In January 2017 I applied for travel grants. I wrote about a journey i had made to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, where the border between civilization and wilderness is sharp. It is a rule not leaving the village unarmed, due to the risk of being attacked by polar bears. I wrote about a border police whose body I casted, who was taking part in my artwork even though he could risk his carrier as policeman if he got caught with it. I wrote about a sentence that has been in the background for several of my works, where the world becomes too hard to handle or understand, myth takes over. And I wrote that I find it hard to understand the border politics of EU, and that I wanted to go to the southern border of Europe and make a story about the trip, embroider text and pictures.
As soon as I had sent the application I regretted the idea. I started to worry about a lot of things. I got scared of travelling alone, that I wouldn´t dare to be out after dark, scared to get injured and take someone elses place in a hospital, and even to suddenly die for some reason and be sent home in a bodybag. Then I realized that my biggest worry was to see other peoples suffering or death, even though I’m usually not scared to see other peoples suffering or death when I work as nurse’s assistant.
When arriving on Lampedusa in september 2017 I found that nearly no boats with refugees came there any more, EU and Libya had a new negotiation to stop them on the other side of the Meditteranian Sea. I searched on internet but at that time it was hard to find information about this negotiation and about the camps on the other side, where people trying to escape eventually are held and where starvation, torture and sexual abuse eventually is a part of daily life. It was not for me to see.
. . .
In the Southernmost South there is an island, and on that island there is a beach named the Rabbit Beach. It is a beach where rabbits live, and where turtles lay their eggs as well. A path leads to the beach and tourists walk there every day and it is warm. The rabbits and turtles are hiding in the daytime. In the evening when darkness falls, women in yellow clothing will tell the tourists to leave the beach so not to disturb the animals in the dark, for that it is forbidden.
In the dark, it has been told, the rabbits eat and have sex like in ancient days before, and they talk to each other about things. And no human has heard what they say, because no human is allowed to stay on Rabbit Beach after dark.
In the sea outside Rabbit Beach, behind the horizon, the world is ending. I wondered what was on the other side, if the water was falling like a waterfall over the edge, if the earth rested on the backs of elephants and I wondered what the rabbits talked about in the dark.
On the cliffs by the Rabbit Beach, on my first day at the island, I sat down and looked at the horizon. And the beach is beautiful enough to travel far for, and men and women have spoken about its beauty, and many died to reach the beach. I saw no rabbits anywhere. I saw some ants collecting material for a new anthill. With my money I had bought groceries. I gave the ants fruit and nuts and some of my tobacco. Then darkness fell quickly and I was shown the way out by the women in yellow clothing.
On the second day on Rabbit Beach i saw that the ants had eaten of the fruit and they found it good. I told them I wanted to see the rabbits, but the ants said the rabbits come after darkness has fallen and no human shall be on the beach in the dark. The ants told me to go back to the village, and they didn´t want to talk to me any more because a hard punishment could come over them. And darkness fell and i wanted to stay but I was shown the way out by the women in yellow clothing, and i went to the village.
In the village in the bar was Damiano the Fisherman, and Salvatore his friend. And Damiano told that with his own fishing boat he once rescued a hundred men, women and children from drowning, just outside the Rabbit Beach, and in their eyes he saw true despair. And tourists on the Rabbit Beach saw what he saw but did not help with the rescue, and the tourists left the beach in daylight. And Damiano said that he preferred people in true dispair coming to the island instead of tourists, and Salvatore his friend agreed on this.
And I had come there without despair had I, and with my money I bought what I heard that rabbits like.
On the third day on Rabbit Beach, I tell you truly, a great thunder storm had ruined the small anthill and the ants were nowhere to be seen. I waited all day upon that spot, and I was looking at the horizon.
Then darkness fell quickly and I wanted to stay after darkness had fallen, so I was hiding. And a rabbit came towards me with shiny white teeth and a fur that was white and brown. And I gave it a carrot and it showed its teeth to me, and it said:
”Read my lips carefully and they will say what you have come to hear. Before money could talk, and before written language, history seemed different and it was different. While spoken language was developing something could actually be summoned in a sound, and it could be shaped into a word. Before that was movements and gestures, and before that communication like electric activity in the body, sending and receiving. At that level the border between you and me is very vague. Before that level there is no border. When the message, the intention does not have to go through the process of formulation it does not lose energy in that process and remains very clear over long time and distance. Distance as you know it does not exist while using this form of communication. On the level before that, the possibility to lie does not exist.”
Trip to the Rabbit Beach
Textile, mixed techniques
The trip was supported by Konstnärsnämnden and Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse