20 March 1999
Great to be back after the hard winter. The artists were gathered in Dana’s salon full of excitement and eager to share what had happened while I was in the US. Oli was recovering from a bout of bad health, so it was especially nice to see her–dressed all in white, her signature color. She looked like a Snow Maiden. We had a real women’s circle, starting with the pleasantries: talking about the children, the dogs who are usually more important than the children, and, of course, eating. Small sandwiches, home baked cakes and strudel, a “healthy” spring salad and lots and lots or aromatic tea, caj.
When we got to business the conversation became even more animated. I had prepared some questions so we would be sure to cover everything, but the artists had so much to say, all I could do was write furiously while Jindra (my interpreter) translated.
We were there to talk about how the installation was manifesting. The spiral had been completed and had aged for the winter. First, Dana had started a circle defined by a ditch with an embryo in the center of the spiral trace. Oli had arrived at the site without a preconceived idea; and when she saw Dana digging in the soil, she knew that the earth from the ditch should not be thrown away. So she mounded it into two fields extending from the circle like rays and planted oats in them. Vlasta, who came with the thought of using some of the designs on the pottery, immediately discarded that plan when she saw Oli’s flelds and made “graves” forming a cross with them. It was then that Vlasta wrote her first poem about the project.
Everyone agreed that the site spoke in a special way–with an energy from an earlier time that overrode any ideas brought to the place. It was as if the site demanded the images they made. Oli told us that she stood in the middle of the field, staring at the landscape until an energy rose inside of her. That experience was the most beautiful part of her participation in the project.
Dana summed up the idea of the installation. In the center of the spiral was the sun that originated life. Male and female together created the seed. The cross consisted of two fields: one of life and one of death. The oats began it all again. So there was a symbolic spiral woven into the paper spiral. The spiral ends at the gates of the universe over the footsteps that connect the daughter to the mother. (I had originally started a spiral in another location, correcting my siting after consulting with the archaeologists. We called the two spirals the mother and the daughter, and I connected them with handmade paper footsteps.)
The gates are made of willow cuttings to form a tunnel to connect with the dead who had lived here long ago. Decorated with bits of plants from the nearby woods, the soft weaving stand gently, yet firmly upon the land. In time, they may even sprout toots reaching even deeper into the soil’s past.
Dana told us that the embryo was unfinished somehow, and Oli and Vlasta completed it by putting the small sticks around it–wood arranged as rays. So the project continued to overlap and climb up. When Dana, Ema, Oli and Vlasta began their work, the paper spiral was undamaged even by months of laying in the field. Then there were two weeks of nearly constant rain that made the paper melt into the earth making way for the symbolic spiral.
Consistently, what started as one idea finished as another. Now Oli and Valsta are collaborating with the poetry; Oli is designing the graphics for the words that Vlasta writes and shapes on the computer into forms dictated by an ancient source. Before one site visit, Vlasta felt the need to made some bread, so she brought that special offering to the site and the artists shared the loaf. Perhaps other women had done this at another time. What the artists could not finish, they left as a sacrifice.
The women told me repeatedly that the land dictated images to them on it own terms. All of us were asked to do something quite unexpected. As Oli put it, “The landscape took us by the hearts. This countryside is a special power.” Clearly, this was a new way for these experienced artists to work. Letting the space tell them what to do; planning for something that would change with time–even disappear; consciously subjugating strong artist ego to an unseen power. We were all caught in a spiral of creative energy that will continue long past the time when we remove out marks from that eternal field.