Friday, 23 October 2009

6. Kaneda

(continued from 'Solveig')
Then Kaneda was born, in Bergen actually - Solveig’s always been quite casual with her legal existence in France and resolved to keep low profile. After all, being Norwegian, she’s not an European citizen and even if she’s white and educated, she’s been an illegal alien in France for all these years... Kaneda is a Japanese name - the good guy in famous Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga Akira, Solveig was truly in love with him at the age when you can still love an anime character. Sometimes she thinks that loving so much a cartoon guy remote her from real life ones – none could look as sexy carrying a giant gun and riding his futuristic motorbike in the streets of NeoTokyo, and who would confront cosmic mutant Tetsuo to prevent him from destroying Japan again? Well, little Kaneda is now an ultra-blond little angel, his hair so light that he looks almost an albino.

(to be continued...)

Monday, 19 October 2009

5. Solveig

Solveig's name is not exactly Solveig, but Maria. But who wants to be called Maria? And what if you're a student in an international dance school in Amsterdam where half of the Spanish and Argentinean chicks are also already called Maria - that is quite a contingent! So she's far from home, she knows nobody around, a few days after joining the school she decides to pick her second name - Solveig - and so slightly alters her identity (fortunately she's a very shy girl and didn't introduce herself to anybody yet). So Solveig she is now - and I'm one of the very few to know the truth outside of Bergen – well I was until now... Anyway what shall I say about Solveig? She studied to be a dancer but never became one, in Amsterdam she became a vegan but unlike many she stuck to it. At some point she started to think that it was dumb to go south and end up in a city with such a terrible climate as Amsterdam. That’s quite a common conception amongst Amsterdamers, so she found herself a few years later in a Dutch village in the southern French Alps.

For two decades, several waves of Dutch semi-hippies, semi-artists - and a lot of schoolteachers - have been rebuilding this abandoned village they bought for almost nothing in the late 80s. Locals can’t choose if they should hate them for being tall, blond and invasive (bad memories), or love them for bringing life, children and money in an otherwise quasi-deserted area. It’s shifting with the wind changes. Some of the first invaders have now very comfortably renovated farmhouses that acquired after a while quite some unexpected values, and they retired there to leave a peaceful bourgeois bohemian life (now most of the Euro coins in the area carry Queen Beatrix’s portrait). The less stable couldn’t sustain there but they left several half renovated houses to their followers, with bits of experimental architecture, bottle glass walls, sun-dried brick parts protected by epoxied windshields glasshouses, Japanese gardens, troglodyte experiments, old roting trailers, of course a couple of yurts… So there is now a core of strongly implanted ones, plus those who come steadily on holidays, and those who pass by, tolerated in the memory of the good old days. Solveig is in-between categories.

She stays there a couple of years, now she gives pro Shiatsu massage but this is not really recognized in France, and it’s much more difficult to make a living with it there than in Amsterdam, even in the hippy south and mostly Dutch customers. I connected her with some people in Paris to come and give some workshops but she learned French with a southern accent on the top of her Norwegian one, so at that time she is hardly understandable! She goes back to Bergen for a while but she can’t live there anymore, though she reconnects with dance and comes back to France with a new project, and starts a training to become a graduate dance teacher. Then she gets pregnant.

Since she’s always been a happily promiscuous girl of the condom age, and didn’t know anything else , she has been as careful with using latex than with not using any kind of animal product in the last years, so I strongly suspect that this was not completely involuntary. At the village, she’s had a regular though not exclusive lover, a first wave Dutch invader twice her age – a quite comfortable relationship in an otherwise joyfully rambling life (she’s always been like this, a contradictory mix of abandon and obstinacy – probably because though she usually achieves what she decides to do, she can only do what she really wants!). So I assume that at some point the relation with the guy was safe enough to give up latex – that must be her decision anyway, and also the ensuing pregnancy, though this one not a completely conscious choice. But she doesn’t really love the guy, not the kind of love that makes you trapped in a family for the next 15 years, so she decides it’s time to move to Montpellier to finish her training in the best dance school of the area. She’s too used to live in the countryside though to settle in town, but she’s acquainted with a bunch of semi-nomads fetishists of Mercedes trucks with a big network, who find her a lodge rented by the year in a village in the hills around Montpellier (the landlord is a depressive local farmer too tired to really try to make money with tourists by renting by the week).

