Kinbaku Study Group in Berlin

Cross-posting this from Dasniya’s blog. The rather brutal and exceptional shibari / kinbaku-ist Tamandua, whom Dasniya and I met in Stockholm, and who now lives in Berlin is organising a Kinbaku Study Group at Haus Sommer in Uferhallen, Berlin-Wedding. I’ve seen photos of him tying Dasniya, and Dasniya’s talked with me a lot about his work. I think he’s doing some of the most interesting — and probably most sadistic — rope work in Berlin. More info on his tumblr.

Starting up: Regular kinbaku study group

Now looking for people in Berlin interested in joining a small kinbaku/shibari study group starting beginning of May.

This is a good opportunity to learn focused together with other students and where your personal development can be followed and taken properly into account during the process.

Lessons will take place in the evening every second week. See dates below. For each class opportunity there will be a different theme to get the chance to get a familiar with the broad spectrum of ties and approaches to kinbaku that exsist out there. During these weeks we will be touching on topics such as plenty pattern and shape learning, controling a body and being controled as a body in ropes, communication, aesthetics, technical problem solving, rope handling and treating and other nerdy content.

Participants should be of level advanced beginner or intermediate at the start of the course. And yes, we will also be getting into working with suspension points when the level for that is met.

You can attend with somebody you know already but it’s great if you are also comfortable with switching and coupling up with other students taking the course. Whatever you feel fine with.

It is possible to sign up for 3 or 6 classes at a time. It is adviced to not skip more than one class in a row since the idea is for the classes to be progressional.

Evenings 18:30-21:30
May: 4, 18 (Thurs), 31 (Wed)
June: 14, 28 (Wed)
July: 12 (Wed)
3x3h classes: 120 per person
6x3h classes: 200 per person

Location is close to Pankstrasse in Wedding.
Email to register

Reading: David Nicholas — The Northern Lands: Germanic Europe, c.1270-c.1500

My combination book unpacking / book selling (fuck yes, I sell books sometimes too!) led to the discovery of a few books I’d never blogged – or for that matter finished reading. David Nicholas’ The Northern Lands: Germanic Europe, c.1270-c.1500 is one of those, unfinished because it’s kinda boring; rereading cos it’s informative and enlightening in a broad, generalist, undergrad way, heavy on the facts and light on poetry, a bit like reading contract law or  health insurance.

Who is David Nicholas and why does start sentences with ‘but’ so much? Professor Emeritus at Clemson University until he retired a decade ago, and yes, if there’s a distinct style of, white, anglo-euro-american male academic writing (and have I read a trunkload of them), he’s it (reminds me of Central Asian scholar Christopher I. Beckwith, or Aloïs Riegl). Around once every sentence I notice I’ve vagued out into mediæval fantasy land (me in central role saviour-ing or slaughtering, either/or), before returning to one of his regular and unintentionally hilarious sentences or clauses. (Such as – paraphrasing here: “Austrians always regarded the Swabians as aliens.”)

Yes. I have been learning things. No. Not quite sure what. Ignoring entirely the awkward-ish ‘Germanic’ in the title, no, he’s not tromping down the well-worn racist path of pure German identity, in fact he makes it quite clear without making it the central thesis that whatever constitutes ‘Germanic’ was throughout the period he covers conditional and contextual, and often incomprehensible: Swabians, Slavs, Wends, Frisians, Flems, Danish, Scandinavians all at various times and places both were and were not Germanic, even moving back and forth depending on where they were, whom they were speaking to or who was speaking of them. It’s the -ic in Germanic that’s important, an attribute of language, thinking, culture that moved back and forth between lands and regions, rather than an identity or nation that existed as a fixed object. But it’s the German that’s at issue, and while Nicholas broadly divides regions into England, Flanders, Netherlands, Denmark and Scandinavia, and Germanic regions (contemporary Germany, Austria), along with forays into Poland, Czech and those parts of the Holy Roman Empire, he nonetheless prioritises ‘German’. Probably would have been better to leave the title at “The Northern Lands” and move his focus to the interactions between these regions. Professor Len Scales’ review is far more eloquent on this than I can be.

My criticism is predominately on the boringness of the writing (ok, and on the substantial absence of women, art, culture, Jewish communities …). Dry, dry, dry enumeration of facts and names, which I can stodge through if it weren’t for baffling jumps back and forth across hundreds of years, frequently in the same paragraph. I’m sure for Nicholas this makes sense, but fuck me sometimes I’m at a loss to understand his line of reasoning or his point. If I was twenty, considering a life in mediæval history and was assigned this for coursework, I’d probably go off and become a tradie, spending the rest of my life thinking it was because I was stupid, and not that for all its density of information this work fundamentally uninterested in communicating – and I’m saying this as someone who reads Caroline Walker Bynum for pleasure (repeatedly).

