The most beautiful IKEA of the Netherlands!

Tuesday November 15
It is day two, we are planning to have breakfast at IKEA Utrecht every day of the week. Again we are in a hurry, this time because we have to come from Amsterdam. But today we arrive at ten, so we have still half an hour before the end of the breakfast. Geert recognizes people from yesterday. In my notes I am starting to call these regular guests 'professionals'. People who are specialized in our task for this week. But although the breakfast is our starting point, we want to sink deeper into the reality of the IKEA. Somehow it seems very important to focus on this huge multinational, which, synchronously with the renewal process in Kanaleneiland, wants to expand enormously. On Youtube we found an interesting clip about this expansion:

In this video the shop manager is explaining the benefits of the expansion for the people of the neighborhood. He states that the realization of the new plans will mean that the people will get the most beautiful IKEA of the Netherlands in their neighborhood, they will be able to buy the full range of IKEA products and moreover there will be more jobs. And in this video Dick Kool states that they will try to get these new employees as much as possible from Kanaleneiland. Can IKEA with its Billies be the answer to the problems of the boys of the hood? As DJ Loki puts it in his song 'Blijf van mijn wijk af':

De jongens in de buurt hebben echt geen arbeid.
Wanneer wordt dat veranderd? Het wordt eens tijd!
En als dat niet gebeurd komt er meer criminaliteit.

The boys in the neighborhood don't have jobs. It is time to change this, if not there will be more criminality.

Does IKEA feel the responsibility to change the high unemployment in Kanaleneiland? Does this fit in their corporate strategy or is it part of the set of demands made by the municipality of Utrecht in exchange for the expansion of the shop on municipal land? And what would happen if everybody in Kanaleneiland is employee of IKEA? As one big happy family..


Croissant, mini bun, slice of cheese, butter, jam, an egg and endless coffee..

Monday November 14
We are just in time for the breakfast - coming from Rotterdam we have to rush to the restaurant to be the last ones to quickly collect the different items at IKEA's restaurant in Kanaleneiland. I try to copy the other people around me, because I am not jet inaugurated in the ritual. Fortunately there are many people who perform the different tasks (getting a tray, getting a plate, picking a bun and a croissant, grabbing butter, cheese and jam, getting an empty cup, paying €1,- at the counter and filling the cup at the coffee machine) fluently and without hesitation.
This first morning we try to take in as much as possible of our surroundings - everything is new for us and the space is much bigger than I expected. I think there are places for over five hundred people in the restaurant. We think there are people eating here everyday, but will we be able to recognize them?

The breakfast makes me think of hotels and isn't very tasty, but also not bad. Although the breakfast is dirt cheap, it contains an free range egg, fair trade coffee and ecological tea. How can they do it for so little money?! The breakfast public is very diverse, there are couples, small groups, a lot of families and some people alone. The people seem to be from different backgrounds. Around eleven most of the breakfast eaters left and the restaurant is more quiet now. The public transforms into mostly white, elderly couples who order apple pie. These are the furniture buyers.

There is not a lot of staff in the restaurant - one man is responsible for driving the carts full of trays to the kitchen. If we duplicated the IKEA uniform and started working here, would they even notice it?

This first day the most important question is how we can look at the IKEA. It will be our host this week, but how can we get to know it better? As soon as we enter the building we feel lured into a  world of very affordable breakfasts, cleaver design and nice practicalities.


Tasca project

Tasca project

Social / Anti Social
 There is still a smell of cutted wood, on the porch. Although the buildup ended last Sunday, there are factors that I could not control, or in a better way, my plans became quite difficult to follow. What’s up with the stones in this neibourghood? Since I’ve step foot here for the first time, I’ve been watching what seems to be a huge resistance to the normal living of a daily routine, not only as an artist but as a regular somebody who is trying to live and work here at the same time. Here lies the known feeling of shaping, and formatting.
I see them and they see me, even when I’m inside I hear them (loud), as they hear me (louder). Every day, they ask me if it’s about ice cream, to which I reply, No, it’s about red wine. They must think I’m joking, of course, and that it would be absurd to have a Haram drink over there, especially in their pretty neighborhood. I suppose I could also ask somebody to explain the hole reason of this to them, but would it make a difference? This is clearly not one of those typical artist residencies where you feel apart almost disengaged from local contact, pursuing only what you had in mind.

There is a light blue door that lets you access to the inner parts of the vehicle, designed to keep the bottles and the glasses, and they enjoy opening this door and sneaking through it while playing. Once in the inside, it becomes a refuge, because in there exists a fundamental feeling as if you are not seen from the outside and so you can talk, and even move the Tasca from the inside, allowing  them to cheer up. So, when I’m not looking they hide there in pairs, doing what they do best: dreaming.
We seem to share some common ground, since kanaleneiland is going “bye bye” also, for the government has plans to demolish it. In the beginning, the idea was to talk with the locals about the disappearance of this places, it’s aesthethic, and its grand social power. Yet, due to a sort of expansion mode, the Tasca became also part of the porch, and so part of the playground. This merging was non-intended but very fruitful in the sense that this social sculpture had integrated the lives of these younglings.

