Monday, 3 December 2018

How To Write About Pain And Horror

Martha Gellhorn (8.11.1908-15.2.1998) eye witnessed several wars around the world from the 1936 war in Spain to the invasion in Panama 1990. Her reports draw a picture of a correspondent who did't go numb even after seeing sow much. She had empathy for all the victims of the war from civilians to those forced to take part to the combats. Her style of writing goes close to those she met in the most inhuman conditions. She visits their houses, listens to their stories and lives with them in the moments of loss. In her reports that were published in that time's newspapers Gellhorn wrote what she saw. These reports have been published as a collection called The Face of War that she has, sadly, been forced to update to new editions with new wars she witnessed. Gellhorn's reports tell about the mental climate of the time and open the thoughts that people had at the moment. She is not on the background playing objective. She makes herself visible and shows her thoughts that reflect the time.

The reports make it sound like she aimed her writing to those who are far from war in the comfort of their own houses in countries where war is mere a memory or somewhere geographically far.  She ponders how it is even possible for those people to understand or feel through what they read. She doesn't criticize that much people's decisions in the war as she criticizes those who are reading her work as distant spectators of war. She sees it dangerous that only a limited number of people are taking part to the discussion leaving so called specialists to decide the truths of war. She criticizes how happenings are explained in a light that makes it look like one part of war suffers more than the other when in reality there are losses of lives in both sides and the whole activity of war should be questioned. In this questioning we all have our duty to understand and ask again and again if the war is worth it. Sure there are specialists who have put time and effort to understand the situation and it's backgrounds and because of that their views are to be listened with care. But we who are reading the news have the responsibility to stop and ponder what we are told instead of passing the information as something we can leave to a narrow number of people to comprehend. Caring about what is happening to our fellow humans and empathy belongs to us all. History shows that even trusted governments can be wrong.

Gellhorn pays attention to messages that create an atmosphere of fear and prejudice between people and countries. It is someone's benefit that we are made to fear one another when actually in the end we are all the same and what we should fear is propaganda we don't acknowledge as such but take as researched and well based information. Gellhorn writes about the war of words. She tells about the propaganda and how war is written and made reality by words that create fear and hatred. It is unnatural to feel such extreme hatred against a person you actually know nothing about. How then people are made to attack against each other if not with propaganda. By words the enemy is painted and people are made to believe in an image that doesn't really exist. Then this picture is put to real world and the results are reality, human lives lost and pain one can't imagine possible.

Gellhorn writes about pains and horrors that people are confronting in unstable and unjust circumstances. She writes directly about death, violence and mental threats people are forced to go trough. She tells the stories that are told to her in front lines, hospitals and among civilians who end up as targets of war. She writes about the emotional landscape of war, how people manage or don't manage in the middle of chaos. Her writings reveal the everyday life in the years of war, constant threats and silent hunger. Gellhorn is not writing about honor or patriotic duty she is writing about the war that she sees and actions that exist around her. It is sad though how people who receive these reports whether written, photographed or filmed become to feel powerless, numb and in the end uncaring. More and more pictures and messages are needed to get us care and understand what is happening. At the same time we need to know about the pain of others so we are not ignorant. Those who are in war want to tell to their fellow humans what is happening because the horrors should not exist, someone should hear the message.

But then again, between our entertainment there are news highlights that show people, our kind, who are suffering. And from those pictures we go quite rapidly back to our entertainment and it feels wrong. Those people give their face to the horror yet our capacity to receive any emotion has become weaker. Or has it always been so weak, like in a peaceful environment we can't understand the opposite? Is it wrong to bring us more visual materials of the horrors around the world if we feel no duty to properly see it? Have news become entertainment that give small emotions to experience when brushing teeth before bedtime? What would be a respectful way to tell the stories of the victims? Gellhorn gives space to individuals. She tells the facts and environment where things happen. Then she gives room for the story that the victim has to tell. There is certain power in a single human person telling their story, because that person could be anyone, anywhere, you or me. A war gets a face, someone who went though what we see in the big picture that is more difficult to comprehend.

Those who are set in the scene to be eyes of others and report what is happening have a responsible role to play. They have to see and hear and write, not strengthen the image created by propagandists. Gellhorn underlines that press has to be free and get to the roots of happenings. In the case of invasion of Panama she tells how her work was restricted and she didn't get to do her work. She says that governments learned about what happened in the war of Vietnam, how TV and press made people to see the reality behind the facade and the attitude towards the war changed. According to Gellhorn in Panama war correspondents access was restricted so they would only have the government accepted message to write about. She then asks if people are satisfied with the ignorance they are left and whether they are interested about the reality at all. The whole mechanism of ignorance and propaganda supports the arms industry and makes sense to the use of huge amounts of money to the weapons when there would be so much better destinations to put it.

Martha Gellhorn: The Face of War. The first edition was published in 1959, I read the 2016 edition.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Kids Eat Snow in New York Too

My approach to tourist photography is a bit complex. As some of you might know I have studied tourism research as my major. I am aware of the theories and discussions about tourist gaze and the ways of how people tend to take photographs on their journeys. Then when I am being a tourist myself I constantly analyze my own behavior and interests which is annoying. Thus the experience of being a tourist and enjoying it without self-criticism is partly spoiled from me because of my career choice. I recognize my inner snob who avoids iconic landmarks that most of the people want to see in the destination. I have an urge to get on my film spool something unique and how cliche is that! 

