Sunday, October 16, 2005

More Stockholm wonders

Today I woke pretty late, about 11am. One of Helene's friends I met at the French restaurant my second night in Sweden invited me for a drink last night. We met at Slussen on Göttgaten and then walked down the hill and stopped at a small boutique bar. It was a mixed gay and lesbian bar with a very relaxed and cosy atmosphere. The room was tiny and in space-smart Swedish style, a piano had been perched on top of a loft leaving space for the bar beneath. The room comfortably fit about six or seven people and by the end of the night there were about 30 in the bar, most standing. Somehow the night just flew by, as time seems to have done since arriving in Sweden. One minute we were getting our first drink and settling in for a chat and next minute we were all being booted out of the bar at 2am. Our conversation meandered over such topics as Swedish politics, our research projects, the gay and lesbian scenes in France, Sweden and Australia and identity politics. When we emerged from the bar in the early hours of the morning, the temperature had dropped greatly. It was really cold and we shivered our way back up the hill to Slussen station to part.

Today after a lazy breakfast and warming phone call from my girl friend in Australia I went into town and booked a Canal Tour on the waters around Stockholm. A perspective of Stockholm from the water was a good way to get a sense of the topology of the city, although still far from complete. It's a stunning city and the weather today, despite being very chilly, was again clear and crisp. I put the headphones on during the canal tour and flicked through the guided recordings in other languages before settling on English. The narration was light with long gaps filled with Nordic music - some classical songs and a number of well known Abba tracks. The description swung between in depth statistical figures of such things as population and number of bridges and islands in the Stockholm area and brief snippets about the history and sites of the harbour. The tour ended with a story of the capsizing of the ship "Wasser" only twenty minutes after it was launched. It is now housed inside Wasser museum - the entire ship - and the building is literally moulded around the ship with the masts popping through the ceiling towards the sky.

I received an SMS on the canal tour from one of the Post Doc students at ACSIS. I will call her A because unlike Helene, I have not asked her permission to use her name in my blog. A is from Belgium and speaks an impressive number of languages fluently including Swedish. I feel a bit envious of the ease with which she communicates here in Sweden.
She invited me to join her to see an exhibtion at Liljevachs Konsthall which is showing a retrospective of Helen Chadwick's work. I didn't know anything about Helen Chadwick but thought it would be enjoyable to join her. We met and walked up to the gallery. The leaves were golden and dropping and swirling about in the wind. Kids walked past and kicked up the piles of leaves in the gutters and they fell lightly to the ground again. It was so beautiful.

The exhibition reallly blew me away. I hadn't heard of Helen Chadwick but she is a British artist (now passed away). She was a feminist artist and explored interesting juxtapositions of different materials and technologies, including her own body. There was one exhibition of a large pool of bubbling chocolate with a phallic font in the centre spitting out chocolate. It reminded me of one of the sulphur pools in Rotorua in New Zealand except the whole room smelt like rich, dark chocolate. It was delicious but also repulsive and looked like faeces and when you went up close you could see the bacteria in the brown, bubbling and boiling pool. I felt a twinning of emotion; repulsion and temptation in equal doses, neither overcoming the other but sharing an uncomfortable balance. I am very thankful to A. for inviting me along - a very special experience. Thankful seems to be a permanent state for me recently. I feel brimming with it, a light bubbly feeling that just gets richer and stronger every day.

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