Archive for January, 2017


Saturday, January 14th, 2017

— The war in Ukraine is burning. In early 2015 a Portuguese producer allocates a symbolic fund that allows for a return to Transnistria, a pro-Russian frozen-conflict in Moldova. We apply for journalist visas with a fake “script”.

The visas take too long. Nevertheless we book the crew their plane tickets; I fit part of the available budget in my pockets; S.D carries the rest from Berlin. Two days before departing all the crew members are granted journalist accreditations – including the Moldovan nationals.

The shooting runs as expected for 20 days; the only “incident” was recorded and is reported in Self-Portrait. We were shooting next to the border with Ukraine. There is no consular protection in the territory. I’m unsure if I’ll ever get to meet our friends again.

Transcript of dialogues

February 2015 – Conversation with the KGB, military checkpoint, Kuchurgan (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, Moldova) | Pervomaisk (Ukraine). Transcript of dialogues. The inquiry continued at KGB headquarters, Tiraspol (P.M.R., Moldova). It was not recorded.

/tc 00:37:54:05 00:37:57:15
– Damn, what is going on?

/tc 00:38:04:01 00:38:06:09
– Hello.

/tc 00:38:06:21 00:38:08:16
How are you?
– Everything is fine.

/tc 00:38:08:19 00:38:11:05
What is going on?
– Hello everybody.

/tc 00:38:11:08 00:38:13:15
Why are you all gathered here?
– Who speaks Russian?

/tc 00:38:13:18 00:38:16:01
Yes, but not all of them.
– Some do, the others don’t?

/tc 00:38:16:04 00:38:18:22
Where are the documents?
– Do you have them?

/tc 00:38:19:01 00:38:20:23
Where? Show us.
– We already showed you.

/tc 00:38:21:02 00:38:24:02
Yes, but not to me. Passport.
– The passport.

/tc 00:38:27:17 00:38:30:15
Where do you come from and where are you going to?
– Lenin.

/tc 00:38:30:18 00:38:36:00
What have you been doing there?
– Right, I recognize your faces.

/tc 00:38:37:15 00:38:42:12
Where did you register?
– They entered and left…

/tc 00:38:42:15 00:38:46:10
You’re out of time? Where were you lodged?
– No, no.

/tc 00:38:46:13 00:38:48:18
Did you enter through Moldova?
– Yes

/tc 00:38:48:21 00:38:54:19
Which Moldovan address are you all registered in?
– Well… we rented an apartment.

/tc 00:38:55:00 00:38:58:09
Still, there must be some kind
of registration in the EU?

/tc 00:38:58:12 00:39:01:21
The EU doesn’t require registration.
Today you won’t need it, right?
– Yes.

/tc 00:39:02:00 00:39:05:07
You only entered and left?
Rented an apartment in Moldova?
– Yes

/tc 00:39:05:10 00:39:09:15
What for? Are you the translator?
– Yes, I am.

/tc 00:39:09:18 00:39:13:05
Are you Moldovan?
– No, I’m Ukrainian.

/tc 00:39:13:08 00:39:16:00
From Ukraine. And you’ve
just arrived with them?

/tc 00:39:16:03 00:39:19:00
Yes, they don’t speak
Russian and I do.

/tc 00:39:19:03 00:39:24:12
Interesting. I want to know what you are shooting.
– You should’ve called before.

/tc 00:39:24:16 00:39:28:06
– I understand that you’re shooting
but… Is it over or what?

/tc 00:39:28:09 00:39:31:12
No, it is still the same film.
– Haven’t you finished yet?

/tc 00:39:31:15 00:39:37:16
Why Transnistria, what is the reason?
– Is it Moldova and Transnistria separately?

/tc 00:39:37:19 00:39:41:20
The main theme is Transnistria.
– What is he smoking? Show me.

/tc 00:39:41:23 00:39:45:06
– Our cigarettes don’t please you?

/tc 00:39:45:09 00:39:50:06
He’s used to rollies.
– Our cigarettes are expensive outside.

/tc 00:39:50:09 00:39:52:18
Are they expensive where he lives? …Yes.
– Yes.

