ESSAY: A NAME NAMED HANNAH
A NAME NAMED HANNAH Kristian Skylstad
Bears that hibernate in space will not be harmed by radiation.
Some people, scientists or not, claim we never dream when we sleep, that what we perceive as dreams is something we generate to compensate for the shock our mind suffers when we are released, raging, from that complete chimera which is sleep. The dream ignited when awoken. The contention being that the soul is not willing to accept or process nothingness, thus it generates a more or less fragmented narrative, a hint of the incomprehensible, to inspire the illusions, softening the dullness of life awake.
Saying the word, the name, ignites breath. Is a word a name? Is a name a word? No, the sound escaping our lips is the name, is the word, is the title of the potential human being, or animal, deserving the name. Deserving a name. Whatever is made is named. To name is to make.
“Han-uh” she sighed. “Han-uh” he gasped. “Han-uh” they chanted. “Han-uh” we mumbled.
Grace. Need we choose between nature and grace? Nature. Indifferent to us, going about its own way, creating and destroying, at random, seemingly. To ignite grace is to evoke the basic and infinitely complex mechanisms of the world, of life, through the premise of reality. To choose grace is to choose strength through goodness. You can’t choose nature. It chooses you. Hannah is grace, it’s also anna protected by the H on the flanks, a couple of rooks, two breaths, a pendulum of a name, potentially eternally swinging back and forth on the page, the palindrome personalized. I sat in the theater, in the city without angels, watching the queen of performance as she spake; “The first time you die is when your heart stops. The second time you die is when you’re buried. The third time you die is the last time someone mentions...” Long pause. Warped, dark voice. “...your name.” Shiver down my spine. Then I sat in front of her, the queen of the whole caboodle, by marrying what is weird with what is wishy-washy. I was so overwhelmed by the world at this moment, the abnormality of the hypernormal in that present reality, that I choked. And somehow the beauty, the grace of that conversation, became an extremely human communion, because the queen and I found a natural understanding, a peace treaty with the world, for a brief moment in history. It transcribed well. We could leave the world behind. We generated a pocket of time in a mediocre room in the world in a reality beyond life. I revisited this mediation through visceral communication when faced with the grace of the theater of the world
A healthy life. In the world. Healthy conversations, movements, nutrition, relations, relaxation, in the fucking world. The world is everything. What do you mean with The World? Your world? This world? The universe? The electronic representation of what is? Once, at twenty two, I sat on the beaches of Indonesia, with a Moleskin in my lap, attempting to write like the Gallic poet, the first hipster, the warrior of the warped, the kid who sat beauty on his lap and found her bitter and wounded her. Nothing came out, through my nerve endings, though energy consumed me. I watched the plane landing on the airstrip at the edge of the shore, creating a wonderous trail of pollution scarring the pale, blue sky. I sat there with my beautiful pen, feeling self-conscious beyond words, outside the world, so deeply within myself that the waves crashing onto the fine sand of the beach seemed like an audience booing my impotence and incompetence. I wrote two words on the page; THE WORLD, with very big letters, covering the whole piece of paper, written with such an insistence and intensity that it echoed through pages and pages. The words THE WORLD was written with such adolescent naivety, such immature vigor, that I had to shadow the letters just to make it feel right. Why does world need the anyway? Why can’t I say; “I belong in world.”? It seems more honest. The act now transformed into the most basic form suddenly now appeared for what it was, a longing for the word to become the world, to inject an L into the word word. In Indonesia the liver is the center of the soul, not the heart. In Indonesia they have no words for future. Years later a Dane with the urge for art tattooed the word Silence on my arm on the beaches close to the border of Cambodia, while we listened to Heaven from the album Tattoo Me. Silent world. Silent word. Forever stuck to my biceps. There are no silent words. They all ignite a certain unease, and the greatest unease of all is theirs, because they are omnipresent; reaching their metaphysical peak of power through the premise of silence. Because when silence appears, time sets precedence. The almighty human invention: Time. A worm creeping through layers of mud in search of diamonds covered in blood. The flag of Indonesia is known as Blood and Bones. I came back to those shores again and again, though nothing had really changed, except decay in the landscape, the decay within myself, and no way of deciphering the one from the other. I looked into the shining sun, and where I once saw white, I now saw red, which is the color of courage, and the blood of my own skull flowing out into my field of vision, obscuring the grace of time with the vanity of nature. I was nature and I was helpless. I used to dream at night, of paradise. Now I dream of chaos in paradise, longing for home all through the night, relieved when I wake up in my cold, dull apartment. There I wander around picking up things, putting them in different places, one by one, pondering my isolated being, picking up things, putting them in different places, one by one, a theater without an audience, a one man band out of tune with consensus of things, clinging to the word as a replacement for the world, leaving the L behind. Embracing the H of the sigh.