We individualistic travelers want to see, experience and document something that no-one or at least our fellow travelers, haven't noticed. Maybe be one of the locals for that week we are at the destination. In the action we scratch the surface and end up seeing precisely what we have been taught to see. Easy way to explain what I am meaning is the case Statue of Liberty. Me and my friend went to Staten Island Ferry that goes past the Statue. We had both seen a good number of pictures of the Statue before our journey. Photographs and movies that set up in New York. We had been taught to look after certain kind of monument yet what we saw was quite small statue with large scale surroundings. This made me ponder from which angle have all the movies been filmed and photographs taken? In a journey back from Staten Island I finally spotted the angle that made it possible to catch an iconic New York picture that had been presented to us through numerous popular culture products. 

To see the Statue of Liberty was not my number one goal when travelling overseas. If it was I could have just googled it and actually in that way I would have seen it better than in presence. I have been fascinated about the stories of New York and its atmosphere. The reason to travel was the need to know what is true. Can New York really be that amazing and one of a kind? Also the reason to leave home is to see something different, be in a new environment, meet new people and experience things that are not possible in where one lives their everyday life. I think one of the driving forces to travel is to feel the difference and exotic of far away lands. Sure we see more than generations before when we open the internet. But it is different to see it with your own eyes, or are we capable of seeing and learning?

Is it possible to make a notion that what we see is the same we have around us in everyday life? That actually people are the same and doing same activities as we would  in our homes if we weren't touristing at the moment? Fun thing is that I myself live in a town that is a popular tourist destination. On an ordinary day I go to the library and might see travelers exploring Alvar Aalto architecture in our main library. Then I travel over seas to stare and photograph New York Public Library because it looks so different compared to what I see weekly. I acknowledge that I am intruding to peoples lives with my camera. Maybe they want to wander between the shelves, study and concentrate, like I want in my own home library. But at the same time in New York I am amazed by the decorations in the ceiling, the spirit of history flying past me, old binds that rest on the shelves feeling no time. I am absolutely thrilled when I notice on my last day in New York that the library has been decorated for the Holiday season. The whole place makes me think of fantasy books like Harry Potter.

Yellow cabs make me think Sex and the City and boutiques on Fifth Ave are bursting with clothes and accessorize beyond imagination. Those creations of fashion are magic to my eyes, I rush from a pile of glitter and color to another almost without breathing. After seeing a season or two of Sex and the City I have anticipated that people in the streets would be wearing these kind of clothes. I have stressed that my clothes, black coat and jeans, will step up from the crowd as old fashioned and worn out. I even watched YouTube videos where people from USA explain how to dress in Europe, learning about differences and searching for clues how I should dress in my journey. In real life people are wearing exactly same kind of clothes as I am, jeans and warm coats as it is winter after all. 

Then one day, Thursday it is, snow begins to fall down. The drains can't take in all the water that comes from the wet melting snow and crossings turn into pools. We have bought tickets to New York Philharmonic's concert, there are Viennese waltzes in the program, and before the concert I decide to visit MoMa. Since I don't check things, I have to realize on the door that the museum closes in thirteen minutes so there is no sense buying the costly entrance ( I succeeded to see the exhibitions following day). I have few hours to spend in snow covered city. Trees have been decorated with fairy lights in a small park between two tall buildings. Snow on the branches make the christmassy effect even stronger. Small bars with their colorful signs look warm and inviting. I love how every surface is covered with those signs that come from bars, shops and theaters, it makes the view look very homey. To avoid soaking my heels to some of the pools I pop into a coffee house on the corner. There, sitting on a bar bench in front of the window I sip the coffee and eat a chocolate croissant. I look people in the snow storm and hear the Christmas songs played on the background and I feel I am in New York. The city had felt so big and hard to comprehend for the first days after arriving that a kind of anxiousness to experience something over the big mass of emotions had followed every step.

That was my New York moment that was essential in making an emotional picture of the city. The moment made the blurred picture clear. Picture that had been affected by all that I had seen through my life from a television and magazines to what I had self experienced in four days. When I stepped back to the stormy street I saw a kid with a parent. The young New Yorker gathered snow to a mitten, looked it for a second and tasted it. Just like the kids in Lapland who sit in their piles of snow wearing overalls. Places are unique with their own characteristics and atmosphere. But at the same time most of the human life is same.

New York for me is a huge but cozy city. I absolutely adore the contrast between old and new buildings. How in the arms of  polished skyscaper there is a shabby old building with its blinking signs that sell everything between heaven and earth. I enjoy seeing the magical clothes that hang in luxury boutiques even though I have never had nor ever will have money to buy those. Still I have afford to be inspired by the creatives who have designed them. And the doughnuts are great, how cookies, cream and chocolate can be served in a handy way in a one bun. Yet it is equally worth noticing the sameness. The world opens in two ways. To see that something is similar doesn't mean the journey would be unworthy. Chasing after uniqueness can be a way of blindness and arrogant desire to preserve images of exotic when the exotic doesn't exist. It is healthy to fix those images inside our heads every now and then. 

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Floating in the Consciousness

Of all the books I have read so far this one has the most beautiful, original and poetic language. Eeva Turunen uses words one doesn't hear that often. This book made me remember how magical Finnish language can be if the author has the gift to use it on it's full potential. Turunen's Neiti U muistelee niin sanottua ihmissuhdehistoriaansa (2018) has not yet been translated to other languages, so this treat is now only for those who can read Finnish. I wonder what a challenge it would be to try to translate this because one of the main elements of this work is in the language and it's nuances. But they translate poetry so it must be possible.

