Flying over the hedge.
The girl’s first flight took place over the neighbour´s drying rack. She was very young, just a kid. The drying rack stood along a low well-trimmed hedge close to a narrow path that led to the next neighbour. The rack consisted of wooden posts placed in a straight row with string in between. The girl flew back and forth over the rack with great feeling of freedom. She only had the courage to fly in her dreams.
This essay is an attempt to translate personal experiences into more existential expressions in the process of making. To introduce the quality of a hedge – ”The Hedge” – allegorizing human existence and personal set of conditions. I am trying to evoke a sense of familiarity between the viewer and the hedge by describing the hedge as a symbol of existential issues – a divider of values or possessions – a divider between individual’s personal needs or expectations and demands from the outside world. In this way the hedge can be both a mental and a physical divider. To tell about this topic and my process of making I make use the written word. Starting by typing in the top left corner. The text flows to the right and is limited by the paper or the computer’s right side. After line break the writing starts again at the left beneath. The writing will end when I don´t have more to tell.
Nature of the hedge
The hedge is a divider. It is a border between possessions and also of values. A hedge frames a territory. Being a sign telling outsiders to stay out and at the same time it offers protection for the insiders. A hedge can also be a line with open ends still representing a border. You can walk round it, but you are told from the existence of the hedge to accept its authority and its nonverbal communication of ”staying out” or ”staying in”. You have to ask for permission from the owner of the hedge to go to ”his side”. Entering the area he defines as a private territory, which he will protect from intruders. To be welcomed and accepted in the area within the hedge, you have to follow the rules and accept the owners supremacy in his society. The private hedge is a bourgeois symbol. Bourgois, deriving from the old French word burgeis – a walled city. A wall which keep the enemy out and offers protection for the insiders. The hedge is like this wall round the city. It frames a property with related rights of disposal.
Personality of the hedge
The state of the hedge is a visualization of the owner’s values and personal characteristics. I am looking at the hedge. Looking at the external borders, I recognize som personal characteristics of the owner in the hedge. The hedge may be well groomed and green or dilapidated, withered and thin at the bottom. How detailed the owner is grooming and caring for the hedge immediately brings my thoughts toward the need of control and the resistance of chaos. From the pole of framing a sharp and straight outline with an impervious core. To the pole of random outlines with a core of total mess, holes and uncontrolled growths. No matter how the surface of the hedge appears – controlled or wild – the core is always made by a complex and unsystematic jumble of trunks, branches and twigs – and a few leaves. Often an impenetrable system representing an unbreakable set of rules, norms and habits.
When I try to get through the hedge being indifferent about the territorial information which the hedge visualizes, it adds bruises and wounds to my body. When I – in spite of this – still want to do the experiment, first arms, then face and head, ending up with my body and legs penetrating the green exterior of the hedge, I get a feeling of being in a ”land without time”. Shielded from the territorial rules I came from – and the rules I’m heading towards. Even when blood trickles from scratches caused by the hedge´s intertwined interior, the hedge offers me a soothing sense of being able to put life on pause. I have been granted a period of reflection in my own space. A No Man’s Land that factually consists of a network of steadfast branches. Preventing my body from moving and making sure that all future changes will happen slowly. If I keep still, the hedge will protect me with it’s thorns against outside invaders. I am safe, as long as I adapt to the rules of the hedge.
When the blood has stopped running from my skin and has formed scabs, I have to make up my mind. To stay or to leave the inside of the hedge. I have to choose one of the two sides of the hedge to be ”my new territory” – where I fit in the best. By making a small opening with my fingers in the green exterior of the hedge, I can have a look outside. Consider the state of the lawn and flowerbeds and make up my mind which territory to enter.
This action of breaking out through the branches into a new territory maybe brings me into a state in between two worlds – to a kind of a limbo. To a temporarily stopping point similar to a bus stop. Where I stop for a moment, looking at the bus time table and supply information about possible routes for continuation, towards a new hedge to penetrate. Maybe a solid hedge which is not open to intruders or a hedge with a pre used hole where other people before me have found their way out.
Or maybe I’m lucky, right now, to be in a place that offers me rest for a while.