Measuring movement in space. These letters feels like drops, of liquid, flowing either from my forehead or the corner of my eyes, either sweat or tears, either the saliva of the saint or the ichor of the hero. I want to be neither. To evoke the matter of time, which is no matter, but a concept, without including personal memories, is to edit, which is to lie. I don’t mind lies. The whole idea of time is based on a lie, believing we are able to understand time is to believe we are able to comprehend the present, which we are not. We are only able to analyze that which we have invented, therefore we are awestruck when we generate an artificial intelligence able to beat an analogue game we created ourselves. We triumphed ourselves. The human was stronger than the human. What a profound and revolutionary revelation. Time made it so. A lie confirming a lie made by an indefinite number of liars agreeing to believe in the sham. There is a certain kind of comfort, a special kind of warmth, to be found in this collective delusion. We found ourselves in nature suddenly, we interpreted our surroundings, gradually agreeing we were wrong, and then even wronger, and then finally we prevailed. We were right, we understood now, until we were proven wrong once again, though hopefully unaware, killed by our own concept: Time. This generator of sounds, sighs, bits, and bytes eating through the layers of nothingness electrified by the tides and the decay of organic matter shaped into being by energy, by time. Time fuels time. Historical time generates virtual time, feeding perceptive time, and all towards decay, to loop the whole pointless scenario again. We’re so blinded by the concept of time, we’re not able to deal with the consequence of it. It? Is time a thing? Maybe time is a thing. A thing you can move to the other side of the scene, where there is more time through more space. We rest on the mattress of time, we’re killed by the knife which is time, we lean on time like an old man leans on his stick. Time is like the sun, the longer you look at it the more it blinds you. Recently they discovered a star that is so far away it’s already gone. Now, imagine that.
I was invited to imagine, though the whole concept of the piece I’m writing for the group of people whose imagination has ignited these sparks, now seen as words on a page, or a site, in cyberspace, is encouraging on the verge of forcing the audience to resonate with their own mental world in conjugation with the theater of the world. My uncle used to listen to Dream Theater, the only good thing about that ensemble; their name. What a name; Dream and Theater, for what is a dream unless a theater? I watch the worm transform into a black (w)hole, which morphs into something similar, then to some kind of storm on the planet Jupiter, and I think; “Where do we go from here? How can we go beyond this?” Isn’t imagination the peak of it all, humanity has plowed through all matter, hunting for more time, to imagine. Isn’t the essence of thinking, of perception itself, to be puzzled about it all? Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again? I know it’s immature to use language like this, though I’ll let it stand, for the hell it. Because that’s what’s going on here; repetitions of variations to make a point out of the pointless, a shout out to absurdism without the stench of suicide, where the rotten flesh of the history of theater isn’t included in the equation, because here, in this space, at this time, with this sound, image marries sound, merges with movement of ready-mades in space. Mondrian in 3D. Fischli & Weiss. Duchamp with friends. They all gather here, the whole bouquet of references of obscurity, the Jeopardy of refined culture, thrown into the bowl like the ingredients of a stew. They gather on their knees, shifting the rectangular cube, synchronized, in silence, as the sound shifts, the sound of a beast behind us blowing and brewing a certain kind of truth we can’t decipher, nor dare to confront. These autonomous objects, the naked cubes covered in soft felt, though shyness extracts the essence of the spectacle. They scream; “Look at me. I am standing. As myself. Beyond imagination. Beyond time. Beyond the world itself. I am shiftless. Unchangeable. Firm. I am contemporary, eternally. I am the totem of imagination and the death of the dream itself. I ignore that you ignore me.” So when the human beings carefully shift the position of this brooding geometrical manifestation, as if they were bathing an infant human in some filthy river, it’s humiliated, exposed as an agent of spectacle, silenced then allowed to speak, silenced then allowed to speak, again and again, speak the world hum. Here there’s an urge to distill balance from chaos. The eternal building, looping, rising and rising, as valuable as the assemblage itself, is only a mirror. A broken and inverted mirror. We don’t want other worlds. We just imagine that we do, in the meantime we find comfort and consolation in cubes and circles, in squares and eclipses, in lines and light, while chaos is brooding outside our window, threatening to trash our illusions, crush our sense of self, and maybe in this space of chaos, if we enter it, we’ll find truth.
