in the world
let your feet be
and the earth be
by the gentleness
of your touch
I have a confession to make.
It involves hotel rooms, bad art and a developing compulsive (dis)order.
It started about 2 years ago. In a holiday bungalow in northern Germany…
I realized that every time I looked at the wall and the poor excuse-of-an-artwork hanging there, I became nauseous and my rebel soul escaped from its chains. It does not happen very often, but it has since become a serious addiction with a recognizable pattern.
Have you ever noticed the crap they hang on the walls in a room which, for a brief amount of time, is supposed to be your comfortable home away from home? A room which you usually pay a substantial amount of money for? And in my case, this money is hard-earned by producing and selling enough good art to be able to afford an occasional weekend away.
Ok, you might have not noticed. But that shall be forgiven, because usually it is so bland or so bad, that you might not even notice or remember it. But I started to feel really insulted. Usually the art they hang looks cheaper and more tasteless than the carefully selected rubbish bin in the same room.
Anyway. I just returned from a brief visit to Frankfurt. I was invited to attend the glamorous Live Entertainment Awards 2013 and accommodated in a nearby fancy hotel.
There it happened again.
Recognizing the pattern, I thought this time I rather confess straight away.
Our room on the 32nd floor was decorated with a digital print of some kind of old engraving, possibly showing an early view of Frankfurt. (There was no signature or any other information provided to trace the artwork to its original creator.) It was paced behind glass in a big golden frame and securely fastened to the wall with screws. Yes, screwed, as if the hotel worries that somebody will want to steal it?!? Ok, granted, the white pass-partout might have some kind of value on the recycling market for some poor artist…
I had to do something. Usually I never go anywhere without a small selection of essential art materials and tools, but this time I just grabbed a few pens and my sketchbook, not expecting much free time for creative adventures. Limitations often tickle me to become even more creative and soon I had a rough plan, fitting my ethics of doing as little harm as possible.
The unsuspecting hotel staff agreed to lend me a pair of scissors large enough to cut creative designs into the curtains. The hotel also provided me with a complimentary copy of a glossy magazine. Lastly I got a piece of double-sided tape from the team preparing the Frankfurt Festhalle for the LEA awards. Addicts like me, just know how to get their fix
I am still not ready for the ‘show and tell’ part – please bear with me, this is not an easy confession, but I promise, it is serious fun.
Looking out of our window, we had a great view of Frankfurt am Main with its huge skyscrapers housing several large financial institutions and banks. Frankfurt a.M. is known as the financial hub of Germany, I am told. If there is something that gives me an even worse allergic reaction than bad art, it is the whole financial industry with their dubious systems and the way they rule the world.
With the banks in the back of my mind (even literally when I turned around from the window and looked at the artwork in our room), a magazine at hand, scissors and tape I was ready to spend the afternoon happily in our room. Much better than shopping or sight-seeing!
Limited by the available images, materials and the fact that the decorative ‘artwork’ was behind glass and fastened to the wall, this was a great challenge, but I really like the result and think it worked out perfectly. (Thank you, dear universe, for always providing me with exactly what I need! )
Only two images really worked for me with this picture, considering the size, colours etc., so I ended up with Chinese military procession and some models dressed in futuristic, Asian inspired fashion. While the soldiers looked quite informal, the models posed in an almost threatening and powerful way. So this work seemed to be headed into the direction of a subtle confrontation or battle. Possibly between the female and male powers? Or Europe and Asia? I was a bit apprehensive about displaying a battle or aggression, so I wanted to add some relief to this tense situation.
I found a speech-bubble with the text “We don’t want taxpayers having to save banks” and thought, that this statement suits my view, it would be a perfect cause for these ladies to protect and it would give the artwork a comic feel, making it a bit ‘lighter’, but still with a serious message. I also decided to give the work a title and place it in the middle of the pass-partout, like it was often done with old prints. From the limited text phrases available “Love and Devotion” seemed to be a perfect choice.