The neighbouring wagging dog doesn’t know anything about boundary values. I can easily stretch my arm, through the hedge´s thorns and tangled branches and meeting its wet and cold nose. My only wounds after this action are a little bleeding from small scratches on my arm. A coming hole in the hedge gives me the opportunity to bypass the access control.
The coming hedge
The intention of the hedge has not always existed in one`s mind. Either this hedge is sown or planted by someone who wanted to divide and demarcate areas. Or it has appeared by the power of nature, sown by airborne seeds. Generated by inheritance or environmental impacts. The origin of the hedge is the seed containing the genetic structure of the coming hedge. The new small plants can grow freely, with their leaves intact without human interference. Or becoming a hedge – trimmed to a shape of man´s desire. Longing for control in general and minimization of randomness. Customizable and subsumed. In my case this way of thinking attached to the hedge influences on the process of making. The process starts with a seed. Maybe the seed already exists in a embryonic state in my mind or body. Or maybe it´s created through experience, through everyday life. How the seed is treated and germinated through the process of making is crucial to my work. Compared to this, the hedge´s growth depends on how much efforts and care the owner puts into the process and this is also crucial to ”the result of the hedge”. To the status of the hedge which stands firmly as the representative of habits, traditions and values of the owner. Safe and controlled.
The experience of the hedges may tighten your shoulders. In my case my breathing becomes short and hectic when the hedge moves closer – threatening – demanding adaptation. I am in the risk zone of losing myself and a choice must be made. To adapt or escape – or maybe set off for another journey towards new hedges. A journey that might also open my eyes to other living conditions which might decrease the pressure on my mind and shoulders.
Here my journey begins.
Meeting the hedge
Wearing hiking boots and armed with a strong will and an open mind I touch the hedge´s green leafy carpet with my fingers, separate the leaves and create an opening, which challenges my usual ways of thinking and short sightedness. The hard skin on my hands protects me against the hedge´s immediate resistance to any change, while I continue to escape from my familiar surroundings behind the well-known hedge. Steadily I move ahead, defeating, accepting or avoiding obstacles. The branches receive me with guarded openness and remind me of a time when the intertwined inner of a hedge represented a space of freedom.
The hedge in my story was really old and thin at the bottom, but always green in summer.
The girl was sometimes playing in the cavity inside the hedge. Her secret place through the summer. At wintertime everything going on behind the hedge could be seen from the outside. The hedge turned transparent and took away her invisibility.
This kind of a leeway is, in my case, important growth condition for development. Rewarding me with freedom from my own and others’ expectations about this and that. Cultural expectations that limit and define the ordinary, like expectations of neat hair, presentable behaviour and clothing in muted colours. My hands and arms scorch and bleed when I finally enter the centre of the hedge. The core branches are thicker, without leaves and definitely not willing to give in to my presence. The branches stick bits of broken twigs into in my skin, but slowly give in to my weight. Wounded, the hedge and I calm down accepting the presence of the other. My clothes in muted colours are so much torn. I do my best to shield my body from getting more bruises and avoiding my clothes to fall totally apart. I am awake and aware now and open to what the hedge interior will offer me. This very position allows me to be the observer without reservations and blind spots. I observe the existence of the internal tangled branches. Thinking that each of them produces my blindness, representing internalized norms and traditions. Sucked up as nutrition through the roots from the earth’s geological layers and ages – memories and experiences from many centuries in liquid form.
I rest for a while, increasing my heart rate and enjoy the peace.
I catch a glimpse of somebody on the outside of the hedge. A woman kneeling down on a floral pillow wearing gardening gloves, furnished with a small pair of scissors. She trims the lawn edge following a horizontally positioned string placed 4.5 centimetres from the ground. In the garden on the opposite side of the hedge a big dog and a young boy are digging a hole the size of a caravan preparing the pool they have always wanted.
In this position, I am the observer. I exist without the influence of others. In a way I’ve signed out of life. Put life on pause. I´m invisible. If I want to be visible and participate in life, I have to go back to one or the other side of the hedge. Which side I choose is a secondary choice. As long as I bring my insights as an observer with me – more aware of the nature of my own hedge.
