What does it mean to no longer be recognized as you, to increasingly lose the once self-evident unity of the inside versus the outside?
Conversations with people of the age of about 80 and over about the role of the mind in an aging body. Linked to a love poem by the Dutch poet Peter van der Velde. A research during the exhibition in gallery K38 in Roden during November and December 2018.
Installation – construction, video, sound, collages, light, dialogue
Above the installation I used as my research centre, an investigation I can literally enter and move in, add video, sound and conversations. Every meeting, every conversation, every dialogue caused a change in the installation. I was able to enter into a dialogue about this research with visitors to the gallery, mostly people in an aging body.
When entering the construction, with a flashlight, this investigation I slide the black plastic aside and walk on, moving through the strings hanging in the dark space. The black strands between which I had so many conversations during the 4 weeks. Right around the corner the poem by Peter van der Velde that I read to visitors so often:
doe en ik
en ik en dai
de boom rekt zo hoog
en de vogel vlag hoog
en hoog aan de lucht gaan de wolken voorbij
maar hoger dan wolken en vogels gaan wai
doe en ik
en ik en dai
( Translation: we / you and me / and me and you / we / the tree stretches so high / and the bird flew high / and high in the sky the clouds pass by / but higher than clouds and birds we go / you and me / and me and you / we
The poem that I have used as a reference, a metaphor to youth, being young, experiencing body, mind and soul as one. That time of life where one is not yet aware that body and mind can be experienced as separate.
The installation - description
A space for conversations, in the dark, with a flashlight. A space in which to wander, while wisps of paper disrupt an effortless walk and slide along face and body at the same time.
I can still see myself that way
young, cycling along the dike
with that endless panorama unfolding
before my eyes.
When I'm staying busy
I feel myself again.
In my mind, I am young
My body is broken
Upon entering the poem, just as seen on the outside of the room. Below is a picture of my father at about age 6 with his sister. Laughing children, as a visual metaphor for the 'wai'.
During the conversations with my interlocutors, they told me that people, now as people over 70, no longer saw them, but only their older body.
They no longer felt recognized as who they are, who they still experience inwardly, who they always were. It can only be felt, no longer visible. The associated patronizing behavior is experienced as incredibly annoying and annoying.
Wandering further, a painting from 1949, a landscape in which the birds flew so freely.
With the same photo in the corner, my father and aunt smaller in the picture. This photo reoccurs repeatedly throughout the installation.
A burnt piece of paper, old-fashioned handwriting, found on a pile of rubbish in the street. It looks like an old ledger where amounts and names are written with great care.
My man-sized cardboard collage depicting a bent elderly gentleman.
Interlocutors told me about the annoying patronizing, standing on the edge of the street in the rain and being helped to cross without being asked.
Being at the ophthalmologist who is sitting on two hogg, and being asked at the bottom of the stairs 'if it will work with those two stairs'.
A (meaningless) spinning arrow.
And on the wall, for visitors, very recognizable quotes from some of my interlocutors.
I have come to associate freely with this last statement: the sheets of paper hanger there. The impotence with the situation presented, the inability to change it. The video showing a video installation.
The wall on which it is projected has distortions; shreds of paper that seem to defragment the image. A black painted surface on which seagulls can be seen in the sky. The 1950s instructional video that talks about emotions, overlaid with a projection of birds in the sky, the reference to Peter van der Velde's poem. A mirror with the word wai visible in the dust, a flickering pedestal with a bell above it.
On the last wall my question; how am I going to process conclusions and questions? Can it be made visible again? Can it be seen and recognized again? The visitors gave me an assignment to continue to convert this research into a mission to make people in the aging body visible again. Visible to others.
Quote from Hannah Arendt on the wall, visible when leaving the installation:
"The will : our mental organ for a future that is in principle indeterminable and therefore a possible harbinger of the new.”
From the book Will "I still want so much, but my future and the possibilities have become so very small" interlocutor, 90 years old