We’re living in an ancient time. The world used to be so new. So filled with possibilities. Now there’s only condensation in our communion, culture conquered by the concrete poetry of the shining squares in the palm of our hands, made by mistreated workers in China and Indonesia. We give it all up again. And again. We give. And again. We give up. All sentences are half finished. All ideas corrupted by a sense of insecurity, by the notion that the what might not be the what at all. It might be the hmm. I decided many years ago that I would keep music outside of my creative spectrum. I went beyond to keep it something sacred, finding so much grace in sound I did not want to pollute it with my knowledge or ambitions. I had the insight to understand that I would never go beyond being a spectator when music was the question. Because of this I encounter music like a child. I can’t say anything profound about it. I can only say “Yes!” or “Ah!” or “Mmmmm”. I don’t understand sound. I never want to understand it. I want to experience it. I don’t listen. I hear. There’s a conflict between experience and thought, though here the conflict is halfway solved. In Hannah I find a contentment with imperfection. In this harmony there is empathy. It’s therapeutic, it’s sending me down the rivers of Mekong, because I’ve been there, though in a different country. It sends me back to my childhood driving through Marseille in a tired Volkswagen with my young parents, as old as I am now, not aware yet that life is only about money. My child eyes, now corrupted by time, awestruck by Le Corbusier, not caring or knowing who the fuck he was, dreaming already then at five years old of living in one of those immense apartment buildings. What an absurd dream. And one day the dream that was realized when my parents for some reason suddenly put one of the shelves in our bedroom down on the floor, creating these pockets of rectangular spaces, where we could create all sorts of drama. Pulling the rugs, the duvets, the toys into these pockets, jumping around, each pocket in this plywood material representing a zone, and the spectacle of what could possibly unfold here generated such a burst of energy that I still remember my heart pumping in my little body—perfect bliss, an enjoyment of the fact that this useless shelf had been tilted, turned into an installation and a platform of play. Then it was gone. I don’t know how long they left it like that, maybe a week, maybe a weekend, maybe an hour, but wow how I remember that tingling sensation while it lasted. How we curled up together, jumped around, tried to fit different things into the pockets, reorganizing elements in spaces without seeming limit. I might have been alone. I might have imagined other people. But no matter what, whether my playmates were imaginary or not, we found a world in that poor shelf, just because someone tilted it a bit, 180 degrees to be exact, by inducing gravity giving the object another potentiality.
I feel a lump in my throat reviving this memory, because it makes me aware once again that time deteriorates memories, and that genius is the recovery of childhood at will, and that genius doesn’t mean to be brilliant, but to be open. Genius is thus irrelevant. This is very difficult to swallow in a world that is slowly closing in on itself, exchanging grace with chaos, rather than nature. Doing exactly this in this world so misfit in this universe, this unspectacular spectacle of unspecificity, alien to what’s natural, comfortable with the numbness of boredom, is a great favor to truth, imagination, time, the world and Hannah.
Whoever she might be.
She exists now.
Kristian Skylstad (b. 1982, Oslo) is a Norwegian artist who works mainly with photography, poetry, collage, video and sculpture. His work often revolves around the behaviour and emotions of the individual, distilling his pervasive sociological inquisitions into textual and photographic work unbound by context.
A version of this essay was published in the 2019 Fusebox Festival Catalogue. To read more original essays by writers from across the globe like this one, purchase a copy of the Fusebox Catalogue HERE.