I then decided this should be a dialogue. If the female part is allowed to say something, then the male part will also get a voice. I found a tiny empty speech bubble in the hotel brochure and drew a heart in it and placed it above a smiling soldier…
And some more dialogue happens when you open the curtains and can see Frankfurt’s skyline with the building of the Deutsche Bank (amongst others) reflected on the image…
I love adding fun and value to the ‘artworks’ and decoration in hotel rooms or holiday apartments, and have done so on several occasions. I wish I could see the faces of the people who notice the interventions and know what they are thinking. I also wish I knew how long it takes the hotel staff to recognize the interventions and see what they decide to do about it. Hopefully it will put a smile on some people’s faces!
I plan to share some of my previous similar interventions with you too and hope that I can visit many more hotels or holiday apartments in the near future.
Bird of darkness, you are back again,
nesting forcefully in my crown.
Thrusting your claws into the depths of my heart.
Stubbornly refusing to be shooed away.
You spread out your wings
not to take flight,
but to cover everything under your gloom.
You stifle me.
pounding your angry beak against my head.
Oh, when will you leave my branches again?
Lift your heavy weight of me
and let the sun flow back into my emptiness?
And why have you chosen me
To make yourself at home?
Oh, when will you return to your own darkness
and give me space to breath?
(Sometimes I get overwhelmed by feelings of depression and on the advice of my friend and healing facilitator Jutta Dobler I decided to try and embrace the feeling instead of fighting it. And this is what came out of it – the text and a few days later I made the quick sketch while waiting for the dentist. I am no poet, but still thought I would like to share these scribbles with you.)
Text ©Imke Rust
I desperately needed to cheer myself up… The sunless grey days of German winter needed some warmth and the beautiful white landscapes some colour.
Fortunately I brought some really cute, really bright orange goldfish along from Namibia and decided to take them for a swim in unusual places.
Interventions like these are fun. And important. I slowly realize that these ‘small’ and playful things, which I am usually doing on the spur of the moment, are not that frivolous at all. I might just be following a hunch or a simple, but fascinating idea, at the time and only see the relevance to my life or the bigger picture later. And then I am surprised how these simple creative processes help me to make sense of my life and emotions.
Since I arrived in Berlin in the middle of February, I struggled to adjust to the cold and sunless weather here. Even though I have been regularly moving between the two continents and cultures for some time now, I am still not managing the change very well. I really enjoy Berlin and all that it has to offer, but I have to admit, as a born and bred Namibian I still feel like a fish out of water in Europe.
Taking my goldfish out into nature, letting them brighten up the day, wobble through the snow and glide up into the sky reminded me that I could choose to embrace the unease and stress I am experiencing because I am out of my comfort zone. To focus on the bright side and willingly submit to the growth-pains which are a necessary if we do not want to stay stuck in the same old rut. And to explore the advantages: more freedom to discover unusual and new things, having fun in simple ways and being able to see the world with a fresh and unconditioned mind.
And for a while the excitement of placing my cute goldfish all over the place and photographing them made me forget my unusually low tolerance to the cold and my gloomy mood.
Do you understand German and would like to listen to an interview about my latest art exhibition?
Then I invite you to please tune in to the NBC German Radio Station on Sunday, 13 January 13 at 18h00 (Namibian time).For those of you who are not living in Namibia, you can listen to the interview on NBC’s livestream via the internet @ http://220.127.116.11:8110/ . If you have missed that one or cannot make it, don’t worry, there will be a re-broadcast on THURSDAY at 22h00 (17 January).
The program’s name is Kaleidoskop and it will feature a 30min interview with me, hosted by Annemarie Brell. The interview will give you an insight into my views on environmental art, we are talking about my works that have been exhibited recently in Swakopmund at my solo exhibition “…and I sensed an infinite scream passing through the Namib” and I share information how the works originated and what my intentions are.
Many people have commented that they have really enjoyed my earlier brief interview done in the beginning of December, just after the opening of the exhibition, so I hope this will be equally interesting.
You can find more information on the radio station’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/germanradio
Wow, 2012 has been a busy and exciting year! My latest solo-exhibition has just ended and I had such a great response to it, that I am deeply grateful and humbled. Thank you all who came, commented, sent good wishes or supported me in any other way. I am busy getting ready for another fabulous new year and preparing to soon update my webpage with new pictures and information on the past exhibition and other news. Till then, I leave you with a brief review of my most viewed blogs of the last year.