The book also plays with genres and it can be read at least in two ways, as a collection of short stories, dialogues and poems that tell the histories of different characters or as a novel that describes different angles of the person's life. The main characters have a lot in common what comes to their personalities. Their way of seeing the world is similar and it makes sense that actually all the stories tell about the relationships, career and life in general of the same person. The characters are referred as miss U, miss K, miss N or their names are not told. This made me ponder the idea that maybe the characters are written anonymous, like in a manner which someone would really tell about their relationships; Well I won't tell their names lets refer them as A and B, OK? Personal issues are often told with a mist of anonymity so it won't feel too revealing to tell what has been going on in mind.

The relationships described are mainly between women, love affairs, crushes and friendships. It is refreshing to read women's experiences that are not to do about relationships with men or raising children. Turunen also breaks the  conventional roles by writing characters that surprise, their choices and ways of seeing the world are not as one might first assume. For example in some stories the gender is not so obvious or necessary in a main character's mind but when they reflect other people's actions toward them it reveals how those people are assuming and behaving according to their interpretations. 

The stories are stream of consciousness in the most fluent way. The reader gets to the waves of consciousness and gets a glimpse of what is currently on the mind of the main character. In the opening story two women are travelling in Island and the other one, miss N predicts that the volcano might erupt soon. In her mind she does all kinds of neurotic arrangements in case it happens. She seems to be aware that her mind is going to paths that are not logical anymore and tries to hide the purchases she has done in case the emergency hits. In another story an architect is not getting sleep at night and begins to reflect her latest commission. She is in the  beginning of her career and goes through what possibly went wrong because she was not chosen to complete the design of the building. The thoughts circling in her mind are very relatable; should I have laughed in that situation to bond better with the customer, was my way of expressing myself unclear and did the work done correlate to what the customer was looking after and so forth. All these annoying details that make it impossible to be proud of one's own work. To add to the pile of anxiousness she begins to imagine how her ex-girlfriend is living a dream life with her new woman. It is so real to go though the whole life and it's mistakes and could bes in the late hours of the day when sleep is not arriving.

I think it shows in the style of this book that the author is an architect and a play writer. At parts there is something similar with a play manuscript. The situations are described in a minimalistic way, A says, B says, A thinks etc. For a visual person it gives more than thick and fully charged writing. The style gives air to picture the situation, where the people are standing and what they are doing. The picture formed to one's head gives more about the whole context of the happenings that could be written with more words. In one of the stories the main character tells about her worries to the property manager in a letter. Instead of the letter being static it is in constant move as the main character goes though her home, what can be found there and who she meets in the yards and corridors. The letter contains her life and the past events which open the situations and why she has so much time to ponder and write to a complete stranger she has made her friend.

The luxury of time is common to all characters in these stories. They have time to look back and go through every detail in their past relationships, they have time look where they are at the moment and what is around them. There are cotton swabs in door wreath, the flowers are nastily packed to revealing transparent foil and neighbors move in their balconies. Also there is something similar in their lifestyles. Work or other interests in the cultural field are visible. Past relationships are haunting their life at the moment or low self-esteem is affecting to the current affair. Their life sounds real and something we can feel through our own experiences. Even though we would be doing great and we would have a work we enjoy and well functioning relationship, still there is some insecure place that gives warnings and puts us to reflect what we have done wrong. It happens every now and then in all situations where we communicate with each other. Because most of us want to show themselves in good light and treat other people in a manner they deserve. 

What I particularly liked about this book was that the main characters are quite ordinary, trying to make it in their life whether single or in a relationship, with a job or without. They are lost after a girlfriend has left or waiting the woman of dreams come out of the DIY cardboard teleport. They are looking for appreciation in work life. I think almost all have gone though moments like that, absent minded wandering in the apartment and streets waiting for something wonderful to happen. I am not sure if that reflective and neurotic spirit ever stops haunting even though the teleport would blink. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

World As We Don't Know It

Hannu Rajaniemi. Summerland (Kesämaa 2018)

Secret service agent Rachel White gets a tip that there is a high class spy in the system. In a classic setting of an espionage story she can't be sure who are supporting and covering the acts of the spy. Spy named Peter seems to have connections to the highest authorities of the society. After speaking to her nearest superior she is accused to have stress and incapable of continuing in her position. Therefore she is moved to lower rank work. Yet she doesn't stop the investigations but gets allies from both sides, the living and dead, to figure out the pattern.

If the setting of the story is classic the surroundings are anything but. The story takes place in 1938 British secret service.  The world though is not the same we know now. In the turn of the century the division between life and death has been broken. People can call to the other side to their friends and relatives. People who have passed can visit the living as unseen ghosts or hire a body from a person who can take in the spirit. The secret service has an office in both sides and these two are cooperating. The world doesn't know Hitler or Nazism which is an interesting choice. Usually stories that are set in that era take material from World War II happenings. I think it is a stylish decision not to repeat those in this novel. Horrors of that time have been used too often in entertainment I think. Still in the world Rajaniemi has created war is not absent. The wars are even more brutal and apocalyptic, if possible. Some soldiers are turned into monsters that take their fuel from souls.

In many ways the other side is very similar only the essence of everything is more abstract. If the world of the living is more material the other side is built on thoughts. This is an interesting and philosophical thought about the essence of life itself. We believe in the matter we see and touch yet we have no clue who we are and where we are. How Rajaniemi describes the other side tells about our constructions as human beings. Peter, the spy, has difficulties with his self-image and the appearance he builds every day might broke. Once he stands in public transport when his arms become arms of a boy. It is like we draw our lines daily to keep the surface but some situations bring out the insecurities and one's own history. The world around us is also abstract, the buildings, streets are a common agreements. We agree that those are there and we believe in the ideas of these things and accept those as a part of a shared reality. In the world on the other side all the material might disappear during the sleep and one has to make these constructions all over again in the morning. Peter's house is not the same, interior becomes bare after night. Like he has lost the common idea of the world and seen beyond.