They want to tear it apart.  Actually they almost managed too, but I stopped them before they could burn it down. I can’t blame them though, for it is, after all, an amplified toy, made with the purpose of potentiating facts, stories, happenings if you will. And they know this very well. They may not verbalize it, but they do know it and they play it: When the noise becomes too intense, the man comes outside to safeguard the area, and make sure that the vehicule is still in the right place. They love my reaction. Throwing objects and shouting at me, they seem to live for that.
The air holds a full fascination on how, and for what it was built, also what tools were used. Although they saw the building of it, they are also desperate to grab the hammer and start banging with it on some nails. Not to be annoying but to show that they are present, and that they want to interact with me. Certainly it became a game of big interest for them, since I always seem to reply in a different manner of what they are used to. The day before, I had drew an iphone and black berry on two pieces of wood and they were smiling.

They hate camera’s, and photos. I wonder why.

Me and the fellows from OTIA TVTA are planning to sing Fado’s on Friday. This is an enchanted romantic way of showing the culture of our country and creating the right ambience to find a bride to get married on the next day. So we rehearse and they listened outside. One of them enters and climbs the staircase, to which Eduardo Petersen shouted, while in the middle of his song, “Povo Adormecido“ (Sleeping People), CAN I HELP YOU!?
The little one runs away laughing, waiting downstairs, ready to climb again.

The next day we took the Tasca for a walk along the streets, where we sang in a low key, stopping some times for a drink, and to invite other persons who might want to join us. The sun sets on our pass as we stroll along the Kanal and I remember Baudelaire’s term “flâneur”, when he addresses us as walking, sensing, vibrating people, in search for the hidden parts of the city. Besides this, Two men stopped to know more and I served them while the explanation was dealt. The red wine was Portuguese, Quinta de Pancas, 2008, and it had a taste to something like deep mint, and somewhat fruity as well. Strong but not too strong, ideal for two, max. 3 glasses, if you want to keep your spirit in a proper level.

 Before we entered Resto van Hart, for our singing night, I drink another glass, to feel in the mood. This Restaurant is runned by Jolanda Panis with whom I had the great opportunity of collaborating with, for her great enthusiasm and dedication to the Portuguese kitchen and ambiance. Resto van Hart's idea strives to serve the people of the neighbourhood, respecting their religious beliefs (they usually only serve halal food) at a cheap price, for an integration of the people of the neighbourhood. Everyone is welcomed to eat and meet new people, while sitting randomly at the tables.
Outside, Paulo Lisboa and Francisco Cordovil look ready for action, while inside Agostinho Gonçalves and Eduardo Petersen set their voice on a comfortable way.
Jolanda Panis has cooked Portuguese, Caldo Verde as starter, Caldeirada, for main dish, and tarte de natas as dessert. In between courses we sang our 3 set's of Fados.

De volgorde:

Caldo Verde 

A lenda da fonte (André Catalão)
Com que voz (Eduardo Petersen)
O meu menino é d'oiro (Paulo Lisboa)


Adeus ó serra da lapa (Agostinho Gonçalves)
Povo Adormecido (Eduardo Petersen)
Não vás ao mar Tónho (Francisco Cordovil)

Tarte de Natas

Não venhas tarde (all)
Nem às paredes confesso (all)


Letters to V.: Profanations, comme il faut

November 13, 2011
Location: Rotterdam
3:31 am

I see you in the scooter through the countryside ahah the cloister creeps me out as I told you before… I don’t like religious environments; that heavy stuff, I don’t feel hospitality. But the image you described is beautiful. It is also strange the dichotomy between the place where you’re staying and the poverty of the village that you describe. All your descriptions make me think of ritual and sacred. I don’t know about templates, architects are normally the ones who know about that stuff… I will try to remember to ask my friend Sílvia, she is an architect… I always like to know the root, even from the words; I often check the etymology of words. From what I hear from you, I don’t think you are interested in memory, but in historicity of thinks. It’s different, I guess. You really have to read “Profanations” by Agamben really. I leave you with an excerpt… (I take my time going through the book… had forgotten how much I love this book!) Look this paragraph (love it!) and it meets the question of rules: 

“It is not disbelief and indifference toward the divine, therefore, that stand in opposition to religion, but "negligence," hat is, a behaviour that is free and "distracted" (that is to say, released from the religio of norms) before things and their use, before forms of separation and their meaning. To profane means to open the possibility of a special form of negligence, which ignores separation or, rather, puts it to a particular use.”
(Agamben, p. 75)

