Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence, 4th iteration, at the Bergen Natural History Museum


Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence.


The audio file below, is the 4th iteration of, Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence. (approx 25 minutes duration). This is best heard with headphoes and without looking at this screen. Below that, is the script of the performance, which will scroll to reveal the whole text. To the right, is documentation of the work's public premiere, at the Bergen Natural History Museum. This iteration combines material from earlier iterations of Between Our Words... and The Wrong Bodies, with a view to drawing out their common concerns with silences, familial, literary, cinematic and institutional.

Performers..... Idun Vik, Katrine Lunde Mackenzie, Solvei Stoutland, Andy Lock


Sound Production..... Henrik Skauge

Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence


Idun               Listen! Quiet! Just Let’s be quiet!


                       You know it’s only when I rest, that I sense your presence.


                       You say this space in which you and I now move is empty, but I sense others here. Can’t you feel them?


                       I don’t think we’re alone at all. There are others here.

                       It’s not just you and I.  This? … This isn’t empty, at all.


Andy              Berlin, 1955. 


                        Evening, and the building around him is quiet, the office workers long departed. High above, the empty cars                          of a paternoster lift circulate, endlessly. Far below, in rooms carefully insulated from the sounds of the city, 

                        he finds himself occupying a world in parenthesis.


                        He runs his hand over the surface of a studio console, salvaging small clippings of audio tape. Each                                      fragment contains a pause, a breath, the shape of a thought. Each represents a hesitation, a withholding; a                          lacuna, edited out from some or other speaker’s utterances.  He sweeps the clippings into a small tin.                                    Pockets it. Later, he will splice these fragments together, to create a recording composed not from words,

                        but from the gaps between them.


                        Now, he sits alone, reflecting that he has covertly become a collector of silences, in a country and at a time                            where every silence is like an unexploded bomb, peopled not by absence, but by presences denied.  



Idun               Silence he understands, is a construct. It is not a signifier of emptiness, but an illusion that masks the                                     presence of something unacknowledged, repressed or denied.


                       And whenever we encounter something we perceive as silence, …


Andy              …we should perhaps ask ourselves: “here, at this site, who or what is denying the presence of what or                                   whom?”, because in order to be silent, one must be silent about something.


                        Silence is not only experienced, it is enacted or performed, and it is motivated. It comes in many forms, but                           always it has an object. Always there is something that remains unspoken.


Idun               Sometimes, he believes, if one inhabits silence, that “something” may be disclosed.





Kat                  Bergen 2018.

                        Arriving at The Natural History Museum, he is greeted by?

                        A spectacle of absence.


Idun               Closed for renovation, he encounters a building that is, in insect terms, a chrysalis,

                        a “pupa”.


Idun               During the long hiatus created by its closure the Museum has become a cloistered space of transition,


Sol                 Denied to visitors.


Sol                 Almost its entire collection removed,


Kat                 Left to display room after room of unoccupied vitrines.


Sol                 His first impression?


Idun               That in its current state, the museum exhibits only emptiness.  





Kat               He returned again and again,


Sol               drawn compulsively to inhabit the museum’s spaces.


Kat               In search of something


Idun             And yet quite unaware of what was concealed within the spectacle that had at first compelled him.




Kat               Marvelling at the museum’s whale skeletons:


Sol                at once, cathedrals of bone, almost a part of the building itself.


Idun              and corporeal things...

                     ripe for colonisation,


Idun             He is oblivious to the Beetles

                     ...that surreptitiously inhabit the whale skeletons.


Kat               Tiny, unobtrusive; brilliantly adapted to living on the dried remains of animals, the beetles continue to do so                           within the museum,


Sol               Devouring whatever organic material they encounter;

                     Reducing smaller specimens to piles of dust.


Idun               A covert and proliferating illegitimacy.





Idun             Bodies without provenance,


                     Discreetly colonising the museum’s gaps,


Kat               Consuming matter, erasing data,


                     Condemned as pests.


Sol                An all-but invisible ecosystem


                     Acknowledged only by attempts to eradicate their presence.


Idun             The wrong bodies,


                     Trapped not in amber, but in glue.


Sol               Captured and catalogued,


                     Becoming specimens.


Idun              A shadow collection.






Idun              An apparatus for collecting,


Kat               Quietly,

                     The Museum gathers...

Sol               Sytematically,

                     it classifies...

Kat               even the bodies of it’s own infestations.

Sol               Determined to identify the pests that penetrate its walls.


Kat               From their carcasses,

                     it fashions unseen parodies of the specimens it places on display.




Idun              Natural history

                     legitimises the bodies it collects as specimens.


Kat               Their presence,

                     licit within the institution,

                     can be spoken.


Sol                Other bodies,

Kat               Present in the archive,

Sol                Absent from its public discourse,


                     Bide their time.


Kat               Waiting,

Idun             Waiting,

Sol               Waiting!


Idun             Cradled in a chrysalis of bricks and glass and bones


Kat/Sol         Eager to emerge

Kat:              ‘skadedyr’.


                     ‘Skadedyr’: What is that? Small animals doing harm.


Sol:              It was 1979 and they were having an infestation of museum beetles


Kat:              American Vepse—bol—klanner.  


