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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Home turf : re-earthing family narrative : [supplementary material] Jonsson, Tomas 2018

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July 15, 2016  Dear Ashok, I’m back in my room that I keep at my mother’s house. It’s late and I’ve just finished some work after visiting with mom following our drive from Kelowna to Calgary.  The trip was a sudden possibility that I jumped on, and I don’t know that I was entirely prepared for the emotional resonance it would take.  I felt myself stretched between the context of the residency and my life here.  The landscape gradually giving way over to the more familiar, the change in the colour of the water was a surprising marker.  Normally I notice the foliage, changing slowly, while the mountains seem more rapid in their transition.  I’m trying to hold both spaces, at the moment it still feels possible, but I worry that once I begin the day tomorrow that it will become harder.  I worry what it will be like to return, will this become a disruption? I also have a feeling of comfort, of security that this was a good decision. My conversation with my mom reinforces this.  Tomorrow I plan on visiting the site of the old house.  I hoped to have pictures taken then, but the forecast of thunder showers is putting this into question.  My mom visited the site recently, and perhaps she, or my brother, took some, maybe these will do? They didn’t cross the fence into the actual lot, which I intend to, again, however.  I’d like to spend some time on the site, maybe under the still functional gazebo… this could be a good vantage point for the images. I hope all is going well with your own move. I’m excited to see what works you’ll put on display through the ‘eviction exhibition’. It’s late, so I’ll end here.  All Best,  Tomas   July 15, 2016  Hi David, Greetings from Calgary! There’s a torrential downpour outside right now, I’m sitting in the Subway restaurant next to the Co-op in Beddington.  I walked up from my mom’s place this afternoon to buy three cups. My plan was to take them to the former house at 528 30th Ave N.E.  where had made arrangements to document the site.  There was going to be three of us, and I had envisioned some sort of performed engagement with the cups before returning them. As it stands, plan B has become waiting out the storm.  I thought I’d return the cups afterwards, but just now thinking, that is too soon. Does more time need to pass? Or, maybe it’s enough to consider this letter as the space between.  I’m sending this letter to you by way of the old house, with receipt as evidence of our contract honoured.    Best Wishes,  Tomas July 15, 2016  Dear David, It was a pleasure to talk to you earlier in the week, although also wrapped in regret. I wasn’t at my best, and felt I could have been more coherent in my inquiry. As it was, I felt it was a disappointing exchange, and I hope that I can be more engaging next time we can sit down and chat.  I was glad to see your work, and hear more about your approach to these pieces. I’m looking forward to reading the text annotations you’ll be developing for them.  I would like to spend some time with the texts you are referencing, hidden in the works themselves.  My thinking around these concepts is still muddled, unformulated, weak. I admire the clarity and discipline you approach your work with.  I imagine your critique of even this letter.  I need to be on my toes, conscious of my approach. Recognizing that for me this is all still provisional, but that as a result it matters more to have a solid foundation.  I want to think more about your ideas around land, the incredulity of land speaking.  What shift would be needed to conceptualize this in a different way? I think that it is a limitation of language that leads to misunderstanding, misconceptions of these relations.  What else could speaking mean, what else could listening mean, that doesn’t necessarily constitute a language, but still a form of communication, communion. When I’m thinking about the house, the space we lived in, what is it that is imparted? Is it a vehicle for communication, is there a way it conveys meaning, through its use? Is there some transmission that communicates? What does that space convey in support of its survival?  I know it’s an external, abstract space, and I resist the dangerous urge of personification, but still there is something in the familiarity of the space, one which we occupied for so long that rub of its borders and ourselves blur. Not just the house, but the land that we shaped, that shaped us. It’s still there, still familiar, and also still there as a feeling.  Ok, now I’m getting sentimental, and a little lost… this is more of a wander than a structured argument.  Until next time,  Tomas    July 17, 2016  Dear Mom, It was so nice to sit with you and talk this evening! It’s late evening on Sunday, and just about to go to sleep before the early flight back to Kelowna tomorrow.  I’m not quite tired yet, but am sure it will come soon, and certainly by the morning.  Before I go to sleep I want to try to recollect a bit from what we talked about, about the paintings, and I hope that maybe you can let me know if I got this information right. The painting was from Farmor, her family, a copy of Emanual Petersen’s original (I forget now who made the original). They gave this to you as a wedding gift, and that later you received an original painting by Petersen, a painting of a polar bear in a snow storm (like the joke).  You mentioned that Georg and Helle, and their children spent some time in Greenland while you were here, and that you hoped to visit, but that the journey would have been too long. You would have had to fly to Denmark first then there…. You also mentioned that someone from Dad’s family was there, in Greenland, and as a result of the war had to stay there as it was unsafe to travel.  