(to be continued in 'Kaneda')

Sunday, 18 October 2009

4. Ásbjörn

(continued from 'Stefen')
Ásbjörn around 20 made others call him Apollo, like it's an easier name! But his juvenile arrogance was constitutive of his irresistible charm – very effective on Stefen. Not that Stefen would be some introvert guy mesmerized by the shiny boy, his stature and status make him solid and self confident, but Ásbjörn/Apollo is an Dancer with a high case D. Everything about him is about dance, everything is dance. He’s a Dancer and a Searcher, always seeking further the essence of dance. Ballet trained since childhood, once he mastered this discipline – he really did –, contrarily to most of his colleagues he kept unsatisfied and started to explore other paths. Won’t tell here everything he tried, modern, postmodern, exotic, authentic, traditional from here and there, the whole bunch of it… And clubbing like a young god at night (it’s a time of very good club music then, the post-techno era seeing the rise of drum’n’bass, trip hop, IDM, crossover…). At that time Apollo is asexual though the concept is not trendy yet, and it’s not going to last anyway. It’s just that everybody seems to love him, and he just can’t choose! Or more accurately, he has the curious mania to be extremely attracted by women while being exclusively homosexual. Some would solve this by turning into queens, being bisexual and promiscuous, or joining a neo-nazi groupuscule, but none of this is in his character, so for the biggest part of his youth he would resolve chaste and proud, that would drive everybody around him mad.

But I digress, let’s go back to how Stefen fits in this scheme, and what will result of it. Stefen and Apollo become amorous friends, and Stefen is driven mad by this, like anybody else. For a while, Apollo takes him to every dance show in town, from ballet at the Opera to underground butoh in squats, from touring musicals to traditional tango balls. Stefen is introduced to all the dancers of Copenhagen, who look down at this taciturn giant hairy lumberjack – well actually they can’t look down at him, but you know what I mean – who stole from the whole world the unreachable love of the flamboyant Apollo… Whose latest infatuation is for a group of radical post-butoh dancers – who would never claim butoh as a label for what they call the only real dance left in the world - relocated from Japan to Amsterdam, and actively followed in all Europe and over by a small but devoted fan base. They are cool and sharp, demanding and welcoming, physical and philosophical, deeply rooted and flying high. They dance immobility and non-intentionality, push expressionism to pure blankness to offer themselves as mirrors to the audience, and when Stefen meet them after a show in a freezing warehouse in the harbour lit but hardly warmed by straw fires fed by naked demons crying and laughing at the same time while others were creeping in puddles in extra slow motion irradiating pain and redemption (this is all true, I was there!), after a few bottles of Spanish wine they thought that he had such an amazing physical presence that he should really dance. Then a new life started for Stefen.

(to be continued...)

Monday, 12 October 2009

3. Stefen

Stefen is a chef, and actually a quite good chef, and this has two major influences on his life. First Stefen is a good chef because he loves cooking, and he loves cooking because he loves eating. Combine this with a solid Danish metabolism inherited by some Viking ancestry – threatening hugeness and capacity to store fat to survive cold and starvation -, and you can guess that Stefen is a big, big, tall man. A taste for lumberjack shirts kept from his grunge years and the beard he grows in an attempt to thin his face make him a typical bear – almost a cliché. Assumed bears usually mate with bears, but not Stefen, that makes his life difficult, I’ll say more about it later.

The other thing of being a good chef is that Stefen can make big money out of it. But he doesn’t care about what money can buy, the grunge teenager in him despises luxury and high life. So becoming a prestigious chef in a renowned restaurant had little appeal to him, heading a small capitalist business as a perfect little local dictator and being chained to success, fame and bankers is not a life for him. Big house, big car, all bullshit, Stefen is bigger that whatever he could own. But his luxury is time. He doesn’t have to work all day long all year long to make a reasonable living, a few months are enough, a little bit more if more is needed. He’s doing seasons, and his reputation allows him to be picky and demanding about the contracts. Cruises are the best joints, he often spends summers between the Riviera and the Greek islands, and he’s at his best with cooking seafood. A couple of times they flew him from Copenhagen to Maui – though cooking for Yanks is not so rewarding. So when he has money for the year, and knowing that they would hire him again as soon as he wants, Stefen is free to do whatever he wants.

But Stefen the chef is the official Stefen, there is another one hidden behind (there’s plenty of room to hide behind Stefen). Since his childhood, Stefen has a true love for hollywoodian classic musicals, passed by his parents (a sociology student attending Michel Foucault’s class in Collège de France and a trainee at Café Louis, they met in a Minelli retrospective in la Cinémathèque de Paris in the mid 70s), and veneration for Fred Astaire. Around ten, he would dance his way to school, dance his way from school, glissé to bed, pas-de-deux to breakfast, entrechat to the bathroom, all graceful and mellow (Gene Kelly was also divine to him but slightly too muscular to be really elegant). Around twelve, classmates started to call him a fairy, around thirteen he was 1m80 high and they stopped, and he stopped dancing in public. He was still dancing alone in his bedroom when they forced him in the rugby team in high school (that made him extremely unpopular for his unsporting behaviour), his first money as a young chef apprentice allowed him to buy the high hat he coveted for so long - and that he never wore.

