Part two: This was my project proposal for the residency. I was cold, I think, or at least wearing many layers; my borrowed chair by my borrowed desk (I was forever the impostor) was uncomfortable, or perhaps it was too comfortable, I cannot recall. I refuse to look back, I think this is a general rule I must set for myself in order not to drown in nostalgia, and this will not be an exception.
I wonder about this, now: where do unfinished art projects go? What about the ones that were conceived but then aborted, either by force or from an unfortunate fall down the stairs, just a short trip to get marmalade from the pantry? Do they go to heaven? Do the evil ones go to hell?
I will tell you this, for this is what I have now begun:
It is a project where I bead and bead and bead my own passport photo so that I cannot recognize my own face. Parts of it may be visible, but there is a strain and one cannot breathe.
Beautiful though they are, words like strangulation and asphyxiation bring life to unpleasant dreams; you wake gasping and crying for air. We all have dreams, don’t we, where our fingers curl and stretch around our throats?
What does drowning feel like when it’s a relief
What does drowning feel like when water is more welcoming than dry earth
What does drowning feel like when the better alternative to life on land that doesn’t want you that doesn’t need you
What does drowning feel like with child clutched to your chest trying to get out and up
Cough and sputter all you want, but coming up for air is almost never a good idea.
I will never, probably, know what being an asylum seeker or refugee feels like, and I think that makes me grateful. My original idea was to seek asylum as a refugee in various European countries and document this. Though still on the table, something tells me I don’t know enough, I don’t know nearly enough.
So then I wanted to bead and to continue beading my own face, the face of an asylum seeker, a refugee. If I can cover these pictures drawings images with thousands of beads and spend time doing so, then surely I will be better equipped to understand the sheer number of people roaming across the Mediterranean in nothingness boats for a slight hope of something (life) better than nothing (death, or worse, a worthless life).
If I try to find every refugee and asylum seeker in the Unnamed City and speak with them, will I understand it better?
If I bead them all, will I understand it better?
(and why does it look so much like beat and I wonder and I wonder)
So this is what I want to do, and if I haven’t said so already then I might never get to the point. Listen-
If I don’t bead a thousand faces life-size on a slippery daffodil-colored boat this year in Vilnius, then I might never do it.
If I don’t embroider one hundred faces that on either side of the Great Divide (seeing and being seen, arriving and welcoming, rejecting and accepting), the citizens and soon-to-be- or never-will-be-citizens this year in Vilnius, then I might never do it.
And if I come to the Unnamed City and don’t embroider or bead at all then know I have not failed.
The title of my project is They Come At Night and is a work in progress and a mind plan and a master plan and also a blueprint drawn with flimsy water colors that slip off the page before you say cheesecake.
They Come At Night is a project that aims to identify and understand the integration and/or assimilation of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, particularly the Unnamed City, through personal narratives gathered through interviews and meetings conducted by said artist (myself).
They Come At Night is, in its dreams and ambitions, a multidimensional installation that can grow and run throughout my time at the Unnamed Residency. In its form, it becomes an online archive with the information harvested, sound and writing and image. In patience, I will bead it, or at least the people I see and meet, or perhaps only my own face, again and again, serious no contrast white background officialdom that never smiles.
They Come At Night tries to approach you with grace on its side and a knife in the pocket. Occupying both real and virtual spaces I envision it like a mold that grows uncontrollably, bereft of a predictable result (or else: you only notice it when your cheese, bread and ham are all devoured and long gone). Unlike a mold, however, I will not work alone and in the dark.
They Come At Night will also invite sneaky and suspicious-looking collaborations, must involve travelling, and requires a relatively open studio policy (from my side).
They Come At Night is already begun, if only in its simplest and most straightforward form: the beadings, one of which I have sent you.
I try, and I try, and yet again I try.
They Come At Night is something I have begun but also something that isn’t nearly begun, because it is a large and living thing (and births can be difficult and traumatic, we all know) and it will set itself upon the world in such a manner that I’m worried (certain) of losing control entirely.
My dearest darling:
This is my project and here you have it. Like a scaffolding merely, I am holding it together with dreams of being with you this coming Spring, patiently beading away on the Norwegian farm where I currently reside, teaching at the local middle school. Some days I pierce my own face one million times with a tiny needle and then extend the pain a tenthfold with the thread that drags itself through it: across the plains there are also beads upon beads upon beads. When my eyes later on, my countenance is heavy with tears and I wonder where it all came from.
Thank you. Thank you.