AT THE SHORE OF AMYGDALA (Seing what I want to see)
Emelie Röndahl, Sweden
Amygdala means almond and it is located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. Research shows that it performs a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional reactions. The right amygdala induces negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. The left amygdala induces either pleasant emotions like happiness or unpleasant emotions like fear, anxiety, and sadness, and may play a role in the brains reward system. When Freud gave lectures on Psychoanalysis in 1933, he thought of me when he said – It seems that women have made few contributions to the discoveries and inventions in the history of civilization; there is, however, one technique which they may have invented — that of plaiting and weaving. If that is so, we should be tempted to guess the unconscious motive for the achievement. Nature herself would seem to have given the model which this achievement imitates by causing the growth at maturity of the pubic hair that conceals the genitals. (Freud, Femininity, 1933, p. 132). The point of departure for this project is an unborn child.
And then Lou Reed said in that movie: compared to New York City, Sweden is a scary place.
The most beautiful place in New York is the entrance to Prospect Park at Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. At the gate, there is a memorial site for a dead boy decorated with sun bleached teddy bears, photographs and letters. I am holding my breath walking by. There is something about those teddy bears. I read in Debbie Bliss’s book Teddy Bears – twenty five irresistible designs for knitted bears – Appreciation of bears is not confined to age and there are teddies here that will have immense appeal for adults and children alike. There are bears to fit small hands, a schoolboy bear in a uniform that can be knitted in the appropriate color, and mascot bears for the fisherman, golfer or rugby player. It says nothing about teddy bears for dead children.
And when the bed is made up the teddy bears sit nice and neatly at the headboard waiting for a night full of hellish nightmares, thrashing and being hugged to death. The teddies represent a parallel reality. They are almost alive, at least when the child decides so. They exist on the child’s terms and conditions and they live by the child’s enactments. They don’t have any rights on their own but surrender themselves to the child’s impulse. Like a dream-child. Like the child from the 1950s glossy collectible card (*) who sits perfectly still as he is presented in his fine clothes.
In Swedish novel The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg, Karl-Oskar and Kristina travel with their children to America in hope of a better life. They arrive at Ellis Island and sleep in Battery Park with the ultimate goal of moving to Minnesota Territory. They are poor and scared, speechless and hungry after the long trip over the sea. Kristina is pregnant. And she is chronically homesick. I am being absorbed. Mostly by language. I inhale words and phrases. I sound different. I begin with natural dyes, everybody does that here. Drown my yarns in mordants and walnut-shells and pulverized bugs. The results are beautiful and impressive. We can dye most colors on a natural way, but black is hard. Black is difficult also for the chemical textile industry. Black bleaches easily with time poisoning water, air and children. We die in black. All colors in my tapestries are naturally dyed, except for the eyes, they are black and poisoned.
Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back. (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life)It quickly becomes dusty and dirty in my studio. I sweep up the remnants of yarn and dirt from my shoes, dog hair from Maxim, food scraps and papers. And with them – negative experiences and memories. I am in my pregnant body – tears, bitterness, tiredness, and happiness. My hair grows quickly, gets thicker and tangles. Like a dusty pile-rug.
In July 2014 I do a medical abortion in week 9. I do it because I want to go to New York and it is important for me to do so. I am pregnant for four useless weeks as they are short of doctors at the abortion clinic. They are on holiday, maybe playing golf or sailing, and they judge me not as urgent. I drink wine alone and I suffer. I drown the baby, I’m the world’s most horrible and meanest person. It is muggy and the sky is full of thunder and lightning. I do not speak with my husband or anybody, I’m just angry and sad.
A funeral: (Moberg, The Emigrants, p 350) A group of passengers were gathered on Charlotta´s afterdeck. The people stood in a semicircle around an improvised bier: a few planks had been laid upon two low sawhorses, and on these was placed an oblong bundle wrapped in canvas. The emigrants had done their Sunday best – the men, grey or black wadmal jackets; the older women wore silk kerchiefs. I am pregnant again. After the first trimester ends, I make the decision not to weave anymore, for now. I feel irritation and frustration just at the idea of sitting chained to the silly little loom. And this turns out to be a wise decision. For according to the Swedish folk legend, pregnancy and weaving are not compatible tasks. According to an old superstition, weaving complicates birth through its knots and its tangles. The cord can tangle itself around the neck of the baby or the baby can even get stuck in the stomach without being able to come out! The pregnant woman should certainly not cut off her finished woven, that it is synonymous with a miscarriage. She must also not wear braids during labor.
Throughout history, textiles made by hand have posed minimal threat to young children. The tools of their making are certainly not the same as those needed for hunting: sharp instruments with the capacity to harm. (Jessica Hemmings, Tapis et Tapisseries D’Artistes catalogue essay)
Some teddy bears I stab, I think I do it mostly because I need a new road. I think aimlessly of hunting, survival, textiles and history. Teddy bears are easy victims. They remind me of children. They are annoying and stupid. They are vulnerable and so they have only themselves blame. A memory from childhood: I am at my grandmother’s house – she is insane – I am looking for my teddy-rabbit and she asks me: Are you looking for your teddy-rabbit Emelie?, Yes I am, have you seen it?, Oh I am so sorry but I threw it in the garbage. I went out to look for it in the garbage but can’t see it. Convinced that it’s gone forever I return back inside. My grandmother is standing in the hallway with my teddy-rabbit, laughing, and saying: Did you really believe that??
*Swedish Bokmärke, a small collectors item, comparable with Pokemon-cards etc. References: Freud, Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Chapter Femininity. Anne Dillard, The Writing Life. Jessica Hemmings on Tapis et Tapisseries D’Artistes catalogue essay, jessicahemmings.com wikipedia.com aftonbladet.com Debbie Bliss, Teddy Bears. Vilhelm Moberg, The Emigrants/Utvandrarna.