Stefen never had the heroin chic, cadaveric anatomy of Kurt Cobain but was an early and dedicated fan of Nirvana, and his early cooking talent had his long hair tolerated in an otherwise conservative and macho milieu (they wouldn’t think him effeminate then – they wouldn’t think him anything aloud when he’s around, but that he was the acknowledged Bisque de Homard prince). He got himself a second hand Fender Mustang (it started to be very cool to have a second hand Fender Mustang) and learned how to play power chords – enough to play with some other desperate white males in a short-lived grunge band. He felt very far from Fred Astaire at that time, until he met Ásbjörn.

(to be continued in 'Ásbjörn')

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

2. Bahjat

Bahjat, what a bitch, she has everything! She’s beautiful, she’s loved, she’s free – she could be rich if she minded – she used to be, or at least she used to live with some kind of unlimited credit for what matters: trendy clothes and restaurants. Again I have to root her story in the roaring 90s (maybe one day in the future someone will remember the 00s as not complete 00?). Number seven and the first girl in a Moroccan family of eight in some northern French suburb, like other immigrant girls she fought against her destiny by studying hard in high-school – she was a real no fun and no fantasy girl then, nothing else mattered but school, basket-ball and American literature (the chance to find a passionate and contagious teacher in the post-industrial quasi-war zone were she grew up!) With a father who was brought from Morocco at seventeen to work in a factory with all the other guys of his village before being dumped after thirty years of dedicated and unskilled work, a mother who didn’t speak French since she hardly ever left the block where all the women of he same village had come later to get married with the guys, two brothers in jail and as only perspective a queue in front of the unemployment office, - she knew she’d run away at the first break.

It came with an opportunity of an au-pair job in London in another Moroccan family, some kind of far away relatives. Bahjat convinced her father with the promise of coming back speaking English fluently, then initiate brilliant studies ending up with a teaching diploma that would allow her to be a life-long state employee. Wasn’t so hard, her father had a soft spot for his first born daughter and knew she couldn’t get better if she’d stay home (he would still miss his Sunday shaving ritual). The brothers had more difficulties to accept her departure – a mix of misunderstanding, jealousy and macho stubbornness (a couple of them would afterward happily benefit from her new life). The all thing resolved when one of the brothers who just started to grow a beard invoked the Holy Qur’an to keep the woman in his place (that was when Muslim fundamentalism started to reach Europe), that resulted in a serious beating by an infuriated mother who hadn’t say anything so far. She screamed to the baffled family that she would have no bearded in the family as long as she’d be alive, and that Bahjat would go. Bahjat’s mother knew that her daughter would never come back of course.

(to be continued...)

1. Queen of Cool

I'm supposed to be the Queen of Cool, y'know? I mean, since I fit all the trendy clichés, I thought for a long time that my life would be easy like in a magazine. Felt sorry for the others though, but can't fight who I am. Where should I start? Pretty face, yeah, that's a good start. And the hippest gene pool, allowing me be the perfect object of phantasm of globalized advertisement culture - fitting in the pages of a Benetton catalogue as well as in the arty-fartiest fantasy of upper-class connoisseurs of what the world should be. At my age – even before I guess -, my mother was the Japanese mascot (she’s hate me if she’d read this) of some New York experimental cinema higher circle where she inspired those who would become the greatest icons of the movement – often long after they gave up in front of the general indifference. These grand men of course never gave any credit to her own cinema work, since she was so sexy and exotic… She was half surprised, after all she left Japan because being a woman forbid her any kind of recognition in an art field fuelled by technology, so in the US it was still better.

But in the international language school where she was absently teaching Japanese to wannabe golden boys, she met the most alien guy – the European equivalent of Japanese without the dominant culture: a Finn – quite younger and seemingly foreign to anything, even her own seductiveness. So of course she fell for him (she’d hate my guts even more for this, but first it’s all true, and I have to make my background a little bit exciting, isn’t it?). He was a young computer freak who would later largely contribute to the current general alienation of mobile phone industry. They were at the dawn of a long chaotic impassionate relationship of which I’m a by-product (oh, my mother she’d hate me soooo much after sacrificing her life for her ingrate parasite of a daughter – well the little bit of her life we spent together!). At some point she managed to put hands on prehistoric video equipment and made herself a name as an early pioneer of the new media – or more accurately an early female pioneer, far behind her male colleagues. That was enough to get her some visibility, not in NYC though, but in Germany and France where she relocated – breaking up for the fifth time with her young lover - that would give them the opportunity to reconcile and finally move together in a 25 m2 flat in Paris.

(to be continued...)