/tc 00:39:52:21 00:39:57:08
Damn, here you can smoke them.
– That’s why they smoke tobacco. Half the price.

/tc 00:39:57:11 00:40:00:02
If you have the opportunity,
you should try smoking our cigarettes.

/tc 00:40:00:05 00:40:04:02
It might be better for him.
– Joking…

/tc 00:40:04:08 00:40:08:23
They bought some.
– Here everyone always smokes cigarettes.

/tc 00:40:09:02 00:40:12:17
I was also surprised.
For them, cigarettes are chic.
– Yes?

/tc 00:40:12:20 00:40:16:01
It’s expensive, you can
buy it for 5€

/tc 00:40:16:04 00:40:22:11
That’s too expensive.
– Not smoking costs less, here it’s the opposite.

/tc 00:40:23:21 00:40:28:14
They tasted and bought the Soyuz
cigarettes, with no filter.

/tc 00:40:28:19 00:40:32:12
Too strong for them.
– Yes.

/tc 00:40:33:12 00:40:37:03
Who is financing this expedition?

/tc 00:40:37:07 00:40:39:14
Is she the director?
– Yes, the director.

/tc 00:40:39:17 00:40:42:14
Who ordered it to be about Transnistria?
– She did.

/tc 00:40:42:16 00:40:46:12
She decided?
Is there any particular objective?

/tc 00:40:46:15 00:40:50:01
Interesting, no?
– What are you shooting in Transnistria?

/tc 00:40:50:04 00:40:52:18
That’s true.
– On television?

/tc 00:40:52:21 00:40:56:15
There’s nothing to see.
– Everything is adulterated.

/tc 00:40:56:18 00:40:59:14
Especially in Western television.

/tc 00:41:01:04 00:41:04:06
Everything’s clear with you now.
– I certainly want to see the film.

/tc 00:41:04:09 00:41:07:17
But isn’t there a script explaining
what the film is about?
– Yes.

/tc 00:41:07:20 00:41:11:08
Is it about the lives of ordinary
people or other things?

/tc 00:41:11:11 00:41:17:04
Is it a worthwhile project about Transnistria?
Or are there any other interests?

/tc 00:41:17:07 00:41:20:23
There must be something else.
– The history.

/tc 00:41:21:02 00:41:25:04
The history of Transnistria? Did you go to
United Work Collective Council office?

/tc 00:41:25:07 00:41:30:05
OSTK can tell you the origin.
– Yes, that’s why we did some interviews.

/tc 00:41:30:08 00:41:32:13
Have you interviewed people?
– Yes.

/tc 00:41:32:16 00:41:35:06
Who owns the car?
– We rented it.

/tc 00:41:35:09 00:41:39:22
In Chișinău? …Is the driver from Chișinău?
– Yes.

/tc 00:41:40:07 00:41:44:08
Are you from Chișinău?
– Yes.

/tc 00:41:44:11 00:41:46:08
Is it interesting?
– Very.

/tc 00:41:46:11 00:41:49:20
What border have you crossed today?
– We came through Dubăsari.

/tc 00:41:49:23 00:41:53:16
Did you jump right in our direction?
– To Lenin?

/tc 00:41:53:19 00:41:56:14
Yes, we came to Lenin with Kolja.

/tc 00:41:56:17 00:42:00:20
Who is Kolja? This is Kolja, right?
– Yes.

/tc 00:42:00:23 00:42:02:23
This is Kolja.

/tc 00:42:03:02 00:42:06:05
Kolja, what did you want to show them?
– Me?

/tc 00:42:06:08 00:42:09:01
Yes, where have you been?
– To Lenin, I live here.

/tc 00:42:09:04 00:42:16:05
But did you go to your house? Or have you
been shooting again?
– No, to Oksana’s.

/tc 00:42:16:11 00:42:18:11
– Natasha.

/tc 00:42:18:14 00:42:20:01
– Oksana.

/tc 00:42:20:04 00:42:22:08
Who’s she?
– And the grandmother.

/tc 00:42:22:11 00:42:28:00
There’s an old woman and an old man.
We wanted to talk to them.

/tc 00:42:28:03 00:42:29:23
Are they Kolja’s grandparents?
– No.

