On the 10th of September I wrote to Kerly something along the lines of:
“ah damn I see you're on the other side of the world already, I really wanted to meet up before we both go! I was supposed to text you but then randomly I was so busy and now it's too late! Anyway I send you hugs and hope it's nice over there!” (she was one of the baltic fellows this year at Performa)

Kerly responds something along the lines of:
“Yes, me too!! I wanted to come see your performance on the 3rd but I had to pack at the last minute! I am so happy you got into the school and that you are not going to EKA afterall!”

On the 26th of September Kerly wrote to me something along the lines of:
“hey what school are you going to again?
And what's the name of the program?”

I respond:
“in Gießen
Justus Liebig Universität
Choreography and performance”

Kerly writes something like:
“so we got this kind of task to curate something here and i was thinking of putting your name on the table, we have a little bit of funding to fly you here but not much. I would like you to make a solo performance.”

I respond something like:
“yooooo wtf yes
Here is my page, I'm always keeping it up to date

So somehow we manage to organise ourselves and get a date in Margot Samel gallery in New York. I have been working on an audio collage just with stuff from the internet. Taking hours to build some sort of harmonies and it always has “reminded” me of a performance soundtrack. It sounds like it should be a soundtrack for a performance. I am mixing elements from Estonian folk songs and some snippets of interviews with people and just going with the flow. It has been a while since I was doing something without a goal. Just playfully imagining something in the abstract future. Now it seems I need to put this to use quite soon.

The next day, my boyfriend comes into the room and tells me something along the lines of:
“Nele, you don’t have a passport”

True, I realise I don't have a passport. So I fly to Estonia, just a couple days before the school begins, to renew my fingerprints and quickly make a new passport. This means I spend a couple hundred euros without being a hundred percent sure, if the NY plan is even fixed.

Going to Estonia again after just leaving means that I have to say goodbye to everyone again. And I hate goodbyes. The weekend feels sort of urgent, on edge, temporary, fleeting. Cold Tallinn feels extra cold without my winter jacket. And I don’t have my apartment anymore. So I stay at my brother’s place who is out of town. As soon as I get up in the morning, drag myself to the shop to get some coffee, black bread and paté and across the street to Eva’s place. She is the only person I can be with when I am so sad&anxious. We make eggs. The thing with her is that I never remember what we talked about. It’s not about what we say but more about just existing in some way of togetherness.

A lot of things happen between then and actually going to New York. We think it’s cancelled, the budget shrinks, I get sick with covid and I start doubting this performance idea altogether. All totally normal things. When I think of my previous work, everything I have done together in a bigger group, how can I go to New York to do something that I am totally not sure of and that I am doing for the first time in my life? The last week before flying, I plan to rehearse, but instead, I am sick in bed. I can barely get up to drag myself to the couch. I experience extreme low moods from covid, from anxiety…

A couple of days before, I get a call. My flight has been cancelled. I’m really considering it a sign of fate that I should not go. I am completely breaking down with anxiety, I write to my coursemate Vincente something along the lines of:
"You know, the craziest thing happened, my flight to NY was cancelled!
Now I am really doubting if I should buy new tickets or not, I am still feeling quite weak and I am really not happy with the idea… my head is exploding, honestly. What would you do in my situation?"

Vincente responds something along the lines of:
"You see… I am not neutral, because of course, it would be nice to have you in Giessen next week. But also, think about it - you have never been to New York, you can make a performance there, and if I had the chance, I would go already just because I love travelling. But I also get it, it's quite a lot, you have been sick, your flight is cancelled."

In the end, of course, I decided to go. I feel like I would regret it too much if I did not go. I am beyond anxious, completely breaking down, but I gather myself with all my willpower.

E A R L Y in the morning I start my journey to the airport. My boyfriend goes to work, I take the train from Giessen train station to Frankfurt train station and from there another train. I fucking hate goodbyes. Any kind of goodbyes make my heart burst with pain. And I hate crying in public. On the plane, there are a bunch of children with a single mom. They cry and scream and demand things almost the whole way. I am also crying almost the entire way, especially the moment when I land and learn that my family has been looking online, where exactly my plane is.

