Recently, I received a sort of correction from one of my grown-up daughters. That was when I had written about an interesting performance that I had seen. ”Dad,” she said, ”are you always just going to photograph and document what you see?” There she made a short break to make her point stronger. ”Don’t you want to experience it too?” Which gave the effect that today, as I went to a performance at Konstepidemin in Gothenburg, I allowed myself to paint my toenails pink. And it made me experience – loneliness together.
It was The Soft Revolution of Goth Punk Poetry that drew me to the Twelfth Night Festival of Performance at Konstepidemin. Louise Halvardsson, Nadja Häikiö Itäsaari and Henric Mimerson. I was ready to experience.
”I do not understand people who go no further than square one!” ”I do not understand people who never drink to make the brain feel like it’s out of the skull!” ”I do not understand why there should only be one way!”
It is a bit typical of me today that I do not remember the exact wording of what Henric Mimerson said. I had put away my notebook and camera. But I experienced what he wanted to say. That life must be more than just always being master of the situation and always being capable.
”Jante is standing next to me when I see myself in the mirror!” This was Louise Halvardsson’s voice. ”Jante told me I did not read correctly when I was to read out loud in school, so I was careful to be quiet!” ”Jante makes me think my breasts aren’t beautiful!” ”Jante creeps with me down in bed …”
That’s how I remember my experience of her words as she ousted Nadja Häikiö Itäsaari, masked as Jante, from the scene. Jante with his law, that reduces us to nothing in our own eyes.
Performance is an art form where happening is a crucial part. As it seemed today, The Soft Revolution of Goth Punk Poetry gave a conventional poetry reading, with stage acting and song. No, Nadja’s song was not conventional. With her powerful alto, her accompaniment gave a depth to the poetry on stage. It created a bewitching mood and gave power and sentiment to Louise’s and Henric’s self-reflection, despair and resistance.
But, what converted this into a happening? And what made the audience an actor in the drama of what life could be, in addition to conformity, measurability and validation? It was a small bottle of pink nail polish that did it! It made the audience take a breath like a surprised laugh. And it came as an answer to why I was there and why I had put away the notepad, the pencil and the camera.
”Now I want us to experience loneliness together,” Louise spoke in an exhortative voice. As I thought, she gave an ironic wink to the Swedish minister of integration Birgit Friggebo if you remember when she wanted to smooth the crowd’s questions with ”We shall overcome.” That time, there was no performance.
Today, the small bottle of pink nail polish was the key that locked up the borderline between players and audience. ”Now I invite you all in the crowd to take off an optional shoe and sock and paint any toe.”
And while the nail polish bottle went round, we got high, not on the vapors of the solvent as much as on the experience to be – alone together. And when I’d painted my right big toenail and left the nail polish to the neatly bearded young man next to me, I got a glance that told me we exceeded the loneliness limit together. Quite short, but sweet.
This was my experience, and it was only after the performance that I returned to documenting and photographing. So, what happened? I’ve got a pink right big toenail to remind me.