Water, earth, tree, branch, swimming
Nicola Gunn went for a run along the riverbank of the canal in Ghent. On her way back, she takes a break to stretch when she spots a man throwing stones into the water. He throws them on purpose, his target a plastic bag – no, a duck. The man is accompanied by two small children who collect the stone ammunition for him to shoot the duck with. Nicola Gunn cannot contain herself, she yells at the man: „What you are doing is completely unnecessary!“
He does not understand, he does not speak English, he is not Belgian, possibly a refugee. He yells back at her; she does not understand. How come the duck does not move while the man is throwing stones at her? Because she breeds. A breeding duck has to stay put, has to sit on the eggs for 30 days until the young hatch. Nicola Gunn pauses, stops any movement of body or thought, and adopts the pose of a duck sitting on eggs. In Scotland, there are more statues of animals than of women.
What sort of person is this?
Hercule Poirot is Belgian. Agathe Christie kills off Hercule Poirot. In the TV series, starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, Poirot does not want to die. However, he nearly dies from a heart attack. Nicola Gunn’s mother also nearly died. My father passed away.
What sort of person throws stones at a breeding duck?
At a theatre conference, the festival’s curator thanks the brilliant upcoming young innovative artists. Nicola Gunn also wants to be the best version of herself. What thoughts will haunt us on our deathbed? The amount of solo performances we created? If we were a good person? A good mother, a good lover? Marina Abramović has no kids. So, she fights to protect her legacy. Nicola Gunn’s extremely religious friend who is a banker believes in good and evil and just punishment. She works for Shell.
Let us return to the violence on the riverbank.
How to de-escalate a conflict? Utopia is no destination; utopia is a process. Art is a verb. Peace – how do you create something you do not know how to create? Artists perform this impossible task all the time. Nicola Gunn is an artist. I am an artist. I would like to be Nicola Gunn. I would like to be the artist Nicola Gunn, and I like being the person Anna Mendelssohn. I would like to have Nicola Gunn’s ability to think, her ability to speak, write and move, to engage with the audience, to climb on them while rolling, sweating, spitting and speaking. But I have kids and I am happy not to tour as often as Nicola Gunn. She has no kids, she does not even like them very much. But she enjoys conflict. She enjoys the conflict she is having with the man on the riverbank of the canal. Children increase the frequency of conflicts.
Do conflicts need to be resolved? How to resolve said conflict with the man?
How to intervene in this conflict between the duck and the man? What would Marina Abramović do? Stare at the man? Place her naked body in the riverbed between the man and the duck? Peter Singer is a vegetarian; Nicola Gunn is a vegetarian too. Hitler was also a vegetarian.
If one were to keep the man from throwing stones at the duck, he might possibly prey on someone else. On another person? His wife? His children? Perhaps he should rather stick with the duck.
The duck takes a blow to the head. Nicola Gunn wants to stop the man; he does not even acknowledge her presence. So, she starts yelling at his children. A stranger yelling and spitting in a foreign tongue. The man is a refugee. His children will need psychotherapy. I need to go to psychotherapy. I would like to become a psychotherapist und learn to intervene in conflicts in the appropriate manner and learn to bring about peace. Peace to the situation and peace to the inner self. There is no peace in being an artist. I do not want to be an artist anymore. I am not Nicola Gunn. Nicola Gunn is a duck.
There is a moment when you have to draw the line between good and evil, between right and wrong, fiction and reality, beginning and end. But if the pencil only remains to rest in your hand, the line will not be drawn.
Anna Mendelssohn is an actress and performer. Since 2004, she has been part of the ensemble „toxic dreams“ and has worked with numerous choreographers and directors. Since 2010, she has created her own works (e.a. Cry Me A River, WHAT?, Feminism and the Bauchgefühl, Amazon – River Deep), which have been shown internationally and for which she has won several awards.
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