Hide or Reveal

What is offered to us as travelers or observers when we pass by unknown places? What meaning can we assign to constantly changing, shortly appearing images in front of the window we are sitting by? How do we relate to our co-travelers, and do we see things with their eyes too?

The publication “Hide or Reveal” sums the experience of two-weeks-long travellings, meetings of new places and constant change of location. It is a result of an artistic research that took place in the framework of two CORNERS Xpeditions: Balkan and Caucasus, where its creators, Helena Wikström and Una Bauer met. Series of photos documents fellow-travellers, landscapes and moments spent in transition while the text illustrates subjective feeling of travelling.

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“Hide or Reveal” or read it below.

Hide or Reveal

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You are sitting at the back of the bus, on an unusually warm September day. Your face is turned towards the scorching sun, forehead leaning against the glass. Your eyes are closed, yet you didn’t stop looking. Watching the insides of your eyelids. You see red. It is moving. You don’t see what is it that moves, but notice the movement. The dance without the dancer. You are separated from the countryside zipping past by layers of cloth, glass, flesh. You see thin blue veins. Or is it the firm weave of the red curtain reflected on the insides of your eyelids? People sometimes say they are going to observe the insides of their eyelids, instead of saying they are going to sleep. But you are not sleeping. You are looking through your eyelids, through the red curtain, through the glass. Lots of layers separating you from what is possible.

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Breathing the thick air inside the bus. It seems to smell of gasoline, sweat and socks too thick for the warm weather. More than anything, you feel the very weight of those sedimenting smells. The thick carpet of humanity. Something tickles your nose. Opening your eyes, you notice the red curtain has wiggled out of its plastic holder and swelled towards you. Blown by the air conditioning, it’s releasing bubbles of air. The bus drive, this speedy movement, makes you less mobile. Your feet prickle, spinal joints are grinding against each other, pinching nerves. Immobility hurts. You raise your knees and jam them against the back of the seat in front of you, curling to a fetal position. Becoming your own eyesight, nothing but seeing, since other senses are begging you to ignore them.

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The view is constantly doubling – you are watching the curtain, the curtain’s reflection and your crossed hands in the glass pane, soft hills and moss-like mountains behind the glass, and their reflection on the surface of the lake. Depending how you lean your head, the shades of colours of the image change. One moment what you see is intense violet, the next it acquires a greenish sheen. The mountains are green, they have to be, but the sky cannot be violet. What is this strange refraction of the light? You feel the need to rind off one layer after another – to move the curtain, peel off the glass like a sticker containing product information, break the surface of the lake by jumping into the water, take a walk in the woods, make your fresh scar bleed.

You stood up and shook your legs. Almost everyone around you is asleep. You moved to another seat on the bus, which is half empty anyway. Opposite you, a man in a checkered shirt sits. He doesn’t notice you. He has drawn the red curtain over his portion of the window. Soaked in the sunlight, it makes everything orange. Except for him, who is almost completely black, like a shadow of himself, like shadow theater. Once your eyes get used to the contrast, you can see the bangs falling over his forehead, his face evenly glowing from the heat. His look is lowered onto the newspaper held in front of him. He is dedicated, to this world printed on the paper, to the worlds beyond the paper. You have been here before. You used to know where he is going and what he is reading, but you don’t remember it anymore.

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Turning to your own side, you notice the approaching blue road sign. This must be Georgia, no one uses such alphabet. It says “Gori” in latin alphabet, with the number 1. “Gori” means “Burn” in Croatian. You are burning, that much is true. From the red curtain, and the orange glow, from the sun and inner tension. Burning with the wish for something real to happen, something you could catch and hold onto – hold onto as you can’t hold onto pleasure. Your hands are slipping through the water, the glass isn’t catching your look. That which you want to catch becomes the medium through which you move.

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You take a beer from the backpack. It helps to water down your thoughts, smoothing the contours. The reflections can’t stop multiplying – trees reflected in a shiny roof of a car. Curving like an elephant’s trunk. Women are standing around the car, holding something on a string. You presume they’re selling onions. The red curtain doesn’t leave the frame, this time it’s only a blotch in the bottom left corner of it. You have no power over the world, but neither are you its victim. You are under the obligation to perceive and feel.

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Covering your eyes with your hand, you protect yourself. The sun is straight ahead now, bouncing off your forehead, the day drawing to its end. I look at you immersed in late sunlight. Rubbing your face, as if you were massaging it. Your beard is couple of days old. You are tired. To your left (or is it right?) a beehive building is whizzing by, a skeleton building. Hollow concrete. It looks like an agglomeration of holes, of frames. Growing out of the water, reflected in the water, connected to the shore by a narrow bridge. Abandoned before it was finished. You have a feeling you are in Albania, but can’t be certain. Your body has been borrowed, the bus is not stopping. Adjusting your position to make yourself more comfortable. Defending yourself with words, as is common among those who haven’t yet grown into their trip.

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The red curtain mobilizes the scene it hides / reveals. Turning it into action, even if it’s an abandoned, half-built building surrounded by a lake. The red curtain adds a time frame to what’s behind it, accentuating the temporal dimension of its being unfinished. The red curtain marks the beginning and the end. What’s between two points in time is always a narrative. You are in a blue uniform, just like the others around you, placing your hand on your colleague’s shoulder. You are on a short break. He’s looking over his shoulder, towards the bus. You return the look from inside the bus. Something had to precede, and something has to follow. You are invited to read into it, perhaps a conventional social drama from a simpler social situation – relaxed conversation during a cigarette break.

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It’s morning, you are happy. Bathed in gentle sunlight, buses speeding over your body, tickled by their tires. As you squirm, patches of water are gently rippling. You blow into the clouds, scratch yourself in the trees. Someone is watching. You cover yourself with the red curtain.

Credits:

Authors: Helena Wikström and Una Bauer

Authors of Hide or Reveal: