#1: a phone note from a bus ride back from santa fe (may 4)
stars sprinkled on the canvas that is the sky; the world; cosmos. the moon shining its soft light on the clouds hovering below making them appear like little islands of cotton in the sea of unsaturated blue; yet promising another clear blue morning. the vastness of the universe flushes over me like a tidal wave; reminding me of the beauty of insignificance and the scope of the world like nothing and everything at the same time; like i'm prepared for its greatness but not really and so it hits with an incredible speed, an indescribable power -- as a reminder. of just how little everything matters, and just how beautiful that is in itself.
i think about how much you have grown. both as a person, but also physically; your shoulders no longer narrow like a school boy's; your rugged hands showing signs of aging and experience, and what used to be a constant playfulness in your eyes appearing less and less. sometimes it feels like we lead separate realities now. an inability from both, maybe. and a renunciation; a rejection; a refusal,
to accept; reflect; intercept.
the lights from the lamp posts next to the highway flash by every couple of seconds, shining their yellow light over my head leaned against the window, rotating around the bus like a merry-go-round. if someone would have turned around everytime the light flashed its shadows all around me maybe they'd notice the light reflections of wet cheeks and glossy eyes. sometimes i wish that someone did. eternal loneliness.
i think about how much me and my friends have grown during these two years. maybe myself not so much. almost the oldest yet feel the youngest. with my crooked teeth and narrow hips and naivite and ignorance. i need to get out of school for a while.
the distinct turn onto the road to the po. the lights from the castle shining like a bustling city in the night. and i guess it is, in its own way.
#2: during a moment of silence (may 7)
everything seems to flush over me in instances of silence; pausing; stepping back. tonight it hits me in lázaro's arms, our breaths in sync and our co-existing in silence, just for a little while. "i'll miss you, láz" i say under my breath and i grab his hand in mine as my voice starts to tremble. "i'll miss you too", he says and sandwiches my hand in-between his. i hold my breath not to reveal the lump in my throat but my eyes can't stop my cheeks from getting salty, drip drip drip into his gray pillows, just like drizzle has hit the tin roof outside my window every afternoon this week. i close my eyes and let my mind wander and all i can think about is the little to nothing i have left to contribute at this place. the little to nothing i seem to have left to say to the people i love and the little to nothing i seem to have left to enjoy my last few days here.
i feel eternally lonely. all the time. "i'll just never reach the same level of emotional intimacy as any of my friends have with each other" i tell lázaro. sometimes it feels like i have only him and i hate myself for that, hate being clingy, and hate forcing myself as someone's company.
this place is just a dark pit of emotion and i can't breathe.
#3: saying goodbye (may 20)
i'm alive on five ibuprofens and 4h of sleep over the past 48 hours. my eyes are swollen and my cheeks puffy and everything in my body hurts. i listen to blonde with elias one last time. on the same speakers but the opposite side of the room this time, and my head on his shoulder instead of against dewey's pillow-chair. and then jak comes in and we go to linda's house for "last chance pancakes", or "last chance cakes" as jak calls them. it's crowded and loud and so we go to the art room one last time. us, and mihir and libbie. and then bela and keegan come and it turns into a space of inside jokes that i can't relate to. i have my head on mihir's chest and sit silent for a while. and then i retreat to find avital for our last moments together.
i get stuck in MB courtyard and the last four square game of the year. i sit next to hugh as we talk about sentimentality and all that this day has had to offer. shoulder to shoulder and he tells me that he just hasn't gotten mushy yet, still keeping his emotions in check. i myself have been crying almost constantly since noon; hugging people goodbye as they've been leaving throughout the day; the space between kili and denali now forever cursed with heavy emotion and dragged out goodbyes. i envy hugh for not feeling, but i also pity him because what more is there than the beauty of emotion right here and right now? how amazing is it not to feel everything oh so deeply?