One bigger theme in this science fiction novel is the necessity of life and death as a dichotomy we can't break.  In the world Rajaniemi has created life has no meaning because death is just one step that has no bigger influence. Death as we know it is scary, because we can't know what is on the other side. We have our own and shared beliefs that direct our look to afterlife. We acknowledge that life on the Earth is limited and then we go some place else. Yet our understanding and knowledge is narrow. Rajaniemi plays with the idea, what if we would know exactly what is waiting for us, how would it change our life? In the world where Rachel and Peter are living life has lost meaning. There is no progress made because of the lack of the driving force. No motivator to develop medicine and work with life expectancy. Neither death nor life has no meaning.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Winter Is in the Air

As you can see from the styling of these photos Winter and Christmas have been on my mind lately. It felt great to get this project finished yesterday. To be honest it began to look like this would end into a closet of unfinished works. Evenings turned darker so rapidly that I hardly found time to make sewing and stitching work in proper lightning. Unfinished works are irritating and that is why I put all my effort to this project. I know that if this would have ended to the closet it would have stayed there to the unknown future. Now this one is better closure to the year's quilting. Next year will bring it's own projects that I am sure of. I have two ideas already and I can sketch those properly during the Winter months. Also it might be that I craft some very tiny projects for Christmas. Quilted Christmas ornaments would be nice and in a size scale one can handle without bigger mess in the house.

Empty table cleans the mind and gives space to create totally different projects and process new thoughts. Christmas decorations have been circling in my mind and I am excited to get to decorate my home soon. Just few weeks and most of the Christmas decorations can be brought in! Christmas being a limited period of time with it's own character it gives a needed break between old and new year. I like to divide projects to two categories at this time of the year. One, a pile of work that needs finishing touches and can be completed from to do list before Christmas. Number two, a pile of work that can be left to wait for next year and fresh start. (Three, a pile of work that can be forgotten :) With this technique Christmas time can be reserved to things that please the mind at the moment, small crafts, slow brunches, reading and just being and resting. 

Today's quilt art is called Net because it got it's color from a fishing net. I noticed during the process that it was difficult for me to create a pattern that is not based on repeating motif. I imagined nine boxes to the fabric and placed one motif in each box. This imaginary grid gives needed rhythm. Then I combined the motifs with stitching. In the stitching I used the same curl shape as in the fabric pieces. Stitching collects the net together. Another combining element is classic red in a hue that goes to orange in some light. First time in my life I made piping myself using the same fabric as in the curls. Red piping frames the work beautifully making it an entity. Otherwise it would be a bunch of curls that seem to run away from the work. I love these small details. Last October I made a cushion that has octagon shape, see more here. Tassels in the corners made a huge difference to the look. Not all works need pipings and tassels, some are best without. But I do love it when I can craft a little extra and test a new element. I was amazed how easy it was to make a piping and by making it by myself I got the exact color and size I wanted. Maybe I could make Christmas ornaments with piping? :)

Happy last week of October to You All!


Friday, 19 October 2018

One Option

To stay voluntarily childless is one of the options one can choose in life. Yet it is still a choice that raises lots of opinions even these days. People might doubt your capability to make the decision by saying you don't know what you are losing or that you will most surely change your mind. A voluntarily childless person confronts more prejudices than a person who has chosen to want children. Those two decisions are not seen as equal and the decision not to want children is combined with things like selfishness and career oriented lifestyle. It is seen self-centered to be happy just the way you are in your life without children.

I have experienced many kinds of attitudes towards being childless. In some situations I have felt outsider and it has been impossible to address that as a problem. Because the solution to my problem would be to have/want children of my own and then become a member of the group.  It is like there is no need or duty to consider people who don't have children, they can be left outside because it is their own fault. In any other case it would be bullying but what comes to being childless by choice it is seen as personal decision that has consequences. If you don't make children you choose the path of an outlaw, someone outside the society of good people. There is one sort of women's culture that gets it's roots from motherhood. Motherhood and womanhood are seen as synonyms. In that discourse experience of motherhood is something that combines all women no matter how heterogeneous the group is in other ways there is this one subject that is common. Building of a group starts with addressing how we  women know... and then continues with some experience that is connected to having children and raising them. Once I was in a situation that it was Mothers Day and I was given a rose just because all women are mothers and raising children together even if they don't have children of their own. It was one of the most awkward situations I have been in. It is thought that if you don't have children you still have the motherhood in you because you are a woman. If you say out loud that you don't feel like it you can be left outside alone.

There is also the concept of societal motherhood and woman's role as a mother in society who nurtures, guides and takes care of other people. By combining motherhood to womanhood some characters are forced to women and taken out of someone else who would feel those more natural. For example to see all women as nurturers is harmful towards people who do feel like women but struggle in filling this norm and start to question if they have some way failed. These norms are changing but are still present in today's society. It has not been one or two times in my life that I have been asked to nurse someones children or even take a small job in nursing children. This thought that I would be good with children cannot rise from anything else than the fact that I am a woman. It is thought that it comes natural to take care of someone's children and that I would actually enjoy spending my free time with children. It has also been argued that I should practice nursing children so I know when I have my own.