I am landing in the afternoon, so I manage to get myself to the Airbnb in Brooklynwithout any difficulty. When I look around, I already know I will like it here. Everything is relatively normal, except a bit bigger.

The other day I posted some stories on Instagram. They were kind of a scream for help. I had been sick with covid and instead of rehearsing for NY I was crying in bed. I googled about covid causing depressive moods and anxiety. I was struggling to divide things from one another. I was feeling like a failure because I could not proceed with my performance. Because I was sick but also because I was SICK. Every process of creating anything comes to this point. I am stuck, I can not rehearse because I hate everything. Every time it comes to this, I like to say “fuck it feels like giving birth”. Every time I say it it makes me feel a bit better. At least I am not giving birth. Not that I know how that feels exactly.

We drive across a bridge with Uber, after being stuck in traffic for 40 minutes, a swift breeze enters the unairconditioned car. With two speakers and a bunch of xlr cables in the back, I feel the world closing in on me. Big social houses, red bricks, the skyline of the city and holy fuck it's big. I feel like a grain of sand. I keep laughing about the little-girl-from-a-small-village-in-Estonia-goes-to-NYC narrative. I actually never had the dream to come here. I had so many other dreams though. Not being alone. Knowing what love is. Being able to create in an environment which is kind and slow and gentle. Having a home. Knowing how to find home within. Knowing how my friends are doing. Being close to my friends. Living in a shared apartment.

My Latvian flatmate says this city amplifies everything you feel. You can have back to back very horrible and very good days. I actually don't really know what this means but it sounds good. Jet Lag is interesting. I feel foggy and drained the whole day but when the evening finally comes, I lay in bed, I don't fall asleep. I am shivering under the blanket. Sweating. Entertaining my brain with horror scenarios.

When Tracy Emin came to New York for the first time, she did not sleep for 2 days because she was so excited. “By the time the fair opened, I was exhausted and couldn’t get out of bed. So I just stayed there for the entire fair.” She also writes about crying every time she comes here. She had this little monoprint “Sad New York Shower”. It's somehow so beautiful.

P11567_10 (1).jpg
Tracey Emin “Sad New York Shower” (1995)

i injure the ceiling of my mouth with a chicken panino before going to the performance
the sore mountain pulsates with pain as i slide over it with my wet tongue
i'm annoyed with the distance i have to walk after getting lost
the tibet house in ny has soap in the bathroom that smells very good
i go twice, before and after the show
i piss twice in the same cabin
i cry twice because of finnish guys this week
because of niko hallikainen
and a concert some days earlier
the other one was a harp player without a harp
i blabbered to him about my tears
he seemed happy about it
he asked, which part was it,
that made me shed tears
i decide to walk to the afterparty
everyone has something to say about this city
you can have two days in a row here, one miserable and the next very happy
people in new york are shallow
i am embarrassed about paying 7$ for a dollar pizza
don't tell anyone
by the end of the week i'm tired of noise
of looking at the map
of stomach ache
of being alert
of crossing the street with red
of trying to understand who is important
smiling thankyou
"welcome to new york" to explain some bullshit
don't get me wrong
i do love it here
i stumble by the wooster garage by chance and think
《 its all here 》
within the reach of my fingertips
there is such abundance of it
all so rich or so poor i lack imagination to really grasp it
or at least that's what i tell myself as i look away from the indigenous woman with a child hoisted on her back in the metro
selling candy
i look down
kerly taught me to look at people's boots before talking to them
i get to the performa afterparty
later in the toilet
i feel the outer edges of my stomach fluctuating with drunkenness and the panino from before
tomorrow i fly again back over the pond
not that i have a place to really call home in this part of the world
rented out my flat in tallinn, i lack a physical space to imagine when i'm homesick
the thought of snow and little lights on the window, i see them across the fence of neighbours of my parents house
the thought of mother
then i know, someone is home
yesterday i walked over the brooklyn bridge and overlooked the statue of liberty
in plain sight
so many things to feel embarrassed about
the performance i did
my inability to network
my inability to dance
so i sit alone marking down the outlines of this poem
in this way i feel kinda useful
time goes by, i've used up all my internet
downloading high resolution documentation of the performance
i go out to smoke to look like i'm doing something and as i press my back against the window i feel the beat
maybe i could dance if i drank faster
imagining the 8h flight with a hangover i take five violent sips
it might be the era of sad girl poems finally

