Category Archives: Interviews

A different hat

Magicians are fascinating people. As a kid I was always stunned by what some of them manage to pull off. Learned some small tricks myself. Chris Bordet, earns his living with sleight of hand. We meet for an interview at the Central Station of Amsterdam and find a bench near the water. While we watch birds and boats pass by, we talk about the ins and outs of his work.

Chris lets me know that the English word magician is deceiving because it raises the impression that the tricks are real. He prefers the Dutch word ´goochelaar´, etymologically linked to ´joke´, and the French word ´prestidigitateur´, literally meaning finger artist. He also likes the German ‘Tasche Künstler’, ´pocket artist´.”I am not a magician” he says “I play the role of one”. The difficult part is to believe what you do and trying to project that to the audience. Body language is very important.

A microcosmos
The common 52 card deck can be seen as a model of our world. The two colours, red and black, represent the principle of duality. There are the four seasons for clubs, diamonds, spades and hearts; the 52 cards represent the 52 weeks; there are thirteen cards in each suit, representing the 13 moons in the year; if you add up the numbers of all cards, you get 364 and if you add the joker, you have 365. “It´s a story magicians use to mystify their act, to get people in the mood and distract them from the technique. First you create a frame, then you can play with it.”

Magic works in the same way as humour in the sense that it aims to surprise the audience. He explains: “it´s playing with the unexpected.” as he grabs a match from behind my ear. “You start with something very easy and then you go further.” He´s now holding three matches. “And maybe at the moment, because it´s surprising, it can be a little mind-blowing. That´s a big word, but it´s the goal of the magician”. The matches disappear behind his lifted hand.

“Let me show you a trick to illustrate how it works” He gives me a deck. “Pick your favourite card”. I check his deck and take the Ace of Spades. I return the deck, and give him my card. He puts it somewhere in the middle and shuffles. He takes out some cards and counts them, showing them one by one from the back. Four cards. He passes me the deck back, I keep it in my hands. Then asks me if my favourite card might be among the cards in his hand. I say I´m not going to tell him.
“Okay … I’m the magician, Let´s check if it was among them”. He turns around a Ten of Diamonds, ponders a little and says: “It was not the Ten of Diamonds.” He takes a look at the second card and says “No, it wasn’t the Eight of Diamonds either. He shows me the card. He takes a look at the third card and says: okay, maybe it´s the Ace of Spades. He puts it back, reveals all cards in his hand and says: “well the Ace of Spades always has the weird habit to fly back into the deck.” There are three cards there, no Ace of Spades.

I check the deck in my hands. The Ace of Spades is in the middle, up side down, smiling at me. Damn… It flew back into my hand, and I missed it.

He explains the trick this time. First, he showed me four cards from the back, but one was counted twice. He gave me the deck back and asked if my card was among his cards. The question served as a reminder that there were four. By making me think of that number, he made me strengthen my own belief that indeed, there are four cards in his hands. The Ace of Spades was already back in rest of the deck that I was holding in my hands. “Not a big deal” explains the prestidigitateur. There were in fact three remaining cards. He first revealed  the Ten of Diamonds saying”Ten of Diamonds”. Of course I didn’t notice, because he was pretending to be figuring out if that was the one. The second time he looked at it first, then said “Eight of Diamonds”, and showed it to me as a confirmation that he was speaking the truth. The third time, he just said “Ace of Spades”, causing me to create the image of the Ace of Spades in my mind which was enough to believe it was there in his hand. “It´s all about images.” Chris says. “It´s conditioning. I have manipulated you to believe that I really had this card in my hand, but it was in your hands all the time.”

“Film and magic are a very similar arts. Just like with comedy, it is often the visual effect that makes people laugh, not what you say. People miss out on the point where they should look, they´re always a few steps behind. That´s how it works . An important principle of magic is that we shouldn´t do things that seem too impossible, because otherwise people will see the solution. For example, if you are working with a secret companion and the things you do are too big, they´ll know that this person was your companion.”

The dark side of magic
Chris knows magicians who pretend to be the real thing. One of them always has a crow with him. He wears his magician clothes in the street. He plays the role non-stop.

