To become part of, to be part of. Belonging.

In Corona times touring is rare. We made it to the SPOR festival 2020 in Århus and finally we are together working. Here we are after the show.

Annika Tudeer | 20.9.2020

I understand the need to shy away from the word collective as in the article of Bojana Cvejic from 2004. Some curators had perhaps lived in a collective, and felt the smell of lentil soup and the sight of chore lists  passing by like a not all together pleasant memory of something that was once and something that was too much.

Too much was how it was in the end, also for me. 

But still the ideal of thinking together and working together and that more is more has remained. To keep the good, and leave out the bad.

The bad as I saw it back then and still see, are hierarchies, strong power-structures, hidden ideologies that everything was looked through, a strong sense of good and bad, and bad that was really bad, closedness of the community – strangle hold.

Well, but that is history and personal history. But behind this wish and belief in the collective is a part from perhaps a personal psychological design that want to fill a gap, a ideologically formed belief that more minds think better, and also that the individual can flourish better in such a situation, in such a detached collective. Not the engulfing all encompassing version.

Perhaps you can hide well in the collective. Oblivia consists of strong personalities and individuals, and the structures are there also to enhance this. 

But I have to admit, that the collective might serve as a back to hide behind, not make too much fuss about myself as such.

But in general the return of the collective, (they seem to spring up all over, in arts, in life) must have to do with this increasing feeling of emptiness, alienation, loneliness that floats in the air, and is a very real problem today.  A will to think together, to resist alienation and loneliness, to find the power of the many together. To be surprised. To belong.

To belong is a driving force. The need to belong. The less anchor-points and sharedness exist in society in general, the stronger the need to belong becomes. Family, neighbourhood, friends is not even enough when time is eaten up and leaves an empty shell of a human roaming. Soullessness. The zombie. The sign of our time. God the stupid boring zombies roaming around born out of a cold war fantasmagora. Imagery.

But – belonging. A word that touches me deep. I want to belong, and I want to have time to enjoy my belonging.

If belonging in a larger context does not exist my identity is shattered, I am not fulfilled, I can not be a full human being. When I belong I am seen, I am re-assured that it is okay to be me.  That I am okay. Unfortunately I have a feeling that belonging has to be on a big scale, belonging to the world, to the society. Micro context belongings are not enough, although they help, a lot. We need an anti capitalistic world and that is not so easy to achieve. Capitalism kills art, heart and purpose of life – e.g. belonging.

Belonging is the key to the use of full potential. Perhaps.

Belonging is satisfaction and happiness, it does not contain only close relations but it is an acknowledgment of my having the right to be here because I have the right and that I am in the right place. When I was freelancing on the HBL newspaper I had a feeling of belonging although, I was on the outskirts of the machinery of the paper. When I was at university I had a feeling of belonging –  the happiness of belonging was so great that I skipped along the corridors of sheer joy for many years. I was one of many, but I was one, together with many.

So in order for belonging to be effective the context have to be rather big and well organised. But the micro contexts like Oblivia is as important.

I would not say that society of today signals that I personally do not belong. But it signals untrustworthiness of  the structure. The constant changes, the insecurities of the welfare structures signals a breakdown of the belief that each citizen is as important and worthy. The next step is that some will be more important than others. Which also contains the notion, the suspicion and the threat that I might also become unworthy and useless one day. Hierarchies are returning big time and the measurement of success is in wealth. Not in a great soulor big heart or well versed and educated.

We have a mayor with a lot of power, who talks about the new Helsinki (sic) but does not mention art or culture in his vision (double sic), he is therefore already writing me out of my hometown. I will not belong here. There is all too little attention paid to this state of affairs. The more there is talk about INCLUSION and ACCESSIBILITY the less society is the garant for this and people like the mayor casts a fleeting thought that artists could at least take on that responsibility to create accessible and inclusive stuff, since they are here anyway. Do good. But doing good art, who talks about that? Because that is what we do best, we artists. But honestly, it is not about this. It is not about nice projects for belonging. The sense of belonging is much deeper rooted and it can be enhanced through work where you can develop, be appreciated, make a difference combined with affordable housing so you have a nice neighbourhood to live in and neighbours to greet.

Today´s society has no mission for the good of all, but we have more words and we are becoming much more articulated and therefore respectful. So belonging has a chance, because you belong when you are shown respect and when you show respect. In that sense our microcosm of the scene of performance and live art is not useless.  

They, meaning with them right wing and capitalists have done a very good job at miscrediting social democracy. But time is changing. We know the tactics and we can look behind the lies and the smokescreens. We can go back and look up what was written in the 1960’s, 1970’s and even 1980’s before Thatcher & Reagan wrought havoc with their insistent lies of no alternative. It is as if we only now start to recuperate from this onslaught on the welfare state, when it is nearly too late. Update the message for today and you get it in a nutshell. Good strong messages of belonging. Together. Security. The person first. The weakest link is the stronghold of society. Respect.

