For the past two months, I have been a resident at Residence Botkyrka, a studio program initiated by Botkyrka Konsthall in Fittja. This stay, which is sadly soon over, has been crucial to the project’s deployment.
See my page at Residence Botkyrka’s website
I cannot emphasize the importance of being able to “inhabit” the site of Satellitstaden’s area of intervention enough. By living in the neighborhood, working with local organizations, shopping at the store, spending evenings and circulating around the area, I have acquired an in-depth knowledge of the area, and also made many friends.
I meet the participants of the project on the streets and stop by their homes for coffee. Their children recognize me and come running to greet me. They are able to see the level of my commitment to the project and this generates trust. When I say that I live around the corner, I feel like I am treated as part of the local community. And the hospitality is tremendous.
The question is – how do I make these ‘soft’ aspects of the project, not visible to the eye but only through lived experience, manifest to a wider audience? In what ways can this story be told?
The truth is I have been working on site very intensely for nearly one year and I researched the area very carefully before I even began the installation. But it was not until I actually lived in the area that I understood certain aspects of the life in Fittja, and fully understood its inner rhythms as far as my experience of an outsider could perceive.
Mornings are busy, in the afternoon children play in the streets (the way I used to before Rio got too violent), and the evenings are very quiet. The area is very green and by the lake, so there is a relief from the straight lines and concrete of the architecture. Entire families, and they are very large, inhabit different blocks. Living amongst cultures door-to-door is enlightening when it comes to how each one views public space. The communal laundry rooms are always busy, and now that spring is arriving, one sees many rugs hanging from the balconies for cleaning. When the wind blows (and it is windy all the time), you can hear it through every pipe in the apartment. I know when my neighbors are watching football because the entire building shakes with their cheering for Barcelona, Manchester or Chelsea, or Iraq vs. Bahrain. I have visited so many homes ( 52 homes, twice, and counting) and noted that the fantastic curtains in some living rooms are brought over from Turkey because the Swedish curtains are too plain and too expensive. I have been served so many cups of coffee, and must say that Yugoslavian coffee is not my fave, and I really like coffee :) (yes, some former-Yugoslavians still refer to their countries as Yugoslavia here, but not all). At the workplace, I have been able to watch two new friends weaving rugs after decades of inactivity from their craft. Unfortunately, I have not learned a new language…it would have been useful.
In general, I have received extraordinary hospitality, more than expected.
Last but not least, the ability to walk in and out of the installation everyday and also see the reactions of the people has been a truly extraordinary experience. It seems that the lived experience of the project is what is most important.
I have a presentation this coming Monday, and I am now finding ways to best communicate this experience, and we can only transmit as much as words allow. This is perhaps a beginning.