For a more realistic comparison, trundling through Wikipedia pages on the Hanseatic League, Magdeburg, Sachsenspiegel, (all of which he’s written about), and various other labyrinths of mediæval gloriousness (plus following links out into the wilds of the internet) is far more informative, rewarding, and enjoyable. Weirdly, I keep hoping the next page he’ll break from his interminable introduction style and get down to some substantial writing. Not bloody likely.

If you’re at university and being made to read this, go somewhere else. Mediæval northern european history is mad fun, alternate history levels of science-fiction strangeness, it’s addictive as all shit, and it’s a living thing you can walk into any old church and see, it has philosophical debates and ideas as wonderful as Deleuze or Serres or Butler, art that thrashes contemporary stuff for levels of intensity (imagine walking into church and it was 5 hours of Volksbühne: that’s mediæval art), in all seriousness whatever workable future Europe has – politically, socially, culturally – it’s going to find more possibilities 800 years ago than in the last couple of hundred years of contagious bollocks, and if you’re reading The Northern Lands you’re going to experience approximately none of this. Fuck’s sake, go and read Bynum.

David Nicholas — The Northern Lands: Germanic Europe, c.1270-c.1500
David Nicholas — The Northern Lands: Germanic Europe, c.1270-c.1500


Post-Weekend Hoonage

There is only one guaranteed fix for weekend blahs: hoonage! Looking through all my hundreds of car photos (excluding gifs here: they’re either drifting, burnouts, rally, or LMP1), I think it’s safe to say Frances likes Subaru WRX, Ford GT40, LMP1, rally, and burnouts. And chicks in or doing any of the above.

When I was in Brussels, I went to Autoworld. They had a white Ford GT40 Mk II from Alan Mann Racing. It’s a beast. I’d seen photos, heard it spoken of in awe, but to see it there all metal and gently stinking of fried brakepads, fuel and oil, I got how intimidating and impressive it is. I love this yellow one, especially how it’s slammed. Surprising for me also, cos mostly I dislike American cars. But this was built to win Le Mans, and owes as much to the Europe of that as to the US of auto design.

Above that is the GT40s descendant, the 2016 GT. I mean, faaark, no? Flying fucking buttresses! Pretty sure I’ve blogged this before; definitely Tweeted. Still don’t really like US cars, but come on, this is magnificent. And to hear it braking hard and downchanging, it’s a glorious, frightening work of art.

I’ll likely never afford either, unless I have a spare mid-6 figure or low-7 figure slab of cash. Could afford a WRX STI though! My favourite hoonable car, preferably in metallic blue with gold rims. Nah, actually that’s the only acceptable colours for a WRX. It’s got one of the dirtiest engine sounds around, thanks to the turbo flat-4 boxer. Fond memories of biking up Chapel St in Melbourne on a Friday night with that as the soundtrack. And it’s a fucking legend of a rally car. No poncy suburban pseudo-hoon here. It goes around corners sideways! For a road car, with those rims, the bonnet scoop, the bonkers massive rear spoiler, and the price, Frances, yes, even for you, hoonage is attainable.

Could also be a Volvo. Their equivalent of the STI is Polestar, which has an insanely gorgeous shade of powder blue. Volvo stationwagons are also hoonable. No? Don’t believe me? Volvo raced them in the Aussie Super Touring Championship in the ’90s. Not winning, but the 850 sedan did (and had one of the best ad campaigns—made me want to buy one, something about “The Car to Free Your Soul.”) The fully murdered black S60 Polestar TC1. Look at those fucking insane wheel arches. I’m always joyously delighted Sweden of all places is a country of petrolheads.

Anyway! Burnouts! Lots of countries do them, only Australia does them right. It’s kinda like swearing, not especially eloquent but they make up for it with prodigious consistency. It’s the only country that has replaced the spaces between words with “fuckin’” (also used for capitalisation at the start of sentences, punctuation, as well as actual swearing), and they do burnouts with the same single-minded dedication. Are the wheels on fire? Probably ’Straya. Helps heaps having Commodores and Falcons. It’s like Ford in the ’60s asked Australia, “What are you looking for in a car for such a Lucky Country as ours?” And collectively Australia responded, “Fuckkin’ hooning an’ fuckkin’ burnouts ya fuckkin’ cunt!”