Besides lentil soup is quite tasty these days.

Confessions from the communal kitchen sink

Eat lentil soup, drink mint tea and dance. I had never managed to live in a collective, but it was a dream that I nurtured in my early twenties. It was an ideal, an anti-dote against being lost and lonely and an only child, who enjoyed big and noisy families.  My ultimate ideal was to live and work together, let it all melt together. For me the collective was the ideal, especially in the live together and work together version when I was young.

However, I was shy and I always felt uncomfortable in the collectives that I was visiting, hanging out in kitchens or in worn out arm chairs in shared living rooms. I did not know what to say to the co-inhabitants of my friends, and I was not that good at small talk. Instead I had a sinking feeling of being in the way and out-staying my welcome. Hell, I am only waiting for my friend I wanted to shout. Instead I was grinning until my cheek hurt and trying to become invisible at the same time.

But perhaps it was with some of the inhabitants in the collectives that with me, they only wanted their privacy, and to their privacy belonged the herd of the collective but not the friends that were always found crashing here and there.

At times I shared flats and therefore kitchen.  I can share bath-room, tv lounge, I can share most spaces in a house, but the kitchen. I always felt owner-ship towards the kitchen and it felt more private than my own room, where I mostly did not mind having people in and out. When sharing kitchen where I lived I felt my forced grin was turning into the false smile of suppressed annoyance of having somebody else around “my” kitchen, my food, my unwashed dishes, basically my space. There are so many small problems that you encounter in a shared kitchen. Talk, not talk. Be in the way, or somebody is in your way when you want to throw away some garbage. So many occasions for being laid bare. What I eat, how I eat, what I throw away, what I wear, how I cook, what I cook. All these thoughts: do I have to share my yummy miniscule bit of cheese with this guy? Do I have to talk, even if I do not have anything to say and – cringe – when I say something it is inane. Being by the herd is a very private moment for me. 

Once I lived on top of a collective. They shared downstairs and I lived more or less alone upstairs in a flat that was far too big for me. So I tried to rent out a  room, but then inevitably I had to share the  kitchen. Every morning  I got this knot of annoyance in my tummy, when somebody was in the kitchen.  I tried to avoid the meeting, I divided the space on shelves and the fridge in mine and yours, I stayed in the shower, I listened behind closed doors. I became freaking unpleasant. 

Once I hung up a drape between the kitchen door and my flatmates landing, so that I could be in peace. I was asked ironically: oh do you feel a draft? Yes I feel a draft from your presence. I wanted to shout. That flatmate did not stay long. 

No, I was not very good at sharing. Hell, I had shared my first orange only when I was fifteen, what could I know about sharing. And at the same time the bad conscience of being such an egoist only child. 

I still do not know where all that manic illwill came from. I know that I encompass a very big  loneliness shield around me at times, and that I am not very good at articulating what I feel, need, or think. yet the dream of sharing and being together is very strong and has guided my whole professional life. I guess you are drawn to not what you are good at, but to what you want to discover, but an enigma that you want to unravel and that is for me togetherness. I know a lot about solitude.

I think that I copied my most despicable behaviour from my dad who needed lots of space, quiet and time for himself. Yet he was very bad at articulating his own feelings and needs. He kept them to himself until he exploded because of noise, presence or something else and yet another bomb crate was left. We dealt with the destruction by becoming very quiet and retire to sofas, living rooms, bedrooms, streets. His anger was so frightening, that we pretended nothing had happened as we picked up the shreds and felt ashamed. Although it was not we who should have been ashamed.

Still I nourished the dream of togetherness when I started out on the path to become an artist. The dream of merging life and work, life and art grew stronger and became an all encompassing enterprise to immerse myself into. Life as art. Life and art and work merging. As an only child a big need for togetherness, to be together. A substitute for the family? A need for the total engulfment of my being. No boundaries. Floating borders, no borders. No yous, no mes, no ownership. Well, this became not only one but several catastrophies, but that is another story.  The most incredible thing is however, that instead of never-ever again go collective, I started many years later pursuing my dream of the collective as a try out: would it be possible to work collectively I asked innocently in 2000 when Oblivia was founded and started with trials and errors moving towards collectivity with the most unlikely and perhaps therefore the best candidates for collective work: two soloists, another only child with a dream and determination and a solo pianist nerd. I myself is quite an unlikely collective worker, but today I cannot envision to work differently. And time has given me right, now collectives spring up and each and every corner and doing things together is just how you do things these days. It is wonderful. At least as long as art and life do not intertwine too much, and I do not need to share my kitchen on a regular basis. 

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