In the autumn of 2019, I spent three weeks in Croatia in a small town called Delnice. My aim was to form a relationship with a place and its stories, and to sketch out a plan for an artwork which I planned to complete in the spring of 2020. Not much can happen in three weeks. Perhaps it’s long enough to notice one’s disjointedness, and to reflect on the relations of one’s body. What could it take part in? What might impress it? What could it touch?
Perhaps it is long enough to be drawn to something, and to be alienated from something.
The local people shared their stories, all tinged with worry and sadness about their community disappearing as more and more people move to bigger cities. Perhaps artists might be able to suggest new rituals to address that sadness, or to create new ways of forging more intimate connections to that which remains though so many have left. The wonderful, if vulnerable, forest that surrounds Delnice is a key source of livelihood for the locals. Now, in addition to many local traditions, diversity of flora and fauna is in danger. Preservation of corporeal knowledge, of openness, and empathy feels vital in the face of such change.
Something in me was activated and sensitised when I stepped inside the nearby Lokvarka cave. One could hear each drop of water transporting calcite from one place to another. All around me, new and extraordinary mineral formations were emerging at a painstakingly slow pace, even though at first glance, the cave appears solid and unchanging.
The cave is a living work-in-progress, a consequence of interaction between limestone and acidic rainwater. In a way, it is a continuous creative process. Inside the cave, inside its organs, I experienced my body in direct relation to time – as transient and tiny. I felt defiant as I reflected on the harshness inherent in Western cultural understandings of corporeality and achievement. The stark nakedness of the cave restored me: wearying shame and feelings of inadequacy lifted, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt playful. I thought about what unleashed desire could mean. I fantasised about immediacy and radical openness in various encounters. I thought about fluid sexualities and queer futures. I thought about friction generated by upholding and dismantling of norms. I thought about that inevitable moment in a maturing relationship when one’s vulnerability becomes revealed, and about petrification that may ensue.
Then I thought about water.
I watched how water works continuously, and how over hundreds of thousands of years it has made space inside a rock. I thought about the mark it has made. How it has licked, smoothed, poured over, moistened, pressed against, seeped through, corroded, separated, and made porous. Water’s gentle persistency touched me, and I wanted to somehow touch it back. I wanted to imagine how intimacy is created, and how it evolves. I wanted to imagine desire surfacing in that distinctively beautiful space.
Text and photos: Anna-Mari Karvonen
A visit to Lokvarka karst cave inspired her work Swallow. Swallow is a narrative sound art work about a mysterious cave system, and about exploration that slowly evolves into uninhibited desire. Listen Swallow here.