Back in Germany. I’ve seen fleeting examples of Germanic hoonage, mostly in Wedding or the outer suburbs/nearby small towns (of course, god, what else are you supposed to do?) but nothing as concerted as say, Chapel St on a Friday night, though Ku’damm or Friedrichstr are perfect for blockies. Instead we go off to the Nürburgring. I love LMP1 (and quite a few of its Prototype class ancestors), and when Porsche got back in the game—with Mark Webber! I was all, yup, time to sit up all night for the ’ring 24h. (Yeah, I am certainly giving Porsche the side-eye at the moment, being part of VW and all the bollocks of their emissions cheating.) The 919 looks like an alien spacecraft, and sounds all kinds of mad insane alien spacecraft. (As much as I’m not an Audi fan, I gotta admit their LMP1 downshifting could probably give me orgasms, so yeah, even better than the 919). Also at Nürburgring is the simply beautiful Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C, not quite a GTE, not quite an LMP, sublime to watch racing.

Aaaand, from a documentary on women racing in Palestine, Speed Sisters. Mad hard hoons, them.


Historiska museet — A Small But Beautiful Update

I’m very remiss in this.

When I was in Stockholm, I sprinted off one morning to the beautiful Historiska museet to perv at mediæval art—as I do in every city I visit. (If I worked with written contracts, it’d be a line somewhere around Per diems: “Plus n hours free on x half-day(s) for perving at mediæval art museums” (where n = (number of pervable museums * 3) + travel time. I can get through a museum in 90 minutes if I have to, but who’d want to?)

Three of the works didn’t have captions, not so uncommon an occurrence, especially seeing this museum had just had its collection restored. Back in Berlin, I emailed off into oblivion. To be honest, I don’t expect to get a reply when I have to email museums, their average comprehension of social networks and Teh Interwebtubez is sitting around 1998. Not so with Historiska museet!

Woah! They have a new website since last time! OMG! Look. At. It! Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, look at that! … wait! They have a new blog too! (SMB have a quite good archival website, but their website isn’t the easiest to slide around, and as for Twitter… so a new blog is a good start.) OK getting sidetracked here.

The Senior Curator of the Department of Cultural History and Collections emails me not just the names of the three missing works, but details and links and attachments. I’m reading and clicking and … wow. I’m just gonna quote here:

The piece in your photos number 56-60 is the altarpiece from Jonsberg church in the province of Östergötland, dated to 1500-1525 and produced in an Antwerpen workshop; there are more images here: Medeltidens bildvärld, though unfortunately no information in English. Enclosed, you will find some more information in English about this particular piece.

The altarpiece in photograph number 61 is from Vada church in the province of Uppland, probably produced in a workshop active in the Mälar region in the first quarter of the 16th century. The wings are currently displayed in another gallery – the one where you saw the small devotional in photo 69. More pictures here: Medeltidens bldvärld. The heraldic armour of Gunhild Johansdotter (Bese) and her husband Erik Turesson (Bielke) is prominently displayed in the corpus, they were landowning nobility with strong ties to the parish and donated the piece to Vada church.

The third piece – photos 62 & 63 – is from Lofta church in the region of Småland (pictures here: Medeltidens bildvärld). As the piece from Jonsberg, this was produced in an Antwerpen workshop. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Netherlandish altarpieces became increasingly popular, competing with the German workshops. The piece from Lofta has a Marian theme, with the central scene being the death of Mary.

And then there’s the attached pages on the first Jonsberg altar—which is one of the most superb pieces I’ve ever seen, massive, almost 3 metres high and 2 1/2 wide, with 108 figures worked in oak into glorious movement (“…in 13 Passion and childhood scenes, together with 8 lesser tableaux relating to the sacraments of the Church.”)—and I’m reading through when it I come to Adoration of the Magi … Caspar … Melchior—I’m thinking, “I don’t remember an Adoration of the Magi”, so I go to Medeltidens bildvärld and it’s a real Holy Fuck! moment, cos there he is, Balthasar himself. Dunno how I didn’t see him, but added below also. And here’s the text: The Altarpiece from Jonsberg (.pdf), really worth reading.

I’m not sure about mentioning names, but Elisabet Regner, you are amazing! Your museum is beautiful (& I only saw the mediæval stuff), and thank you so much for your detailed answer.


Nyxxx, Rökridån, Kokoro2, & Dasniya — A Workshop

Some photos I’ve been sitting on since early-May from Dasniya/Shibari Express’ three-day rope & making performance workshop in Stockholm with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. It was a truly awesome week.

Ropes & Roles

Ebba, Tova & Gabriel host a conversation with the Berlin-based choreographers Dasniya Sommer and Frances d’Ath, that visited NyxxxKokoroTwo & Rökridånfor a working residency the 28th of April-4th of May in 2015. When the conversation starts, we have just participated in a shibari yoga class guided by Dasniya. From this point of reference, we go on to discuss among many other things exoskeletons, religious metaphors and the invention of rope as a parallel to the invention of the wheel.

