Roskilde Cathedral

At the International Council of Museums – Conservation Committee (ICOM-CC) Triennial conference in Copenhagen (4th – 8th September 2017) I visited the Roskilde Cathedral.

It was an unexpected wonderful experience. Having endeavored on my career path over 20 years ago, I not only left my home, family, community and country-but also neglected various practices and relationships while learning new practices and making new encounters with places and people.

The visit to Roskilde Cathedral, when I entered the space, triggered a swell of memories flooding back, bringing with them my younger self and kick starting some serious self reflection of some sort.

I guess World and personal events over the last 2 years caused a decrease in certainties while simulatneously increasing the level and nature of uncertainty in many aspects of my life. Everything seems to be in Flux – or my senses have become hightened in perceiving the dynamics rather than their momentary tangible expression. And by experiencing all these pushs and pulls, in addition to the continuously ‘bombardment of information, news, and statistics’ of 24 hour communication media commentary – my head starts to slightly spin.

Entering the Cathedral as a visitor to the place as part of a technical tour, I was curious to see the Architecture and the Interior of this UNESCO World heritage monument.

Being somewhat bewildered by the Scandinavian understated yet stylish perfection of design, in the form of a ‘headset’, with which I could listen to the tour guides information and stories via a ‘bluetooth or alike’ microphone, I started to look helplessly around (to get confirmation I wasn’t the only Technosaurus with this headpiece)… and got immediately distracted by the tall and light architecture of the nave of the building, white walls against the red brick structure and the most subtle yet vivid decorative wall/ ceiling paintings:

And from then on I wandered in awe of the place and space, and I am sorry to admit I completely tuned out of the information being delivered into my ear canals, even though I finally managed to get to grips with the headset (and its 7 channels!).

The space became a platform for contemplation on many of the events and people in my life, past and present. It didn’t solve my problems but it silenced the noise from the bigger World and made me listen inwards.

I didn’t quite expect this reaction.

Rather than viewing and admiring the objects, structures, stones and paint as creations of art, I felt the space as an experience of ‘Art at work’ in this ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, for it made me think freely.

Needless to say I can only recommend to visit this place if you are open to experiencing churches as Interiors, Installation Art, Concept Art, and in the past contemporary Performance Art. With it being the last resting place for Denmark’s Kings and Queens, there are a lot of stories of power, wealth, beliefs, tragedy, politics, and human drama hidden in those monuments and spaces, and I would recommend to either have a booklet about the Cathedral or a tour guide. ..the tour guide, however, comes with a tricky piece of technological gadgetry!




Stille Nacht

…silent night’ the opening words of the hymn that will be sung at the climax of the Christmas mass.

At the end of a year which appears to have been one acceleration of violence, wars, conflicts, polarisation, death, abuse, aggressive rethoric, bullying, scare mongering, terrorism; Christmas seems somewhat confusing this year.

The consequences of the hostile and negative conditions and environments affecting the individuals and their communities, politics, economics, the environment and culture wreaking havoc on our perception of the state of the World. Confusion, worry and sorrow in abundance seem to have replaced hope, kindness and peace, and cause paralysis and increase frustration of feeling increasingly powerless with the only coping mechansim to disengage from it all.

So for Christmas this year, my wish is for a ‘silent night’. A night of rest and recovery for all. A pause from the race of life with all it’s difficulties and highs and lows.

When our mind is full with worry, it keeps us awake. Stress keeps us awake, nightmares make us restless. Yet for our physical and spiritual (mental) well being a good sleep allows to recharge and recover.

Having witnessed much of the suffering of humanity through modern communication and news media this year, I am paralysed by the vividness and assault of imagery of human suffering and disregard for any values of humanity by the purpetrators and those who excuse and whitewash their ideologies- I feel in particuar for the parents and their children in not only Syria but also in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and many parts of Africa, much forgotten yet afflicted by poverty, oppression, corruption, conflict, terror and abuse.