This guy is amazing! A teacher of mine used to tell the story of some cakes in Italy, whose origin comes from the story of a very beautiful girl that had this amazing eyes and one day a guy fancied her eyes and because she was a goody, she took her eyes off, not to be an object of temptation. God was very impressed by her attitude and elected her as a saint. Now they make these cakes, which are supposed to symbolize her eyes and that people eat in this religious event (I don’t know the name).  Religion is for me such a hard issue… Before going to Kanaleneiland, I though buying a fake wedding ring, so that the guys there wouldn’t mess around with me. I got a ring that looked like a wedding ring. But then someone told me that Catholics use the wedding ring on the left hand and protestants use it on the right one and so for a couple of days I was trying to decide whether I wanted to pretend being catholic or protestant. Finally I couldn’t choose and I didn’t use the ring. . This week a guy came to me after aerobic class. Ah, I forgot to tell you! So it was: I arrived super early, the teacher invited me in. She is a lady in her fifties, Albanese origin. Doesn’t speak English. I speak German, she speaks Dutch. She can’t quite understand the fact that I go from Rotterdam to Kanaleneiland to have aerobic class, she gets surprised. Super sweet and careful, she speaks very slowly so that I can understand.  The rest of the women from the group arrive and there’s this very beautiful moment when they come and take the women’s turban (my Turkish friend told me they call it “turban kadin” in Turkish and the direct translation is “women’s turban”, I must check if it’s right), I know this is very naïve, but I had never seen before. And they start to talk, all very curious to know Sílvia and me, one of them speaks English, V. a feminine complicity that I had never seen before, apart from shopping and kitchen: I go shopping alone and don’t know much about cooking, so I didn’t know this. Suddenly, the music starts all rocking. The teacher is fantastic, the music is very kitschy, but all really fun, I liked a lot, you know, they all trying to burn energy. Suddenly, everyone was talking to everyone, very relaxed, a very familiar atmosphere.  It was the first time in two years in the Netherlands when I really felt like to learn Dutch by the extreme need, because I really feel like to talk to them and language is a barrier. But they were really careful, talking very slowly, really protective. See, I liked. I have to plan a new schedule with the part-time and Zurich’s project but I really consider starting learning Dutch.

André’s Tasca was also great, Eduardo, Agostinho and their friend Paulo all came and it was great to meet them in Kanaleneiland!! At this moment it seems that all the routes lead to Kanaleneiland! I also met a guy that is doing research in Lefebvre’s kind of mood, seems interesting. Today I invited a Turkish friend that is a composer to come for a tea so she told me lots of things about Turkey. Sílvia told me that the lady from the Buurtcentrum here is Portuguese and she is married to a Moroccan man and she uses a Turban and so she always has problems going back to Portugal, although she has a Portuguese ID card, I should go there to meet here the coming week.

It takes me a while to make the translation. Actually, last letter were 5 letters together and it was crazy! But it made me think that by coincidence and to obey the rules of facts and join all the letters maybe it became nice in terms of writing, the overlap. Do you think that that’s how Lobo Antunes started? It would be good… Well, in fact it takes me longer to translate then to write. I take some days to write and others to translate, not to loose the track of my English version of things, or better saying, my mediation of things into English language. But at the same time it makes me read your text really careful and try to find an equivalent way of transmitting it. Today I changed Bach’s Prélude by Ravel’s Bolero that I started to love since I’ve seen Raimund Hoghe’s choreography, do you know it? It’s curious because it also has a lot to do with difference and integration, but it’s not the reason why I like it, it’s because gestures are really beautiful, masculine strength/vulnerability/exposure at the sound of epic music, how audacious. I hear the music with this image on my head. He even worked with Pina.

How carefully you write and talk about your project. Sometimes we need to jump to a project like if jumping out of the train in movement (if not always!) and do things. And follow on, jumping and stopping every now and then to think at the same time. But don’t hesitate. I guess… now, in this moment, when you make me think… that the monument evokes a memory; although the memory is not past, it’s something that happens in the present always influenced by the past and even by the perspective one has from the future on that instant. Like as if these times would always be connected like a string and it changes as we like our lives to be told to ourselves. To preserve something that evokes memory…I guess it is…it will be the first condition to be a monument: evoking memory… do you think we can make a monument to the future? It would always be a monument to a possible future that existed in the past. Like 2001 space odyssey in the monument to the future space? V. this is fucking amazing! We have to develop this idea. Not now, it’s late and my brain is working in slow motion. I also feel an excess of information, so many things that I still cannot synthesize to develop…

I might have found a part-time job. I will have an interview on Monday. It’s a shit job, but probably it will be the second topic from our letters or even my first novel. I have no idea what kind of work will come out of this, but this strange constellation of events might bring something interesting. So he crouched because it was important for him not to spit standing but for me to spit is to spit and it wouldn’t be very different if I hadn’t seen them in Senegal crouching to piss next to the gutters… what to say… sometimes we are so fast making interpretations of such secondary gestures that might be more than anything else aesthetic gestures, no? What do you say? I say it’s great. And that these things really struck me. And that I have to read Onfray. And that it is very liberating not to know the rules, sometimes. In “Profanations”, he talks about an image by Daguerre that represents a scene in traffic hour, so there is so much movement from the people that all you can see is a crouched figure, that in fact was a man greasing his shoes, that stood still for a while, his leg stretched over the little bench, and it’s the only perceptible thing from the image. He mentions this scene in a chapter where he talks about the relation between gesture and photography.