— NYXXX: Avsnitt #9 — Ropes & Roles

NYXXX Podcast #9 — Ropes & Roles
NYXXX Podcast #9 — Ropes & Roles


Photos from (I’m not sure we gave it a name) Performance at Rökridån, Stockholm

When Dasniya and I were rehearsing and performing at Rökridån in Stockholm earlier this month, Gabriel Widing—one of Rökridån’s creators/part of NYXXX took some photos. (Apparantly there’s video(s) somewhere also.) They’ve been sitting on my desktop for two weeks glaring at me; every day, “Why are we not on supernaut yet, Frances?” And every time I look at them, I want a whole hour or ninety minutes of this.


“Eine Kleine Geschichte”

Dasniya sent me these from our Sunday performance last night, and said, It’s especially sweet if you make a slideshow and play the Swedish volk music to it.” I said, “Oooyess!” discovered the music we’d grabbed from YouTube is either deleted or seriously inaccessible, scraped it from elsewhere, either way, thanks Route 69K Stockholm bus driver on Sunday around 12:15 who was playing this!

Skalden Wennerbom from Gustaf Fröding — 39 dikter med musik av Torgny Björk by Herr T och hans Spelmän (Torgny Björk)

5 Days of Making Shibari (3 Workshops, A Performance), & Stockholm

A slightly unannounced workshop (compared to the other two, I mean), three days of making performance with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. Eleven people, some artists, one engineer (always one engineer), a social-anthropologist, part-way underground in the meat-packing district. We stay almost on the edge of Stockholm, one stop before the end of the line, Bagarmossen. The forest begins nearer than that last stop. Roads and cars encircle but do not enter. Wide, curved paths, trees, eruptions of glacier-smoothed granite. Most other places this would be the dead-end. Here, it’s like the ideal of high-modernist urban planning architecture—the antithesis of Le Corbusier—made real. It’s a little disturbing at first.

Rökridån is half-way from Bagarmossen to the centre of Stockholm, probably an half-hour walk, 15 minute brisk spin on a bike. We take the train, walk the last bit. Only four hours a day, though with warm-up before and drifting over the finish time, this stretches to five, six. And then we rehearse. I haven’t hung myself up since teaching at ImPulsTanz last year.

This is writing for remembering. Since working regularly with Florian, Dasniya’s teaching, performances, general ideas and interests have changed.

In-between stuff. Friday, we rehearse in Bagarmossen, then end the afternoon in Östasiatiskamuseet. Also walking around the harbours. Wednesday night we see a performance at MDT. It causes me to doubt that people with acceptable bodies (identities, desires) can have any understanding of those without, or even care. Sunday I go to the Historiska museet. A bus driver plays Swedish folk music. Later that night, we use it in a performance.

I eat a lot of liquorice. Sweet, salty, chewy, rubbery, stuff that melts and stuff that erodes. The sky is the kind that comes from across oceans, open, tattered clouds, the air sharp and polished. It’s often windy. Inside, or in the sun, it’s warm; if the sun was higher, it would approach harshness. As soon as the sun is gone, it chills like stone in shade. If the public transport doesn’t work, they pay for people to take taxis. I didn’t eat reindeer. Or fish.

Thursday night is Valborgsmässoafton, Walpugis Night. No burning of witches north of the Baltic, only celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires. Stockholm seems to have a lot of immigrants. It felt a little like Sydney or Melbourne. I liked it more for that (I know it’s not straightforward or rosy).

Both Tova and Christian have a lot of books. Walls of books. Cheese comes in at least 1kg blocks. Smaller is possible but not encouraged. Coffee also. I wonder if in winter they are snowed in, and need such large amounts to get through. Granite is everywhere. The city and trees are a thin scraping on the surface, you could probably clean the whole place back to rock with a brush, vacuum cleaner, and an afternoon. It’s insanely beautiful.

The word for ‘child’ is the same as in Scots: barn, bairn. I try and not find similarities with Scotland and Northern England. When people greet you, even in shops or at work, they say, “Hey!” It’s so ridiculously friendly. If a ‘k’ is followed by an ‘ä’, it’s pronounced ‘sh’. I ask Tova who inflicted this upon them. She laughs and tells me about ‘sj’. ‘Hen’ is in the Svenska Akademiens ordlista as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. People we meet use it easily.

What else?

Monday we arrive, are met at the central bus station, cross the road to the train station, find ourselves on the T17, south-south-east to Bagarmossen. A long meal together, roast aubergine with walnuts. Tuesday we are early heading to Rökridån. