December 24, 2016

End of the Year Tales: What have human cultures made of time?



The artist, critic and activist Nine Yamamoto-Masson has a new radio series News from the Sun. The first part is on the topic of time, which is a great thing to reflect about in this time slot between 2016 and 2017. "What have human cultures made of time?" Nine Yamamoto-Masson asks. Yamamoto-Masson has a voice that is beautiful to listen to, one that takes you along, and she made the radio show into quite an art work, collaging different sources of inspiration together. She mentions that the listener might think of her like a stoner or like a wide-eyed child. And it's true that her journey on time has something of Walter Benjamin touring on hashish through Marseille, opening up to different powers of observation. She does so by conversing with all her favorites, like Chris Marker, Nina Simone, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, CG Ballard. “Don’t you want to transcend time?”, it’s asked at some point, to which is responded: ‘Of course, I have little time left.”

After listening to the show, I was inspired to give time, as I experienced it this week, some thought: 

On Monday evening, December 19, I watched Pina Bausch’ Palermo Palermo at the Berliner Festspiele. Theatre or cinema gives you time off: it can be dream time, condensed time, escape time. When you leave the show you need the real time outside to be the same as before so you can acclimatize your way back in. But during the show, a few blocks away of the theatre, a truck had been driven into a Christmas market, which seemed very unreal so that when we exited the show it was as if we were left hanging somewhere in between times.

Pina Bausch’ Palermo Palermo consists of vignettes of life’s struggles and the need for love. Interestingly, it’s the women who are in charge. Men are merely doing what they are told to do. The women demand to be kissed, hugged, and loved but the fulfillment of these demands doesn’t lead to satisfaction. Actually, most of the time everybody on stage is quite dissatisfied. A woman in the possession of  uncooked spaghetti screams: “I don’t lend them and I don’t give them away. They are mine.” At the end of the piece, a tale is told about a fox who wants to eat some geese. The fowl outwits him, asking the fox for time to pray. There is nothing he can do but wait until the geese are finished praying and, of course, they just keep on going, which is sort of hopeful.

In the middle of Pina Bausch's drama on stage, an elderly man in the audience stands up and turns around while saying out loud: “There has been a terror attack in Berlin.” Then he leaves. The rest of the audience stays in its role of audience and doesn’t budge. A woman behind me sobs and keeps on doing so until the person sitting next to her proposes to accompany her outside. It isn’t the first time that stage and reality collide in Palermo Palermo. The piece starts with an enormous wall falling backwards on the stage with an enormous crash. When it was first performed in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.

On Tuesday, December 20, I was on my way to Belgium and since my flight was delayed I had to wait for more than five hours. Finally, it looked like we could board any minute. From the waiting room we saw the crew getting ready in the cockpit. But then the crew discovered that because of the delay their limit of working hours had been reached. An announcement was made that they were looking for a new crew. Two hours later it was announced that "volunteers" had been found to fly the plane to Belgium. By then, nobody gave a damn about the volunteer part, it could have been interns and we would have boarded anyway. 

In the street where my mother lives (which you could call a village street if it wasn’t for the fact that Belgium doesn’t really do in villages but rather in suburbs) things have changed over the past few years. The grass in front of houses has been systematically replaced by gravel, the hedges by stone walls, and all trees have been cut. My mother says it’s because people don’t want to bother anymore with cleaning up the leaves and cutting the grass. It’s also nice because this way the street is in a kind of time free zone. The Belgian sky is always grey and now there is no longer an indication to see that it is winter when nature is so sad to look at. 

I looked in my notebook and found a list of words on time that I collected once. Don't ask me why, I don't remember, that's what time does to memory: 

these things take time
your time runs out
living on borrowed time
killing time
time has changed
time stands still
hard time
wasted time
the time of my life
free time
doing hard time
the right time
night time
time square
break time
time out






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