/tc 00:42:30:02 00:42:35:03
What did you want to talk about?
– Nothing special.

/tc 00:42:35:06 00:42:39:15
Considering that Moldova has almost
entered the European Union.

/tc 00:42:39:18 00:42:42:20
It is easier to cross the border, no documents
are needed, nor the registration, as before.

/tc 00:42:42:23 00:42:47:08
No, only the registration.
– And how many Moldovans do you see out there?

/tc 00:42:47:11 00:42:50:21
That I don’t know. I just know that
they have biometric passports.

/tc 00:42:51:00 00:42:52:22
Do you have a biometric passport?
– You don’t need one.

/tc 00:42:53:01 00:42:56:17
They arrive at any time, they rent an
apartment and live there as…

/tc 00:42:56:20 00:43:01:17
I’m not sure, if it’s for a long term stay
I guess you must register.

/tc 00:43:01:20 00:43:06:10
Are these people here for a long term?
– No, they stay until the 4th of February.

/tc 00:43:06:14 00:43:13:12
Isn’t that a long term stay?
– A long term stay is more than three months.

/tc 00:43:13:15 00:43:15:19
Now they’re here as tourists.

/tc 00:43:15:22 00:43:20:20
Have you filmed anything today in Rîbnița?
– In Rîbnița today… let’s see.

/tc 00:43:20:23 00:43:25:03
Yes, near the hotel…
We filmed him leaving.

/tc 00:43:25:06 00:43:27:14
Who, Kolja?
– Yes, leaving the hotel.

/tc 00:43:27:17 00:43:31:06
Is Kolja the protagonist?
– Yes…

/tc 00:43:33:13 00:43:37:04
Kolja, what do you do in Rîbnița?
– I work.

/tc 00:43:37:07 00:43:41:05
– In the Russian Regiment.

/tc 00:43:41:08 00:43:44:05
Do you work or serve in the Russian Regiment?
– I work as a civilian.

/tc 00:43:44:08 00:43:46:18
As a civilian?
– Yes.

/tc 00:43:48:10 00:43:51:13
In the heavy lifting work?
– What?

/tc 00:43:51:16 00:43:53:16
In the heavy lifting work?
– No, no.

/tc 00:43:53:19 00:43:56:10
– Surveillance.

/tc 00:43:56:18 00:43:59:00
I can’t hear you.
– Surveillance.

/tc 00:43:59:03 00:44:02:14
So you’re a guard?
-Yes, yes.

/tc 00:44:04:12 00:44:06:05

/tc 00:44:08:16 00:44:10:20
That cell phone doesn’t have signal.

/tc 00:44:10:23 00:44:15:09
She has brought you presents.
– You should’ve called before.

/tc 00:44:15:12 00:44:19:15
You should’ve called before.
Now we’ll have to escort you to Tiraspol.

/tc 00:44:19:18 00:44:21:18
– With whom?

/tc 00:44:21:21 00:44:23:18

/tc 00:44:25:20 00:44:29:11
I’m going to be punished.
– Seriously?

/tc 00:44:34:00 00:44:36:19
Why are you going to be punished?

/tc 00:44:38:03 00:44:39:14
Yes, yes.

/tc 00:44:39:17 00:44:45:05
The two people with the cameras
should go by jeep.

/tc 00:44:45:08 00:44:51:22
Me and Vitali Yurievich will go by van,
to divide ourselves.

/tc 00:44:53:20 00:44:58:13
You should’ve called yesterday,
warning that you would arrive today.

/tc 00:44:58:16 00:45:02:09
Then I would have met you…

/tc 00:45:07:17 00:45:11:19
Now it’ll be difficult.

/tc 00:45:19:22 00:45:25:22
Have you planned to return to
Moldova after this trip?

/tc 00:45:26:01 00:45:29:21
Yes, because we didn’t register for long.
– Did you enter for a day?

/tc 00:45:30:00 00:45:33:04
For about six/eight hours.
– Yes…

/tc 00:45:33:07 00:45:36:16
Is the authorization for less than a day?
– Yes, yes.