Investigating the hedge – my inspiration source
I decide to stay inside the hedge for a while, curious to find out what happens when I´m invisible to the surroundings and if I surrender to a more passive attitude. Allow my thoughts to wander here and there. First I become aware of my physical condition. Aware of the wounds on my body caused by the broken twigs in the hedge which tentatively grab for me like hooks. Visualizing how a pointed sprig was pressed against my skin into my stomach and made my skin and fat form a hollow. The hollow got deeper and deeper until the twig penetrated the skin and got in direct contact with the layer of fat. I think the hedge wanted to study my substance – investigate my components. And with the twig as a pipe attached to my body made a transfusion of wisdom accumulated in the hedge, transferred to me like a blood transfusion. Suddenly I become aware of my consciousness. Reflecting on what this state of ”in between” does to me – to my conscious and unconscious self, and if it is possible to get in contact with repressed memories. Memories which at the same time are stored in the intertwined branches of the hedge and in my personal subconsciousness. This is for me an interesting thought.
I am the archaeologist in the deposits of my mind.
For my work my memories are the inspiration source. As an archaeologist I dig in the corners of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. In my process of making I’m giving shape to the intertwined memories, dreams and sensations of mine. Sigmund Freud had a hypothesis ”that the psyche is a system of deposits of experiences from different life periods, roughly like the geological deposits in the soil are piled up and get older the deeper you dig”. My deposits can be very specific, as the punishment for forgetting my sister’s tricycle in the street. Or be more emotionally based without binding to a unique situation, just a fundamental sense of loneliness behind the hedge. All parents create hedges for their children through their conscious and unconscious actions. Hedges which set the scene for the future life of every child and its opportunities. In my self-imposed isolation, I acknowledge that I do the same. Create hedges. Hedges which I honestly, with careful care and green finger forms for the next generation to penetrate. And I realize, as I am stuck in the inner of the hedge, that the inside structure of this hedge visualise the culture of the life I have been ”thrown” into at birth. An extract of all my experiences and it´s visualizing a pattern of a mixture of my own and others intertwined memories.
”The fabric of her language is woven from everyday materials. Drawn lines and written lines entwine to create the tapestry of her childhood memories, and to exorcise her fear.” (Louise Bourgeois, Destruction of the father – reconstruction of the father.)
Nobody is able to choose his own family. At birth you are thrown into life over a random hedge, which provides the framework for your life as if it´s a common obstacle. Thrown into a non self-chosen environment and culture. Framed by the hedge, the territory behind the hedge shapes my life condition. For me it´s a precondition for life to participate in life. To penetrate the hedge, not staying in the hedge, no matter how much I am longing to get invisible and to disappear.
Apple cheeks and reasonable interests.
The girl was trapped and locked in the hedge interior. With high pulse rate and blood running down her arms, face and legs. With all her strength she had tried to defeat the hedge strong branches and the hedge had fought back,. It did not allow the girl to continue. The hedge held the girl in an iron grip. Slowly the girl had to accept the situation. She was trapped and invisible. Time passed, the weather became colder and the girl was thinner. The hedge´s branches wove in their growth a network round the girl as a prison or a protection service. And the girl’s skeleton gradually looked like it wanted to make it´s way out through her whitish skin. Her head hair turned dull, her butt hollow, and down was growing from her arm. But the pain was a familiar feeling and the girl was persistent. One day somebody the girl knew from her past pulled her out of the hedge. Back to where she came from. Over time the girl gained weight and got back on track with apple cheeks and reasonable interests.
I press myself through the hedge out into the outer world. In this position – under these conditions – I have to think of art. Dealing with art is for me a way of remain intact in a world of habits and hedges. ”It´s a way of survival and not a free choice of career.”
