keskiviikko 26. marraskuuta 2014


Invisible pictures of non-existent things


Many different events… …I can’t even remember it all, but let’s start when I was traveling with my "circulatio" project on the iron rails from Helsinki to St. Petersburg… by train that is. The year was 1993. St. Petersburg was drawing me to itself. It had something to tell me.

For almost two years that great, dark city of white nights flowed past me and around me, and I collected those things which moved me. I was working ion something that I named a “meta matka" (meta = meta-terms such as metamorphosis, metaphysics, metal and matka in Russian language: mother, womb, queen bee, in Finnish language : journey).”


I returned to Finland, perhaps knowing that everything was just beginning. I met him—Grishka. A book opened, many books opened, and that specter from the meanderings of history was upon me. Grishka, Grishka… …and I tried my best.
Let's go see; I will show you! First I will abridge everything here at the beginning; I’ll squeeze a planet into a mustard-seed-sized prologue.

Grishka, count, patron, publisher, composer, was born in St. Petersburg, lived a relatively short live... and died. A certain notable line was extinguished, disappeared, and the whole story of Grishka disappeared. Grishka, heir to an enormous fortune, was the central figure of all kinds of intrigues and the target of much abuse, but he was a soft person. A circle developed around him. He wanted to promote projects, convey experiences, serve and support, so many made the pilgrimage to his presence, a colorful crowd indeed. There was the nobility, the thirsty, authors great and small, charmed luminaries and ghostly figures.
The general grandeur and atmosphere of ridicule directed at Grishka together wove a grotesque golden fabric. He was ridiculed by those who were closest to him and those who saw it all from afar.

The state of Grishka’s health varied; his sickness, St. Vitus' dance, sent him into convulsions, giving a ready choreography for the ridicule. On the banks of the Neva, in Grishka’s Polystrovo palace, which the Petersburgians called “the Roadhouse,” events and time flowed past.

I found Grishka’s compositions, seven in all, all short romances. A few musical artists have come along with me on my journey for a moment, brought that music to life from their dormant state as notes on paper.

Grishka’s marriage, like a the sting of a bee. The woman, Lyubov Ivanovna, dropped onto the stage of events with a colorful history as her train. She awoke Grishka to a new life and made his close circle grind their teeth. “Hussy. The gold-digger already warmed the bed of the last Tsar," they whispered. But the wedding happened anyway, and they left for Europe on the honeymoon. A great entourage traveled with them, and more became attached along the way.

In Paris Grishka met Alexander Dumas. The great author got along well in Grishka’s hotel, where there was not just one suite available but a whole floor. In one of his works Dumas called Grishka’s party a "caravan," and joined it himself, traveling in this fashion to Russia as Grishka’s guest in 1858. “He is like the Count of Monte Cristo," Dumas wrote, and he also wrote about Lyubov Ivanovna’ s eyes, and their effect…

Literature, authors… Grishka published a literary journal. These days I see it as a long, well-ordered row in the Helsinki Slavic Library, but back then the vicissitudes of publishing it were one constant confused tangle.
But everything ended in due time, even the confusion. Spring came, the ice melted and Grishka’s life ended. He died at the age of 38, and a decade later, during the time of Stalin, his grave was destroyed, like the family’s whole library, archives, and their memory.

But that opened up to me, and it happened after I returned from Russia, from my "meta matka." I started to delve into an event a few generations back that had been whispered about in my family circles. A certain famous nobleman named Alexander from St. Petersburg, honored as a scholar in his time and glazed with a patina of honorary titles, visited a certain palace in Karelia, then a part of Finland. Later a maidservant in the palace, Maria, had a boy child, a bastard, whose invisible father's name seemed to be known by all: the courtier from St. Petersburg. They knew his whole name too; he was Grishka’s father. Grishka thus gained a secret half-brother, my grandfather’s father.

In Helsinki, at the corner of Alexander Street and Maria Street, stands the House of Nobility. On one coat of arms a heart, a lion and other assorted articles. The symbol of Grishka’s knighthood in a handsome hall. The strange decoration and dust-trap of an extinct line. Outside the bastard, the names of his parents recorded on the street signs: Alexander and Maria.

But Grishka… it is clear as day that his character is the primary prototype for Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, but what a cover of darkness over it all, murky and hard! Great names are like canned food. Why open them when they are so well preserved? Opening means oxygen and its effects. 

Well, I opened the canister and we became acquainted, the great author and I, both just the right size. We conversed for years on end, now that he had time; the living never do.

But let us leave prototypes as they are; we can’t get stuck in them. One has to understand the whole, refrain from lifting anything more onto the table, move forward.

Everything that comes by must be noticed, like the cow that showed up at different times on my journey, always with some kind of idiot. The servant, the silent hero.
How many cases, affinities showed up. Railroad, blood circulation, years, all kinds of events formed a clear picture. The buildings of St. Petersburg, the passage of time. Always the same things again and again. Fallen from heaven, but risen from the trampled ground.
The forlorn figure of the tattered knight rested on the street, and only a little way off the broken-hearted man asked me to dance with him.

My grandfather, Topias, the son of a Karelian bastard, the spouse of an orphan, the father of evacuees. His unique character, his adventures… how many waves and how many of us on this stage in this idiotic yellow light? Topias and the Indians, the Indians and the idiots. Our white and my black-and-white, my picture in the surface of the pool the cripple Ilya painted.

When I saw the Poljustrovo palace area for the first time, which functioned as the main stage for Grishka’s social life, it was like a plowed field; the Soviet Union had come and gone, and Russia returned.
I talked with my friend Lyuba Hermann in Torgu, Estonia, about these histories. She stuttered the latter half of Grishka's two-part surname. “Is it Nesnotov?” she asked. “Pesterov?” “Besborokko?.... Oh, Bezborodko!” but that means beardless, she blurted out, “the one who doesn’t have a beard is Bezborodko!”

But he who no longer has a beard, nor head, nor a place in really anyone’s memory, his light of the shadow is here.

beginning of the story
radio works, gallery application, TV-movie etc:

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