From July 7, 2020, Patience (2020), a text by Elena Narbutaitė, available online as part of the program Windows (18 rue du Château).
Patience is a recent essay by the artist Elena Narbutaitė, published here for the first time as part of our online program, and parallel to her participation in the exhibition Between Ears, New Colours. Written loosely over the past several years, the text gathers notes taken during real and imagined travel in Berlin and Venice, moments of waiting and expectation. Excerpts from her “pile of disorganized writings” (as Elena puts it) are woven into a fabric, where her experience of time intersects with secrets and art: “the only place where I can wonder, how would it be if everything were different?”
“Meanwhile I am writing to you this letter through many seasons, to you whom I still don't know.”
But Patience could have been written in the spring of 2020, when large portions of the world were transferred indoors, movement restricted to a bare minimum, dreaming of specific foods, whole days rhythmed by the sound of leaking faucets. Patience could have been read in this suspended space-time, a state of latency between present, past, and future.
We thank Elena for allowing us to publish her writing and Jean-François Caro for translating her words into French.
Thomas Patier & Richard Neyroud
I was looking now at sticky cinnamon buns layered with melted sugar and swallowed the emptiness. I just remembered how good they are here and I could eat one now. Since my arrival, the only properly made thing which I had a chance to eat was this subtly made cheesecake, it was last week and I can’t forget its taste. With a cup of good coffee. These are the things I start to dream about in a situation like this; with too much patience for things to come based on things that I got to know. I used to count days, now I count months. Could I not eat for a month? Could I enroll in a strict diet and make myself believe it’s what I need? Or will I keep on dreaming about sticky cinnamon buns and rolls and meat stews and french fries with thick mayonnaise and lasagnas and maybe the same cheesecake? All of those things I wouldn’t even necessarily eat, now I would eat them all. All these dishes. They are all taken from some kind of middle, they are almost accessible. I am afraid I would end up walking out the store with something like apples and carrots and then I would keep on spinning the same thoughts in my mind, thoughts about food and apples instead of thoughts about life.
And then, a melancholy quickly suffered and died in front of my eyes, at this very moment, in the bathroom while brushing my teeth. I immediately recognised that patience, even though of invisible presence, was standing there in the place of melancholy. ‘Patience is the best thing of all’ I whispered silently to myself, repeating the words spoken to me by Patience.
I always wait for one thing or another. Waiting is something like the very essence of my being. Now I wait for a moment till I will finally want to watch a movie, it’s at nighttime so I wait for the moment of sleep to come, curious about the dreams and their hidden meanings. I already wait for the morning, as I wait for a moment when I will be able to drink my coffee, I know how good it feels and I wait to be putting on my shoes, I wait to feel how shoe soles walk outside with sound, I wait for the middle of the day and of the week, when I will receive the money, then I will wait for quickly having my documents done in order to have more money, I am waiting for a moment when I will be richer, I am waiting to know what it means and what else I will want then, or how much less I would need.
I am so impatient because there is always the feeling that things will come up and when they do I try to look at them and enjoy the moment, but then the next event takes away my pleasure of ‘now’ and rushes me further. So I wait for the moment when I will sit calmly in a still mood, it will probably be in the afternoon one day, when all the pleasures of my life will be present within me. I know it will happen one day, it always comes once in a while.
It’s around 10pm. Everything is lurking. The doors of my bedroom are half open into the corridor. I hear water dripping from the tap into a sink in the bathroom. The woman who owns this apartment is probably already asleep, but her TV is still on. I see the glass of her bedroom door blinking. And now I remember this moment vividly, once living in a beautiful apartment in Berlin, with a broken sink. It broke from underneath one day, meaning that the pipe fell off and I couldn’t use this sink any longer until it would get fixed. After it broke I placed a plastic ball under the sink and then it revealed a leakage. The sink kept dripping straight from the tap constantly, which could not have become obvious before while the pipe was still in a place. Because drops from the tap went directly into the hole of that sink and then into the pipe, so no sound was revealed before. Unlike in this apartment and in this bathroom, where drops of water were falling onto the enamel of the sink first and only later, they silently found their way into the hole and down the pipe.
In Venice I stayed only the first night and the next day took a boat to the island of Lido where I booked a room for two nights in the Excelsior hotel. Those are the nights during which I decided to write a story. And I will start two times, on each of those two evenings at my dinner table. Where I will be sitting alone on a terrace. I am already here all by myself and out of the wish for things to start to happen, because of all the rest that took place before my arrival here. I will have a lot to put into this story which soon will be told.
And I sit outside and taste a glass of fresh green wine, and put my pen onto the paper. I am thinking ‘how often I need my notebook’, it happens when my fingers get too stiff for typing in this wet chilly air. Breeze is soft but over time I get chills. I am convinced by everything in life at this moment, soon I will write a story, soon someone might enter, right now, someone is entering this place, someone is in the restaurant already, I don’t know who he is exactly, but I can see and I can also know, deep down inside my heart that this is a person from my thoughts after all these years, this man comes in. He is a semi clear, semi transparent cyborg, a composition of all the men I’ve known at least a little bit till now. And he’s also looking new to me, he’s looking so unknown, because he’s also a man that I haven’t known yet. I don’t know what awaits us. Of us as two separate lives who care for each other, care for how long? Care but how? And here he comes.