Niels was there too, to make money, working at the radio station. I remember hearing about this, but not the other stories.  Did I get this right? Write to me and let me know.  All Best,   Tomas   July 17, 2016  Dear Rita, Greetings from 1408! I came back to Calgary this weekend, a bit of an impromptu trip on account of some artists who were headed this way. I was torn to pull away from Kelowna for this time, and felt this stretch along the road, but ultimately glad to have come back. It meant a lot to see my mom and Kare, and to have time to be in their space together.   I came home last night and spent the morning and afternoon being in the house. The weather helps, of course, it’s been raining consistently, sunny days after the Stampede, and after my departure, it seems.   There hasn’t been much mail, but there was one from the city, regarding the trees in the backyard, which I’ve included. They’re growing into the powerlines, so need to be trimmed, but doesn’t look like they need to be cut down, I hope that this isn’t the case at least! Let me know if you hear anything more about this, otherwise, I guess we’ll see when we both get back. In light of the above, I went out to the trees, standing under, shielded from the rain. About the length of time of a cigarette (I’m fresh out, at the moment).  Water is pooling along the door to the shed, but I think still secure.  No such luck at my mom’s… the basement carpet is damp, again, so looking into preventative measures retroactively. Hope you are staying warm and dry on the East Coast!  All Best,  Tomas   July 24, 2016  Dear Ashok, I hope this finds you well.  It’s late tonight, I just came back from a movie, a welcome strangeness, breaking from the intensity of the day to day of late. Even if relaxing, there is a charge to the time, so restful activities, going to the beach, having coffee, etc, still have a resonance of the time we are within.  I’m not complaining, but sometimes it is good to step outside, in order to step back in, with a sense of perspective.  I’ve had some physical manifestations of this, the usual tiredness, and also headaches, so sometimes need to lay low, or more carefully navigate the social times, pacing, giving room to self-care.  The bike ride back from the movie was really special, the time of night, a relatively quiet stretch of road, seeing the silhouette of the mountains… also doing something familiar in a still unfamiliar environment helps ground me a bit more.  Kevin talked about that last night… his experience in New York, once getting into the rhythm of day to day life opens up a really potent space. I’m thinking about the project space you are setting up at Studio 111, and thinking about the move you are coordinating in the midst of all else that is going on, and I’m really impressed that you are able to hold all this together. I know you have a great support, and also a critical engagement, even in something so personal. It’s something I want to learn from, and hopefully embody.  I’m thinking about what this means, for the way that you are framing the work. I’m also trying to clarify my thinking around the subject. Of what it means to move artwork, what it means to have work in different spaces.  I think about that story I mentioned, of how when we moved my mother to her new house, and how important it was to set up the artwork, the furniture, and how I remarked that it looked more like the old house than the old house did.  My mom brings this up often, and I can see she really feels this. As much as she, we, loved that house, so many conditions that together created this feeling had fallen away. What I think reinforced a feeling of longing was the speed at which changes took place, and the way that they did.  These are common changes, but the tempo is key.  It’s these conditions, these speeds that I want to think about… also now, the void, not a void, the full space that is the vacant lot, what does this kind of space mean?   I’m also thinking about the images, of the painting by Emanual Petersen, whose painting of the Greenlandic freighter arriving, painted by another (I don’t have the name). and the portrait of Knud Rasmussen.  Before I left, having been able to document this, with my mom, and with the images in my Farmor’s collection, showing the painting in it’s different homes. I wish I had one from 528, and maybe I do, in its absence, will it make sense to show these together? I think having the gap will make sense, more so than the third space of it, that would be too easy of a structure.  I like that this idea formed here, this is the kind of moment, movement, that I want to keep tracking.  All Best,  Tomas   July 27, 2016  Dear Clive, It’s late here, I’m lying in bed unable to sleep. The weather in Kelowna has started to heat up, and it carries through to the evening for a long time.  I finally cracked the window, but there is a lot of ambient sound from the alley way as well. Not to mention plenty of ambient thinking, which is the real reason I’m up.  I am going to Vancouver tomorrow, but had considered revising my plans, taking into account the Kamloopa pow wow tomorrow, and the opportunity to visit Bush Gallery… I’m arranging a screening up there, and the intuitive response would have been to just run with it, but then I did have a hotel booked, and plans to see events in Van… now it is past the hour of making changes to reservations without penalty. I often arrive at these junctures, it seems.  I’m going to continue sleeping on this, I have other things I want to write to you about, I’m thinking about your archives, about Paul, and to clarify thinking about this.  