I’ve landed back in Germany. Sitting in my warm room, I struggle to comprehend how I got here. I’ve had a 8h flight and suddenly, I am across the world again. I have spent the day taking my bike to the repair shop and trying to catch up for my German lessons, together with covid and New York, I've missed a lot of those. Either from jet lag or the fact I've not been in a proper school for 7 years, I've become so bad at studying. I have to check at least 5 times, what boden means. Now that I put it in the text, I will not forget again. The workbooks scattered around on my couch, I bounce back and forth to my screen and to the pages. My thoughts are short and blunt. I think my brain is also confused about coming back from abroad to another abroad. But hearing German somehow makes me feel at ease. “Fuck why are germans so harsh” I text my boyfriend on the train from the airport to Giessen.

As some days pass, I get some imaginary relief. I distance myself from the pressure that was present the last weeks, not yet approaching the other tensions present in my life. So, for some days, I feel very happy and free and accomplished.

After my performance had ended, we took 3 different metros to get to a sound art event. Every person in the audience was handed a sleeping mask and asked to lay down. Keliel, a Finnish sound artist, played some very relaxing tunes and I surrendered to it. I was laying on the ground when I realised, there is really no other thing that takes me to this place of bliss and relaxation and feeling of relief than making these performances. I felt full of emotion, very present, very rooted. Like wherever I am, I am me and it’s okay. Even if I am not completely content with how it all went down, I can never ever be so at peace like at this moment.

It’s very sad that only in this way, that is too often destructive and completely unsustainable, can I get to this point. The constant need of movement, discovery and outside approval has taken me to a point of complete exhaustion and conflict with my own work. I do love it, I do want to continue doing it, but at the same time it is breaking me. The process of it coming out is so often so damn hard. Don’t get me wrong, I have never considered doing anything else, I have never considered stopping. But I do feel the need to negotiate a better circumstance for myself, from myself and the field. I think I do not need to get into the inner conflict that every artist goes through about saying no to things.

In the afternoon, it's snowing hard in Gießen. I did not think it would snow at all this year. I am sitting by the window in the only warm room in this apartment next to the radiator. My german boyfriend's way of luften is not turning the heat on even when it’s snowing outside. My therapist tells me, I could try to separate the artist me from the rest of me, so I would not take everything I do so personally. I tell her that the whole art field functions based on people who don't do anything else besides art. It's completely normal that people don’t have any hobbies or outside life. We are friends with & dating only people from the field, because no one else understands us or can cope with this kind of life. There are exceptions, of course. Who has a normal life anyway?

Last night, when I could not sleep, I watched a 40min youtube video of my former schoolmate, who recently had a baby. I have followed along for quite a while, seeing her give birth, watching the baby grow, seeing them move into their own house in a village close to Tallinn, seeing them buy clothes for the baby and going on walks, makes me somewhat jealous of the life they have, and the prospect of this maybe never going to happen for me feels quite real.

I’m going home again soon for the Christmas break. It feels quite luxurious to live so close to my school that I can just do that. Some of my coursemates will not go back home the whole MA studies time. It feels quite luxurious to be flexible about when exactly I graduate, will it take 2 or 3 or 4 years…? Let’s see. It feels quite luxurious to book an appointment to the dentist and to the GP/family doctor. Since I started my studies, I have health insurance again. My mom has paid for my therapist for all these years. One year I calculated that she spent over 1200 euros on my therapy bills. Now I can pay it from my study grant.

Kaanefoto: Joosep Ehasalu