This leads to the great non-fiction book about voluntarily childlessness. Because all that I just told from my own experience is something quite many women who address themselves as voluntarily childless have gone though. Nefertiti Malaty's Ei äitimateriaalia (2018), could be translated as Not mother material, was a liberating read. It lists quotes one will hear as a voluntarily childless and tells about the prejudices and attitudes people still have. It also goes to society's level showing the politics that push women to procreate in the name of the nation's well being. It is liberating to know the power structures that make one doubt their own decisions. It is accepted to say to a woman that you will change your mind, you don't know what you are missing if you don't make kinds and motherhood is one the greatest things in life. These might be true for someone but it doesn't make it right to force feed these to people who have thoroughly pondered the subject and have courage to say out aloud what they know is true to them. One is allowed to say that you will regret if you don't make kinds but how would it be if someone would say to a person who has kinds that you will regret that decision. It is tragic if a person makes children just in case not to have regrets afterwards. It means that childlessness is pictured as a lifestyle choice that lacks some greater purpose. One optional part of human life shouldn't get such a big role.

The pressure is huge and it comes from all around the society. It becomes difficult to hear your own voice. Children are seen as a fulfillment of a well lived life and as a continuum of human life and well functioning nation. New taxpayers they state. It is selfish women who ruin this vision. It is not true though. The best part of this book are the narratives of women and non-binary who talk openly and honestly about their life and the prejudices they have confronted. Most if not all of them are active in some organization that makes societal work. They have also dedication to voluntary work. This doesn't mean that there is some debt to pay for the society if you don't make children. The point is that the archetype of a childless person as selfish and self-centered is far from reality. These interesting and inspiring people I read about have many things they are passionate about and those interests take time. I have noticed this in my life. There are so many activities, new things to study and learn, so many causes to work for, that I don't see where I could find time to be a mother.

The book opened how people have noticed they don't want to have kids. Some have known their whole life and some have realized as an adult that Hey, it is not compulsory to have children if you don't want to! I know the later. One day the notion came to me. I had felt sort of hurry all the time in life. There was a certain pattern to run though. I studied fast to move to work life and to be productive. As a student I had the thoughts that what if life doesn't go according to this given pattern? What if I am not married at the age of 30 and mother at the age of 31? Fertility was running out of me and time to settle and have children began to end.Will I be left alone and outside, I asked. The pressure was huge and put me down daily. Then one bright day few years ago I finally understood that having children is not for all and it is not compulsory. I realized it might not be for me at all. Instead of time running out I had all the time in life! For some not having children feels final as for some to have children feels too final. Our experiences and ways to see our live's are not similar. The world around us tels us a story, story where people find love and settle and make kinds. In that world it might be challenging to make this invention that it is not meant for all. There are options that are equally right. It is perfectly OK to look for relationship without the pressure to become a parent after few years together. Those are two separate things. A great relationship and being loved are not awards of motherhood.

Malaty's book presents one option among many. It doesn't claim that staying childless is the only way in life. Neither does it criticize those who decide to make children. The book doesn't defend the decision to stay childless. Because there is nothing to defend. If more people decide to be voluntarily childless it is not a threat to anybody or anything. World has enough people already and those who choose are free to have children. People who don't want children of their own are not against children or hate them. In the book some even had their career in working with children and youth. Being child free can be the best and happiest option for some and that decision should be respected. Cartoon artist Kaisa and author Monika  are telling about their interests and that they would't have time to be mothers as a part of that all. It is heavy that people without children and singles get so much negative attention, advice and confront pure discrimination in both hobby and work groups as well as in the society. As Malaty writes no one drives the cause of the childless and singles in the politics. We are part of the community too and we work for common good from our own place. Old fashioned norms shouldn't justify discrimination and make it right to pressure people act against what they feel they are.

I would recommend this book for voluntarily childless as an empowering read that gives support in the decision. This is also good read for those who want to know their options. Instead of painting a dark picture of life without children it shows how happy and fulfilling life can be when you make the decision that is right for you. It would be equally great if people who have children could read this book too and see the other side of the subject.

Nefertiti Malaty: Ei äitimateriaalia. 2018. Aito Reuna Kustanne. The book is in Finnish.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Abstract Quilt Art

It is already October. Last week we had the first snow as usual this time of year. Autumn is turning to Winter and I have decided that this quilt project shall be the last one I am making this year. Evenings are so dark that there is no sense trying to sew by hand and do the stitching as both require good light. In November I am going to a holiday abroad and I have plans to gather as much inspiration in few days as possible. Mid winter is great time to process all that inspiration into new works and maybe do some small Christmas DIYs.

There is something that makes me think of Christmas in this quilt project too. The colour palette reminds me of the colours of the fifties and nostalgic Christmas hues red and green. Christmas was not in my mind when I draw and planned this pattern. It took time to figure out where I had picked the colour combination. It was many months ago when I saw an old fishing net that had the most beautiful combination of reds and greens. I saved that picture to my mind and thought  I could use it sometime. A month ago I was in a fabric shop and began to combine colours that looked new to me. The red I chose turns into orange and it looked challenging with dark bluish violet. Then some green and the combo began to look nice. These colors together are not easy but they pleased my eye so I decided to take a risk. The pattern looks like a net too. It is about separate groups that attach to each other. The stitching will make it visible even though you might already see the links. There are nine groups and one is formed just with simple I. It is like the dot in a clause.