I’m not sure how best to step, I want to give full presence of thought to this, perhaps Vancouver can be this time… I’m going to make an effort to do this.  More soon,  Tomas     July 27, 2016   Dear Peter, I’m sitting in the Kelowna airport, waiting on a flight to Vancouver. This is an unintentional but rather common misadventure, I didn’t book my bus ticket in time, or account for the long weekend, and so had to hastily switch plans.   I’m thinking about what you mentioned yesterday, at the panel discussion, about being on the land and our mediation, through vehicles, by driving, flying, how this affects this relationship. I’m thinking through this, how much does this interfere, or inflect the relationship. It’s cliché now to think of non-spaces, abstracted, but they are still here, places, ground under the concrete.  Are there ways to hear the land from within these spaces? In the course of writing this, I’m going through the various checkpoints and interruptions, boardings. It’s my least favourite part of flying, the compartmentalized moments that interrupt presence: security, check in, safety demonstrations, all cynically followed through, no one pays attention. I’m trying to hold on to ideas of places, of thinking of the dirt that you’ve sent, and is now waiting for me at home, of the performance that you did for this, the burial work that you will do soon at Bush Gallery.  Burial is on my mind a lot these days.  My brother has finalized the writing for his tombstone, it’s been 3 years since, and it’s existed as an obligation, but one that none of us have been particularly interested in. In a way, not that different than the safety demonstration. It’s an empty ritual. I not so secretly enjoyed it being blank, and I think in some ways he would have too… Va Rager det dig? Still, there’s something to it, the negotiation of tree iconography, 6, one for each of us, the mountain view, which the cemetery also looks out to, a reminder of one of his favourite views.  That’s definitely cliché, but an enjoyable one. This trip to Vancouver was a difficult decision, and I spent the evening going back and forth whether I should carry on with it. I feel torn from the rhythm of the residency again, and missing the Pow Wow, the visit to Bush Gallery, investing in the collective energy.  I’m hoping to scale back on my impulse to escape, to always shift locations, be in a place for longer.  Maintain some stillness.  In the meantime, I’m going to try to do this internally. All Best,  Tomas  July 29, 2016  Dear Leah, Greetings from Vancouver! I just came back from the Thirst Days event at VIVO Media Arts Centre, the theme this time being "as you live here". I was torn leaving Kelowna, and especially sad to miss yours and Cathy's performance, which has a strong resonance to what was presented here, and glad in that regard to carry it along with me.  There were a number of videos addressing future imaginations of the spaces we live in, and through which opening possibilities of compassion, empathy, inclusivity.  We also heard poets, including Cecily Nicholson, and these especially registered with me, and I think you would have appreciated too. Phinder Dulai wrote about his research into archives and public records, as a strategy to undisguise colonial structures.  He talked about the interconnectedness of the migrant experience, guest settlers (sometimes uninvited, and sometimes unwelcome) stories brought, grafted on a landscape of stories thousands of years old.   I thought a lot about the space you’re going to set up tomorrow, and excited to hear about the stories that will emerge. I also have been thinking a lot about the table space Cathy mentioned yesterday. And thinking about my mom's table, in Calgary.  I'm eager to spend more time there, I think it's where I want to situate my 'studio practice'.  I want to recount stories from there, but I think this will have to wait to do in person, I'd like to hear more of your stories first, and hopefully we can find time to meet and share!  All Best for tomorrow!  Tomas    July 30, 2016  Dear Ginger, It was nice to talk to you on the phone today, and to hear about your writing! I think the topic of collecting performance art ephemera is really interesting, and I’m glad that you are taking this on, I’m looking forward to reading it.  As mentioned, this conversation triggered some thoughts for me about the idea of object agency.  It was a nice coincidence that you called when I was at the Audain Gallery at SFU, as the last time I was here was to see Dana Claxton’s exhibition Made to be ready, an upending of the ‘ready-made’ as a cultural artifact, instead looking at the spiritual and social lives of objects, as a process of resistance against colonial structures.  I think this is still a challenge to consider in relation to the concept of collecting, as you identified, and something to consider in terms of the collector in question… what are the conditions, impulses of this individual, how are they implicated in this?  I think looking at this critically would be great to explore, but yes, as you mentioned, maybe this warrants more than 700 words, haha. I’m also thinking about the work that I’m doing, these letters, and the collecting that is part of this process.  I’m still at the beginning of thinking all of this through, and there are so many things to tease out: How will this be made accessible? Who will read these? Or will they be concealed still in their envelopes?  I have a mental picture of the installation already, as binders on shelves, but in terms of their enactment, is this going to be individually activated? A performance for a larger audience? Will it be ongoing?  