Lisa Vetten Mieke van der Voort  
Hilde de Bruijn Archive  
Dr Achille Mbembe
Zoé Inch

Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 19:50:20 +0100
Subject: I see many things, many colours
From: "Mieke Van de Voort"

hi. I am writing to you from Amsterdam.
some thoughts I have concerning the struggle with possesion of objects
and illusions if you want.

in one of my artprojects I have searched for people that live isolated
from society. They have died in Amsterdam and had no-one to take care of
their funeral and other affairs that need to be sorted out after death.
Instead, a department of social services does the job. I took photographs of the interiors of their houses, more or less in the state they left it when they died. When one looks at these images it is easy to think that they have resigned from society and given up on order and structure in their own lives as well. The rooms certainly don¹t look like the inhabitants were expecting any visitors.
most of the houses were quite a mess. the messes differed in quality.
for example: many 'pretty' things like little sculptures and paintings
and furniture, nicely displayed though too many to be able to appreciate,
gathering thick layers of dust.

or: a mess of construction elements such as wood, paint, tools etc. at a
certain point in time the diseased had started to rebuild the interior
of his house (perhaps in a moment of excitement. a start to reorganise
life by making the personal environment look better, changing things beginning with the living room in order to have a more pleasant surrounding and to change one's inner life by changing the reflection of it in the way things are ordered). but somewhere the realization of good intensions had got stuck and what was first only a mess of transition became a permanent landscape. The new interior looked appocalyptic, so what did it matter if to this mess ashtrays and bottles and trash were added?. in the bedroom I found a walkietalkie on a blackened pillow, half-finished paintings and a
halfempty bottle of milk.

or: a house with 4 rooms each of them stuffed with things piled up in
mountains along the sides and in the middle. thousands of collected
items impossible to retrieve because they have disappeared under another
thousands of items.

sometimes my own appartment starts taking on similar features. too many
things inhabit my space. intimidating chaos. I start to sort them out
and strand in the process because I can't decide on what to do and because
the items bring on memories or trigger trains of thought that I can't stop
and I forget what I was doing. so many unfinished stories, where is the
beginning, what were my plans? the mess around me increases the mess inside my head. I forget who I am. how did these things ever enter my house? who was I when I brought them in? how did I become so fragmented?

some of the houses I photographed were very empty. on the wall only a
cutout newspaper photograph of the previous queen, nothing more personal than that.

I used to have a friend long ago who only possessed as many things as
she could carry by herself.

I once read an excerpt of a novel, I think it was Paul Auster's, where
the protagonist creates structure in daily life by organising things in
terms of colour. for example: monday's dinner: only green foods. tuesdays
dinner: only orange etc. limiting choice by colour. or is it 'directing' rather than limiting choice?

artificially setting preferences to have a basis to act on. what kind
of framework do you use in daily life? live by the rules of the Q'ran?
make art that cannot be sold? have seven sets of clothes that are identical so you don't have to think about what to wear? only travel to places that are in walking distance? never watch tv, only movies? etc

In one of the houses I found a Mount Everest on the kitchentable of
unopened mail and most rooms were inaccessibly stocked. It seemed as though this person had been living like a reckloose among remnants of the past and
was in denial of the existence of an outside world. But when I looked more
closely I found out he had all this amateur broadcasting equipment and
had kept a diary of whom he was speaking to in which part of the world.
Although he lived in a capital city with nearly one million people in his
proximity, it seemed he chose to have contact with people merely from a distance, in a non-physical reality. Or was it a choice?

I have a specific relationship with newspapers. I am never able to read
them for more than a few days in a row. but I don't throw them away because
I think I might still read the bits that I didn't cover and the ones I
didn't read at all beacuse I am sure there are lots of interesting things

by the time the pile grows larger than myself and falls over, I start negotiating to get rid of it because I get tired of restoring
the pile each time a tram comes by and not having read the papers and
adding more to it. the passing of time is manifested in the pile and I dont
find reconciliation. I end up throwing them away or making some silly
artpiece out of them, always with a sense of loss. the newspaper as a mirror of how I thought life would be and how it turns out to be. a collection of possibilities gone, of opportunities missed.

I once told a southafrican guy about the relationship I had had with my
South african husband. I told him why we broke up and that I couldn't
deal with his desillusions and that being desillusioned had broken him down
and that I was another contribution to the collection of desillusions. he
replied that it was the stupidest thing in life to be desillusioned
because one shouldn't have illusions in the first place. I felt upset.

in one of the houses I found a note on the wall, saying:

'and when I am dead
dont be sad
for I am not really dead
you should know
it is only my body
that I left behind
dead I am only
when you have forgotten me'

I wondered if anyone else but him had ever read that note and if there
was anyone to make sure he wasn't really dead.

up to here for now. I have to start tidy up things!

regards, mieke