A soft armour

It is the simplest thing I can think of. And the simplest things always make the most sense. It is easy. You open your door, you close it behind you. You take your house with you and you walk. Your body moves through the world, becomes part of the world and your steps connect all the moments you find yourself in.

Where do you come from?

Every day they ask the same questions. I always look for different answers. A simple "no" isn't enough. Amsterdam. Austria. Anywhere. Always.

I always wear a three piece suit. Traditionally it is called a “walking suit”. A three piece walking suit. I call it my soft armour. It keeps me warm, safe, sound, it opens doors. It is my uniform, my costume, my house. It has many pockets. It is as comfortable as any outfit I can think of. I use it to collect stories in.

The suit is my interface between the worlds I move through. Between the land I walk, the body I walk it with, the place people refer to as “the real world” but which I consider to be just as real as the other world I move around in, the ephemeral world wide web. The stories I encounter, hold in my hand, find a new home there.

Where are you going?

I try not to know. This suit, my fifth one, brought me to the Nomadic Village, a two week artist settlement in the east of Austria. A 1364 kilometer walk from my doorstep in Amsterdam. 96 walking days. Every day I am performing my life. Every day I am living my performance. Every day the world is new. I don't know where I will lay my head in the evening.

Every day brings new encounters, new landscapes, new stories. I write them down on my solar powered iPad. Two embroidered QR codes on my trousers and my jacket link to my weblog. At the same time I embroider the stories on the outside of my suit. Small drawings and texts. It reads like a book. The people on the road read my story. And while reading it, they become part of it. Like I become part of their story. And that story is the most important one. The one that leaves no visible traces.

One day I walked early along the Danube. A man on a bike passed me and stopped to talk. Shortly after another man with a dog joined us. The man with the bike went on and I walked together with the dog owner until he had to turn left to return home. I continued until I heard a voice from behind and a man in a canoe said "There you are! They were talking about you in the village where I just came from!" We exchanged our stories and while talking, another man passed by and sat down on a stone to listen to us talking about how you create the world by moving through it. He was on his way back to the village where he lived. He just listened for a while and went his way again. Probably to report what he had seen on the road. A woman in an embroidered suit with a walking cart talking to a man in a canoe about slow ways of moving through the world, through your own life.

Where do you come from? Where are you going? How many kilometers do you walk every day?

The two questions most asked are basically one question. Yes, I am lonely. But not more than I am at home. Not more in cities than I am in nature. Not more among people than I am among trees. So I answer " no". I meet so many people on the road. Some of them become friends for life. But I always carry my solitude in my left pocket. I cherish it. My courage is in the right one. I don't have to search
for it. The question most asked is whether I am not afraid. I never hesitate answering that one. Not
when I am walking, not when the world is carrying me.

(On this blog you can read the report of my 96 day walk and my stay in the Nomadic Village afterwards. From there I walked to Vienna where the story continues, where I will think about all that has happened and prepare my next steps.)


The Lost & Found Collection

I left Hohe Wand, put on my suit again, walked to Vienna to spend two weeks in the city before walking to the west of Austria to meet up with some Nomads at a project called Schmiede. I wondered if it would be a good idea to continue wearing the suit in the city or if I should find a solution like I did in the Nomadic Village where I asked all the Nomads to bring me one cloth item. I figured something would come up. The city would give me an answer.
I hadn't expected it so soon. I walked into the city, to my friends apartment, found a big box with slightly bruised fruits in front of a closed grocery shop, carried it along, arrived, settled in, went on a walk to tune in and look for the moon. Twice I bumped into a big cloths container with cloths lying on the floor next to it. I made a wild selection and found two books there as well. One is titled "Fahrwind". Stories about going and arriving. Thomas Bernhard, Robert Walser and Bohumil Hrabal among others. The other is titled "Kleider und Leute", "Cloths and people", about the history and psychology of cloths.
If I hadn't been there myself I would have thought I'd made this all up.
I washed the cloths and decided to wear them in the time I am here. I titled it "The Lost and Found Collection". Cloth might be added, have been added already: yesterday I found a white top, on the sidewalk not far from a laundromat, still smelling of fresh washing powder.