I love feedback and was excited to get some nice statistics about my webpage and blog from WordPress (where my page is hosted), and would like to share some of the highlights with you:
My webpage received about 8700 views in the past year. Visitors came from 99 countries!
Most visitors came from Namibia. Germany & The United States were not far behind.
You might want to re-read my three top blogs from the past year – the ones which have received the most views are:
1. Tokoloshe Trap (or How to Catch Creatures of the Night) This blog tells you more about the origins of one of the works (Tokoloshe Trap) on my latest exhibition “…and I sensed an infinite scream passing through the Namib”.
2. The shoes you wear… and how they are connected to my art This one is a fun post about a very old work of mine, but seems if you put the word ‘shoes’ in the header, you might get more hits… (This blog got 184 views in 2012)
3. Tate Kuru, a tree and a road – a story of courage and doing the right thing This post is an inspirational post and explains a bit of my thinking and background to the art project I worked on for most of the year which resulted in my solo exhibition “…and I sensed an infinite scream passing through the Namib” which was shown in December 2012 in Swakopmund to great acclaim.
I would love to hear which was your personal favourite blog post, story or artwork of mine of the past year? And is there anything that you really would love to read or see more about this year? Please let me know!
Some years ago I lived in Oshakati, a town in northern Namibia, which was/is a crazy mix between traditional Africa and urban shopping centers, absolute poverty and tremendous wealth, thousands of people and similar amounts of donkeys, goats and hungry dogs roaming the streets. Not really a pretty place, but interesting and alive.
The time there left a huge impression on me in many ways and left me with quite a few stories to tell. The memory of one story suddenly returned to me in vivid colours and stubbornly keeps sticking in my thoughts. I guess it is a good time to tell and share this story, as it is so inspiring. Here it goes:
One day we left Oshakati, driving north-west towards Ruacana with a friend. The surrounding area is pretty flat and the road at most places unimaginatively straight, except for one place. About 50km outside of Oshakati the straight road heads straight towards a gorgeous, huge tree. Shortly before the road meets the tree it makes a bend to the right and travels around it, just to take up its normal course shortly afterwards. I commented that I thought that was great of the engineers that they did not just chop down the tree in their way, but instead planned for the street to go around it. Our friend smiled and told us, that the engineers and road builders had no intention to do this, but planned to fell the tree. A ‘Tate Kuru’ (Ovambo for wise old man) – I assume from a nearby village – found out their plans and did not want this ancient, impressive tree to die to make place for the street. He pleaded with them, but the authorities were not interested and told him the tree has to go in the name of development.
The old man was not that easily impressed, so he went home, got his gun and sat under the tree, threatening to shoot anybody that tried to remove him or the tree. He sat there for a very long time, day and night, protecting the tree from the developers and nobody knew what to do with this stubborn and determined ‘Tate Kuru’. Eventually his perseverance of this one old chap won and amazingly the developers build the road around the tree. Unfortunately I do not know who this guy was… I would love to meet him and thank him.
I made a tiny little drawing to remind me of the responsibility and power we all have towards our environment.
If one old man can protect a tree from a tarred road and rich developers, so can you and me. We just need to remember what is really important and act accordingly. And remember this very special ‘Tate Kuru’ if you ever feel that you are all alone or not strong enough to make the world a better place.
You alone can make a difference, and if we join forces, we can make an even greater difference. And sometimes some bold actions and perseverance is needed.
If you want to know why this story is so important to me at the moment, read on:
I am really concerned about the future of our beautiful Namib Desert and coastal area around Swakopmund – just recently the Namibian Cabinet has agreed to sell 700 hectares of the Dorop National Park to a company who plans to build a huge industrial and chemical plant. Eventually they will need about 3000 hectares according to their plans, also all inside the recently established Dorop National Park. The same company (and some others) also has plans for marine phosphate mining along our coast and they have already acquired the respective EPLs (Exclusive Prospecting Licenses). In most parts of the world it is prohibited to mine marine phosphate which is highly radioactive and scientists do not know what impact the mining could have on the ecosystem and oceans. You can get much more detailed and scientific information about this on “The Earth Organization Namibia” blog.