Have you figured out any of his tricks?
“Yes, yes of course. He attended the Uri Geller show in Germany once and he won, because a lot of people just believed him. They want to believe in something like that. He´s a spooky person. He told me once that when he was a child, he took his church robe on a skateboard to scare the old people into the belief that he was hovering over the street. It´s funny that people like that exist. Once when I was visiting him he made his crow fly in a circle around me, touching me very gently, and then it sat in front of me. I don´t know if it was a trick, but for a moment I thought: “this is pretty impressive”. I think he uses his tricks in conjunction with some gift he has or something. But it´s about demonstrating power, it´s not the kind of magic I like. He is playing with people’s fear.”

Most magicians tend to distantiate themselves from the tricks others take too far. Magic clubs debunk people such as Uri Geller. It also happens in politics and religion. “You could say: wow, the twin towers are destroyed, now we have to go to war, but nobody knows what exactly happened. It could be a frame, made by somebody who has interest in propagating those ideas. The ancient Greeks moved their temples with the use of hydraulics to make people believe that their preachers had more power than they actually had.  Mass hypnosis.”

Can you as a magician steer other people?
I think every human can do that, yes. I think we are all one, and if we put a little bit of love in what we do, and pay some respect to each other, we automatically guide each other to the goal that is the right one. It has nothing to do with magic in that sense.

A miraculous paradox
How do you feel when you do magic?
“I feel good, because people are sometimes really happy. They feel so surprised at that moment, that they become like a child again, like the first time you see snow for example. Then I have achieved my goal, because they had this feeling for just three seconds, and I gave them a bit of happiness. There can be really loud laughter. Once or twice, I´ve seen a girl scream. I think they were too open for this kind of thing. One of the reasons why I do it is  to show people that not everything is like they think it is. Be carefull with what people make you believe.

Do you know tarot?
I ask the question because Chris reminds me of the fool card.
“Well, I´m always interested in mystical things, but more with the view of a magician, a goochelaar. I´m curious to see what´s the trick, because I don´t really believe it is real. In a sense I believe it is real, because by asking the question, you already have the answer more or less. It doesn´t really matter which card comes out, because either way it will give you a perspective on your question. The question is the important thing.” Chris enjoys watching tv shows where people call clairvoyants, who shake some nuts and an answer comes out. “It´s really entertaining, but it´s really sad for the people who believe it is real. The performers listen carefully to what a person says, then use psychoanalytical tricks to satisfy them. It´s pure coincidence which card comes up. You could use how the bird flies, or how the bird shits, or whatever.”

Does it make you feel better to know how these things work?
“No. It makes me feel more stupid, actually. We know nothing. It´s games. We try to find the truth, maybe, but we´re never going to find it. It´s not important to know everything. But of course we want to know. That´s why we have scientists. We want to know. But we don´t. Or at least, we don´t know the whole thing. Maybe it would be easier if we just lived.”

Wouldn´t it be nice to forget all of it from time to time?
“That´s the gift we magicians have, actually. We are able to perform as if we would be doing it for the first time. When another magician shows me a trick, and I think: WOW, then I want to transmit this initial feeling I had to other people. When I perform, I always look for the experience I had when I saw the trick for the first time, otherwise it doesn´t work that well. And that´s a perspective only magicians must have. I realised this when I worked with theater makers. Some directors forget about the impact something can have the first time when people see it. It´s something magicians are really good at. I know how I felt when I saw the trick, and I know how I should behave in a way that others have the same feeling. I believe it myself while I perform.”

With your knowledge about the tricks of life, do you believe in miracles?
Well of course I believe in miracles. The fact that we are sitting here the sun is here, it´s warm and next to the water, that already is a cool thing. I can be in control of myself, that is a real miracle. Sometimes things happen that put you back on a path of life. I have had it a few times that I wanted to do something big, but it was not possible, because I had an accident for example. Those events are like guides in your life. In that sense I do believe in miracles.

As I bike home, I digest the curious paradox Chris revealed today. His skill is that he is able to believe things that are not true, and he uses it to show others that they shouldn’t believe things that aren’t true. In fact, he doesn’t want others to believe him. By manipulating his own mind, he conveys the ease with which that can be done. By always approaching illusions, he takes a distance from them. Magicians are fascinating people.

