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Living Archive of Survivorhood

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Artists: Julie-Yara Atz, Laura E. Fischer, Sullivan Holderbach
Date: 2024
Medium: infrared photography 

Text translation: Why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming

Welcome to the fifth piece of the Living Archive of Survivorhood of Trauma.

 

Below is a selection of works from our Arts Collective created in response to this month's cover.

 

Artist: Julie-Yara Atz

Title: I’ve been asked to write about flowers and I felt bad
Date: 2024

 

I’ve been asked to write about flowers and I felt bad.

 

“Ah, what times are these, when

A conversation about the trees is almost a crime

For it encompasses silence about so many injustices” (Brecht in Solnit, 2022:153)

 

How do the human, the social, the political link, negotiate with the natural? “The lilacs don’t negate the corpse or the war but they complicate it, as the specific often does the general” (Solnit, 2022:29).

 

We complicate things. Nuance. Context. Background. What happened to you?

 

Why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming

Why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming

Why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming

Why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming

 

Haunting. Repetition. Erasure. As if to remember. The flowers in Palestine. The humans in Haiti, in Congo. Poetry in Syria. Poetry in life. Life screaming.

 

Where do events start and end? I look at cycles now, details, history in perspective, people crossing, places like waves. Random things repeating themselves. Obsessions. Do we even learn? My skin as a connector or as a boundary. Flowers as spring comes back, whether I want it to or not. Flowers growing on the table where there is no earth, no mud, growing out of nowhere. Flowers I was given after our real-life-testimony show for Gaza, as if to thank me for the pain I imagined going through. Flowers that died a week in, unexpectedly. Like people do. People we don’t imagine.

 

Starting again. This draft, life after some events, the ability to speak, to connect. Trial and error. This infrared project that I don’t know what to do with, most of my art in constant change, affected by the times and my constant inability to grasp them. Yet the urge to express something. But what? Other people’s answers reappropriated as mine because I’ve lost my agency. My love of lists. Making sense, or not at all, living the metaphors in order to come back to life, to understand something, someone.

 

My body or the war. Someone’s body and aggression. Violence, anger, laughter, absurdity. Is there anything left to save? Saving it anyway. Me or the plastic pony I chose as a kid, a completely destroyed plastic pony that was losing its hair. Leaving the new ones behind, they don’t carry a story, they don’t carry life. Making sense. Making sense. Abstraction, I speak in riddles and often forget to mention the context, as if things could somehow be displaced – maybe I don’t want to be understood. “I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.” (Gibran) Maybe I lost meaning along the way.

 

Did the events have meaning in and out of themselves?

 

People are scared of change sometimes, often – I find change reassuring. The circularity of seasons, the push forward, or backward. Is the future even in front of me if I can’t see it? It’s my mom’s handwriting, the tattoo. That’s in front of me. Her physical presence on my body somehow reassuring. Al-Mutanabi said it best, and she wrote it on my skin for me to remember, lest we forget. Lest she disappears… “why isn’t poetry being rescued although it’s screaming” – why? Why the destruction?

How do we love?

 

As a kid I found love boring. Monogamous, nuclear love felt like a prison I was pushed into as a “girl”, somebody else’s possession. My body used, abused. “They wrote the borders of the country on your body, on my body” (Mashrou’ Leila, 2012). The kid is still here. I rarely brush my hair.

 

I resent perfection.

 

“Much of the beauty that moves us in the natural world is not the static visual splendor that can be captured in a picture, but time itself as patterns, recurrences, the rhythmic passage of days and seasons and years, the lunar cycle and the tides, birth and death.” (Solnit, 2022:189)

 

Rebellion. Rebellion!

Do I even have free will?

 

We’re scared. I’m scared. I’m looking for answers and I don’t even know the questions anymore. I don’t know if to look inside, outside, in other people’s words. How can I be? What am I, if not an amalgam of everything and everyone I’ve loved throughout lifetimes? Revolutions are called so because they cycle back, like seasons, my friend L wisely advised me. Things change. Repeat themselves. I read the same book 10 times and every time the outcome is new. Our discussion is new.

 

Since October, I’ve felt fragile. As an actress, I believe repetitions affect the brain and bring out some truths, but this repetition was, is, a nightmare. We can’t wake up. Yet I witness. You’d think you’d get used to it, but not really. We can’t help but hope.