and then avital comes with a napkin of pancakes and i share them with anchor and libbie. and then panic hits and i suffocate. tears come up to the surface of my eyes and "i can't be here anymore, i need to leave" i say as i determinidely walk towards my room; kili 204 with its blaringly empty walls and emptiness echoing from the shelves. kili 204 where i sat on the blue carpeted floor with simen and sudddenly asked "wait, what room are we in?" because now all rooms look the same again; as if stripped of personality. as if we were never there to begin with. anyway, at this moment in time kili 204 although not my own anymore, seems to be my place of retiration. lázaro runs after me and soon puts his arm around my shoulders and lifts me up in an attempt to cheer me up. i smile through the tears but retreat into my bed as soon as we reach my room. i capitulate. i don't want to do this anymore. i curl up and lázaro curls up next to me, spoons me for one last time, his arms hugging me tightly. i cry into my own pillows this time, feeling everything and nothing all at the same time. we fall asleep for a while and mihir comes in and sits on the chair by my desk. he reaches out his hand and i hold it tight in mine. at 11:37, lázaro rises. "i need to get something for libbie, i'll meet you there" and mihir and I carry my bags out to the buses. my heart is heavy.
the first one i hug is selina, which is terrible because it means instant weeping. i hug her for a long time before letting go. i'll miss this girl so much. i'll miss our afternoons climbing and her giggles brighting up my days; our friendship pure, like there's nothing clouding it. no judgements nor expectations; just us two, and the rocks, of course.
and then josefine and anchor and nacho and benja and grace and chloe and andy and simen and kadin and carlie and my buddy and elias and even josh and of course my tiny bean avital. all the people that i'm going to miss endlessly. and hugging mihir over and over again, my best friend and my brother. and lázaro and his yellow john deere hat. i sob in his arms.
i see doug in the distance and embrace him in a long hug. my arms reach just around his waist, my left hand holding tightly to my thumb. i cry in his arms for a long time while he murmurs his final doug-comments to me; the inspirational and motivational and sentimental ones that he always voices on the last day of class before break. "it's okay to be sad right now and it's going to be sad for a while but then it's going to be ok. you'll stay in touch with your friends, and you'll see them all again-- including me" and i can feel him doing his little indian nod with my head against his chest. "it's going to be alright" he tells me and kisses my forehead. "i love you girl, take care".
and right before i get on the bus, elias gives me one last hug. "i realized why it hurts so much to say goodbye to you -- it's like saying goodbye to a sister". i cry in his arms, my head reaching only up to his stomach.
on my last bus ride to sunport, i weep on libbie's shoulder.
and so we depart montezuma, but forever this time. i have never felt this empty in my entire life.
i say goodbye to hugh before boarding my flight to salt lake. he's in a heated discussion about...something, with pablo. i can't even recall what they were talking about, but i smile because it's so typical. i tap his shoulder and say that i'm boarding and he looks at his watch, says "really? already?" and rises into an embrace. we hug for a long time, his grip slowly getting tighter as he says his goodbyes. "keep yourself busy because you tend to overthink things. and that's coming from someone like me". small chuckle and i never want to let go. and then he says "alright get the fuck outta here" and shoos me towards my gate. "shut up" i say and hug him again. "i'll miss you, hugh" i tell him. "i'll miss you too, man". "thank you for everything" i tell him. he replies with his signature confident nod with a crooked little smile; the one that i would hate at any other point in time because it's obnoxious and prideful and because it screams of confidence and "hey, that's just what I do" or "i gotchu" but with the sun still hiding behind the mountains, it's just not as reassuring as usual. i'm on the verge of crying and i think he is too. maybe the mush is finally hitting him. i turn around with tears in my eyes. and then i realize that there is so much more i want to say; that i admire him so much and that i'm sorry about everything. at 7:41 i send him a message: "oh also-- promise you'll let me know when you're back in the states after your gap year and we'll go climb together:)!!" the smiley without space to the words nor the exclamation marks to signify that it's a careless message, that it's casual, that i haven't thought about it at all. truth is i did think about it a lot. truth is this boy is an asshole but i'll miss him endlessly. not seeing him for at least a year is a weird thought, and truth is i can't wait until we see each other again. he replies "for sure, take care this summer and go climb some scary stuff. scary is good sometimes."
i hope he's right.
#4: on my final days, sisters, brothers, and gratitude (may 23)
i spend my last days in montezuma breathing in every moment with the deepest breaths possible. i breathe the spirit of love; devour the atmosphere of compassion; ravage the last moments i have with the people that i love. i breathe out anxiety; sigh out fear. it's so hard. graduation is making me so anxious and i'm so scared.