Calming Volcanoes

Rainbow Thunderheart or Bavado LeBeau is a Native American shaman from Wyoming, concerned with the healing of mother earth. He is part of the bird tribes and sound healers. His ancestors have asked him to teach the people of the world about the laws of nature. He has travelled to 28 American tribes to get to know them. His teachers educated him on how to maintain a good relationship with nature and its spiritual entities. He now acts as spiritual guardian of the Yellowstone Park and has travelled to the Netherlands to give teachings on his work. I have asked him for an interview and he agreed.
(Picture: Aljaz Gabersek)

College
Lian organises the session; it comes with several landscape healing rituals and a sweat lodge ceremony. She invited me to join diner. It’s hectic when I meet Bennie, right before we eat. He’s in blue with nice ornaments. Gentle, to the point. Diner is vegan, made of rice and local flowers. Before we eat, we hold our hands above the food to get rid of the bad energy. I feel like making lots of inappropriate comments, but manage to keep most of them in, where they light up a little flame that makes me smile. The companions smile back. An airy young blond man on my right explains that he is from a far away galaxy, and that he always purifies his food this way. He gives me some tips on how I can do the same. I try. It seems to be a big deal for him.

The college room is full. When no more people enter, the group gradually becomes silent in expectancy, until we cannot even hear whispering. “I’m not going to talk yet” says Lian. The humming starts again.

Bavado gets the stage. He stands legs wide and his voice is peaceful but loud. After introducing himself, he sings a song that he calls a message of his culture. He blows on a whistle. The high-pitched sound, he explains, scatters the negative energies in our minds. It’s beautiful. In a long presentation, he sketches a paradigm that is for a part new to me. Some words I find hard to digest, with others I feel as though I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll give you a short personal summary.

Central in Bavado’s vision is grandmother spider’s web. This is a pattern similar to that of the seeds in a sunflower. It is spread all over the world and the intersections of the lines have sacred sites, to wich everything is spiritually connected. Bavado says that the problems are global and they therefore concern us all.

The large-scale mining and transportation of gold, oil and minerals of the past century has put the weight points of the earth’s tectonic plates out of balance, comparable to removing a piece of a spin and sticking it to the other side. Consequently, the earth spins into a new equilibrium, which causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This process has been predicted by tribes from all over the world, who learned this information from inhabitants of different star systems. Some of these legends were passed from parent to child; others were carved as drawings on stones. It was predicted, for example that when the White Buffalo returns, the nations will stand together as brothers and sisters to heal the earth. The process goes hand in hand with the coming of a generation of children who are born spiritually awake. Today, Bavado says, people from all over the world are having vision dreams about volcano eruptions and they have the chance to do something about it. The global reset is going to happen with or without us, but we have the potential to smoothen it a little.

Rainbow Thunderheart has himself once dreamt about a super eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. To prevent this, he has made a journey by 19 sacred natural sites surrounding Yellowstone in a wheel with a diameter of 1200 miles. On each of these sites, he taught volunteers how to engage in a healing ceremony with him. After he motivated all groups, they did a joint ceremony where every group was located on every sacred site to send their positive energy to the centre, the volcano itself, where he did his prayers. During this process, a hole opened in the ground that allowed steam to go out, relieving the pressure of the mountain. He says the ritual  also helped reduce the impacts of weather hazards in the area.

For the solutions, Bavado explains, it is important to understand that the elements, earth, wind, fire and water mimic our thoughts and our actions. Throughout the generations, atrocities such as rape and violence fell upon the heads of children. Parents had no control over it, the behaviour was embedded in the DNA. Today, we have the chance to heal this pain from our past. In this process we should be aware that we can not always sense the bad energy. We should therefore bless everything we take in: tap water, food, emotions, words, thoughts, you name it. In this process we should all have complete faith in love.

Someone in the public asks: what to do with the new forms of radiation such as Wifi or nuclear radiation? The answer for Bavado is simple: “I love the radiation, so I send my love to it. That is what shamans do. That is the essence of the power and it is true for everything: either you stop resisting, or you get ill.” Doubt can kill us.

