One month live-in studio residency
Villa Lena Foundation, Italy
Image right: Niklas Vindelev
Text & images below: CK
I didn’t know where to start so I began by counting time. Tracking seconds, hours, days, moonrises and sunsets. I watched time become slippery, dissolve and eventually fall away. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt such an expanse stretching out ahead of me. I think it daunted all of us, as we stared wide eyed at ourselves, and one another, but we slowly remembered ways to navigate the waters, or maybe just to drink them in. April was the beginning of the season, in a plurality of senses. Some notes follow.
What to do when time feels huge? Choose an object and become with it. Make gestures towards extraction, emptying out, becoming hollow. Begin by breathing. Sit and watch. Take note of where your eye darts. Wait for it to tire and eventually rest on one thing, or no thing.
Watch the trees at all times of the day. Breathe to the rhythm of their tones, their shades, their dark, their light. Mark your breaths like a horizon, steadily rising and falling.
Hold your breath. Stop breathing. Dizzy yourself. Let it go on, and on.
Watch cotton drift in the breeze. A kind of springtime snow the cotton rains down softly in the wind, like bits of clouds that you can reach out and touch. “Plant sex”— and he’s right, the cotton carries seeds throughout the valleys. You can’t catch it, though you will try. Collect it instead from the roadside. On the road it has gathered dirt, little molecules of Villa Lena, pieces of dust, which is in fact the other thing that constitutes us. So everything returns to everything. We stretch out towards one another, from one form to another and back again. Pick the dirt off piece by piece. This will become your morning labour. A clean cotton ball of no time at all, not because you are trying to escape time but because it becomes irrelevant as you go on.
Pursue acts of uselessness. Collect terracotta from the ground to grind into pigment, to make into chalk, to trace the earth’s turning around the sun. Follow the sun as it falls on your floor. Over and over, again and again, time forms a dusty web.
Fall in love and stop time completely. Then tear your heart into pieces, and blow them into the wind. Pick off the dirt. Create a new clean ball. No time at all.
Lay fitfully awake for one night, butted up against a concrete absence that lies (next to you). Rise with the moon, and watch the light wash over the valley. Have your day before everyone else has begun then fall asleep in the afternoon sun. You agree that if we are made up of so much water, and the moon pulls the ocean in and out, then we are of course also being pulled gently, in and out. An ellipse, a wave, a cycle.
The Villa is a microcosm. To cultivate gestures of smallness and repetition is to bear witness to a grand shift in scale. Scale is mobile here. You could either be a giant or an ant. The valley pushes right up against your nose, it is flat and thick — you could eat it all if you had an appetite at this hour.
One seat for lovers and two for friends. A giant bonsai or a miniature tree has grown leaves overnight, and makes for a third friend. Although time has disappeared, everything is still advancing. Out of one feeling grows another, the sun eclipses the moon and the moon shrinks to a tiny sliver of the finest biscotti, suspended by the atmosphere’s good or bad mood.
Continue breathing. Have no fear. Fall in. Stop looking and let your ears open, then close — their hearing shifts from external to internal and back again.
Leave for 48 hours and return to find that the rules of time have changed, everything rearranged. Events are elastic, they drip from one to another, liquid-like. The only measurement possible is in relation to oneself, to the internal beat of the body, and its joining with the pulse of the lifeworld. Just a few centimetres beneath the surface, and we find ourselves senza tempo. Our job is to sit, wait, watch, notice the timbre of things. In this way it’s possible to get lost in time, to lose oneself to time.
Create activities to observe transitions from one state to another. Paintings slowly move from wet to dry. Like pieces of sky, or tears, fallen down onto a piece of paper. Made of the same stuff that they seek to make.
Accumulate things, tokens, feelings. Stones. They know time. They have been shaped, moulded, worn by the great expanse, the steady beat. Stack them outside your door, and use them to communicate with others who speak a different tongue, but who happen to know the same stone language as you. Stone etiquette: take a stone only when you find another to replace it that is equal or greater. A revolutionary progress.
The gardener puts shells on top of all the special spots around the property. He reads the beat in the undercurrent of the place, listens for it, catalogues and remembers, knows how to pay attention. Even if they say he knows nothing, he and we know he knows.
Make your work by the sun and then in the final week find that there is no more sun, only grey rain and clouds. Your work exists now just in filaments of time, brief flickers of light. It shows itself to be even more precarious than you thought, and you are only a guardian of its fragility, in time, through time, with time. To beat time is to follow the movement from 8 to 1, and so on. Slowness is often part of the remedy, especially when many of us suffer from the disease of haste.
Dream you tasted 120% chocolate and wonder how it was possible. It was so intense you almost couldn’t taste it. Wake up thinking of food. In the little fridge in the clearing in the woods you make a mini Plato’s Cave — Through The Looking Glass (with copper wire). The sun clock made of not 12 but 13 trees turns inward, upside down, inside out. Re-turned. We draw circles around one another. Nearby there is a bigger fridge, a hole in the ground, that you can climb right into. You lay in its belly and follow a cloud from left to right and back again. Nobody will find you here. A crater to watch the sky from, it feels like lying in a grave: a kind of waking burial. Climbing out is a re-birth
The rain arrives and you reach down to touch the sand on the pathway, which appears in new layers now. It’s very fine, and, though subtle, it does not go unnoticed. Embedded shells form tiny roofs for the sand and silt in the downpour, little umbrellas around which the sediment is washed away, but under which the earth remains, forming miniature towers with shell hoods — dirt-cappuccinos. You watch a ghost walk down the pathway to the studio, stopping to remove his espadrilles at The Beach, where the sand on the path is also very fine, and soft. He stands there for a minute, to cure his heart burn, before wiping each foot on the bottom of his jeans and returning them, one and then the other, to his shoes. Time pauses for a moment, one heart eases while the other swells.
Freedom is the ability to be totally adaptable. At the end of the month the amphibious grotto that is somehow of the sea no longer catches the morning light. The earth has turned, and the grotto is quite dry, dry as a bone, or a shell… and it calls you back to your sea.