The week before I went to Kanaleneiland, I was trying to make a ruff sketch on starting points for my research there. I inevitably picked up a book that actually is a transcription from a conference that Derrida gave in Coimbra (my hometown in Portugal), about his writings on hospitality. It is a bilingual edition (Portuguese/French) and through the all book you have translator’s notes trying to negotiate the meanings of the words in different languages, in a triangle of tensions between French, Portuguese and English languages, as Derrida often plays with the meaning of the words in different languages. At the end of the book, in one of the notes, he explains has the word “hôte” in French means both “host” and “guest” in English and “hóspede” / “hospedeiro” in Portuguese. He also draws attention for the fact that “hostis” in Latin, both means “host” and “enemy”. I was thinking a lot in terms of defence mechanisms that one develops for what we don’t know and what we don’t expect. I also defined some key words so that I can try to map my research and have a certain idea of what I’m I talking about or what am I interested in.
Keywords before sneak week:
2. The world is a pea: from Lisbon to Kanaleneiland through tango, going to Buenos Aires and from Lisbon to Kanaleneiland through Rotterdam, passing by Porto, finally meeting in Lisbon again.
Trying to make the long story short, in Summer 2008, the year before I came to the Netherlands, I moved from Lisbon, (where I stayed for two years), to Porto, (where I had been living before). By that time, my friend Verónica (from Lisbon), had met a Dutch guy in her tango classes, and as he eventually returned to the Netherlands, that summer she decided to come to the Netherlands for two weeks to meet him. He was living in Utrecht. I moved to Porto, she moved to Buenos Aires and they splited soon after. In August 2009 I moved to the Netherlands to start my MFA at Piet Zwart Institue in Rotterdam. In the end of July 2011, soon after finishing my MFA, I receive and invitation from Expodium to meet them. I meet them and I get introduced to the project in Kanaleneiland. I go to Portugal for summer vacations and spend two weeks in V.’s house in Lisbon, where I tell her about the project and get to know, after two years, that this was the neighbourhood where she stayed when she came to Utrecht.
3. Kanaleneiland: immediate experiences and unfiltered first reactions
During Sneak week, I spend my days outside, walking around the neighbourhood and trying to have a first contact with it. At the end of the afternoon, I would come to the apartment, the shelter, and reflect on what I had seen and felt. On the first evening of my staying, I immediately felt like I had to talk to my friend V. about that, since we had speculated so much in our Lisbon meeting last summer. I wrote her a letter, sharing some intimate, embarrassing thoughts, from friend to friend and first impressions about the place.
4. Reflecting on first experiences and mediating them
The second evening from my staying here, I was trying to rationalize my thoughts and structuring them. I came across to the movie: The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), about the life of a boy that has a dysfunctional immune system. He can’t have contact with unfiltered air, as it might kill him, so he is forced to live in incubator conditions. His condition forces his family, his neighbours, everyone that surrounds him to find ways of trying to relate to him, despite the initial fears for him being so different. Also, it forces the institutions (school) to adapt so that they can receive him. But to start with, it forces him to build defences so that he can deal with his own condition and relate with others. (Despite from any criticism that it might be tacky or cheesy, I found it really striking.)
I selected three images from the film:
1. The boy is having classes from home through live streaming and interacting with his classmates by making fun of the teacher while he is with his back turned.
2. The boy asks his friend to jump in her horse above his incubator so that he can come close to the sensation of riding a horse.
3. The boy goes to school in a special suit that looks like an astronaut suit.
So, back to Kanaleneiland... If I’m invading a space that is not exactly mine in this neighbourhood, as I don’t exactly live there (and by “invading” I mean to try to come close to the people who actually live there, by the purposes of doing a project, but motivated by the genuine drive to learn from a shared experience), I thought that somehow I’ll expose the people that I will be relating to, by delivering that experience to an audience. So maybe for the game to be fair, I should also expose myself by delivering some of my intimate thoughts unrendered and unfiltered.
5. Inhibiting defence mechanisms: mediating the experience without filters
I finally decided to publish the emails that I’ve been changing with Verónica and the ones that I will be writing in the future without any kind of editing, which is kind of uncomfortable for me in a way because it’s a private ongoing conversation between friends, with thoughts that I normally wouldn’t share in public, as they are very spontaneous and unconsidered and therefore not so politically correct. I will publish the first ones as soon as I manage to translate them, as we communicate in Portuguese. We agreed in changing the names of the people that we mention, to protect their privacy. (As I write this, I think that actually by translating the emails into English language, I am already mediating the experience.)
Keywords after first week research:
- Defence mechanisms
- Immune system