Cleaning the thoughts
It is about ten O’clock at night when the presentation ends. We clean up and part ways. I go to the Lian’s house to meet Bavado for some questions. It is a walk through an alley with many trees. They calm my mind as I wonder how far I really go along in this. In the past years I have lived in the conviction that there is no such thing as bad energy, that it is all part of a huge energetic circle of life and death, but I sometimes felt this vision took the sting out of me. Bavado’s advice is to let go, that’s precizely what I stand for. But let go of what?

Part of the diner group is present in the living room where we have our chat. They are jolly, playful company. I ask Bavado how exactly he obtained his knowledge. He answers that it’s in the myths and the legends of his tribes. The way to understand it is to listen between the lines of the tales. “But if you listen to these tales, be careful with the thoughts that are already in your head, they may change the vision.” The basic teaching of the elders is that you should continuously put effort in keeping your thoughts clear and clean, just like you always have to clean up your house. A practical tip: replay your spoken words in your head. Look into them to see what you created.

I ask about the role of emotions. He says they are important. We are made out of twenty emotions, he explains, all ruled by the moon. Like the tides, there are higher emotions and lower ones. But we don’t usually notice our emotional cycles because we are distracted by the events in our lives. They’re easier to feel during sunrise. It is important to be with your emotions during prayer. Just like in a relationship: when you really love someone, you feel it in the words you speak. If you feel the love for the mother earth, she can hear you.

But what if you are divided between different thoughts or emotions? Then they work against each other and create a conflict. Bavado points his fingers to each other. A part of your energy can splinter off, leaving you more vulnerable for negative energies. It happens quite often in the case you follow a command of another person, and then blame that person for what you did. It does not work that way. You are the only one responsible for your actions.

Bavado distinguishes between different kinds of dreams. Some represent one of the four elements. If you get a dream like that, it tells you to go shape shift –impersonate – that element. Then there are vision dreams that give you a glimpse into the future. Bavado tells a most fascinating thing. Before he came into this life, he agreed to the events in it. Everything was shown to him like a movie in fast forward. He remembers being sent here to do what he is doing now.

So what are the most valuable lessons you learned from your elders? I ask to conclude. “Well, he says, once when I was young my girlfriend broke up with me. My grandma said: get over that girl, because there are plenty of fish in the sea. What she meant was that you should not get stuck onto things. My grandpa sat next to her. He said: that’s ill advice. If I would have taken it, you would now be alone”. He pauses for a while. “Yes and my grandpa also taught me to be gentle to girls when they are in their moon time. They could cause an earthquake five states wide…”

Spring Offering

We’re out on the street near the Metro Station of the Burgemeester de Vlugtlaan in Amsterdam. In a four-day session, artists Pau and Skount are working on a joint mural showing the Goddess of Spring and the Tree of Knowledge. Anna and Dianne, local residents and the facilitators of the Street Art Museum Amsterdam, come and go with nourishment, tools and information. Anna’s dog Pinky Bandita runs around, constantly on the lookout for fun, nourishment and her boss. Protective transparent foil donated by the Brandeis shop around the corner covers the pavement and blows in waves, releasing a light plastic sound. It’s a sunny day, but there’s a slight misty ambience among the trees behind us. “A little bit of dark on the top?” asks Skount. “Yes”, answers Pau. They pick up their three meter rollers and add a new tone to the turquoise that now covers most of the bricks.

A black golf drives out of the neighbourhood around the corner. In it sit two North African looking young men. The driver halts and opens the window. “So beautiful!” He calls out with a big smile. “Will there be birdies on it?” I translate it for Pau. “Yes, there will be birds. It’s my theme.” she answers. She seems a bit surprised. “Great!” he answers with delight. “I love birdies!”. He raises his thumb out of the window and hits the gas.

Not much later, a lady with an enormous shopping bag stops for a chat. She’s enthusiastic “I used to live here”, she says, “and I now observe a lot of changes in this neighbourhood. This is an enrichment! It used to be a bad place to live, but you can really see the improvements with initiatives such as these!”