Leaving the hedge
Before I continue I remove the twigs which have connected the hedge to my body. It feels like pulling a deep set splinter out of my skin. Then I gather all my insights and different discoveries from my stay in the hedge and place them in my pocket. To make sure I get everything important with me when I leave the hedge. For example I bring awareness of how my memories are the source for inspiration and the gasoline for my working process. I bring my awareness of ”the thrownness” as a fact of life into my pocket. And I bring the longing to translate this personal insight to a general human expression. For, if possible, to be understood in a world filled with hedges. With greater awareness about my own hedge – its importance, ingredients and meaning – I step out of the hedge and into a new and unknown territory. Combined with what I bring with me in my pocket, the conditions for my process of making hopefully is better in this new place.
The process of making
I sketch ideas on patches of paper. Realize some of my ideas in different materials. Writes notes. Cutting, sewing, hammering. Burning clothes and last year’s Christmas tree in an explosive inferno of flames at the seashore. Photographing, painting, making videos, fastens old iron into clay and behind glass in frames. Slowly growing a catalogue of ideas emerging from the mist and from my journey, appearing in my attempt to realize the characteristics of the hedge. Some ideas are muddy and unclear while others shine brighter than the neon light in my studio. With minimal critical approach I cover the walls with all my inventions – like hanging up wallpaper. The wallpaper is changing all the time. New ideas come. Others leave. The intuition is my partner in this process. The individual works, sketches, bits of text, sounds, videobits, combined with my insights, vague ideas and sensations define the next step in my process of making.
”…not painting, not sculpture. it’s there though.
I remember I wanted to get to non art, non connotive,
non anthropomorphic, non geometric, non, nothing,
everything, but of another kind, vision, sort.
from a total other reference point. is it possible?
I have learned anything is possible. I know that.
that vision or concept will come through total risk,
I will do it.” (Eva Hesse, 1969)
My ideas reveal themselves, embodied in the eternal interaction between equal parts of reflection and practice. Reflection and practice which only exist due to each other´s existence, together they have the ability to merge into a whole. But how do I know that the translation – the transformation – of my personal memories and insights from the hedge not just end up in another personal expression that does not have a pinch of existential nature? It is for me, the most difficult exercise in the process of making. A tightrope walk over canyons. I learn and become wiser through work and reflection. By requesting feed back from the world around me, trying to be open to criticism and not to be offended, no matter how painful it can be. And sometimes it hurts, a lot. Leaving me for a moment as an empty shell. I try my best – make serious efforts, efforts within the translation process and efforts to regain faith in myself. But doubt will always be my companion.
Preparing the next journey
Doubt is in my opinion the condition for development.
If I do not question my own practice and my own work, I will end up in a kind of a dead-end. Surrounded by a hedge without exits and where fundamentalists and people who think they always have the right answers, are stored. It can of course be nice to ”know everything” and believe in ready-made creeds. To stay inside the hedge possessing the only correct knowledge and to be the holder of the dogma of true art and other important things in life. But, unfortunately. I am not familiar with the divine. I think that doubting is a part of my inherited genetics and this makes me confronting hedges. I try to believe in myself, that I have something to offer, which is relevant to my surroundings. But I am always doubtful. I must question my competence, my ideas, my processes and works. The doubt qualifies my work and brings me back on a temporary track of confidence. I use doubt to refine and clarify the work. Make adjustments. Change the size, colour, media. Repeat works in other materials and formats. Correlate the inspiration from my memories with materials. Take a rest. Remove everything that isn´t necessary and leave only the central. And finally the work hopefully stand up for it self without being too much in the shadow of my private hedge. But I never really know. It’s another logic. I think, I have to accept the lack of definitive answers, like Eva Hesse did in her work: ”She engaged in a sort of partnership in which she did not control everything.” And I do the same. Getting ready for the next trip through a hedge.
When the girl had turned into a woman she did not fly often. She had been far too busy with everything and nothing and had been blinded by an adult reality. The neighbour´s hedge and drying rack along the path appeared despite the passing of time almost without change. The hedge slightly higher and still well trimmed and freshly painted wooden posts in the drying rack. Time had only left marks on the colourful clamps. Blue had become grey and yellow turned into the colour of porridge. Everything was so similar that she was not able to grasp it. One day at one of her walks on the path along the hedge, she felt a stone in her shoe. She stopped, took off the shoe and shook out the stone. At the moment she bent down and her eyes approached the familiar shoes, she discovered the hole in the hedge.