November 13, 2011
Location: Rotterdam
3:23 pm

I keep on with the letter after a night of sleep, I went out of the shower running to tell you this idea, I can’t resist: I was thinking about how peacefully I accept the part-time thing and how it somehow makes me comfortable, as it destroys the image of the princess wearing comme il faut, that you described and that doesn’t make me feel comfortable. Or better saying, the princess is not me, I don’t like princesses. And I think that getting a job here I will actually realize how it is like to be here as an immigrant and not as a student, without speaking the language. And that will also be good for the project. I thought with a smile that my story in best-case scenario is Cinderela, but I don’t expect a prince to come and save me from a shit job, knocking on the door to try some comme il faut that can only fit me. If that would happen, I’d probably think it was someone asking money for the church and I wouldn’t open the door or, can you imagine, if someone would knock the door and say “I’m a prince and I have this shoes for you, you have to try them”, I’d probably think that it was some sort of psychotic guy and would tell him to fuck off ahah! Do you think I’m very sceptical, V. =D? I remember last year when I was looking for a place with Lara, a very weird guy came to talk to us in the street; he could only talk about shoes. First thing he asked was our shoe size. And then he kept on and on about shoe sizes. We were speechless. Do you know that book: “Psychoanalysis of fairy tales”? It must be double bullshit: psychoanalysis+fairy tales =) now seriously ”maybe it’s nice. But apart from Sex&the city, where I’m trying to get is here: I imagined opening a comme il faut shop in Kanaleneiland; it would be beautiful, wouldn’t it? To register that fantastic experience that you described in this neighbourhood, with Argentinean tango shoes. You know something? I made a proposal for an application with this project some weeks ago, the proposal talked mainly about the methodology of worked that I intended to apply, I hadn’t been to the neighbourhood yet at that time and I was quite far from these thoughts, but anyway the name of the project was: Walk, Walk, Tan - Go – Close: It Takes Two to Tango. My neighbour used to say that you always need two to Tango, in the sense that all relations between people develop around a shared responsibility of actions and I was thinking about it in the sphere of host and guest dynamics. But following on: the shop wouldn’t be fancy; it would be a tent at the market. A tent where women would go to try comme il faut shoes. And then you would see in the neighbourhood not me, but all the women walking some comme il faut. Beautiful, isn’t it? Maybe it’s worth to design the project, even if it’s not conceivable. Yesterday I went sleeping thinking that since I arrived to Rotterdam I’m going more and more out of my comfort zone in terms of work, but with this project even more: public space, gentrification, complicated neighbourhood, an exclusive feminine space, writing you the letters, now the comme il faut… But I also believe that we can only surprise ourselves when we get out of our comfort zone and jump out of the train in movement, as I told you the other day, but you must have the guts! Back to the “ACCEPT THE RULES” I think that my unconscious is a tacky conceptual artist and suddenly it comes to my head: ACCEPT THE RULES, comme il faut!!!Ahah pretty good isn’t it? I flirt with this idea that fills my day with colour.
A thousand kisses, comme il faut!

Sneaking and sharing secrets - 2

6. “To make a home in the world and then with others.”
Hanna Arendt

Last week I shared this text with a friend that made me think again in the importance of approaching things through the right points:

The preacher Miguel Brun told me that a few years ago he had
  visited the Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco. He was part of
  an evangelizing mission. The missionaries visited a chief who
  was considered very wise. The chief, a quiet, fat man, listened
  without blinking to the religious propaganda that they read
  to him in his own language. When they finished, the missionaries
  awaited a reaction.
    The chief took his time, then said:
    "That scratches. It scratches hard and it scratches very well."
    And then he added:
    "But it scratches where there isn't any itch."
The Book of Embraces, E. Galeano, W. W. Norton Co. N.Y., London, 1989 (p. 30)

7. Trying to hide inside a box
By chance I’ve watched the movie “The price of milk” the other day. There was a delicious detail about the movie: a dog that had a phobia of being outside, so he would only go outside covered by a box. A walking-barking box. Beautiful. Back to fears and defence mechanisms.

-        Defence mechanisms: camouflage

8. On belonging: Feminine universes as private spaces for sharing secrets

I’ve watched the movie “Persepolis” about a woman’s life in Iran, which tells her story and the story of her family during all the political changes in Iran. There’s a beautiful scene where she goes to the “black market” trying to buy forbidden music that some guys on the street are selling.

(Buying the exotic, forbidden fruit)

Next to that, I’ve seen excerpts from the movie “Caramel” that reflects the dynamics and interactions of women inside a hairdresser.

I decided to start having aerobic classes in Kanaleneiland, in a class for women, once a week, as a way of  getting to know people from the neighbourhood in an exclusive environment. This activity matches incredibly well with my drive towards amateurism (last year I was doing tap dance classes for a project).

- Exclusive spaces

9. “Voulez vous visiter ma tente? Entrez!”