“We now have a scaffolding!” announces Anna. We go pick it up at a shop a block away. We don’t need to pay rent, just a deposit. “Everything for the art” says the owner. With Anna’s input, the setting takes shape in an organic way.  The residents participate, exactly how she wants it. By doing this, she attracts the specific type of artistic talent she thinks is important to have around in the city.

Creating space
Anna passionately puts this work in a historical perspective. “Street art is a burp of Baroque” she says. Because artists such as Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rubens painted murals, Baroque can be seen as the first Western art style intended to invoke the “Wow” effect . It was overdone at the time, but society consumed it. Now, after four hundred years of digestion, it comes back up. But modern street art is also influenced by Art Nouveau, particularly in philosophy and by Art Deco in the execution. “If Baroque is an Indian takeaway dish, extremely strong, rich and heavy, then Art Deco is a goat cheese salad.”

Graffiti art as we know it, Anna explains, started in the fifties when three elements came together. First, with the upcoming of Rock ‘n Roll, there was the aspirational figure representing new ideals. Second, there was graphic design, that gained force with advertising. The third, very important element was the invention of aerosol spray in mass car production. The owner of a garage told a young boy to learn how to work with a spray can. He did, and got skilled in it. In the seventies, he got bored with that and started climbing trains to draw tags of his name on them. You can imagine the impact of seeing a train pass by with a creative representation of somebody’s name on it. In the eighties it became public, and graffiti artists from all over the world picked it up. Some claim that those who had the letter “S” in their name were appreciated more, because that was the hardest letter to write. It’s not straight. Artists refined their skill, then the industry picked up, and adapted the choice of materials. Todays Prada, for example, have invited seven street artists to help them design the 2014 line-up. One of them, Stinkfish has murals in our museum collection.

Keith Harring, J-M Basquet and Blek le Rat were pioneers in the movement. Punks used graffiti to protest against the emerging Disney culture. The sign of an eye in a circle was very popular. In those years, Amsterdam turned into an important centre for street art. Hugo Kaagman had an atelier specialized in stencil graffiti. Boris Tellegen, now also known as Delta, had studied industrial design engineering, but was attracted by art and his friends were graffiti writers at the Mr. Visserplein. He added 3D structures and layers to the flat letters that others drew. Today, he makes high-end art and wall installations out of recycled material. “He stayed true to his architecture” says Anna, “but changed the format. He keeps evolving, which is why he stays exiting”. She calls him the king of graffiti. “And he’s just a nice, modest person.”

Banksy came much later. He was smart. Banksy added anonymity and used it for publicity. He placed himself out of space. It was an unusual new way of presenting yourself, which intrigued the audience. “But he is driven by political messages, by narratives, not by art.” Anna is quite sure that Banksy is not an individual, but a media schooled collective. Nonetheless, this identity inspired others to move on.

“If we’d now go to the Spui, I could show you 36 different methods of expressing yourself.” says Anna. Progressive artists have moved to more sustainable materials for tagging such as chalk, crayons and tiles, which they use on places where nobody cleans. “The eloquence of the execution now plays a role in the art as well. Bastardilla, for example, paints a picture on the wall with glue, then throws up a cloud of glitter, and what remains is a beautiful sparkly painting. The exciting thing in this case is that cleaning companies, even those specialized in removing graffiti, don’t clean Basta’s sparkles.”

Anna has critique on some modern street art movements, that she calls “Piss and run”. “Our neighbourhood doesn’t need another smart writer who draws something on a mural, then leaves. It needs love and care”. That’s why she is setting up a public museum with the purpose to teach visitors about the background of street art, freedom in public space and the messages of the artists. “Our project gives the opportunity to make something bruised and damaged into something lively and colourful”. The ambition is to create a space that is available, interesting and engaging.

Therapy
This way, Anna and Dianne have attracted Pau and Skount, who are each painting their new work on a side of the wall. I climb on the scaffolding and sit next to Pau. It’s no problem if I join her, she says, because she draws lines slowly. During our conversation, we have to climb down and up several times, either to reposition the scaffolding, or because Pau wants to have a chat with the passers-by. She takes a picture of those who allow it and writes down their e-mail addresses. She’ll place the pictures on her site and will send them the link, making the inhabitants part it.

