Monday, 8 August 2016

Waiting with Magda Mozarka

Waiting. We sit on the island content to wait. Waiting weeks for the moon to be in the right quarter so we can fish. Waiting months for the fruits to ripen so we can start the harvest. Waiting hours for the heat to pass so we can work. Waiting for the time we can leave this island for provisions...the inevitable slow but steady natural clockwork marking time. An hour hand of ferries offering a smaller human scale to the wait. Just waiting. When waiting is part of a culture, patience and acceptance almost to the point of madness is inevitable.
I heard a storm rolling in the other afternoon; clattering dry leaves sweeping in through my open doors announcing the wind. I immediately felt the need to leave the darkening of my kitchen to wander out into the swirl of brown dust that was the usually green village square. Marija was sat in her usual spot waiting for canoe customers but given the choppiness of the sea, there were sensibly no takers. We sat with the olive oil lady and chatted, eventually deciding that a drink and better storm vantage point would be a good way to pass the time. We initially clambered up the harbour wall, but as the rain started to plop down fatly, we ran for the bus stop.
We sat in companionable silence enjoying the sensations of the storm, then she joked, 'when is the next bus?' It's a joke because this is the stop without buses; time stands still and time isn't tabled. The modern covered shelter instead provides a gossip stop for locals during the evening, a convenient place for visitors to fish out cameras and sun hats, and on the night of festivals, the young canoodle in plexiglas privacy. So we waited and laughed at the idea of installing a London type electronic display. 277, 323, D7, D3... All my old buses taking an eternity to arrive. And still we waited.
An eternity of waiting is a central motif in much of the art I've seen here. Most recently there was an exhibition in Split and the opening short feature film in Šipanska Luka's film festival. Against this, the Your Black Horizon light installation on Lopud takes on a new significance, especially on second viewing. The viewer waits for an accelerated dawn-dusk rhythm in the horizontal line of colour. Instead of observing the impact of time on others, you experience the profound emotional change caused by the perception of moving time with the familiar pattern of natural light.
The exhibition of Renata Poljak's  'An Ordinary Life' is about the women of Brač in the contemporary gallery in Split. She reimagined and reenacted the psychological effects and inner turmoil of the wives, girlfriends, daughters and mothers waiting for their men to return from Chile. These men had fled the hardship of island life to create a new life for their families overseas, and with bags packed, the women waited for their own escape. Although some were lucky, many women were left behind, permanently questioning, permanently waiting, some with tragic mental consequences. The most powerful aspect of this artistic examination was the monumental aspect of the women; timelessly immobile against the elements, like Easter Island statues.
The short film 'Magda Mozarka' also had waiting at its heart. A fragile young woman caring for her sick mother awaits news from her fiancé overseas. Her mother seems to wait patiently for death, just as Magda waits for her life to truly start. The rituals marking time seem only to highlight the inevitable futility of her patience. By the final heart wrenching scene, you are wondering about the dark rotten state underlying the seemingly idyllic existence she skipped through earlier in the film. If the confident abundance of hope sent her daily and pointlessly to the jetty for eighty years, ultimately what was her wait for? What was the point of her life? This leads to questions regarding her state of mind, but also our own.
Part of my discontent with London life was connected with waiting. Or at least the increasing inability for me or anyone else to wait; for transport, in any type of queue, for endless scrolling information, for meaningful emotional connections. City dwellers are obsessed by the need for instant gratification in every aspect of their lives. When they are expected to act with reasonable patience, they revert to ill behaved toddlers, leading to raised stress levels and ugly behaviour.
A way of life dependent on waiting for seasonal rhythms, for long distance deliveries, for wifi data, with occasional storms which implacably interrupt human schedules, holds a certain charm in the face of modern impatience. Especially when whatever it is they 'need to have' immediately goes nowhere to alleviate their fathomless desire. With this mind, the waiting of Magda, and the women takes on a new significance. In their endless cycle of unfulfilled anticipation they have actually experienced more hope and optimism in those seemingly pointless waiting years, than unhappy and similarly emotionally unfulfilled people getting everything in their 'have it now' modern world. Who are the insane ones here now?
And still I wait. I'm waiting for my directional epiphany in this year away. As I sit on the village harbour wall and wait with increasing acceptance, it's slowly dawning on me that perhaps waiting is my answer. To wait is to ultimately be able reconcile peace and discontentment, resulting in endless anticipation and hope. And in the meantime I'm waiting for dinner with Magda's jetty in my sight. She is not there anymore; like the storm, her wait is over.

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