I am quite sure that rest of the October shall go with this project. I have had busy weeks and now I try to narrow what things I will take part to. There is everything interesting going on but I can't attend to all. I have to choose and find time for just being at home sewing and reading. Also I see that i need to lower my standards. I want to do all with 100% volume when at times it is not even necessary. Things would be more enjoyable if I didn't put too ambitious goals. With these quilt projects I think it is good to decide that now I make this one and then have a break until Spring and light arrives. Sure I can make just few stitches every now and then but in reality these projects occupy my whole home and I get pressure to finish these in some reasonable time. It is also appealing to get to crochet and watch movies in November and October evenings. I already bough yarns to one project in August.

What are your plans for creative work this Autumn/Winter season?

Thursday, 20 September 2018

New Skin

She gets a little money from somewhere, goes and spends it to a new outfit. It is more than retail therapy in order to feel good. She buys a new armor to survive a next humiliation. Because the humiliations never end, she spent her last money to that outfit and is forced to contact old acquaintances and ask for money to cover her basic needs.

36/52 Jean Rhys: After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930). It is somewhere around 1920s and Julia lives from day to day. She has left Mr Mackenzie half an year ago and lives in a hotel getting weekly money envelopes from her past lover. She is loose from the world and blurs her mind with alcohol. She is careless and doesn't see a chance to take the lead of her own life. What comes to her basic income she has relied on men the past decades.

Men see a woman sitting in a bar as a possibility to have a jolly evening. Julia doesn't invite them but they come anyways and expect that she offers light and enjoyable company. Mr Horsfield seeks Julia's company even though she is not that keen to be entertaining. He is disappointed when it reveals that Julia is depressed and not that kind of company he wished for. Though he has no reason and right to demand Julia to be different he is in belief that his presence will change the atmosphere. That a woman who is alone comes happy and pleased when she gets male attention. Before they leave the bar Julia says her clothes are shabby and she is not herself. She is absent and fears she might lose her mind. Despite this Horsfield thinks he can make the situation turn into something different. And later in the novel he sees that Julia takes advantage of him by asking support. It is a thought provoking contrast what they speak together and what they think in their own minds. Horsfield acts as he wants to help and seeks a company of a woman who is going through a hard time. Yet at the same time he moralizes Julia's behavior, how she takes advantage without giving him anything back. Maybe it is about communication, we wish things had a different meaning so we could get what we want.

The way she makes decisions is an opposite of leading her own life. Whether she goes to London or stays in Paris is decided by a car horn that makes a sound before she counts to three. She is not actually thinking her options and reasons to go to London. The decision is random and that effects to her whole stay in the city. Her sister and mother haven't expected her and her sister is not that keen to take her back into her life. Sister Norah and Julia have completely different lifestyles. In those two characters Rhys writes about pros and cons of both women's decisions. A reader can empathize both sides and live through the pain they have had in their life. Julia is homeless wanderer, who has had many relationships and also chances to see the world. Yet she remembers how her younger sister Norah got more attention from their mother. Norah has been taking care of their mother. People respect her and her sacrifice. That respect has become a prison of duty and honor. The kind words make her stand from day to day but also keep her stuck. Reassuring support she gets makes her loose the grip on her life. When she begins to doubt her decisions and thinks about other options she stays in her place because it is save. She gets a panic about how time has gone and repeats to herself that she is still young.

As an opposite Julia sees in the men's eyes that she is old and worn out. Uncle Griffits evaluates Julia and makes a judgement that she is not young anymore. He makes it sound like that not being young anymore makes her someone to feel pity. It is a fine line how long you can assure yourself that you are still young and decisions what to make of your life are in front of you. Pushing the panic away is a mechanism that makes one push necessary decisions to the future. The way Rhys writes about time and opportunities passing is melancholic, true and powerful. She doesn't tell which one is the right way to choose but reveals how difficult it is to stay awake in one's own life. As if she says don't sleep too long or sleep through your whole life without caring.

Julia is sensitive and when she walks though the streets of Paris and London she looks in the minds of people. She cares what people think about her and is afraid that she seems idiotic. She is relatively young, 36, but in the phase of her life when she begins to think of her age and how it shows. Julia doesn't take strength from the life experiences she has had. She is vulnerable to the eyes of others. Maybe people don't even pay attention to her. I wonder how much we pay attention to how people look at us in the streets. Sometimes subconsciously we brush our hair with our hand to make ourselves more presentable.

In the end Julia is not a victim. She knows how to make a new skin and continue forward. She has no wish to disappear even though in other ways she is careless. She knows how to use men who push into her company to her own advantage. She turns upside town the setting where men want to use her to their own amusement. In the end she is not someone to be helped but someone who helps herself no matter how humiliating the circumstances are at times. She ponders how amazing things there may be waiting for her, happiness, facial massage. I loved her wry humor that connects to the advertisements we see in our Instagram feed. Happiness and facial massage seen as as equal sources of fulfillment in woman's life.  A new tampon that makes us jump bungee jumps.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Walk and Take the Urban Space

Wondering and wandering go hand in hand. Walking gives mental space to concentrate and go through issues that have jammed inside one's head. When in movement it feels like even the things that are stuck and without an answer begin to move and get a new order. For many creative processes walking is an essential part. One comes up with an idea but a good long walk enables the thinking go to the second level. The idea being processed gets a new and even better form. In hard times walking can be one of the few activities one can do. It is possible to adjust the pace and just keep moving no matter how slowly but still going somewhere. Maybe not going to a physical place but towards a solution and some outcome that leads forward. Walking can help to notice the steps that take closer to one's dreams. It is concrete action that makes one see action in issues that are hard to define.

35/52 Lauren Elkin's Flâneuse. Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London (2016) is about walking in urban space and it's many meanings. It asks to whom the urban space belongs, who can walk there and who can wander observing passers by. It ponders how urban cities open to the female walker. It inspires to go and explore the cities around the world by walking.