/tc 00:45:37:15 00:45:40:21
Did everyone register when
you crossed the border? – Yes.

/tc 00:45:41:00 00:45:44:01
Do you all have the immigration cards?
They must be in your passports.

/tc 00:45:44:04 00:45:45:17
They didn’t give us that.
– They didn’t?

/tc 00:45:45:20 00:45:49:17
They only returned us the passports
with our visas. – Visa.

/tc 00:45:49:20 00:45:52:20
All clear. Do you have a visa
for the Transnistrian territory?

/tc 00:45:52:23 00:45:55:15
– When does it expire?

/tc 00:45:55:18 00:45:59:09
Yes, it is valid until February.
– Hmm…

/tc 00:46:00:02 00:46:02:02
For a month.

/tc 00:46:04:16 00:46:07:04
Kolja, when should you go back to work?
– Tomorrow.

/tc 00:46:07:07 00:46:08:22
As a guard?
– Yes.

/tc 00:46:09:01 00:46:13:07
You are a Russian citizen, correct?
– I have their passport.

/tc 00:46:13:10 00:46:18:08
If you have the passport you are a Russian
citizen. Why are you so uncertain?
– Well… Yes…

/tc 00:46:18:11 00:46:20:21
You have the passport and you don’t
know which country you belong to?

/tc 00:46:21:00 00:46:24:06
Nikolai Nikolaevich, maybe it’s better
not to waste time?

/tc 00:46:24:09 00:46:26:15
Should Romanich write it or will it take long?
– We don’t need to.

/tc 00:46:26:18 00:46:33:13
The situation has changed a bit and
now you’ll have to be escorted to Tiraspol.

/tc 00:46:34:12 00:46:36:03
– It’s on your way out.

/tc 00:46:36:06 00:46:41:13
We need to talk to you in more detail.
There is no need to stay here in the open field.

/tc 00:46:42:02 00:46:46:21
Let’s go. In half an hour we’ll be in Tiraspol.

Salomé Lamas was born in 1987, in Lisbon. She studied cinema in Lisbon and Prague, visual arts in Amsterdam and is a Ph.D candidate in Contemporary Art Studies in Coimbra. Her work has been screened both in art venues and film festivals such as Berlinale – Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, BAFICI, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, FIAC, MNAC – Museu do Chiado, DocLisboa, Cinema du Réel, Visions du Réel, MoMA – Museum of Modern Art, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Pacific Film Archive, Harvard Film Archive, Museum of Moving Images NY, Jewish Museum NY, Fid Marseille, Arsenal Institut fur film und videokunst, Viennale, Hong Kong Film Festival, Serralves – Museu de Arte Comtemporânea, Tate Modern, Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève, Bozar – Palais des Beaux-Arts, TABAKALERA, ICA – The Institute of Contemporary Arts, TBA 21 Foundation, Mostra de São Paulo, CAC – Contemporary Art Center Vilnius, MALBA, SESC São Paulo, La Biennale di Venezia Architettura, among others. Lamas was granted several fellowships such as The Gardner Film Study Center Fellowship – Harvard University, The Rockefeller Foundation – Bellagio Center, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Sundance, Bogliasco Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD.


Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Willamette meteorite. A 14-ton hunk of nickel iron that looks like an accidental spaceship, delivering children a century forward in time.

As it turns out, its stowaway cavities aren’t a product of scorched entry, but of sitting and rusting away for centuries in a soggy Oregon forest.

In the top 1902 image, the meteorite is outside, sitting on dirt and surrounded, curiously, by large sheets of creased paper. A kind of protean set. The second image (1911) was taken after the meteorite was moved to a museum. I like the backdrops as much as the meteorite.

Earlier in its career, the meteorite had been dragged to the property of Ellis Hughes, the Welsh fellow who found it. Hughes had tried but failed to raise enough money to purchase the land where it sat. So he stole it off property that was owned, ironically, by the Oregon Iron and Steel Company. To keep his find secret, Hughes worked covertly with his son, their horse, a log cart and a rudimentary capstan-winch arrangement. It took them three months to exhume and haul the thing three quarters of a mile. Once Hughes had it in the yard, he built a shack around it and started charging twenty-five cents for a look. Coincidentally, one of the early visitors happened to be the Oregon Iron and Steel Company Attorney, who figured out the attraction had been pilfered, presumably by following disturbed ground back to a pit on OIS property. The case went to court. While it was in litigation, another neighbor tried to get in on the action, claiming he was the rightful owner by citing evidence of a giant crater in his yard. But that case was dismissed when neighbors reported heavy blasting the week before.