                     It says here in the newspaper,

                     they’re going to exterminate the ‘American’…

                     and there is a name of this “wasp”


                     American Vepse—bol—klanner.  


Sol:              Small beetles that eat up all the organic tissue on museum specimens


                     You have to be very careful not to get these beetles inside your collection and if you do, you have to be very                         quick to eradicate them.


Kat:              They made a coat of plastic,


                     Imagine what it took.


                     They made a coat of plastic for the whole house.


                     That was the first time I saw something like that

                     And I couldn’t believe what I saw.


                     I couldn’t believe my own eyes.


                     It was very neatly done too, as these things are.


                     I don’t know how they did it, but it was beautifully done

                     And it looked so ridiculous and we laughed.


Sol:              At one point it was decided that to get rid of these museum beetles, they had to wrap up the museum and                             fumigate the place.


Kat:              They used this Blåsyre, which I think is Zyklon B


                     And it said in the newspaper, “the work has been going well”.

                     The work has been going well and “they have been using Blåsyre”.


Sol:              They wrapped the museum in plastic and put boxes of this gas - which I

                     think must have been in some kind of powder form - in every room in the museum…


                     They wrapped the museum in plastic, opened the boxes and let the gas come out, naturally.


Kat:              Why did they do this packing up? because that was the most that we could see and the answer was…                                   Where have I got this from? I don’t know… so that the poison should stay inside the building. It should not go                       outside the building. In order to function better,


                     but I never thought…


Sol:              When the fumigation had run its course


Kat:              The idea never occurred to me…


Sol:              When the fumigation had run its course and supposedly all the beetles were



Kat:              It never occurred to me that it could be poisonous for people going

                     outside as well.


Sol:              When the fumigation had run its course and supposedly all the beetles were dead,

                     they had to slowly start unwrapping the building.


Kat:              This is an old building.

                     There is presumably a lot of leakages in such an old building.


Sol:              And from what I’ve been told as soon as they started unwrapping the building…


Kat:              It’s a hundred and fifty years old,

                     So we can imagine holes here and there…


Sol:              As they started unwrapping the building,

                     a lot of the gas that was still remnant in the building came out


Kat:              And so I’m sure if there was a very dangerous poison inside …


Sol:              A lot of the gas that was still remnant in the building came out and apparently,

                     birds…  fell from the sky.


Kat:              They really needed to take care.


Sol:              Birds that were flying over the museum fell from the sky, because of the gas that was still escaping


Kat:              They made a coat of plastic for the whole house.

                     And it looked so ridiculous and we laughed.


Sol:              The birds …


Kat:              And I couldn’t believe what I saw.


Sol:              The birds…  fell…   from the sky.





Idun             Pause!  Listen! 

                     Bodies in space,


Andy            My body in a space, breathing,

                     My body; This is not my body; What are these bodies to my body?


Idun             He came to understand that the body required either conformity or silence and unable to conform, he chose                           silence.




Idun             He arrives at his father’s house in the early afternoon, noticing that the garden is beginning to fill with weeds.                         The house as he enters it, is quiet, but he senses his father is there, inside. He will talk to the old man, today.


                     Will tell him, at last, that instead of a recollected childhood of words exchanged, it is all the words withheld,                           that he now remembers: the frequent spells when he, the father, withdrew and would not speak either to the                         son or to his wife. 


                     Living as he does these days amid other, ever-growing gaps, it is doubtful whether the father can remember                         those earlier interruptions in the discourse of family life, but as a child, the son had lived amongst the silences                       his father had created, had inhabited the gaps produced by the father’s withdrawal.


Idun             Silence breeds silence and he, the son imbibed the father’s habit, became practiced himself in the art of                                 withholding, until non-disclosure became a way of life. Was more the father than he cared to know; answered                       silence with silence, became the man; reserved.


                     “Why did you behave this way?”, he will ask his father now, but the old man will not, cannot answer and will                           only look at him questioningly. It is safe to ask now, because there will be no answer, only further silences.


Andy            New York, 1991: the composer sits by an open window as the city’s traffic rolls by below. ‘Noise,’ he says ‘is                           always different. When we overlook the noise around us, we mistake it for silence and we neglect to                                       understand that no two “silences” are the same. What we think of as silence is always full of noise.’


Idun             Growing to adulthood, the son found himself compelled by encounters, which somehow spoke to his own                               memories of earlier, incomprehensible silences; discovering their echo in other, unexpected places,                                       experiencing a frisson of recognition each time he did so.


Idun             He too became a connoisseur of gaps, of intervals; all the while, drawn to

                     discover what might be found therein. His compulsion leading him to recently

                     vacated rooms, where absences hung quietly like over-coats, expectant, waiting to

                     be claimed.


Andy            ISBN 0956569218, circa Two-thousand and ten. The author has embarked on an act of calculated violence.                         Taking the leaves of a book he loves, taking up a scalpel, he begins to cut into the skin of each successive                             page. Gaps in the text proliferate. The Street of Crocodiles becomes a Tree of Codes. He neatly excises                               words, so that not even their ghosts remain, creating a multitude of carious gaps, which cannot be spoken                             and cannot be named.      