Therapy
Thanks, Dianne, for the picture!

For Pau, this is a beginning of a long-term art project called “PROJECT WALLFLOWERS”, which, starting this year, she’ll perform in some countries in Europe and in Tunisia. “The people are wallflowers” she says. “They are coloured dots on a big grey wall”. Her paintings are the bridge by which she connects with the people, her chance to communicate with the world she travels in. “As a kickoff, this wall is very important to me because I’m trying to figure out how to merge different things”.

“Painting is my therapy.” She explains “I enjoy being outside and painting these huge walls. It’s soul food, meditation. I’m really excited that people like it.” The painting she is working on depicts Freya, the Nordic Goddess of spring, fertility, love and nature. She sometimes leads the Walküren (Valkyries), who join wars to take the most brave warriors back to heaven. “I’m intrigued by myths, and find that a lot of things start with the feminine” says Pau. She emphasizes that on a wall, she doesn’t want to limit herself to a specific idea or the idealization of a gender. “I’m not a female, I’m just Pau. The funny thing is that Pau is a guy’s name in Spain, where Skount is from.”

Pau was born in Chile but as a young child she had to flee abruptly with her family. She now regularly visits it for longer periods of time. “The culture of Latin America is very connected to the earth and nature.” Pau likes the fact that on that continent there is not one dominant theory on how life as we know it originated. Stories differ according to people’s location and tradition. “My life is a patchwork”, she says. “I am looking for who I really am. Not in a scientific way, but more in a spiritual way. I’m looking for my way to get in peace with it. When I started this work, I tried to find out which was my patch. But every time I travel, I discover that this new place also is an aspect of me. We are not just a passport, we are everything.” Myths and traditions help her to get in touch with herself. “Old mythologies are our base, we should try to keep them alive”.

Pau tries to be a good professional and a good artist, but perhaps more than anything, she tries to find beauty in every day things. “I hope to inspire people to be conscious of the life around.” She describes a difference between when she is working in her atelier on her own and when she is out on the streets. “The atelier is more intimate, more personal. I open myself in a deeper way. But walls are more interactive, more open, I want people to be part of them. It’s the moment to learn from others.” For Pau, one way of working can not exist without the other.

I ask why birds are such an important theme for her. She answers that the bird is the free spirit. On her paintings, birds come out of the head of the figures . She uses the hair, with which the birds are entangled, as a sign of transcendence. It enables the perceiver to see the whole picture. You are free to go wherever you want, if only through your imagination. “Birds are the companions of my characters. They live in symbiosis with them. I grew up with birds; there always were artisanal bird statues in my house. I collect them now. My atelier is filled with them. Some people see me as ‘the crazy lady with the birds’. It has to do with a yearning to see things from a different perspective, where there are no borders.”

Dropping the mask
Skount is drawing the Tree of Knowledge, named Yggdrasil, also originating from Nordic mythology. He has previously made many murals with references to Greek mythology, the fascination of which he got during his time in Greece. “I like to take myths from the past, and compare them to what is happening now.” he says. “Those old stories are usually about us.” When Pau was invited and she said she was going to do Freya, Skount studied some Nordic tales to match his piece with her part of the mural. He read about Yggdrasil and instantly appreciated the character.

Skount at work

Yggdrasil, according to Skount, represents the astral tree. It has three roots: one into the well of knowledge, one into the world of death, and one into spring water. That last one attracts Skount particularly now that the new season is making its entrance. He thinks it’s the time when all old things end and new things start simultaneously. “It is the season where death starts to grow up again.” It is totally different from for example the winter. For him, spring is the most powerful season of the year. “This mural is a spring offer for the Street Art Museum Amsterdam. It is the start of a new, larger project with neighbours, and it also preludes the start of a new project between Anna and me, with more murals coming up in the neighbourhood.”

Yggdrasils branches are reaching into the air, which represents contact with something more spiritual. Some branches also reach out to Pau’s work, to symbolize the collaboration. “According to Nordic mythology, Yggdrasil is a tree, but I made him into a human. I think he is us. We are part of the story.” Skount explains that in spring not just flowers grow anew, our emotions do as well. Everything does, in fact. “Most painters have depicted Yggdrasil straight up. I deliberately painted him falling down to his back. Later he will rise again. Those are parts of the circle of life, often referred to in the stories about him.”