i try to make the most out of my last ten days. one day i go into the woods with adam, tessa, and lázaro. we eat buffalo pretzels on a blanket in the woods behind the dwan light. it's a nice afternoon.the day after that, i go climbing with selina and doug comes along. he's been wanting to 'check out what we're doing' for a while now so we invite him to our friday morning climbing session and show him upper wifi. i admire him a lot for coming with us; for being so open and honest in conversation, for being so curious, and for treating us as if we were friends rather than students, as if he could learn from us. selina and I climb some problems; the environmentalist, monday morning, and i finally figure out beta to the heel-hook problem and send it. finally. been working on it for a long time. after a while, the d-boys show up: kadin, hugh, lázaro, and jack. i love all four of them to bits. we chill out on the crashpad and the hammocks for a while, listening to doug's stories. it becomes one of my favorite mornings ever.
and the night after that becomes one of my favorite nights ever as selina, hugh, and i meet up in the fieldhouse right after check, grab the crash pad and venture out into the woods. my headlamp is weak and i stumble across the rocks but we hike faster than ever before; night pitch black but air t-shirt warm. selina and i take silly pictures at the viewpoint and hugh climbs problems without headlamps, trusting his instincts as he climbs up monday morning: a problem i freak out on even in daylight. i envy him. as we hike down from upper wifi for the last time i realize it's exactly a week left until graduation. "this time next week we'll all be on the bus to albuquerque. how strange".
on our last sunday ever, me and the girls decide to bike into town for brunch. little do we know that all the bikes are freaking broken. and all of us half-dead after our different adventures from the night before. we catch adrian as he drives up to the castle and i half-jokingly ask him if he would pick up some hitch-hikers and drive us to travelers. "sure", he replies to my surprise and we get in his van. traveler's closed. it's sunday. and mother's day. everything's closed. we wander down the strip and finally there's one restaurant that's open; new mexican. me and carlie split huevos rancheros and then we lay in the grass in a park somewhere where a kid's throwing a birthday party with bouncy castles and fancy food.
and then, after a week of freedom, studying starts again. i refuse to move into the cafeteria again, so i spend days leaving my room only to go to the bathroom. when i'm not studying, i write. i spend evenings typing up 8302 words trying to convey all the feelings i have in my heart for all the people that i love; 8302 words in memories and gratitude. i pour my heart and soul into these words; i tell people how much i admire them, how much i love them, how much they mean to me. to benja i write about our first conversation and stargazing in the pecos wilderness. to avital i write about the heady smell of lilacs on my art desk and the taste of gummy vitamins. to zsuzsa i write about our sunday evenings watching girls and to both of them i write about cohabiting, bathroom conversations, and collapsing on the blend of blue carpet underneath the yellow lights of the hallway on party nights. to doug and andrew i thank them for being role models and to my roomate i thank her for being her. to mihir i write about him becoming my brother and to simen and lázaro i write about how denali 212 became home; how my best friends were only a barefoot run away; eighteen steps over crumbly cement, balancing my steps to avoid small rocks piercing the sole of my foot. 2+4 and 3 and the sharp right turn and then simen's surprised-but-as-time-progressed-not-so-surprised-anymore face as i knock once and swing open the door. more a warning than courtesy at this point. more a saying ”hey, here i am” than asking ”can i come in?”. and then fairy lights covered with tiny lanterns and the little label saying ”laz’s life” on it hanging from the ceiling; the top ten canadians and the smell of his polo cologne filling up the room; occupying all the sweatshirts that i’ve stolen, a smell of safety and comfort and serenity that i could drown in. i spend nights carefully writing these 8302 words of feelings and memories and gratitude onto 20 swedish flags; the reek of sharpie lingering in my room.
two days before grad i write my final exam. it feels so underwhelming.
; and two days before grad i also sit in the hot springs with lázaro and i tell him "i hate this. there is just so much that needs to be done -- i need to pack up my entire room and i need to finish all my flags and there were exams until now and it's stressing me out" and he says "anneli, you've spent two years here and you've gotten the most out of every single day of those days. tomorrow's for packing, tomorrow's for being alone. tomorrow's for closure". and the day before graduation i spend alone. i spend it throwing away stuff i've accumulated over two years, packing down notes dear to me, writing by my desk, eating avocados for breakfast. but the night i want to spend with everyone else.
and so i spend it in the IT with the people that i love the most: my happy singles and the d-boys. i spend it hiding from security with karen at 1am in the morning, and i spend it freezing in the MB courtyard at 2. at 3, i'm spending it with tom and kadin and lázaro underneath the shine of lazaro's yellow ceiling light; his room painfully stripped from everything it used to be. at 4, i'm spending it losing my birkenstocks while dancing to paradise city, and at 5 i'm spending it in chum storage room with grace and zsuzsa, talking about things that hurt when they shouldn't. at 5:30 i'm finally in bed. i set my alarm for 8:15 but i wake up at 7:30, strangely awake for having slept only two hours. zsuzsa makes eggs for breakfast and we get dressed together and then we head out to the castle stairs for our class photo. and then we spend our last moments in the library, line up for grad, walk in, walk out, hug people, and then grad is over just like that.
