sitting with helene vosters day 2

Posted on September 14th, 2011

things progress don’t they? or rather, things accumulate. things like anger, hatred, wounds, scars. and how does one “undo” these accumulations? can they be swept away like in a tsunami, or is the process laboured and demanding of fine motor skills, like twisting and turning cloth to unstitch one stitch of thread at a time to separate one segment of cloth from another? it the undoing as “brutal” as the doing?

we are such vulnerable beings. our skin breaks open, or back grows weary, our heart breaks. barefoot she sits. oh god! i think(she who professes to not believe in god) please protect this woman in her task, for it can only be breaking her heart. for the uniform she is undoing cannot but be related to a body. and bodies and bombs, bodies and bullets, bodies and armoured tanks, bodies and grenades, bodies and barbed wire, bodies and gas, bodies and chemicals, bodies and bayonets, bodies and torture, they do not go together.

helene is so calm in her task, is this why all the emotion comes to me? can i carry this for her? i think of gillian’s performance, her standing on the chair, outpouring some inarticulate communication to some “other.”

i think, this is inarticulate. this act of warfare we wage on each other. how can one articulate that?

scissors come out to cut. cut away one thing from another. separate one thing from another. jews cut away from muslims, cut away from christians, cut away.

i wonder, do we worship death? is war an act of worshipping death?

the sound of thread being torn as one piece is taken away from another. she writes a name for each piece.



  • helene

    Karen, In this moment of my being calmed by the task and your mediation of the emotion, perhaps we are rediscover the ancient art of lament. Thank you for your articulation of the inarticulable.

  • karen

    and helene, thank you for your work!

  • Sydney Lancaster

    it strikes me that helene’s vital work is as much about the creative assignment of a new order as it is about the un-doing of the seemingly endless history of humans’ brutality toward one another. this exposure of the accretion of aggression and violence allows for its dispersion visually, actively, psychically … an opportunity to re-assemble human connections in new ways, through this simple and utterly beautiful action. what remains – these threads that once bound it all together, that literally went into the construction of one of the instruments of war – become dis-ordered, re-assigned with the potential to generate as many new narratives as there are threads – and more.
    this is painful, beautiful, utterly necessary work. thank you helene, and thank you karen for all of what you do.

  • karen

    sydney,
    beautifully said. and so true. you have worded what helen speaks of as well. thank you.