What will happen to the letters afterwards? I’m inclined towards burying them, or burning (or both?)  but there is still a tension, I would like to hold on to them somehow, and likely will keep an archive of the letters as an electronic document.  I also hope to collect them in an embodied sense, to have a memory of this interaction, writing this on the fly and trying not to compose in advance… when I start this, slowing down my writing, thinking more carefully about what I’m about to say I force myself to speed up, to stop self-editing.  I’m trying to think of this as a performative gesture, holding a space. Once it starts slowing down, I think about how to lead to an ending of the moment, when presence breaks down.   I started re-reading the letter, and I think that is a good indication. All Best,  Tomas July 31, 2016 Dear Heather,  I’m writing this on the greyhound, en route back to Kelowna. It was a pleasure to see you in Vancouver, as always. I’m looking forward to catching up again, I guess will be in Alberta next time?  I’m carrying a bit of a heavy heart leaving. Trips back and forth are becoming increasingly disruptive, I find it hard to be pulled away from places, and then to get back into the sphere of another. I normally appreciate the greyhound, rather than the more abstracted transition of flights, but I’m not present here, I’m back in Vancouver, and I’m also preoccupied with Kelowna, with Calgary. I’m thinking about the research you are engaged with, the way you explore archives, how the exhibition at Presentation House came about. The way you approached the collection.  I want to read closer the writing you have produced on this, but especially interested in the anecdotal way you talk about it,  I’m thinking about your suggestion about the craft of my project, the material construction of the work.  Producing something along the lines of the care and skill practiced by Tara. I’m wondering what form this would take in my work. I’m inclined to maintain the structure of my Mom’s collecting process, white binders, each page in plastic sleeves. On wooden shelves. I have this vision of the display, in a gallery, or another institutional setting, a space that can be explored intimately. Is the craft in the form of these letters? I’m still finding my way through them, still a bit of a contrivance. What I want is to create a document that works like a letter, but also a space for something else, as a form of research. As I’m writing this, I’m oscillating between two potential readers, you as an imagined reader, like a diary, and you yourself. Who else will read this, and what will they read in?   What criticisms, interpretations and connections can they draw from this? I have some ideas of where I want this to lead, points I want to emphasize, I’m preoccupied with anticipation.   The sky is getting dark, I think I will end here for now.  All Best,  Tomas   August 16, 2016  Dear Camille, It was a pleasure to see you again in Calgary, so soon after Kelowna, too soon to have a real debrief, but glad to move some ideas forward!  It’s late here, and I can’t sleep. I’ve been in tension with this nagging impulse to write you versus trying to fall back under.  The formation of the letter was insistent, and this time I listened. I wish I did two days earlier, after your talk, I had a similar impulse, but sleep won out then, unfortunately… now I can’t recall what resonated from that night, the words are gone, but I hope I can recall them later.    Ironically, what’s been sticking with me tonight is what you said, and what I was able to make note of on my phone:   step into stories  experience is felt...  lost in translation when putting into language  words are inadequate   These three observations, fragments, have really turned me around on my thinking of this project, but in another way, are also keeping me on the path I want to go.  I’ve been struggling with envisioning the realization of this work, and in particular knowing that the realization in many respects needs to be set now, and then carried forward.  So, some tinkering, and adjusting can take place, but within an established aesthetic framework.  I’ve been struggling with this aesthetic, which is based on the organizational strategy of my mom, of her correspondence, which she files within white binders, in plastic sleeves.  I had intended to have print outs, on regular printer paper, not as a denial of aesthetics, but in close emulation of her methodology.  I’ve also been resistant to adopting an aesthetic simply for the sake of aesthetic – hand written, typed, specific fonts, etc.  I realize these decisions need to be made, but at the moment I’m hesitant. I’m hoping the answer will present itself. But I’m straying from what I wanted to say a bit (meandering is a hazard, or desirable outcome, with this work).  Stepping into stories.  The importance of embodying stories. The way you do this, through your walks, and the histories you explore, on sites that are actively engaged in forgetting.  Words are inadequate, the presence needs to be felt. Also, words are inadequate, sometimes there aren’t words that can reach a particular feeling, or condition.  Or, language leads down a particular path, and forming thought.  Like this letter, intended for you, but also something like a confessional, a diary…  I’m thinking about Charles’ performance still. I’m glad I was able to sit close, to watch him, while he was listening to the audio, of the interview he had conducted earlier.  Watching his face closely, reading it for a response.  This physicality, his presence, was so powerful.  I think this is where I need to shift more of my thinking towards of ‘aesthetics’ (for lack of a better word), a performative one. The letters are still important, and there should be a component of this in the space, the envisioned space at the realization of the project. But moments are needed. Performed acts, the letters are residue I suppose, of these times, and that is partly it.  