Today I woke up looking at this green water.
I feel so calm that I even forgot where I am and how to write. I am inside the can in the shape of a printed check, and the can is in the ocean swinging on its surface with fallen leaves, on a calm day. A bunch of us are lulling close to the beach. In my eyes there are many things, so many good things, new products, foods I’ve never tried, seeds which I would be curious to see grow, oils which I’d buy, soaps which I’d have and use, smells, scarves, fabrics, papers, magazines, pieces of music, hints of music, boxes to pack and the money floats outside and swings along with me, along with all the trash. I am thinking about you now at last, after so many days.
Did I impose a descent into my own life some time ago?
I am listening while the sun is going down, evening colouring the streets putting them to rest. The night is crying through the sky over this city, its empty streets, its people who are empty too and empty meetings, meetings that are like open jars waiting for miracles or love to burst inside them out of nothingness. I listen to you but your frequencies aren’t clear to me. I hear a lot of noise and the message doesn’t reach me, it constantly gets lost over the lines. Sad city, these streets. I always relate to death in an early sunshine, all those dead, ex lives, all living people on top, endless meetings of sharpness and blur. But at the same time you sound new, and you look young, maybe a child of the future, a child walking on the second floor of the street level, jumping and chattering like the sound of a new voice.
You would not believe that tonight, lightning in the sky goes on forever. Meanwhile I am writing to you this letter through many seasons, to you whom I still don't know, to you who is again many things, to you who may be a god, an ambition, my reason, a system, mere temptation. Other times you are pure tenderness that I want, sometimes and most of the time you are someone into whose eyes I don’t dare to look. But maybe next time we can look at each other, next time when we are more relaxed and then when after looking at each other, we’ll look around us, we’ll see so many of us; filling parks, streets, cafes, cinema theatres, under bridges, parks, benches, we’ll be all of us and life will become good. But let’s not look just yet. Can you believe that observing and looking into each other’s eyes are two different things?
What is the matter?
Nothing. I don’t know
There are so many feelings in me and I don’t know what they really are
The jury yesterday, or two days ago, I don’t remember anymore when it was exactly, but a few of the jury members said to one of the students ‘it is important to you now, but for us these days are over.’ They were talking about certain feelings that were no longer present within themselves, so they were denying these feelings as legitimate reasons to be the driving force in a student’s artwork. But when I look back, I see those feelings present in early works by those teachers.
What else bothers you?
In what sense?
In the sense that secret means hiding. But hiding for what reason? If you have a little pearl and it’s in your palm you can see it and if you dig it into the ground, the pearl becomes hidden and a secret, secret is made of this act, it’s not made of the pearl alone, but rather of the wholeness, the hole including. Secret is an act, an intention while pearl is a pearl. I believe that there exists much greater secrets, the kinds that don’t even hide in order to remain secretive and that’s why the whole thing of Secret confuses me, it often becomes a simplified subject. There is much potential for manipulation around the act of making a secret. Also because so often Secret is something that you simply don’t know.
Bond, before Patience
Butterflies in the stomach—since this morning, frozen, in cold, exiting home in the deep freeze and puffing fog from the nose like a dragon in the morning at the bus stop.
There are many wishes born from daydreaming and fantasising which almost never come true—in this city and in this circle and in this very life, of this moment.
There was a man, who rarely went to see other people and who was driven by moral slippages. Now I understand him, and see his point, as my own soul is nothing like that zen. I was arriving into the night, this whole day spent with his philosophy in my mind, I began with him. I met solitary teenage minds at noon. We spoke. I said something, they did too, but it was not too important, much less than the energy of the dragon which we all shared. We had the same longing, but theirs was much earlier and clearer. I keep thinking about it. I think of them and their faces.
I am too foolish to talk about many things right now as all my knowledge has sunk into small things during this period of trying. There is nothing worse than trying. However, now I feel the need to get out of surrounding circles. I miss the train taking my parts further. This current situation doesn’t seem good, this way of existing feels like it lacks any of the moral slippages that would need to occur in order to change or awaken the course of events. In this moment while I write, people often tend to appear theoretical, they like to talk. They can talk all night long, fulfilling so many of their desires by talking, and perhaps they really do. Meanwhile I miss action. At some point in time after some talking I would like to slip into something else, sometimes even without talking. In general I don't know if I prefer the talking at all. In some cases, but always with other things.
Perhaps I am tired as I write this so you find so much opacity as I keep more than half of my theories to myself, and still there is at least a bit of brightness that shines through the current fog that covers the planet of self-expression. The dragon’s fog that exits the nostrils of every person in the days of low temperature. I think and see once again that, supposedly, simpler lives are constantly enriched by new experience and therefore keep on changing. Meanwhile those other, chattering lives, keep falling into the system of the loop. I don’t like it. I want to scream!
At this point art is the only way out, a place where I forget our bonds. It’s the only place where bonds can be an inspiration for cutting them off, and the only place where I can wonder, how would it be if everything were different?