Comets are funny to me.
They’re like dumb magicians.
Metal space potatoes.
Galactic griots.

When something’s outside the system of things it can become a messenger. A rip happens in meaning’s fabric, and no matter how mute or inscrutable the guest that appears through the breach, it’s oracular.

I found this glob in the newspaper. Embedded in a passage about risk and fear. Was it in everyone’s paper that week?

NASA image of piece of junk orbiting Earth at 35,000km

I took these shots at the Computer Museum in Mountain View, CA when I was there with my family a few weeks ago.

Why is the spatiotemporal hiccup of my dad encountering his collateral mapped self so surreal?

At first I thought it’s because Google Earth images don’t register as ‘the past’. They seem a bit sentient, part of a giant responsive image net. Which puts dad in two places at once, on parallel forking planes of present. Borghes.

But it’s also because his blurred face always confronts the camera. He appears to see himself, or something, in the future. Marker.

Which made me think about a Klein bottle, if the bottle weren’t the bottle but the gaze.

Deborah Stratman was born in Washington DC in 1967. She makes films and artworks that investigate power, control and belief, considering how place, thought, and society are intertwined. Recent projects address freedom, exodus, sinkholes, raptors, orthoptera, surveillance, telekinesis, public speech, reenactment, levitation and faith. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at UIC.


Saturday, January 14th, 2017

— “What’s Ben Vereen doing at a kid’s birthday party?” I thought. I remembered the video from twenty years ago I was never able to forget about. I introduced myself and Ben spoke to me warmly, until I brought up Nobody, when Vereen performed in blackface for Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration in 1981, and his demeanor shrank. Detecting that I hit an unforeseen nerve, I asked if I could call him and discuss it further. I did not tell him I had a performance in mind for him then, I erred towards caution, fearing he would avoid me till I went away. “Ask my daughter for my number”, he told me. I realized then that artist Koran Davis, was his Koran Vereen. I was at the Underground Museum, an alternative artist space in Arlington Heights, a neighborhood of Los Angeles. Co-founded by the great figurative painter, Noah Davis and his wife Koran, the Underground Museum is a cultural hub that serves low-to-moderate income neighborhoods with contemporary art. It was my first time there to the space, a gem of a exhibition hall, hidden behind a nondescript storefront, that I had driven by without notice on many an occasion. Before I left the party, she promised to share with me later, the rest of the story. It wasn’t until Koran and I spoke later that week, that I learned of the tragic aftermath of Nobody. The bend in Ben’s neck and slump in his chair when I mentioned that performance, was subtle yet beneath the surface was bloated with the deepest of yearnings. “I convinced him that you could be trusted. That you were one of the good ones. So here’s his number”.

It was early spring, 2014, and I was in North Hollywood, driving along a sedate family neighborhood, of well kept upper middle class homes, along a tree lined street. He met me at the gate and escorted me in. The house was scented with incense and a painting of Chicken George, his iconic role in Alex Haley’s, TV Mini series Roots, was on the wall. It was a beautiful home, large interior and well decorated but with the markers of a single man. “I don’t live here, I just keep my things here” I recall him saying to me as he showed me into the home.

“So what do you want to know, or how can I help you?” said Ben as he sat there in a love seat and me across from him. His shirt was unbuttoned down his chest, and a long scar was visible in the center of it. Perhaps a scar from a surgery years before from his car accident I wondered.

“You want some tea, or some water?”

“Water be great. Thank you.” I replied.

We were alone, just the two of us in this big living room, I nervously knocked over the water bottle. He offered to show me the video.

“I haven’t seen it in 20 years, and I can’t find it online anywhere” I told him.

“Yeah, well I don’t have it either, but I do have the first version I performed on television for an awards show.” He sat on the floor in front of me with the glow of the television in front of him, creating in mind a timeline.