Skount has done several murals together with the Street Art Museum Amsterdam. “Anna is our chief, I’m just a helper. Neighbour involvement is important to us both. When you are outside and the neighbours talk to you, the mural starts changing.” He grins widely and holds his hands in the air, moving them as if to show how lines change direction, crawling out of his control. “They bring tea, some express they love it, others that they hate it, some even bring old paint and start painting along! I include some of the stories they tell me in the paintings. They become part of the mural that way.”

One of the symbols that return in Skounts murals is the starlike shape on the hand of Yggdrasil. When I ask, he explains it’s part of his Projections project about the psychological meaning of the word projection. “It is an alchemist symbol. It represents the thing I want to say in this project, but I don’t have it defined yet. I’m still working on it. It represents our inner colour.”

Skount grew up in the town of Almagro. Almagro is characterized by the yearly theatre festival. From early age he found it fascinating how people’s behaviour can change when all they do is to put up a mask. For a long time, masks have taken a central place on the faces of his mural characters. “Everyone wears a mask in the metaphysical sense.” He explains. “You never see people’s true faces immediately. Masks help you to be accepted in society. I am moving away from that theme and look for what is real in people.” So far, he has painted two murals with people without masks on. His first one, Inner Colour, represents the moment where a mask is dropped and the true colours come out. Now, with the death and rebirth represented by Yggdrasil the time starts in which he investigates that which is inside people. Our own myths.

Things keep moving on the street. People come and go, Anna and Dianne keep us up to date the latest announcements regarding journalists and politicians involved, painted cars drive by. Anna serves cookies. Together with the artists, she will keep colouring the walls of Nieuw-West. She gives tours for visitors to enjoy the paintings, accompanied by her animated and informative talks. Pau will soon go back to Germany, where she will continue making beautiful paintings indoors and outside. Skount will stay in Amsterdam for another while. He likes it here. This street adventure has been a beautiful experience to me. There is no better way to meet great people than witnessing them turn something abandoned into a piece of art.

A night with Sabina Nore

December 30th, 2013

Sabina is a soul with broad interest for many arts. She currently presents herself through the visual, having her work described with terms such as Fantasy and Surrealistic. With her rational and creative mind, she challenges the audience to break out of what she calls ‘loops’, repetitive ways to respond to situations. I am staying at her house in Vienna. Being around her is losing the sense of time. Day and night flow into each other and lose their grip on me. She has inspired me in writing. It’s almost midnight when we move to her atelier, and I start taking notes. While we talk, her son Christopher unleashes a cascade of photographic clicks, taken from any angle you could imagine. His constant movement and effort for the proper picture are impossible to ignore but they quickly become an appreciable part of the setting, Sabina’s life.

I’d like to let her paintings guide our conversation. She gladly explains them in more depth. We start with the Divine Fury, because that one hangs in the permanent collection of the Viennese Museum Für Phantastische Künste. It is also one of my favourites. It represents a goddess of vengeance. The painting is the first in a set of three, which together show a chronological story. They express female resistance against those who disturb the natural order. Though fury itself may appear negative, it is in fact an important thing. Goddesses of vengeance have been painted regularly since the Medieval Age, but they were historically depicted as ugly, because male painters perceived female goddesses that way. But the anger they possess exists with just reason. If you suppress the divine, there will be a reaction.

The Divine Fury shows a personification of the ancient wisdom that existed long before the emergence of religion. Her hair is tied to the tree of knowledge, this woman is knowledge herself. Weak men demonize women of knowledge. They represented women either pure as a muse, or as the devil herself. The bloodsuckers on the body of the woman on Divine Fury represent those who attempt to capture her energy. The burning cross on the background represents the burning of the witches. Wise female’s voices were violently silenced, sometimes even with mortal methods.

“So, she has all the reason to be mad…” I say
“Wouldn’t you be?” Sabina looks at me with a slight flame in her eye.
“Write that down!” – commands Christopher.