This is a piece that was in Lisbon a few years ago, by the German choreographer Helena Waldmann I don’t want to focus too much about the feminist discourse from the piece, since it is complicated territory, but what I found amazing and want to focus on in this moment was is the idea of tent like the box was for the dog, or the astronaut suit for the boy with the problem in his immune system. And especially in this moment, with the occupy movement, the tent assumes new specific connotations.

- Tent

10. Letters to V.: urban/rural synchronicity
Verónica goes to a residency where she will intervene in a rural space. A small village near Lisbon, where she will be focusing on traditional techniques to intervene in the façades of the houses, as part of her PHD research. Abandoned houses, memory, public space. She decides to start writing about her experiences on her letters to me. I’m interested in finding some parallels between our experiences and see where they can meet.

- Rural and urban spaces

11. Walk, Walk, Tan - Go – Close: It Takes Two to Tango
This is the situation: there’s a space. I observe you and observe myself observing you. I recognize myself in you. I invite you. There’s a place we share within this space: let’s call it social imaginary for now. This place is something we share, where there is a possibility for reciprocal recognition and mutual respect.

(Choreography: an action that leads to another action.
Choreographic objects: notations of generic movements that can be specifically placed in a given site and situation.)

I invite you for something.

We play a game of experiences and expectations. Let’s call it a tango for now. In this tango we establish some temporary rules. Our own rules. We establish our own temporary rules for this specific situation. We think them through differently from what we know. We re-shape this place we have in common by altering its parameters. We change our mental coordinates or better saying, we change the steps. We dance.

We transform a space into a place by defining acts of social imagination. We tell the story we both know, but differently. We temporarily re-frame and re-adjust the parameters of our being in the world. We share it with others.

12. ACCEPT THE RULES, comme il faut! / Profanations
For a long time I’ve been thinking about social rules and norms and how people behave towards what they consider to be expected from them. Not knowing the rules can be liberating. I came up with the idea of trying to provide the experience of trying comme il faut female tango shoes in the neighbourhood, in a public space, like the market for instance. I don’t know yet if I will follow it or not, but for the moment I like it since it entertains the notion of ritual, displacing an experience from a place (in Argentina) to another one, through the experience of buying shoes. And I imagined transforming a tent into a comme il faut shop. It also plays with the idea of exclusive spaces.  Let’s see where it will take me.

- Rules/Norms
- Ritual/Play

Letters to V., Letters to Su: five letters in one

Letter 1: Su writes
November 9th 2011
Location: Rotterdam

Dear V.

I’ve been trying to find time to write you for a few days, so much to tell…
I felt the same (Letter 5: V. answers)

After reading your last email, I went checking Napoleon’s sentence and I’ve found out that he used to say: “ As a rule it is circumstances that make men”, you said that he used to say that he was the circumstance. I wonder if it’s the same or the opposite.
Ok, if it’s like that it seems that apart from the exceptions to the rule, they are opposite sentences. I also searched in Google “Napoleon” “I create the circumstances” and it came up with many sites….

I liked the image of the duck. I loved it… and still see you walking through the neighbourhood with high hills if not comme il faut like melissa, the Brazilian ones made of plastic… I’ve seen a scene in a movie “The price of milk”; it’s a dog that has a phobia of going out, so he only goes outside in a cardboard box. A walking box that barks. The movie looks like one of the short stories from “Women who run with the wolves”, a kind of fable. I kept this sentence in my mind, did I heard it from you? “The flea’s dream is to buy a dog”. Great but it was not me…it’s almost like the mountain that give birth to a mouse, but on the other way around. Maybe the dog with the box was hiding from the crazy flea that wants to buy him…

This weekend I’ve been to a seminar in Amsterdam, it was called “Social Housing - Housing the Social” from a platform called SKOR whose main focus is public space. I send you the link to take a look, I think it might interest you: http://classic.skor.nl/set-1039-en.html. The seminar was in a very nice space, a stage with a black curtain, where the speakers would speak, with a big screen behind and two more on the sides of the room and a fourth one with a close-up from the speakers, at the entrance. Besides those regular chairs that you can’t feel your bottom after a while, it had some benches and also some really comfortable Pouffes where you could lay down and hear the talks. A relaxed atmosphere, I really liked, I met some new people and I’ve seen many people that I knew. The occupy movements where mentioned, specially the one from Amsterdam. It was one of those days when I thought how good it is to live here, I guess I missed going to a symposium. Su that’s great that you feel that is really worth and makes sense to be there. I’m happy for you! There was a Colombian artist there who makes some nice projects, as part of a collective: http://www.elpuentelab.org/, I think it might be interesting for you; some of his projects are even in Latin America. I vaguely know the intervention work in the favela, the one from Medelin, the one from the lift and the one from the shopping centre…and if that’s the same neighbourhoods that we’re talking about it is a very very interesting proposal. Then around the central area, they are promoting an initiative of painting the houses according to an Argentinean woman that teaches at FADU UBA that went there; I’m curious about it. It seems to be an important project. I’ve seen the link and I always wonder what in fact will change those people’s life. Still about projects in favelas, besides some architectural ones, the best projects I’ve seen so far are the ones related with music bands or orchestras that actually take the kids out of the favelas and open up doors for them to another world. And at the end you cannot believe you’re seeing a cello going back home, after a concert, in a favela.