and then two years came to an end, just like that.
and now i have my diploma and my studentmössa and a thousands of memories that i wouldn't exchange for anything else in this world. and now, three days after everything ended, i miss it more than anything that i've ever missed.
it’s all in my head.
i put on zsuzsa’s mustard t-shirt and those old black denim shorts that i thrifted at södra esplanaden years ago. they didn’t fit well back then but they fit well now. i wear them with fishnet tights and a black belt. ”i just wanna look punk” i say as zsuzsa and avi swing left and right entering my room. ”hufflepunk”, libbie exclaims from the other side. i shriek because it's perfect. ”YEAH! HUFFLEPUFF’S DON’T NEED TO BE BORING! YOU CAN BE NICE AND PUNK!!!” i shout. zsuzsa and avital laugh. a typical kili south borderline breakdown.
and then carlie’s familiar blue lights and the circle of family. almost like routine. (but why?) i try to run the hufflepunk joke but it doesn’t work. ”that’s not funny”, josefine replies instead. harshly. ouch. we talk about things that don't matter, joke about old memories and the time we've spent together, the memories warming us up, seeping through our veins bursting into a fluster of giggles, and
next thing i know i'm in kili hallway with zsuzsa and avital. it's not even midnight but i've abandoned the party for my pink bed sheets and a good night's sleep. except in the corridor on the way to my room are my two best friends, avital with a hand on z's shoulder, and z with puffy cheeks and glossy eyes. avital is leaning her back against the wall, her sequin dress bluer than ever in the yellow lights of the hallway. she looks like a fallen hero. i can't get that image out of my head.
we go to the dayroom, heat up nuggets, and then josefine comes. anchor comes. benja comes. carlie comes. and i think to myself "wow, i can't believe we all just randomly ended up here together. this is nice". and then i think to myself "wow, i have no desire to be here at all". and next thing i know i'm the one crying in the hallway.
it ends up being a confusing night. the first of many spiralling down into hopelessness; heavyness; heftiness.
although having experimented with different media throughout these two years, my works have always related back to the theme of identity; or the lack of it. throughout my life, I have always felt in-between. growing up Chinese in Sweden often made me question myself — from the naive questions of my youth, wondering why I didn’t look alike anyone else, to the more complex ones of adolescence, questioning cultural values and external influences. these questions often led me nothing other than what came to be an intrinsic insecurity; a tsunami of self-doubt; a perpetuation of indecision; a venture into vulnerability. this exhibition is about that, and the feeling it brings me. it’s about process rather than the finished product, and the byproducts I leave behind and the story they tell. this exhibition is an exploration of self; an investigation of me; a search for I.
my three self-portraits focus on what it means to be part of the human condition when you feel half, or split in two. i tried to explicitly show this feeling by slicing my face as in ’Self, II’, or distorting part of it as in ’Self, I’. my intention was to disturb the viewer, and make them question why; just like how I many times question why I have always felt in-between — and how that feeling has been established through the judgement of others. I started realizing that more often than not, I let other people define me. ’an ode to boys’ is a further commentary on that; a ripping apart of expectations and judgements. a defining of myself, by myself.
as I explored this theme deeper, I started noticing the feeling that this intrinsic insecurity gave me. it instantly reminded me of mornings when I have not yet had my coffee; of the hazy mind that surrounds me as I get out of bed; of not being able to be fully awake; alert; alive; and how coffee many times helps me break through that feeling.
and so I started working with it.
my relationship with coffee has almost become one of dependency, and incorporating it into my art has been a symbol of freeing my mind, getting rid of distress; breaking through what seems a shadow of reality — a slumberous haze, where mind wanders, hopelessly.
my first coffee exploration really related to that feeling, as it is a series of doodles that i did during distress. finished, I put them on the floor and poured coffee over them, splashing it all over the floor, staining the pieces, and making the ink bleed. this became a physical illustration of coffee seeping through the distress I feel and adjusting my mood. it was also a breaking through of mental barriers, since I had no idea what was going to come out of it and for once had to deal with the unexpected.