Have a look at some of the artworks which I have made for this cause here. And watch out for my exhibition in Swakopmund in December!
About a year ago a small group of concerned citizens has got together and are trying to spread information on this situation and the possible consequences and to protect our home from pollution and exploitation. They have formed several Facebook forums and they have also started a petition.
Please support this cause, by joining the Facebook groups, signing the petition and by getting informed and active in whatever way you can.
Link to the Petition: (just click on the links to be taken straight to the respective sites)
A good summary of some background information can be found at:
Encourage your family, friends and contacts to send their e-mail addresses to the following e-mail address so that a comprehensive mailing list can be maintained and all those can be reached and kept informed about the environment of the Namibian coastline and its ocean:
As long as I can remember I have been intrigued by the underlying patterns and relationships between people, things and events.
I have always been trying to get a better understanding of what life is all about, as the normal explanations, which our society has to offer, seldom seem convincing or desirable to me. Since childhood I have been convinced that there must be better ways for us to do things (all kinds of things). Surely there must be a better life out there for all of us?
If something does not feel right and makes me really happy, I just do not want to accept that this is how it is supposed to be, just because people say so. I do not care if their arguments are based on religion, social rules, scientific research or other dogmas. I have been called stubborn and insubordinate, but at least nobody can accuse me of being a sheep, and it felt good to go ahead and do something which I was told I could not do or find my own better or more efficient way to do things.
I believe that there is more to life and living than what we commonly accept to be true. The world is not flat, no matter how many scientists have said it is. It is not OK to kill somebody, no matter how many religions supposedly tell us that we have to fight wars in the name of some god. It is not acceptable to place the profits of a few over the health and well-being of a whole community. I refuse to accept that millions of people live in great poverty and hunger.
I guess that is why I have become an artist. Artist in the widest possible sense of our understanding of art.
Art as a creative tool – creating a new or better reality. A tool that can access the world of the soul. A tool that is rooted in imagination and vision. A tool that is based on colours, forms and materials just as much as it is on ideas, hope and dreams.
Art, which shows us something, which we have not seen before.
Art that opens us up to possibilities and new thoughts.
Art, which reminds us of who we are.
And I guess, that is the reason that I am interested in alternative healing and living methods. Once again, I talk of healing in a much wider sense, in the sense of wholeness. This wholeness is not limited to being whole (or healthy) in our physical body, but also in our spirits, our ways, our actions, basically in our whole being. Being whole also means to be part of the whole – of everything there is. Understanding that we are connected to every other being on this planet, including ‘things’ we do not consider to be alive, like water, soil, rocks or energies.
Unfortunately, I do not know the answers or have a no-fail solution, or am able to live my life in the perfect harmony which I wish for, but what I can say, is that I will continue to ask the questions and keep on searching and keep on using my art as a vehicle to express my questions and thoughts, explore the possibilities and try to find a better way.
I have shared these thoughts with you, as I believe that they are fundamental for understanding my approach to my art and my life. I think it might be a good introduction to the next few articles, which I will be posting about my current work. And another selfish reason I do this for: sometimes it is good for me to take stock and get back to the basics, in times when I am facing obstacles and frustrations and need to remind myself why I am doing what I am doing, so that I find the courage to continue and do not give up.
I have spent eight days in the beginning of April in the desert around the coastal town of Swakopmund to make artworks in nature. It is my way to raise awareness about the threats which our environment is facing. And it is my way of taking action. I believe that art is not only an aesthetic experience, but also a powerful and spiritual one. Just like the shamans and healers of the olden days have used drawings, symbols, rituals and objects to heal and change the vibrations of the current reality, I hope that my art can have a positive and healing influence.
The Namib Desert at the Atlantic coast in Namibia is currently under much threat, with uranium mines springing up and growing like fungi, huge chemical plants proposed to be built (who plan to get rid of their toxic waste in the Atlantic ocean) and even Phosphor mining plans on our shores. Not only these big obvious projects are threatening the desert and ocean, but also the thousands of people who mindlessly use the environment as their playground without consideration or awareness of the damage they are doing.