Before that night in 1981, he had already performed Nobody across the county in his traveling show, and now I’m watching it with him, as he sits on the floor in front of me, watching himself. “Look at those high kicks, I was a bad man back then… Look at me, bam, bam. whoo!”

I witnessed the windows of time align, me watching Ben, watching himself, embodying Bert Williams, revealed the archetypal past alive within the transient present. I could see myself from the outside, like in a video feedback loop where the room can be seen in the room inside the room stretching beyond my horizon. When did this performance of Nobody begin, and when did it end? Would whatever I was dreaming up to propose to Ben that afternoon, be the resolution or the continuation of that event?

His dancing and singing were as phenomenal as I remembered it, and the ending as touching and emotionally devastating. Even more so, when he sat down back in his love seat in front of me.

Ben Vereen in Pippen. 1972

Bert Williams. Ziegfeld Follies, circa 1910.

“I never got my chance to tell my side of the story. I went there to tell the story of our people, what we went through, and that we can never let that happen to a people ever again”. Sitting erect in his seat, I could see the body of Ben’s dancer self, strong and poised emerge in front of me.

“It was like someone pulled a plug out of my heart.” The very community that he want there to represent were the one that turned on him the most.

After a long pause, I said, “I’d love to do something with you about this, I don’t know what yet, but if your open to meeting with me again, I’d like to show the performance the way in which it was meant to be seen. I believe now is the time, people will be able to see this, really see it.”

I smiled, and sank in my chair, glimpsing again at the scar just beneath his shirt. I hoped that in my smile, that he felt my recognition of his hurt. When I peered deeper, was it my imagination that I detected tears in his eyes? I again saw an alignment of windows. Beyond the personal, was a generational despair that traveled beyond the era of Bert Williams and minstrelsy.

After a prolonged pause, “Alright Edgar, lets do something together. You just gotta promise me that you’ll protect me. I can’t go through that again.”

Accepting the weight of that burden as opportunity, numerous discussions, consultations and persistence, Ben grew to trust me to tell his story, and we became friends.

The memory of meeting Ben at the Underground Museum is bitter sweet, since Noah Davis, Ben’s son-in-law would tragically succumb to his fight with cancer in August of 2015, during the height of his creative output. Survived by a young family who loved him tremendously, Ben’s daughter Koran had become a widow. Unable to remedy your child’s pain is one of the worst things a parent can fathom. Having a 10 year old daughter of my own, I cannot fathom how my wife and I could possess the power to console her of such a loss. Ben and I only spoke of Noah’s death briefly by phone when I called him to shared my condolences. We spoke in the evening from the studio before beginning thats nights rehearsal for Until, Until, Until. After we hung up I thought of that scar that ran down the middle of Ben’s chest, atop his heart.

“This is your material now, I did my part, now it’s your time to make it your own.” he told me and Frank (Lawson) the actor who was playing Ben. “Make it your own”.

Actor Frank Lawson as Ben Vereen performing Bert Williams
Photo credit: Lamont Hamilton. 2015

Actor Frank Lawson as Ben Vereen performing Bert Williams
Photo credit: Lamont Hamilton. 2015

Actor Frank Lawson as Ben Vereen performing Bert Williams
Photo credit: Lamont Hamilton. 2015

Edgar Arceneaux and Frank Lawson in final scene of UNTIL, UNTIL, UNTIL…
Photo credit: Paula Court. Performa Commission 2015

Edgar Arceneaux was born in 1972, in Los Angeles. Arceneaux was the director of the Watts House Project from 1999-2012. Solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted at Kunstverein Ulm, Germany; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York; and the Project, New York, and most recently MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge. He has been included in group shows at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris; Mona Bismarck American Center, Paris; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Orange County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Kunstmuseum Basel; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and many more.


Saturday, January 14th, 2017

— Decades ago I was in a very wonderful relationship with a woman who enjoyed me and loved me, and I enjoyed her and loved her. We had fun, we had great ideas, we enjoyed thinking and moving through the world together. She was a lanky sexy girl, with a bleach blond kind of Twiggy cut, and special light blue hot pants. She has long legs. She was super smart. Her parents were active alcoholics, and their lives were falling apart. My gf couldn’t call them after 2pm or they would be drunk. I remember they came to visit us with bottles in their suitcases, as if they couldn’t get alcohol in New York City.