 

An amalgam of everything and everyone I love:

- The way my mom didn’t listen, making me and my twin the result of her resistance.

- The way my dad paints in strong, contrasting colours, sometimes unaware he is doing so because of his colour-blindness.

- The way H communicates directly, allowing me not to overthink. If she had an issue, she would say. The inner peace that brings me.

- The way S makes everything an adventure. The most creatively alive person I’ve met, and I don’t even know what I mean by this.

- The way J explores her own darkness, isn’t ashamed of it, on the contrary. Doesn’t let me be cheesy. Doesn’t cut me slack. Holds me accountable.

A colour. A habit. The way they drink coffee, each in their own way. L a flat white. T an espresso. S with a lot of sugar. I, black. With cardamon. Or roses.

 

The thorns.

 

On Saturdays, we demonstrate.

Because the moon is the same here and there.

 

“We were all just too busy for beauty. We were too angry for beauty. We were too heartbroken for beauty. I felt like an asshole with these pictures of clouds, but David was right. You go through all of the fighting not because you want to fight, but because you want to get somewhere as people. You want to help create a world where you can sit around and think about clouds. That should be our right as human beings.” (Zoe Leonard in Solnit, 2022:192)

 

One day we will have coffee together.

 

I turn to infrared. I want to see inside of my body, where the pain lays. Where the anger, the sadness, the desire and the curiosity can be found. I want to see them. Embody them. Infrared makes us more equal, but despite my best will, it doesn’t provide answers. I still don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I want to say.

 

Where am I hiding?

Am I failing at life?

It’s never just the pain, is it?

 

“A human being lives in both, as a political actor, a citizen of this place or that, a seat for a mind with opinions and beliefs, but also a biological entity, eating and sleeping and excreting and breeding, ephemeral like flowers. Emotions arise from bodily fears and desires, but also from ideas and commitments and cultures.” (Solnit, 2022:29-30)

 

And I repeat. I defecate every morning. Protect my skin. Each time I make more and less sense. I imagine where we could be, where we are not, where I am not, I touch the wall. I want more for me, for us.

 

I wish we could talk about something else.

 

“In order for me to write poetry that isn’t political, I must listen to the birds and in order to hear the birds the warplanes must be silent.” (Makhoul in Abell, 2023)

 

Our 9-year-old selves smile when they remember. Never ending. Ephemeral. Excruciating. Suffocating. Awe-inspiring, the first time I saw the pyramids. The Sphinx, my alter-ego who speaks in riddles. My friend. I, too, feel best understood during storms.

 

The planes aren’t silent yet. They have been. They will be. They are. Somewhere, they are silent.

 

Where does your grandma want to die? Mine wants to die in Syria.

 

I touch the wall, looking for a sensation. “To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.” (Baldwin, 1993:43)

 

The last airstrike was six weeks ago.

I don’t want my grandma to suffer.

 

“No need for radio. We are the news. Ants’ ears hurt with each bullet.” (Abu Toha in Abell, 2023)

 

Life was lost when we were given too many rules to follow. When we stopped reflecting, contradicting.

 

There’s too much noise. Yet people that clutter my life also make me want to stay. Try more, and again. Plant again.

 

My favourite life advice so far: “I am not suggesting that one can discharge all one’s obligations towards society by means of a private re-afforestation scheme. Still, it might not be a bad idea, every time you commit an antisocial act, to make a note of it in your diary, and then, at the appropriate season, push an acorn into the ground” (Orwell in Solnit, 2022:10)

 

Start again. Push an acorn into the ground. I’m screaming.

 

 

— Julie-Yara Atz

 

References

Solnit, R. (2022) Orwell’s roses. New York, NY: Penguin.

Gibran, K. (2010) The madman. Boston: MobileReference.com.

Mashrou’ Leila. “Kalaam.” Ibn El Leil, 2015, https://music.apple.com/us/album/ibn-el-leil/1062085424

Abell, / Tracy (2023) Palestinian poetry, Tracy Abell. Available at: https://tracyabell.com/2023/11/11/palestinian-poetry/ (Accessed: 12 April 2024).

Baldwin, J. (1993) The fire next time. New York: Vintage International.

Gavin's response.jpeg

 

Artist: Gavin Edmonds

Title: untitled (association)
 

96 and 98 St. Mark's Place in New York, Nestor Galina, appearing on the cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti

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