I am happy that more and more people are standing up and making their voices heard for saving our environment and there even being signs and actions from our government which gives us hope that they are not going to sell out our desert. I thought a lot about what I can do for my part, and decided that I stick to what I do best: art. Instead of painting posters against the ‘enemy’ I decided to do things pro nature, make artworks which symbolically protect the land from harm, bless it and celebrate its beauty, while at the same time raising awareness about the threats.
I am busy preparing the documentation of the works for my upcoming exhibition in June in Berlin and want to keep the artworks a surprise till then. Instead I will share with you pictures of some of the meetings we had during the eight days, in which we worked in the desert. Just to show you how alive the desert really is with creatures we often do not even notice. All of these and many, many more depend on our choices for their survival. And our own survival depends on a healthy and alive environment.
Although I have much time of my life in the desert, it is the first time that I personally spotted this highly poisonous small snake. A good reminder for me to tread carefully for my own protection and on the other hand I felt sadness, as she was living in an area where sand is mined and I guess it is only a matter of time, before she ends up being killed by the huge machines.
These are only some of the animals which we encountered while working in the desert, as I did not always have my camera ready…. I was so amazed to notice just how alive the desert really is.
Oh, and then while marveling at the horned viper, we also encountered some very noisy two-wheeled creatures:
I wonder how many of our small new friends they noticed? And how many of them survived the encounter?
If this matter is also close to your heart and you would like to show your support for the environment of the Namib Desert, especially around Swakopmund, please join the Facebook group “Industrial Swakopmund – What Future do we Want?” and stay updated about the latest news and actions.
The art project was funded, in part, through a Grant by the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN), the opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the NACN.
(Update 21 March 2013: To see pictures and a description of the final artwork, please click here.)
I am hard at work preparing for a land art project which I am planning to do at the coast soon, and have been spending much time finding and cutting white thorns. These long, straight, white thorns, growing in pairs at an about 90degree angle to each other, are something I typically relate with Namibia. Different kinds of trees and bushes grow them and they look stunning, but are also really painful if you step into one.
I plan to use many (as in thousands) of these thorns, so I have been spending my past few days cutting these thorns off their branches. To get a break from this tedious task, I decided to arrange some of the cut thorns in my garden to see what it looks like. I decided on a simple circle shape. And this is what it looked like.
My cat is in the second picture, since she took great interest in my arranging the thorns and continuously interfered, thinking it is great to bite the thorns, rub her chin on them or walk straight through them. All of which was not very helpful and after I have pushed her away too often, she gave me the cold shoulder. (This picture also serves to give you an idea of the size of the thorns, and these one’s are medium-sized!)
Since it was late in the afternoon, I decided to leave the thorns in the garden and wait till the morning to get some of the morning sun for some extra pictures. When I came back to it early in the morning, I realized that some animal walked into the thorns. The circle was damaged and it was surrounded with tracks.
First I thought it might have been my cat, but the strangest thing is that judging by the size of the scratch marks and spoors, the animal must have been huge, something like a big dog. I know that a mongoose often comes to visit at night and stalk around my compost heap, but other than that, there is no large enough entry into my yard, for anything bigger than a cat. Unless it can fly…
Festus, who sometimes helps me in the garden and whom I called to ask if he could identify the spoor, was not sure what it could be either. But for some reason he thought it might be the perfect time to ask me what the word “Tokoloshe” means.
Wikipedia describes it as follows:
“In Zulu mythology, Tikoloshe, Tokoloshe or Hili (from the Xhosa word utyreeci ukujamaal) is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by swallowing a pebble. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.”
So, maybe it was a Tokoloshe?
Hmm, I am still puzzled by what it could have been, but at least I know one thing for sure: whatever it was, it stepped right into the thorns and will surely remember the pain and not come back soon.
And if I ever should need an additional income to my art, maybe I can patent this as a form of Tokoloshe Trap and catch some evil spirits roaming the land.