The Swedish art magazine Paletten asked me to write something on desire and disaster in English for their Venice Biennale edition. I did – inspired by my present state of being…
It is my twenty-third consecutive day of having the flu.
This ever mutating flu that belongs to everyone and has no boundaries.
I keep saying to the people working in the venues that I am not that sick,
but then again I am really not that well.
Fever on, fever off.
If I have a night of decent sleep
– the kind of sleep that feels like work because it is meant to make me fit –
then the next night keeps me up with burning tonsils.
Once or twice in the past when I had a job that I was less eager about,
I tried staying in bed on my first day of illness, and it really helped a lot.
But I tell myself
since I missed the critical moment this time,
the one point where I could have suppressed the revolt of my body,
what is the point in resting anymore?
The infection will take revenge anyways, ride me for weeks and weeks.
The adrenaline rush from stepping in front of the audience wipes out my symptoms momentarily.
I perform in a haze, blurred out faces mirroring my motions with their nods.
Afterwards, muscle pains of different types mix with each other into peculiar cramps.
The cramps repeat the patterns of the choreography
even when I am trying to be still in order to be able to repeat it all tomorrow.
I hate performing arts when it is like this.
Performing arts means ephemeral and difficult to finance.
Performing arts means extremely unnegotiable deadlines.
Performing arts means collegues that flew in from other countries.
Performing arts means people who either see us perform or do not see us perform.
Performing arts means the purest form of narcissistic bliss
on these evenings where showtime coincides with the triumph of the body.
Performing arts leaves it up to me to know my boundaries when the infection knows none.
Performing arts leaves it up to me to shape my boundaries, make them fit to these conditions.
I started dancing because I wanted to be superhuman.
I started dancing because I wanted to make friends with death.
I started dancing because it was never to late to become a dancer.
Should I then pause my dancing for a minor flu?
Should I not rather affirm the infection as a part of the process,
make it integral to the performance, as if it was meant to be there all along?
That is how I always operate
with the other mental and physical states that occur when I am dancing.
I try to stay alert to what is there,
I relish in it and I deeply forget about tomorrow.
But what I love to do when I am well is intolerable to do when I am ill.
The emotional thruth of illness is the wish for time to pass.
I started writing to pass time when time was insufferable.
When I write, there are no witnesses to my condition
and I can always send in the job via email from my bed.
On the stage my nose is running for everyone to see,
and I am breaking sweat for nothing.
Afterwards, someone will warn me about myocarditis
as so to remind me that I can say no.
Sure, I can say no to performing with a fever.
I can send the collegues home,
hand back the funding
and tell the audience to come another day.
The only thing I cannot say no to is infection,
but I do it anyways.
I say no to infection and yes to performance.
I perform because it is the normal thing to do if you are on tour.
I perform because of the specific wound that labor is in our constitutions.
I perform because the body will always be a metaphor for the society that it lives in.
I perform because of my willingness to be deceived when it comes to my own efficiency,
I perform because I am sticky and I attatch to almost everything.
I convince myself that the infection can be scheduled, convinced, reprogrammed,
like a person.
I know that I will never be able to control the operations of infection.
It is not a person and and she can not be mastered by pure will.
It would take something else; like a change of global mobility,
like a way to stop all mutations,
like an end to history.
I alone do not have that power,
and yet I wish to have power over something.
In my twenty-third consecutive day of struggling,
I continue to negotiate with the flu.
I negotiate for something as commonplace as art.
Please forgive me if it earns me myocarditis.
Just tonight, I promise the infection,
because I really want to finish this cycle
– then never again will I defy the decrees
to rest and sleep,
to drink and eat,
to keep silent and to not meet people.
To keep my eyes closed,
block the world out,
concentrate on only her.
I ask her, as one asks a parent:
Is that enough, infection? Can I then be cured?