As a mother myself, I can’t even bring myself to try and imagine the fear and worry of a woman to become a mother for her and her child(ren)’s future when finding herself in what must feel like hell on Earth, in any of these regions at her  most vulnerable and relient on others care and kindness.

Apart from the violence all around, with no means of santitation, warmth, food and medicine, what strength and where from must a mother and father conjure up to continue to cope existing ?

The parallels of these contemporary experiences to the narrative of the nativity are plenty. A highly pregnant woman and her husband on the move in winter with no shelter, food and warmth, two humans enthralled in the turbulence of their times.

When taking this story out of it’s religous/ Christian context it becomes just another story of human vulnerability and fragility of life, and even though we all understand the desperation of the parents to be and the innkeepers apathy fuelled by their own circumstances, fears and worries, we don’t seem to act any different when we are the eye witnesses of such circumstances, conditions and behaviours.

The story doesn’t end with the birth of the child in a humble stable with only a donkey and an ox as the other wintesses to the miracle of bringing a new life into the World.

It is the beginning of a new journey, a new opportunity, hope for a better future. It is a new glimmer which can only grow into a warmth gving fire if nurtured and protected.

The moment of marveling at the newborn child is one of stillness and silence. There aren’t any words that allow for the ocean of emotions engulfing the parents. A mix of pride, relief, euphoria, but also fear, anxiety, and worry – polar opposites at the same time – the irrational and instinctive overlapping with consciousness – resulting in a momentary experience of life.

The child, the protagonist, blissfully unaware of it’s parents aspirations, wishes, fears and worries, recouperating from his/ her traumatic experience of being born, settling into sleep with not a care in the World, the sleep of innocence.

I wish that we all will have the opportunity to have a rest-a calm and restful sleep, free of worry about harm to us or our loved ones, financial anxieties, worry about our or a loved ones health, upset from abusive and bullying behaviour, stresses from environmental disasters, paranoia from media reports of World politics and economics…, to recharge and renew our motivation for the journey.

I wish that everyone will just for a moment stop and pause, halt what they are doing, clear their mind of all the negative information they are bombarded with day in day out and put themsleves in the narrative of the nativity and reconnect with that energy inside us all that drives and sustains live: care.

Care is giving, a selfless act that puts the well being of the other before ones own advantage. It is what makes quality of life. Placing the worries of the other before ours allows to gain perspective, not only on one’s own problems but much more so on one’s strength and abilities. Receiving care without an exchange of a currency is the greatest gift to give and priceless to the receiver. Our consciousness gives us the ability of free choice, the choice to act in kindness to others and ourselves, especially when challenged to do so.

The rewards are intangible, the action often hard and difficult to the one who provides care, they can’t be measured in quantifiable outcomes, and the effect of care may be small, short lived and unnoticed by others.

But just like the one individual providing the stable for Mary and Josef to rest, a gesture of kindness and selfless care is what defines humanity and its entire beauty and wonder, and is each and every time an affirmation. And we can all experience this affirmation of life. It goes without saying that the more gestures of care through kindness the better the quality for all.

I am convinced that we all have in common the ability to care, so I propose to everyone to be kind and to care, by pausing and listening to the needs of the people  around us and the environments we are part of, and to be there for them with no fear. This may be lending a helping hand to an elderly neighbour, treating and talking to the unruly teenager in the street with the intent to gain insight into their perception, making that phone call to someone we know is lonely, doing the washing up, sharing the food instead of throwing it away, clearing the rubbish from the garden or close, visiting friends, relatives, whatever may help the other in any shape or form.

If it means it allows them to have a better nights sleep it’ll also allow oneself to rest in the knowledge to have done a tiny bit to make the World a better place.

To stop all this nihilistic nonsense we currently find ourselves in we only need to ignore the communication of extremist’s armageddon and silence it through acting and expressing the values which drive and sustain our existence; the ability to care, which every moment bares an opportunity to do so.

Merry Christmas