Elkin is accompanied by women from different eras of time. Women who have both been keen to walk and knew their city with it's every detail. At the same time when Elkin walks with inspiring writers like Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Martha Gellhorn, she goes through their work and alleys they took. She takes the same paths and reflects the same issues they either brought up in their work or had in their personal life. If you love book, film and art recommendations this book will offer you many. There is so many interesting works to enjoy from films by Agnes Varda to novels by George Sand. Not to mention countless cites Elkin makes through the book raising a dream to become as well sophisticated as she is. I have always been deeply inspired by people who are able to move from level to another in cultural and societal discussions, how they can drop a name or two, cite some recent research, quote in French or Latin, talk about what is happening in popular culture today and draw lines of connection between this all.

Urban space has not always been available for women and even these days we ask ourselves if we can go out in certain parts of the city or walk around save in certain hours. City offers lots to explore but also threats. Even nowadays a woman can't walk alone in some places, either because it is not save or because it is not approved by society. When we walk we are not moved by others we move ourselves, take the space ourselves and explore it with our own terms. We can choose to take different route instead of being driven to given places and answers. Virginia Woolf moved with her sister Vanessa to Bloomsbury. From save and predictable Kensington to an area that didn't hold the best of reputation. What Bloomsbury gave her was freedom to walk and think. With fellow artists she could develop ideas and choose whole new ways of organizing her world. Some spaces still stayed closed for women. In A Room of One's Own women are not allowed to go to the university campus lawn and library. But Virginia is well aware of this injustice, she is a feminist who goes to test the limits of her time and writes to us all if there are faults in the current thinking.

Elkin defines flâneuse and seeks to show that women too can walk and observe. We might think why not, sure women too can observe and walk in urban space as they like. What has hold against this is that women are the one's to be observed and seen and thus it is impossible to observe, be part of the mass if you stand out. Man is the norm in urban space and men can fade themselves to the background. That is how the thought of flâneur is based, that men can hide themselves and become observers. In times when women were not that common sight on streets, cafes and bars they have raised more curiosity. But there were curious and adventurous women in history too, flâneuses, who took the space. Sometimes in disguise, like George Sand, most often without, taking the observing gaze directed to them and gazing their observers back.

Walking and going are protests per se but it is also good to notice that manifests are also partly about walking in public space. At the same time when one walks they tell why they walk. Apart from flâneuse in manifest the point is to be seen and to be present to the public eye. Elkin tells her story how she first tried to stay away from manifests and keep a low profile but eventually by accident got into one and learned how it feels to be in a group. She sees the meaning of the manifest not as opposing those in power but as a way to show fellow citizens that these kind of opinions exist. It might be that the presence of opinion encourages those who observe to re-evaluate their thinking.

When we travel we want places to open to us and invite us in. Even if we seek something different to what we are used to we still hope that the different works with the same core principles. Elkin tells about her experiences in Tokyo. She gets a possibility to live in Tokyo when her boyfriend gets a job in the city. When she gets there she begins to feel that the city is not as inviting as the other cities where she has made her home in. Tokyo craves time to get to know how it functions. Streets are marked in a different way and products on store don't look familiar. Tokyo wants the explorer to stay longer before it shows it's character.

Is to wander to be without any attachments or vice versa? Maybe the essence of flâneur is to be able to go to the shared urban space and explore it and get to know people with whom you share the space with. One can have a camp in the world or several camps from where they go to their walks. Walks can head to nearby streets or around the world. Point is to own the outside space with others instead of being bound inside the four walls. For Elkin Paris is her home in the world even though she has lived in various cities. Paris is where she begins her journeys and where she wants back. For author and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn it was restricting to own a house and be bound to certain place. She was in her bets element when she got to see the world, observe what she saw and report to those in their homes what happened in war zones. It is everyone's own balance between wandering and being in one place. Also the distance of these wanderings is something we can choose. Do we need to go another side of the world or is it enough to see how life goes in neighbor suburb.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Story Behind The Photographs

34/52 Rupert Thomson: Never Anyone But You (2018) Never Anyone But You tells the life story of Suzanne Malherbe and Lucie Schwob also known as Marcel Moore and Claude Cahun. The artist couple met each other in 1909 and the novel follows their life for several decades. During that time they went through both First and Second World War as well as the free and fascinating time that Paris lived between the wars. Marcel Moore was a visual artist and Claude Cahun author who wrote novels, articles and other texts. Cahun also posed in self-portraits that she took together with Marcel. In those portraits Cahun studies gender identity by using different costumes, poses and roles.

 Might contain spoilers! The story is told from Marcel's perspective and the photographs they take together are essential part of the novel's structure. I felt that the time sort of stopped when they began to make arrangements for a photo shooting. In the old times people thought that the camera steals the soul. Their self-portraits are still available for us to see and Thomson pays attention to the moment and the surroundings where the couple created their works. Those moments are not quick and spontaneous. The photographs are designed and finished. The idea seems to come from Claude who chooses the clothes, makeup and role she wants to present. Marcel is the one who shoots the photographs. The photos show different sides of Claude. She examines herself in those moments when she is in front of the camera. Some photos take part to political discussions and societal issues.

For Marcel Claude is the center point of her life. Claude is demanding personality who brings in the drama. Through their life together she has many suicide attempts and she is always between life and death. She refuses to eat and makes her body a work she molds according to her artistic ambitions. When Marcel tries to take photographs without Claude she sees how empty the pictures are. The art they make together is the core of her life and Claude is the only subject she has in her work. She ponders:

"My subject has been taken from me. 
My love had been taken from me. 
Or perhaps that was my subject."

