for. But what particular part of nature? For me has always been this feeling part, this sense of longing, wishing I can actually wrap my arms around the vision that I see of the world. Groping, toward a hug of the vision, I fall into the air, and onto the earth. To embrace a vision, what does that mean other than to embrace that which one loves? So often this love is expressed through bodily conditions, fore we are not free from this flesh as it so happens to enable this feeling itself. In a dance with this sensual experience, indeed, this pschological and physiological place I have been trying to describe- the artist statements I have written and rewritten year-after-year, are indeed all situated on Eros.
Not erotic in the sense people often associate with pornography or even sexual intimacy, but this primordial, interior space that avows reverence for the intense confrontation with reality. To become with Eros in such a landscape plays with the sense of memory and the sense of reaching toward. Anyone who have taken their first ice-bath knows, the lyst (Norwegian for a want to- a lust for) nearing this land, as sensual as it is, will pay a price of a racing heart and shivering body. An experience bathing will know they must have a strong fire within.
So here I am, looking upon a water I want to touch, with a tired fire within, seeking the courage to stoke from within myself the warmth to carry the torch into the winter night-just weeks away.
Gerd Grimsø and Marianne Nymo suggest we make a Husprosjekt where each week, each of us comes up with a group project to do together and present the results. The first week, Gerd tasked us to make something with 10 birch branches and a poem. Next week, Marianne will assign our task. The last week I will have to come up with something. We share our projects with each other and discuss whether or not to present them at our artist talk in Kjerringøy on 7 november 2020 kl. 13. For now I share with you the project and poem I completed on a day I walked about 18 kilometers on accident. It was what I might have called a perfect day. We had reindeer and elk for dinner at Ane’s house.
Being is a held breath
and between these branches
are one-hundred-thousand breaths
toward the heaven
before the descent
back to the present.
Aquarelle, paper, glue with 10 birch branches. / Akvarell, papir, lim, med 10 bjørk grenene.