So, me at this moment, preparing this text, being present through the act of writing, it’s not just about the words, It’s about holding on to the connection with you in this moment, and then when you receive the letter, or, as is more likely the case, when you don’t.  Holding on to the anticipation of response, which won’t be realized.  I suddenly feel very sad about this.  Miss you,  Tomas       August 16, 2016  Dear Palmer, It was nice to finally catch up yesterday, and even if we didn’t get to talk much about this project, I think we touched on some key ideas, which I hope we can follow up on over dinner discussion soon!  I’m thinking a lot about our conversation about 809, and the Wreck City project.  I hadn’t thought of it before, but I think it is true that it was less about the physical houses, the material aspects of the works, than it was about the social relationship of the space, the people that were part of it. Of course it’s closely aligned to the physical architecture, but I think the emphasis on this was wrong, and echoed in subsequent iterations of this project; The King Edward School, and the Car Wash… These followed the wrong trajectory, and I think got caught up in some of the more unfortunate aspects of the Wreck City ethos, even if unintentional, of engaging in a process and simultaneous masking of gentrification.  I wonder if it could be redirected, at looking at the dynamics of the relationships formed, the time and labour spent, less on the shell and more of the essense.   If I’m thinking in the same way here, is there something from this that I’m not fully addressing in this work, for 528?  Am I overemphasizing the space, in its physical reality, even in the mailing of the letters… or the material of the archive… the furniture, the paintings.  What about the exhaustion, the reticence to look at the archive, to delve in?  Maybe there’s more to that that should be explored.  I’m also thinking about ghosts, a kind of surplus, or latency. Something stirred up, a tension, an anxiety, a resistance.  I want to be clearer when we talk next, I always feel like I’m stumbling, and want to defer, but I think if we can find a space to work this through, I would really benefit from your insight. I’m looking forward to this happening soon.  All Best,  Tomas   August 23, 2016  Dear Ashok and Stephen, I hope you are both well! I’m at my mom’s right now, and she and my brother are both fast asleep, so I’m able to sit and spend some time reflecting.  At the table next to me there is an electric typewriter, which my mom had pulled out of storage for my brother to use. I thought about using it for this letter, but it is a bit too noisy for this time of night.  I’ve been thinking about the suggestion you had to consider the aesthetic conditions of the letters, to adopt either a type or hand-written form, rather than by computer. The more I think of it, I think you are right that the quality to this aesthetic is important.   I’m still a bit hesitant, because I want the decision to be based on more than a surface aesthetic, for there to be a meaning to it.  There is the nostalgic affect, a nod to the material reality of a lot of the correspondence in the boxes downstairs.  There is also the fact that I recently found a Danish-keyed typewriter, although I’m not sure if this coincidence is enough of a rationale to use it.  I’m thinking about possibilities of hybrid techniques… the letter written on computer, and the envelope using type (I’m less inclined towards hand writing, only because my hand writing is awful). I think there is also a difference in the way the medium will influence my thinking… how slowing it down, even also handwriting, will have on the development of this text.  I will explore this once everyone is awake. I also am starting to think that the letters themselves can’t constitute the core of the work.  They will still be an important aspect, but I want to shift my thinking of these more towards research… like footnotes in a way, and that I want to think of a performative piece, and installation, that draws from the letters. I’m still not sure what form this will take, but I think it will have to be some sort of spatial reconstruction.  This will be a study of the space, the way it is performed, the way it shifts, is carried forward, and left behind.   I also want to make sure I’m thinking about the economic forces, the broader narratives, how these can be folded in.  There are a steady number of articles in the paper about the effects of the downturn, and these really need to be drawn in, included in the envelopes perhaps?    I feel I am still building the methodology…I want to leave some openness, but also make sure I am working with a core logic.  I’m going to sign off here, but in the next letter, I will aim to have a preliminary methodology outlined.  All Best,  Tomas   December 2, 2016  Dear Dick,  It was very nice to see you at the talk on Friday! I greatly appreciate your question, as well as Eric's.  Both gave me a lot to consider, along with my thoughts on what I was able to say, and not say during my presentation. It was a bit of an experiment on my part, and in reflection, I'm not sure if I was able to fully convey what I wanted to, in regards to my focus on my particular familial and local relationship to Calgary.  I'm trying to develop the threads of certain aspects of my practice, which is increasingly looking at personal history and experience, but still trying to maintain a critical focus.  This balance is difficult for me, and I worry that I fall too often within a subjective and sentimental position.  