I want to scan the publication they offered so that I can send it to you. Good! I also found a cool project from an artist that made a newspaper about Brazilian favelas: http://reporter-sem-beiras.info/pt-br/about and that will be shown in Brussels. I listen to Bach, cello suites, prelude, while I write you. This music always takes me to a place where I can focus and do what I have to do, like anaesthesia. The other day, I had a surreal experience with Ellen Alien (minimal techno): I was listen to it on the train, coming from Utrecht and it seemed like that super urban music, that rhythm would match so perfectly with that day, with my own rhythm within the city, suddenly I felt so much this feeling of being there.  Like if for a few moments the universe would have aligned and everything would make sense. I haven’t felt that for a while, especially like that, for nothing, for the simple fact of listening to Ellen Alien in the train, or while walking on the street.  When I make work, that’s how it feels like, it looks like as if for a moment everything would make sense and the universe shapes into something where everything relates to everything and creates an image of sense or meaning. (Interrupted by someone knocking at the door) Sense is lost again =D You know what I forgot to tell you last week I went to Utrecht to meet with Expodium crew. We talked about the letters. They asked me about the shop with the tango shoes, it is a nice image, indeed =)!

(Pause to check my email and I got an email from you: “kiss from me giving some news!” and a letter in attachment =) I will read it now!!)

(Letters 2 and 3: Verónica writes)

Hi Su,

I’m still not exactly in residency…what to tell? I’m checking the territory, the village: São Cristóvão and its people. It is actually a first step to meet, offer myself to be met, and negotiate what I will do with the city hall… etc. I guess the best would be to stay in the village where nothing happens… but where everyday life happens and I take pictures to the houses, which look all the same and then they became different after seeing the details… Isn’t it that the details are what I’m looking for as well… (?) Details that make life have meaning. I don’t know by what reason someone gave a negative connotation to the word detail! I’m checking out the possibility of staying in the village instead of staying in Montemor in the cloister. Who knows if that can be possible… just need a scooter. I like the cult of water that they have in São Cristóvão, some places seem sacred only by their water silences. There is a municipal “lavadouro ” (place for doing laundry, hand washed, the municipality has this concrete tanks that you can fill in with water and do the washing there, they are common in Portuguese villages) that I would love to fill in with blue paint and white letters with water devoted poems… but no one knows this… only you now… (Doing it will be total despair without 10 cm templates for painting the fonts on the wall… do you know how to get that? I don’t know how can I do anything without that)   

I’m thinking of reflecting on the residency later on together with you using the letter format so that I can use the exercise for myself as well… I think it will be great since we are both in a similar situation. Today I’m counting on going back to Lisbon and working as if tomorrow wouldn’t exist to fill in myself with strength and conviction. PI have the presentation of the project on the 12th at 4pm. I’m also thinking on painting an abandoned house next to the church but no one knows yet… now only you… I will draw it these days as well… I will send it to you after so that you tell me what you think…
It’s really freezing cold… I will also have to read “Picked Up from the Ground” by Saramago since it tells about something happening in a village…
And to conclude, I read a blog talking about a project in the village Querença in Algarve, http://impressoesvisuais.blogspot.com/2007/08/um-bando-em-revoluo.html, http://galerias.escritacomluz.com/ovelhamestre/querencabase
With pictures of the inhabitants at the window, where Com fotos dos habitantes nas J. Brites from Bando said:
            •            (...) And I came more and more to an understanding that for myself, contemporaneity implies a very special relation also with the past, with memories. Not the past in a conservative sense, but with the great popular creativity. Sometimes we think that it’s all only tradition, that it’s all very conservative, that it hadn’t been transformed, that it’s not stimulating interest for modernity. But it approaches common themes of all times, like love, death or jealousy. (...)
João Brites, director de o bando, ao Barlavento
(Badly translated from the Portuguese by Susana)

I don’t know if it’s exactly the memory of things that I want to reach, I guess not, I’d rather have the eyes looking towards the future… but memory is always a good starting point to open up for dialogue and first contact with a community, isn’t it? And from that everyday life I’ve been drinking what someone said that it was said by someone else before from the people, faces and stories, the priest that suddenly left to another country and is recently back… the owner from the restaurant that split from his wife and children to join with the Brazilian waiter… As I was leaving the cloister, where I will sleep for the next days of residency, until I find a place to stay in São Cristóvão, I took some pictures for you; very fast not to miss the bus. Always running. I really don’t like it…

The vase-animals-with-no-head and left objects; from my room you can see the cemetery, where there is a famous computer crave… the tower from the church, you know what the tiles show angels with their eyes perforated that’s how it used to be to desecrate the place, isn’t it amazing that you have to blind the angels? The power of image and representation is so strong… and the no-head paintings… sometimes I feel as if I’ve lost my head as well in this place… 
I forgot to say that I like the name São Cristóvão – the saint of the travelers. I like to know that it’s in the land that protects travellers that I will work during my trips… see what good things it will bring me.