The novel makes you think how easy it is to vanish from the scene of history. They both did creative work and belonged to the artistic societies. They were part of the surrealist movement and in the same circles with them was for example Salvador Dalí. The time between wars was liberal and experimental. They had parties and interesting artistic projects. The contrast between peace time and war is enormous. They are forced to move from Paris to Jersey to be save. The societies are broken and can't be fixed. After the war not everyone is present. People have been scattered around this world and beyond. Some of the artists they knew continue their career. But Marcel and Claude have vanished and their work forgotten. How history is written is not objective and the overall spirit of each time decides who is remembered and who is forgotten. They might have been ahead of their time. The time between wars was a short glimpse to the future and in that bubble they bloomed. After the second world war came a conservative boost. Traditions and old norms became the surviving mechanism from the war that had been incomprehensible in it's cruelty.

Marcel and Claude inspire us when they create a resistance movement against the Nazi ideology. In Jersey they see German soldiers and become aware that some of them think differently and don't share the ideology. They see a possibility to influence on those soldier's attitudes towards the cruelties and war. Their dedication to the pacifist campaign is so huge that the German who question them find it difficult to comprehend that is all crafted by two elderly women instead of a whole group of people. In the campaign they use the tools given to them, their Art. In this project as well as in their other personal choices they are not afraid of risks. That is what makes their work and life visionary. If they did only what was safe there would't be anything we can learn about. Their life would be part of the ordinary canon and part of the history book narrative; A mass of events that form a bigger picture and where individuals with visionary thoughts and acts are not forming the way we think but we are assured to continue on believing what we have been taught is true and right.

Then again even though the history can make us vanish we do not leave the world without a mark. There must be a trace we leave. The generations to come might get interested and find new value on art that once didn't get acknowledged the way it should have been. In a new surroundings and atmosphere the art made decades before gets new meanings and speaks differently. In today's world when the understanding of the diversity of gender has become broader Claude's examinations about her identity visualize what she feels inside. When looking at the photos it is interesting to notice how one person can be many. How she wants to be seen defines who we see in the picture. And it essential notion in the novel too. When they take photographs Claude decides what there will be in the picture. She takes a pose, arranges her hair and asks Marcel to wait for the moment when she is ready. Claude is on both sides of the camera.

Thomson's novel is perfect read for these dark Autumn evenings. It is romantic story of a couple whose love lasted for a whole lifetime. It describes Paris between wars, inspiring new movements and possibilities. It makes us see our potential on fighting against destroying and harmful ideologies that seem to be overpowering and invincible. It is also interesting to go and see the actual self-portraits that are described in the novel, one can find their photographs with a simple search using their names.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Modern Quilt Art

Quilt: Orange Is the Rule Breaker
In this work orange become the color that breaks the harmony. Without it this quilt would look boring. Now that the colour challenges the eye one has to look again to form an opinion.

It is always equally pleasing to introduce a new quilt work. These are all so different even though you might recognize that the style is the same and works are made by the same person. In every work I try to test new ideas, search inspiration from different sources and combine colours that inspire me the most at the time. These are all modern and timeless yet I am not afraid to put hints to the time these have been done. Quilt art should last time like art in general and it should not be bound to trends that make it look worn out after year or two. Still I think art also preserves the essence of the time and era that is lived. That is why it is natural that art represents the ideas and currents of the time or in it's most visionary predicts the future we all might not even see. Then we can both see the moment when work was created, let it discuss with what we have now and based on this discussion develop new ideas. One might see from the colours that I am using that this particular work is created around the late 2010s. The work might connect to what happened in this era and what we talked about in the society. When I go to an exhibition this is one way I look at the works. Next step is to understand the similarities to our time and if we ponder same kind of issues these days.

Quite often things just change form yet the core is the same. The pattern for this work is inspired by staircase I saw months ago on my walk. The end result brings to my mind art deco with it's shell like curves. What comes to the era after the first world war we might see many connections to our time. Fashion has always looked inspiration from past decades and centuries. What comes to societal climate of the 1920s - 1940s we hear same kind of voices today. People's desperation and those who are not afraid to use it for their own purposes. I really hope art can be one path to show us from where we have come to this moment. Art can make us see where appealing rhetoric and blind following will take us. In hard times artists made their dreams visible though art and those are the pictures that tell us our real possibilities and how high we can actually aim.

We can enjoy art and we are all allowed to create. What ever is the way for going through emotions -  quilting, painting, moving, cooking... - it is great there is something to make us think and process. We become emotionally blind if we don't create, play and question what is given. Person who creates solves problems and begins to see the opportunities and new ways of doing things. If we don't develop a capacity to question we begin to believe that the solutions given to us are all there is. I have always seen crafts as a form of empowerment. The moment when I draw, test ideas and make is a moment when I have a small arena of my own. I can make decisions, do errors and make corrections and after the process I have something that I can be proud of. An object I have made by myself with my own decisions and skills. Creative processes give self-confidence and knowledge about one's own capacity and through this one has courage to be critical and use their own voice. Quite many things can be taken away easily but creative mind is somewhere deeper.

I have already been sketching a new quilt project. I have fallen in love to the notion that fabric can be so fluent like liquid on canvas. It can be twisted and sculptured to curves. I will test the limits of fabric and draw more challenging patterns. I have noticed that even the most difficult forms are possible with the right technique. It is so much fun to use imagination and come up with an idea that craves time and determination to come into reality.