Every day I will walk around Vienna in an outfit from the Collection. Yes, the story continues.


Push play

I live in a villa these days. It suits my suit. I feel at home here. From my terrass I can see the yellow spots in the grass where only last week my neighbours were living, when I was still situated in downtown Nomadic Village, in a red bus named Lufka. When Lufka left with its owner, when all the Nomads had left, I moved uptown. But without a downtown there is no uptown. Without neighbours there is no village.

During these last weeks Herr Drama interviewed people about the meaning of a village. What makes a village a village? What does it need to deserve the name village? I answered "people". Although most villages have a church and a cafe, they aren't necessary. The minimum you need is a couple of inhabited houses. And for houses you can read mobile homes. I don't know how many houses you need to form a village. Is two enough? Is that why I left my tent in the middle of the field? So this might still be a Nomadic Village? A mobile villa and a tent? Two inhabitants even though one of them, Gerhard, the man who made the villa, isn't there?

I don't know. And it doesn't matter. Not today.

The villa ran out of gas so I installed my outdoor kitchen. A titanium lightweight woodstove. I hardly used it on the road, because I either tried to be invisible when camping in the "wild", or I wasn't allowed to use it because the campsites have strict rules about fire. The villa ran out of food too, so I walked to the nearest grocery shop. Well, walked ...... there is a reason why this place is called Hohe Wand, High Wall. The shortcut to the nearest village means climbing. So I didn't buy any eggs or liquids in bottles. And I managed to bring almost everything safe back home. On my way up I collected wood to do my cooking. And when I found some big tasty beautiful parasol  mushrooms I wondered why I had bothered to go all the way down. There is plenty of food around.

I started reading Johan Huizinga's "Homo Ludens". The great Dutch historian who was one of the founders of modern cultural history was one of my heroes when I studied history. It makes sense to reread him here and now, moving around with the ghosts on the field, wearing my tail, the tail that was custom made by our Nomadic Village tailmaker, tail-or Michi, Frau Drama, dragon mother. Being able to play is one of the fundaments of the Nomadic Village, we take our play serious and because of that it turns into something valuable, we learn from it, it makes us free, it helps us to step out of our ordinary lives and look at the world in a different way, make changes. And indeed Huizinga writes: "Here, then, we have the first main characteristic of play : that it is free, is in fact freedom. A second characteristic is closely con­nected with this, namely, that play is not "ordinary" or "real" life. It is rather a stepping out of "real" life into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own."

In his introduction he writes "Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play."

For me it is essential to play. To take my playing seriously. To feel at ease climbing down a mountain in a three piece walking suit, wondering if I should have worn my tail as well. Carrying around a small box with a secret inside, a box I found at a dumpster a year ago while staying at the Nomadic Village in France, a box I haven't opened yet but gives me an insight into peoples' minds whenever I ask them what they think might be in the box. Dressing up in cloths that aren't my own, African dresses, army trousers, a shirt that could be worn by a Californian private detective, cloth items handed in by the Nomads after I asked them to bring me a cloth item so I could be a collection of their tastes and stories.

Maybe the highlight of my stay in the Nomadic Village this year was when I constructed a fake camera to use as a prop when we were doing a re-enactment of the final performance we all worked on, the performance during which my camera was coincidentally thrown down the cliff (a story I will write down some other time). In order to find the camera, I made one with the same size and weight. I used a cardbord tea box, filled it with stones and wood until it had the exact same weight as my camera, wrapped it in red tape so it would be extra visible and attached two straps, one for my camera and one for the camerabag, white straps out of old curtains. I threw it down the cliff at exactly the same spot in exactly the same way it was done during the performance. The search team at the foot of the hill did find the red dummy camera but my expensive Nikon never showed up.

I am sad about the Nikon but secretly I like my new red camera more. It stores images in a unique way. When you hold the red box and look carefully at something, it will stay in your head forever. Or in other parts of your body. You have to make sure you look carefully though. Like you have to remember to put a film or a sd card in your camera. Otherwise the image will be gone forever.

No comments:

Post a Comment