Hi Su!
Here I am: second week of workshop! It was good to talk to you yesterday… so that you already know that I come in a rush to prepare the presentation about the house. I sent you already the picture of the house that is the house from the church, quite central although abandoned. And it’s exactly the one I told you I’d like to paint… isn’t it incredible? I’m lucky these days! I have to be careful about what I wish… This luck of having the television asking me to do whatever I wanted left me in total ecstasy. Now I will recover a façade and publicize the project at the same time. I hope there won’t be bad interpretations from this. I work in public space; no one said it was easy.
So, soon after my arrival to the cloister and the place of the no-heads – someone was playing in the living room: Debussy - Arabesque No. 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts-v0e3BJYg&feature=related
I don’t know if you know but I really like to hear this to calm down… before going to sleep, or before making something important and when the sound of the piano came from the back of the room it all sounded magic. I had to go there to see who was it: Lurdes’s fingers sliding through the piano bouncing like water of a small riverside. Seeing the room, I had the feeling that I had arrived home, but in a different place. A strange but good feeling. 

I start enjoying this space, the shape of the ceramic objects, which have been started and left unfinished or expecting; Tiago’s sounds with his music instruments… acrylic cube with speakers and metallic boards to be played by slugs or snails and become self sufficient… or the sound from the wind captured by a nylon string at the cloister or the sound from the pendulums… an infinity of experiences, that I must confess I really like. There is a mixture of a laboratory of very serious adult-child and at the same time free. I love the animals-vase-without-heads under the orange tree at the cloister. I start to really like this space. Thinking that when I came here, everything seemed misadjusted…maybe…it’s curious…I think you would also like it, but only after a while.

Here, time (and we always come back to time) seems definitive and different. The disputes of impatience are others… It’s freezing cold and I don’t know how I will survive, painting the façade tomorrow, under the rain. The locals will think that I’m the silliest person on earth. I really hope to have more to tell you next time. As my flyer announces… 

Meanwhile totally sleepy I started to read “Picked Up from the Ground” and it starts with a quotation from
Garrett where he asks himself: how many poor are necessary to make a rich? I think that by working about human needs I also have to detect poverty and it seems like nonsense that in times of crisis someone starts painting windows… I never see the nonsense, I would never do. If in Portugal there are no affirmations, if no one affirms as a result of a different poverty from not having what to eat, I think a project like this is urgent. Creativity for me is to feed the “I” and I think that really lacks here.

I will let you use the text if you find anything interesting. I feel like I’m not having time to mature my ideas. I’m afraid that all the residency period will be like that. I will transform this writings into more poetic instants so that it will be easier to you to translate and less blablabla; what do you think?
A thousand kisses V.

(Letter 4: Su answers)
1.31 am
How beautiful what you describe! Tell me afterwards how it all went with the paintings! I can’t believe you tell me about Debussy, it was one of my discoveries from last year, as I started to go regularly to classical music concerts here, amazing! Have you read what I’ve written before =)? I think it’s cool that the letters are whatever you want them to be; I like that it all becomes messed up. I like to translate them. And I think it is important that they are as if we were speaking to each other, as it has been. I really like that you tell me about your project. Maybe they will mix up. It is nice to think the rural and the urban, since we are living parallel situations in such different contexts.  Fucking sintony, V. =)!  I think on your project, on memory and monument. Today I was cooking and thinking about the idea of monument and I remembered about that movie “Elisabeth”: do you know it? I can’t quite remember about the film, but I know that she was a queen and she was really beautiful, desired by all men and she fell for a guy from the court that used their relation to betray her and she almost died or lost the throne. At the end, she tells him that the only reason why she kept him alive was so that she could always remember that she almost ruined herself because of him. And I thought if it wouldn’t be that she kept him alive to keep that memory alive and in that case, wouldn’t it be that he became a living monument. Can it be that people can become monuments? How can a person become a living monument? I guess… now, in this moment, when you make me think… that the monument evokes a memory; although the memory is not past, it’s something that happens in the present always influenced by the past and even by the perspective one has from the future on that instant. Like as if these times would always be connected like a string and it changes as we like our lives to be told to ourselves. To preserve something that evokes memory…I guess it is…it will be the first condition to be a monument: evoking memory… do you think we can make a monument to the future? It would always be a monument to a possible future that existed in the past. Like 2001 space odyssey in the monument to the future space?

A friend once told me that when she was feeling remote, she’d call her mother or her boyfriend to place herself, to know who she was. And that makes me wonder if some people with whom we loose contact won’t be somehow monuments of our memory, marks, of our history. I don’t know, I think it’s beautiful. Do you think it’s horrible? But unlike monuments, which have physicality, memories distort, dilute and reinvent. One of my professors used to say that memory is always present, it has very few to do with past and all to do with present. Maybe the monument is not the person, but instead the memory of any event that you lived with the person. I also remember that scene from the movie cine paradise, where he leaves and his friend tells him to go and not look back. The image-monument. But this is all very heavy, isn’t it? Big nostalgic drama. I don’t know anymore how the conversation brought me here. It must be from the pictures of the village, the abandoned houses… The angels with no eyes, animals with no heads, do you know “profanations”, by Agamben? It occurred to me. What have the angels done to be blinded? Don’t worry about not developing the ideas, sometimes it’s good just to vomit things out, you produce, then you work from there; sometimes first vomited impressions are important, they have a lot of vitality.

