EUROPE: THE GARDEN (DIAGONALLY BACKWARDS)
KIMBAL QUIST BUMSTEAD
Between January and December 2012, I travelled overland on foot and by hitchhiking through a series of lines that I had marked on a map. These lines loosely formed the shape of a triangle; starting in Amsterdam, diagonally upwards to the most northern tip of Europe in Norway, vertically down to Greece, and diagonally backwards to London. My aim was to make a one-to-one performance, with each audience member stumbling onto it by chance, not necessarily aware of their own involvement. I was the protagonist, the performer, producing a social sculpture that moved physically through small roads carrying local traffic, which ultimately contained drivers who would tell me stories about their lives.
At night I slept mainly in fields, gas stations and sheds and occasionally in truck cabins and on living room floors. In the morning I would go back to the road and wait. Every place I waited I took a photograph of the road looking ahead. Each road the same, each day the same, but each encounter unique.
What followed was the fragmented anthology of a series of encounters—a series of photographs of empty roads, and a series of short stories presented as a book and as a live performance with a slideshow of the various locations.
Through the stories, the photographs take on the history, memory and energy of those who inhabit that place, but also the disinterest of those who simply pass through, using it simply as a transit route.
There was no script to these meetings; as one might expect from a one-to-one performance, each encounter was unique depending on the energy I received from the person I met. I noticed however, as I moved across borders, that certain themes were reoccurring—the fantasy of a place on the other side, the fear, hatred or envy of one’s neighbours, and the glorification of the place I call my home—London. The resulting text and performance loosely becomes a projection of home—mine and others—exploring notions of us and them, absurdities and tensions across borders. The encounters are upsetting, obsessive and intimate, drawing deeper and deeper into the dark tunnels of the anxious European mind. Europe—a garden with walls.