I worry also that this was the case in often through the course of my talk. The anecdotal is important to me, and I want to hold on to this as a quality, but not losing site (sight) of understanding the implications of my personal subjective experience.  I do feel I am more drawn to contemporary literary - poetics especially- theory and practice, rather than art, but I still want to stay within this sphere when presenting this work.  I do think there is a space for this, but in the presentation of this work, I need to take a step away, to draw out some aspects, in order to create conditions where the work can be shared and engaged with critically.  I also think familial narratives are a seductive trap, a disguise, and I need to move this along to a different vantage point.    I feel I need to focus more on the economics of the relations I'm looking at, as far as exchange is concerned.  What are the conditions needed for this exchange to take place? where does this fit? If I put too much out, do I exclude or push away?  I need to keep thinking about this, but am very curious to know more what you think.  All Best,  Tomas     March 19, 2017 Dear Karis,  I’m very sorry that once again, I’m unable to come to Montreal, I had very much hoped to attend the workshop on Dynamic Form: Histories, Concepts, Techniques.  This along with a number of other events taking place were very appealing, and relevant to my work, and of course I would have loved to have met with you. In the end I had to take advantage of the mild weather, and open schedule to fully focus on my writing, and construction.  I’ve written the developer of the site, and hoping for a positive response. In the meantime, I am going ahead on the construction of the shelves, which I will set up, either on the site, or at my Mom’s house.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  For my thesis writing, I’m pursuing this, as you suggested, in an automatic sense, and including this in the remainder of the letter, I will keep sending this, and, again hopefully (always hopeful) this can be eventually stitched together in some form of coherency.  I like that this will still be part of the regular correspondence, and that this can form a methodological structure. My writing, as a performative practice, has been following a circular path, continually drawing out and articulating the ideas into a practice.  I am using convention of vernacular narrative within conversation.  While I am drawing upon theoretical and contemporary poetic work, when I write I am not immediately referencing documents. I am trying to be true to the moment, to engage in this fully, to be fully in the moment.  Slowly, perhaps too slowly, I want to draw in more my embodied sense of the place, to build, by gradual degrees, a knowledge of the site, imparted in even smaller degrees within the text.  Perhaps this comes through as a tacit understanding, and interface that can be accessed by others through their own experience.   Also in circular thinking, I’ve come to the imagined space of the installation, where pulled elements of my mother’s space, the way the house has been populated by the residual elements of the former home, the organizational structures; white binders with clear plastic sleeves containing decades of correspondence, and records.  Our encounters, sitting at the living room table (constructed by my Father), sifting through boxes of archival material…. Or sitting at the kitchen table (purchased from Ikea) over coffee, talking through family matters, or on the couch, over a glass of wine, where I am able to hear her remininences.  How these stories come out, through innocuous conversation, suddenly opening up into potent moments, how history resurfaces.  Her experience growing up during the occupation, a casual reference to a letter from her elementary school teacher, she was so proud of being allowed to print on double, rather than than triple lines. Suddenly a memory of running past German snipers to get to school, soldiers who didn’t acknowledge the end of the conflict.  Then we move on to her time at the onset of the occupation, listening late at night to the low ominous voice of a narrator on film reels, smuggled into the country and shown in secret meetings in my grandparents living room, to other members of the resistance movement.  This voice still brings out uneasy associative feelings for her. The underlying tension that embodied her life during that period.  She talked about seeing her parents construct bombs that would be used to destroy key infrastructures in the city.  How even after the war, the grenade that was left in the drawer of the house, that reminded her of a pineapple.  These new elements, stories I hadn’t heard before, complementing more familiar ones, which she also recounts: coming to their door only to see it had been opened by gunshot, her mother immediately remarking ‘oh! We went to the wrong place, silly me’, and then walking confidently away, not returning until the end of the war.  The room, deshelvelled  my grandfather, going into hiding, she didn’t see him the entire time, except for one time at her birthday, when her relatives suddenly sent her outside to pick up a parcel. She didn’t recognize the person dropping off a parcel, who in the end she found out was her Father, in disguise. I also think of the letters my mother has been receiving from my uncle, his recollections of living in Greenland in the 1970s, which he has been as a series of short missives.  Is this a structure I could use?  In some respects, this feels a direction, a material, that I don’t actually want to address, at least not directly in my thesis, perhaps I’m shedding this from my work by writing about, finding a space that needs expression, but not necessarily critical exploration.  Even writing this now, I’m of both minds, can I somehow choose both? I will write more soon, but in the meantime, appreciate your thoughts, as always.  Tomas   April 4, 2017  Dear Nikki, Thank you so much for your letter, I can't say enough how much I appreciate what you wrote. Yes, absolutely, it does resonate.  As promised, I will keep this in confidence, the letters that I am writing are the only record I am intending to make public, but even in this, if there are any elements in my response that you prefer not included, I am happy to accommodate.  In my writing, I'm striving to keep a balance between honouring the importance of privacy of my family and personal life, as well as that of who I am corresponding with.  I've been thinking about this particularly in my last letter to you, which I feel overstepped this, by going further within personal terrain in my family, in ways I don't think appropriate, and as a result won't be including this.  It's such a difficult balance to maintain, the desire to want to impart information, and to be cognizant of the desires for privacy, but this is also the tension that I want to engage with. I think intimacy requires this tension, and it's interesting to think of how spaces of art and writing afford and also counter this.  I notice this when talking to my mom about this work, and her concerns about my airing of our particular stories, her resistance to this. I feel that I'm taking liberties, translating personal, private information, or insight, into an economic exchange.  To avoid providing banal, safe details, rather than delving deeper, and imparting meaningful truths and conditions.  I want to know how to foster an emphatic connection, without fully revealing, or displaying in an overt way.  How to approach obliquely? Not showing, not telling, but creating the suggestion, exploring the lines in between.  There's also an interesting line between what would be perceived as off-limits and an acceptable sharing of intimacy.  Bank records from long closed accounts, for example, are a no go as far as my Mom is concerned, which I completely appreciate.  On the other hand, I feel quite comfortable sharing my recollections of my Dad, and my memories of our past connection.  Last night, while going out to buy wine, I saw the Orion constellation, which always makes me think of him, and I was thinking about this, why exactly this has such a strong affinity to my memory of him.  He was moderately interested in astonomy, and I don't think this constellation had any particular significance to him, but I still associate it with him, whenever I see it.   I've started writing on the envelopes, and taken your suggestion of using the front of the envelopes, to include fragment texts from the books in our collection.  It occurred to me that I could approach my thesis in a similar way, pulling random, intuitive quotes from texts I am referencing, rather than conventionally researching and incorporating into the construction of my writing.  In an experiment toward this aim, I came across the following text, from Jorie Graham's book of poems: Place.  I was happily surprised by the resonance of the text. I've included it below.  All Best,  Tomas   The Bird on my Railing   From                                        The still wet iron of                                     my fire                                     escape’s top railing a truth is making this instant our top     ...   the high branches across the way, between us and the                                     others, in their                                      apartments, and fog                                         Endurance Continues to be the secret of the tilled                                     Ground we make                                     Breath by breath. What                                     Seed dear                                     Lord are we we Think as we toss more of our living out                                     Into the turning and turning,                                     Our personal Dead cast always deeper into                                      The general dead                                     No matter how hard you try                                     To keep your                                     Own your Known own – and gnarled remembering mossing over –  April 4, 2017  Dear Karis, Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to the images I sent you. Your questions are very generative towards my continued thinking on this work, and are moving me forward.  The choice to use the business envelopes came about through a happy accident, while I was at my mom’s house.  We were having coffee, and she went to get the mail, and when she came back she gave me an envelope, saying that this is something that I should use for my art.  The envelope was addressed to S. Jonsson / Current Resident, and was sent from HomeTurf Lawn Care, to our old address. The envelope was addressed to our old house, and markings from the redirection.  It also came in a windowed ‘business style’ envelope, and all of these details really felt like a breakthrough.  I had started writing on smaller envelopes that I had been given, and while I liked using these, and how these came to me (a gift from a friend), the windows provided an unexpected solution to how I could simultaneously include, but not fully disclose the contents, the archival detritus.  The window gives a glimpse in, but still obscure, and protect the contents, and our history.  I think this tension is key to what I want to accomplish in this work.   A few other synchronicities also came into play for this, from my two recent trips to Vancouver Island, working with Jen Van de Pol. The first being my discovery of a Danish typewriter at a thrift shop in Sooke.  I left this with her, as I wasn’t able to fit within my luggage.  