In Fury Rising, the second painting, the goddess breaks out to restore the natural order. It combats strong players who prey on fragile young beings. It removes the sources of mass delusion we are currently dealing with in society. The trash that is being sent upwards in the background represents the cleaning of the place when fury comes in action. There’s a medusa head statue on the background which is crying. From her tears grow roses. It is a renewal.

Sabina says that she was far less passionate to paint the third painting, but it had to be done to complete the story. It shows the fury as a content, blissful being. The pools have a male and a female figure in them. They are in balance. When everything is in order, there is no reason for fury. The painting is an important part of the story, because it shows what the fury strives to.

When I ask Sabina if these paintings also represent aspects of herself she answers that they have nothing to do with an internal conflict. She explains that she chose to build her own career so that she doesn’t have to deal with the crap society has gathered throughout the years. From a distance it is easier to see what others are facing in their daily lives. These paintings are about women setting the angry part of themselves free. Women’s drive for justice is not as hideous as has been framed for ages. That’s easier to see if you are not part of it. She tries to represent that in such a way that people understand it.

When I ask her if she ever felt angry while painting she answers she was all the time. She was the fury. Sabina becomes that which she paints. The emotional charge was highest during the first painting. Most of the emotions happened inside, invisible to others, but sometimes a spark of anger would come out. It was exhausting for her. After finishing the first painting, she realised that she had to paint a few more. She apologized to her family in advance. During Fury Rises, she repeatedly listened to the same song; hating the haters by Niereich, not something she would usually listen to. When she finally got to the third painting, there was no fury left.

We move on to the Privileged Lovers. The title was based on a poem with the same title by the mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi. It is about love without ego or games. It’s about giving yourself to each other without fear. An alternate title is The Quintessence, the place where the gods reside. I ask her if such love can last, she answers yes. She explains that a funny chain of events led to her painting this. She had started writing an essay about love with the mission to demythologize it and unveil the illusions poured over people’s hearts and eyes. She was ready to give up on the quest for the perfect other even if she had thus far always very strongly believed in it. While she started the essay in the belief that she had read too many fairy tales in her youth, she explains that fate set things up to change her mind. She didn’t want to finish the story. She first painted the Immortal Quest, which is essentially about the never-ending search for egoless love. After that, she painted the Privileged Lovers.

In this case she didn’t experience the love while painting, but something similar, seeing the potential. When asked, she says this kind of feeling cannot exist when you’re on your own. You can experience many other beautiful experiences while alone, but this one needs the meeting of Yin and Yang. She does not believe that just any two humans can reach it. Each one would have to be quite evolved. If either of the two has too much ego, that gets in the way, and then it is not possible to give yourself completely.

I ask her if she has tips on how to encounter such love. She answers that more important than finding the right match is to be the individual that can establish this kind of connection. If you find the one, but you are not ready, you might wrongly conclude that he or she is not who you are looking for. To become that individual who can recognize such a connection is a quest on itself. It is very blissful.

We move on to the final painting, Sub specie Aeternitatis. The title was a word invented by Spinoza, meaning “from the point of view of eternity”. The unique feature of this painting is that there are two versions: one with the foreground scene, and one without. The one without is called Aeternitas, eternity.

The background represents the hall of lives. It is the perspective where you overlook them all. Sabina believes in reincarnation. She has always lived her life from the point of view of eternity. Eternity is now for her. From the point of view of eternity, every moment matters. Living in the now means not to dwell too much in the past, nor to focus on the future all the time. If you’re always in the moment and make all choices from this point of view, every moment brings something important. You either give everything you have, or you learn something new. Sabina enjoyed painting this, because it meant being in the space of eternity, believing she could stay in that hall forever. Paint that from now on.

The woman on the foreground is a traveller. She is living her life from the perspective of eternity. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe vitam. That’s Sabina’s motto. Seize every moment of our entire life. Seize life itself. By leaving the woman out in Aeternitas, Sabina stressed that this is not just a personal thing, but a choice anybody can make.

There are plenty of details left to discover in Sabina’s paintings, but I stop writing down her words. We spend another few hours talking. Christopher goes to sleep. We watch a film, then talk some more.