and after that came a flood of coffee creations. paintings stained with coffee (such as ’monsteras & distress’ and a self-portrait in the form of a coffee cup (’never half full’); all to further the idea of coffee as breaking through that feeling that the intrinsic insecurity gives me.
another big aspect of my art has been the process of works, and the remains left behind. after having studied On Kawara, i became obsessed with the idea of mapping; tracing remains. i started taking photos of my first cup of coffee every morning in combination with the time they were finished. and then I started writing down the names of every person i talk to each day. although seemingly meaningless collections of data, there must be something that can be told about me through the traces I leave. through the time I finish my first cup of coffee each morning, to the people I talk to each day. somewhere in-between, there must be an essence of sorts.
inspired by the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe — a 20,000 square feet exhibition where the viewer is immersed into a storyline — I then decided to set up my exhibition like a room. I want the viewer to enter the space and feel as if she just walked in on something; as if she is immersed in something different. maybe that essence I’m talking about. the me. I deliberately decided to include all the detritus I have accumulated over the past two years; post-it notes, newspaper cut-outs, coffee brews, and writings. I also decided to integrate music as it personally has played a big role in setting atmosphere, my journals (where I also keep track of my mood, coffee habits, and sleep every day), as well as photos from my youth as a storyline running through the exhibition. these things show the remains of true events that have left an impact on me, much like every other thing I experience in life. much like the content of my show, my curation is about process, about the unfinished, and about leaving behind. an exposé of me.
#6: ??? (april 12)
it's starting to feel like last year again. the golden daze of cancelled classes and warm evenings soaking in the hot springs. the heady smell of lilacs against the pale blue sky, and the aftermath of cherry blossom petals sprinkling pink on the pavements; victims of last week's snow fall. and the confused despair of trying to make the most out of every single moment. yet i find myself wanting to be alone, a lot. i find myself wanting to read, wanting to write, wanting to climb, wanting to... take care of myself. alone.
maybe it's some sort of defense mechanism. like a preparation for what's coming up. for graduation, and the life that will follow after that. like a coping with a problem before it's even occured. preparation, preventation; solicitude. maybe if i voluntarily distance myself enough from people it won't hurt as bad when we are distanced from each other, involuntarily. i don't know. i wonder.
i talk to avital about that. about how it feels like this time last year, again. about how suddenly there are so many things that seemed like the most obvious and natural and taken for granted things ever that need to be crammed into the 38 days we have left. like hiking up to the cross again, biking into town, going to storrie lake, stargazing at the water reservoir, climbing roofs, late night conversations on the path, on the rocks, in the hot springs. things that were exciting during orientation and that have since then always been a "we'll just do it another day", that we just... won't be able to do, another day. because there is no other day than here and now. and that's a strange thought in itself.
there are many things that i want to say to a lot of different people. words in form of emotions, feelings; things that cannot find their way out of my body, out of my mind. that can't be formulated. mostly gratitude, thankfulness, admiration. like how i want to express how much mihir means to me and how much i love him and have always done. or how grateful i am that libbie is my roommate even though i suck and feel myself retreating into some deep hole of solitude and isolation. or andrew and doug for being like the best adults i've ever met in my entire life. and hugh for making me question everything, even though everything he says always comes out as definite and undubitable even though it's not. and avital for being an inspiration and zsuzsa for having so much compassion. but i don't know how.
i had a weird moment yesterday where i woke up way too late, went up to the cafeteria to study, and stayed there for four hours with only half a biology packet done. instead i found myself just looking at people. and listening to shout out louds. but mostly just looking at people. listening to conversations by reading facial expressions around tables from afar, seeing people walking in and out together, teachers sitting down at student tables. and then i found myself alone, grinning like an idiot in the back of the caf. another moment when it hit me again; how much i like the people here. how much i enjoy seeing them happy, even from afar. even just observing. how it warms my heart seeing people interact in the special way that they do here. because it is, special. i can't describe it. probably couldn't even if i tried really hard. and then i feel the lump growing in my throat and although smiling my eyes are tearing up. i can't believe i'm leaving all of this.
when i skype my parents one week my dad asks me to actually figure out what i think about uwc. somehow i always forget that the only times my parents hear from me is when we skype, once a week, an hour on sunday mornings. and depending on my mood, i'll be either hating this place or loving it. "i'm just honestly really confused" my dad says. it makes me sad but it also makes a lot of sense. i hate this place and i love it at the same time. there's nothing more to it than that.