My lover had a lot of insecurities, she always thought that other people looked down on her, and she also often thought that she was being stalked. In fact she kept her phone number unlisted because she and her previous girlfriend had had phone calls from a man they didn’t know when they lived in New Jersey. I never got the whole story.

I am the kind of person who buys a six pack and it sits in my refrigerator for three months to a year. But if I brought beer to her place, the next time I came over, it was gone.

One night we went to a party. She was just learning how to be an artist, and she believed that everyone looked down on her. When we left the party I suddenly realized that she was drunk. “You’re drunk,” I said. “No I’m not,” she said. “OK,” I said. “You go home and I will follow you.” I walked behind her, and it didn’t take long until it was clear she had no idea of how to get home, even though it was only six or seven blocks away.

Anyway, about four years later something absolutely terrible happened to me, and–in summary–she disappeared. She never spoke to me again. I didn’t know why she disappeared. I didn’t understand what was going on. It never actually occurred to me that she disappeared because something terrible had happened to me. I didn’t get it. Finally she agreed to meet me in the office of a therapist we had gone to see a few years back.

The doctor heard all the details that I spare you here, and suggested that she go to Al-Anon. The shrink said “Your parents are alcoholically depressed. They can never solve problems. That’s not what happened to Sarah. She is upset because something terrible happened. If you go to Al-Anon you can learn to tell the difference.”

Anyway, a few days later she called me from a pay phone, after her first Al-Anon meeting. “I have nothing in common with those people. And anyway, I don’t even know if my parents are alcoholics.”

I never heard from her again. A few times, maybe once or twice, in the subsequent seventeen years, I have run into her. I am always happy to see her. I feel love when I see her. I say “Hello” and she says “I don’t want to talk to you.”

Recently she won a high honor. I was happy. I thought that maybe if she felt better about herself she would get it together and stop blaming and hurting me instead of dealing with the fact that her parents chose alcohol over her. I went on line and looked at some recent photos of her. She looks horrible. She has gained about 80 pounds, and from the puffiness of her face, I could see that she is drinking. She also cut her hair in a self-hating way, and dyed it the same brown as a motel carpet.

They say that “time heals all wounds” but actually, time embeds wounds. People blame and hide out of shame, and then they keep up the performance out of shame, and then they build new relationships on the negative bonds of that shame, so that if they ever told the truth and actually dealt with the pain they had caused, they would lose their new bonds. It’s a scary, divisive trap. It makes me feel loss, and grief.



Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Number One
Trumpet song
She comes falling from the sky
Falling from heaven – trumpeters sounding her arrival

Number Two
Song of 153 Fish
“They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break,”[1]
“It was full of 153 large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn”.
Repeat chorus

Number Three
Song of seeds
She sells seashells by the seashore
She sells Za’tar, raisins, and figs
She sells
And oil of olives

Number Four
The Syndrome Song
A person with a god complex may refuse to admit the possibility of their error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence, intractable problems or difficult or impossible tasks. Someone with a god complex may exhibit no regard for the conventions and demands of society, and may request special consideration or privileges.[1]

Number Five
Song of fauna and flora
In everyday non-technical usage, the luffa, also spelled loofah, usually means the fruit of the two species L. aegyptiaca and L. acutangula. The fully developed fruit is the source of the loofah scrubbing sponge which is used in bathrooms and kitchens. The name luffa was taken by European botanists in the 17th century from the Egyptian Arabic name “Loof”.[1]

Number Six
Song of the Narcissist
Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things looking so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly (original words by Irving Berlin)

Number Seven
Rub a dub dub,
Three fools in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Not me not me not me.

Number Eight
Song for all songs
Consumed, I burn
Burning in the dark

Jumana Emil Abboud was born in 1971, in Palestine, and currently lives in Jerusalem. She works with drawing, installation, video and performance, exploring personal and collective memory, loss, longing and belonging.