Andy            Meanwhile, in a land that is not his own, a poet, deafened himself as a child, writes at night about a                                       subjugated country that becomes deaf, because to hear is to be complicit. An act of defiance. A deafness of                         denial, comprised not of silence, but of what must not be heard.


Idun             Where once he had perceived only absence, only silence, he now found that both had form; that the silences                         between lovers were not equivalent: superficially identical, they were capable of signifying both deep                                     contentment or separation and loss.


                     He understood that conversation was created as much from the gaps between words as by the words                                   themselves and if a conversation, then why not a text. If a conversation, then why not a human life?  


Andy            An image surfaces; a 4×3 window of grainy black and white; a movie playing in the mind’s eye. The image                             flickers into life. A domestic interior, post-war Japan, framed in wide-shot by the movie-camera’s lens. It                                 reveals a bride-to-be on the verge of leaving her family home.


                     She exits, but instead of following her story, her narrative, the camera unexpectedly chooses to return,                                   lingering in the quiet rooms of the house. Contemplating, each in-turn, mirrors and the forms of empty chairs.



Idun             Home: the template for all the silences, all the gaps that followed. He has come home, to a site that for all its                         familiarity, is nonetheless the hardest to perceive.


                     Even as he sits with his father, unspeaking, holding the old man’s hand, father and son both drifting back to                           their respective childhoods, fresh silences begin to emerge between them: an ever-growing, untraversed                               terrain and he reflects that far from framing absence, these silences are freighted with all that remains unsaid;                       all that is now unutterable between the two.




Andy            Nightfall. Mr Somiya, returning home alone,pares away the apple’s skin.

                     Lets-fall, with flesh of fruit, words unsaid.


Idun             In the gaps


Andy            In the gaps between our words,


Idun             In the gaps between our words, we are becoming.




Oct-Dec 2016, rolled bedding, recently vacated apartment room, Nygardsgaten, Bergen. Photograph 


Oct-Dec 2016, unoccupied rooms, forensic investigation training house, Nottingham. Photographs


Oct-Dec 2016, unoccupied room, forensic investigation training house. Video


Apr 2017 recently vacated room, asylum hostel, Voss. Photograph


Apr 2017 recently vacated room, asylum hostel, Voss. Video work



Feb 2017, 'Birdsong'.



Mar 2017 material from PKU Spring Forum, first presentation


Mar 2018 PKU Spring Forum, second presentation


Apr 2018 paper delivered to 2018 SAR conference, Plymouth


Mar 2019 PKU Spring Forum, third and final presentation



May 2017 'A performance after a performance', Voksenåsen, Video work



Aug - Oct 2017 video work: coats in corridor, chairs in gymnasium, nr. Helsinki; rolled-bedding, recently vacated apartment, Bergen


Nov 2017 the empty walls of DH's studio



Oct 2017 'Between, Before, After, Elsewhere'. Exhibition at Kunstgarasjen, Bergen


Jan 2018 KMD, image and situatedness



Feb 2018 'The objects perform themselves', Bergen. Photo & Video documentation of performance



Mar 2018 CCFT fieldwork, Agios Sozomenos, Cyprus



June 2018 initial tests with hospital ventilators. Video documentation


Apr-May 2019 'It's only when I rest that I sense your presence', installation, HKS, Bergen


Apr-May 2019 It's only when I rest that I sense your presence, text work, HKS, Bergen



July 2018 'In silence', performance, Berlin. Audio realisation of performance and photo documentation



Nov 2018 A Foreign Body: Absence, a denial of presence. Transplanting a Sitka spruce tree. Tælavåg. Video work



Feb 2019 'Foreign Bodies, Empty Rooms', Bergen Natural History Museum. Audio-visual realisation of performance


Aug - Oct 2019 'The Wrong Bodies', installation, Bergen Natural History Museum


Aug - Oct 2019 'The Wrong Bodies', text work, Bergen Natural History Museum


Oct 2019 The Museum's Wrong Bodies, presentation at Bergen Natural History Museum



July 2019 'Between our words, I will trace your presence' (1st iteration) performed at Cracking the Established order


Oct 2019 Between our Words... (2nd iteration), performed in UN Buffer Zone, Nicosia, Cyprus


Feb 2020 'Between our words, I will trace your presence' (3rd iteration) performance at Borealis Festival. Audio documentation



Feb - Mar 2020 abortive (pre-Covid) plans for realisation of work at Bergen Natural History Museum.


May 2020 Lecture on work in progress, to staff and students at KMD


October 2020 Artist's book, The Wrong Bodies, based on work on the body and institutional silence, at Bergen Natural History Museum



Nov 2020 Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence, at the Bergen Natural History Museum


April 2021 Chapter Draft: Writing in Silence

Summer 2021 Proposal to CARPA 2021: Elastic Writing in Artistic Research

Documentation of the Premiere of my final artistic result, Between Our Words I Will Trace Your Presence, at The Bergen Natural History Museum, 14th November 2020 (all images Roy Bjørge).

Here is the audio of the Q&A / discussion that followed the audience lisetning to the work in the museum's whale hall