Last Saturday, we finally met… The project group had a very tight schedule while in Stockholm, but nevertheless, a few of us managed to get a couple of hours to attune our intentions and make up a draft for today’s event. After we parted, and these remarkable young human rights activists of Eastern Europe moved on to island Gotland in the Baltic Sea, to spend three days at the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD). Until today, we had to worked independently once more, translating the ‘response text’ into Ukrainian, Russian and Swedish. And right now, I’m sitting in the library foyer, waiting for the guys to show up… we’ll have a brief moment of rehearsal – and then, we’ll be on stage.
Oh, this is incredible! Here we are: a tiny group of people from different places, speaking different languages, carrying different experiences… we didn’t know each other before, we actually haven’t even met. As always, complications arise. In addition to that, some of us have (for different reasons) decided to step back from the project, or at least to take a bystander’s part for some time.
Under such circumstances, the whole idea of meaning-making through dialogue seems bound to collapse… but look now, what’s coming out of this; a brand new text, speaking with a voice of its own, clear and confident. Like a child, resembling the parents and yet independent… For the next days, we’ll see it grow and change.
Today’s the day when the process will move to another level. Starting out from the untitled poem, our first week was dedicated to individual (although synchronized) reflective work. Now time has come to share the fruits; not the raw version of personal associations, memories and feelings – it would be impossible, anyway – but a consciously arranged set of words. My part is to form the conditions and to collect the responses. When gathered, they will expand and change our common space of thought.
The first e-mail has already arrived, and I’m waiting eagerly for more…
Normally, I work with materials such as oil paint, charcoal, silver, tar, wood or paper to create a virtual space: the image. The materials forming this artpiece are entirely different, though.
Hannah Arendt – in her lecture Thinking and Moral Considerations – firmly distinguishes the ability to think from acquired knowledge, education and even intelligence. To her, thought is no commodity; it has neither solidity nor persistency. Adopting a metaphor from Plato, Arendt compares human thinking to a wind – invisible and fleeting, vanished the very instant it ceases to move. “How can anything relevant for the world we live in arise from so resultless an enterprise?” she asks, and continues: “An answer, if at all, can come only from the thinking activity, the performance itself, which means that we have to trace experiences rather than doctrines.”
Those last words describe pretty well what we’re up to in this project. No special education in poetry or linguistics is required, despite the literary and multi-lingual theme. Neither are there any settled intents, nothing external to be proven or achieved in this artwork. We deal with the tracing of personal experiences, in Arendt’s sense; and the basic materials seem to be time, trust and attention.
At this stage, access to the project is limited to volunteering participants, and the core process uses the e-mail format. My first step turned out to be based on a misunderstanding; a valuable reminder about the conditions of human communication. Two days into the project, we have already experienced difficulties, misinterpretations, unexpected openings and achievements… very interesting, indeed!
Here we go; the project starts today with the reading of a poem, originally written in Ukrainian and later rendered into English (note to self: I have to find out the name of the translator!)
…and now, over to Tanya Maria Litvinyuk:
We are cities, each one reminds megalopolis,
We have people who come and live inside us.
And we absorb people like sponges, as if we are bottomless,
And these people, certainly, really need us…
And we call people by names, like we call avenues,
We have many roads and not all of them are gorgeous,
And the sky that kisses the pavement is not always blue,
And people that breathe us in are not strong always…
It happens sometimes, that people want to move off,
To finally pick their things and get freedom, become unrestraint,
To start conversation with the best physician on Earth,
And to hang better routes they could have, on their chests.
It happens sometimes, that people want to avoid us,
For we cause the addiction, stronger than anything in the world,
And people want to see other megalopolises,
And people want to perceive other cities, to feel or keep hold…
And we do not care. We are solidly frozen forever…
Such majestic, such static megalopolises…
For what do we have to lose? Lots of inhabitants.
Today, I saw spring waving her arm from the train modestly…
Today, I’m proud to announce my invitation from curator Yulia Oleksandriv (Perfect Art Institution, Stockholm/Kyiv) to be part of the project Training the Fundamentals of a Democratic Society. Youth leaders and human rights activists from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Russia, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands are gathering for a three-days’ workshop in Sweden, initiated by NGO Active Ukrainians in Europe and kindly supported by the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy and the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society.
My contribution will be to conduct a process where individual memories, associations and reflections are transferred and shared across linguistic and geographical borders. Ukrainian poet Tanya-Maria Litvinyuk will provide us a point of departure, and on August 28th we’ll arrive at Stockholm International Library to stage a multilingual performance. The travel in-between will take place in the unseen space of creative thought.
Tomorrow, we’ll be off!