When I went back the second time, Jen showed me, and told me about, an artwork she had made while at Goddard College.  She had rolled this print in a tube, and had included a small branch that all participants had received while in the program.  When she finally unpacked it, a few months after returning, she realized that branch was still green, and the water had seeped through the print.  She liked the effect of this on her work, and still has it installed.  I knew I had to include organic matter in my envelopes as well.  The window to the envelope allowed this pairing to be immediately apparent.  I also hope that there is a similar effect on the archival matter, that there will be mingling between the material.     Another happy coincidence is how well the format of these larger envelopes fit within the typewriter. As a result, I’ve decided to have a single line of text along the top, which, when pulling quotes from the books in my mom’s collection, gives me a parameter to work within.  A thought that I had last night, as I was working on the envelopes, that I ought to approach my thesis in a similar fashion.  Using a laptop instead of a type writer, I would pull sections from my readings in an intuitive ‘stichomancy’ approach (borrowing from Peter Morin) and developing from these encounters, in what would eventually form my thesis.  I’m still sitting with this idea, but some exploratory attempts have been successful, so I will continue to try.   Thanks again for your encouragement, I really appreciate working out my ideas with you.   All Best,   Tomas    April 4, 2017 Dear Ashok, Karis, Virginie, Stephen and Peter, Writing this, I’m feeling an acute anxiety, having little to show for my progress, outside of the letters I’ve written so far, and conceptualization of the artistic work.   These letters have become, at least to my mind, a methodological structure. I am trying to write these in the moment, and so in their build up, formulation follows, as a search, a roundabout exploration, that hopefully leads to an accumulation, in a sense an accumulation. The physical format of the letters is still something I am considering.   In a way, they feel preliminary, not the artwork itself, but a way of thinking of it. Rather than send these to the house, as proposed, I am thinking of sending the material that I am sifting through. For this letter I’m approaching in fragments, stitching together as I go, attempting to align my thinking of this work, and the accompanying paper, the latter a very daunting prospect! I find it appropriate to develop this in the course of a letter, drawing from the letters already written, and the research I have done.   Where I need to go forward, is a further research into performance practices, I am looking work by specific artists, such as Victoria Stanton, Vera Frenkel and Jordan Abel.  I am interested in their use of received materials, and how they carry this forward in their own work. For the performance and installation, I envision the construction of a bookshelf, based on the template produced by my Father, the original currently located at my mother’s house in Calgary.  I want to install this on the site of our old house, now an open and undeveloped lot.  I will pursue this. I have continued, sporadically, to go through the material affects of my mother’s archive, going through, we have sifted and amassed a large pile of detritus material, and I’m very interested in this material in particular, which holds no value to her, but still carries some resonance, a value in outline. I will end this letter, it’s already long overdue. I look forward to our meeting, and your guidance.  All Best,  Tomas April 10, 2017   Hi Deanna,   I'm sorry it's taken me so long to follow up regarding my project, but taking some time finally to sit still (relatively, I'm on the bus) and follow up. The buried history I'm referring to is I think not that different from what you described, from the response (or lack thereof) to your talk. For the past year, I've been exploring my family history, brought to light recently as a result of the ongoing sorting of our archive and ephemera, following the sudden move my mom had to make four years ago. This came about through the combination of the death of my dad, and the need to sell our old house as a result of development pressures. The packing and move was understandably quick, and we're still now making our way through the material. I'm using this project, part of my MFA through UBCO, as a way to support this effort, a dual purpose, for my family but also for me to understand and work through my history. I'm trying to connect the violent rupture to the history of my family's trajectory of migration from Denmark and their eventual settlement to Calgary, via Montreal, and Ontario. Going through the archive, I'm collecting the cast-off detritus and mailing this back to our old house (no longer standing), and collecting it again on its return. On the envelopes I'm including fragments of texts drawn from books in my mom's collection. These books are an assortment from Denmark and what they've collected since. The process has been illuminating, seeing the ways in which their relationship to land is formed, and how complex the connections are. There are a lot of publications related to Danish colonialism in Greenland, along with artworks that I've grown up with but never fully understood. For example, we have a hand drawn portrait of Knud Rasmussen, whose children I found out were my mom's playmates when she was young. Going through this is a personal excavation too, I’m trying to process this all and situate myself.   My bus trip has ended, seems a good time to stop, but would love to discuss this with you further.  All Best,    Tomas   


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