Look, tomorrow I will have my first aerobic class in Kanaleneiland. There was not place in Zumba class. I don’t know if I’ve told you before, I decided to take these classes there, so that I will go there once a week to make research and to start getting to know people from the neighbourhood. And I convinced my friend Silvia to join. I think it will be great, we both dancing “Follow the leader”, too good, ahah!! I also like the travels by train; I like to think in the train… I also started to repeat some gestures that I had collected when I when there and to photograph them. Send pictures!! André Catalão will make a Portuguese “tasca” with fado on Friday. A group of around ten friends will go from Rotterdam, it will be great! I think I will love to see “tuga” (Portuguese familiar abbreviation for “Portuguese”) environment on that neighbourhood, it sounds good doesn’t it? I just tell you: I’d love to be there!! Red wine in a ceramic glass, chouriço, caldo verde (traditional Portuguese dishes) … snails…mini (Portuguese invention: a bier in a very small bottle, so that you drink it very fresh and with gas)… people with a cap turned towards the left side…I’m being influenced by Alentejo. Today my gastronomic adventure defeated me with pork’s lips from “cozido à portuguesa” (traditional Portuguese dish)…

 (Pause to eat some cereals, as I was almost fainting, writing always makes me hungry…)

2 am
I have to tell you a dream that I had. It’s funny because last email you were saying that it was the fact that I didn’t understand the rules from Kanaleneiland that scared me. Actually I have been thinking in the idea of rule, in general (can you ever think about rules in general? My answer is no, but that’s another story). Before you tell me your dream… social rule is something I find beautiful. For instance, the other day when I was in Martim Moniz (neighbourhood in Lisbon) and a dude was walking with a woman, both African and in a certain moment he crouches and spits to the gutter, very close to the floor. I found that gesture beautiful. Sometimes we need to be out of place to see the rule. So he crouched because it was important for him not to spit standing but for me to spit is to spit and it wouldn’t be very different if I hadn’t seen them in Senegal crouching to piss next to the gutters… what to say… sometimes we are so fast making interpretations of such secondary gestures that might be more than anything else aesthetic gestures, no? What do you say? I have an article to read about beauty and adornments of an Indian group from Brazil… and I forgot… so much to read…I also think it would be interesting for you to read “La puissance d'exister” by Onfray about rule and compromise. I think I already told you about that… I don’t have the book here now; otherwise I would give it to you.

I found it beautiful and cynic at the same time, my unconscious mocking of me, ahah! Do you remember of course of my problems with psychoanalysis? I had a teacher that was all into psychoanalysis and we had big arguments in classes with all that Lacan stuff about relations and phallus and I-don’t-know-what, where I told him amongst other things that I found incredibly dangerous that intellectuals would recognize themselves in that model and accept it, because it’s what we know, but what we really need is another model, a new way of thinking relations between people, generally speaking. That we need to create our own models. We, talking about monuments, I had this dream last week:  there was a party, my friends from PZI were there, the place was confusing, I don’t quite remember, we were dancing and having fun. Suddenly, the director comes to me and says she has something for me that my teacher sent. I was intrigued; she went to pick up something and comes with a big bottle of champagne, a perfectly normal bottle of champagne. I didn’t get it and then I look at the label and in a perfectly normal label, the champagne’s name was: “ACCEPT THE RULES” then I don’t remember of anything else. I woke up and laughed a lot. But as I don’t like psychoanalysis, I don’t take unconscious messages ahah so I don’t accept whatever fucking rules the dream was talking about without questioning them! But I really want to make a drawing of it; do you think this bottle of champagne is a monument to the conformists? I’m in delirium, ideas overlap … :))))) woman, make that bottle and send it!

This letter is so fragmented that I think is because I don’t write you for a while, I write you as I recall things that I wanted to tell you, but like hiccups, without any connection. I’m sorry to write you so much at once and all so inarticulate, a series of constellations that I still cannot map.

Good luck for tomorrow! Good luck with TV and watch out, don’t be nervous, once my friend Tiago that is a photogenic guy, he was so nervous talking to the TV that it seemed that he had a paralysis on his face, he was so nervous that he could only move one side of his face ahah! Lots of strength to win the rain and all and all and all!!

It happened. Let’s see what the journalist will choose. I hope it won’t be a mega manipulation. I got the idea that he wanted to valorise an artistic project of zero cost to the state and that it can be a touristic opportunity by creating a picturesque situation… well, see what comes out of it, poor house…I have to go back to work, a thousand kisses
(I have no idea how you will edit this letter… sorry)

Kisses: a thousand and I will think calmly about your project to see if I can think of something interesting about it.

Note: Names have been changed to preserve personal privacy.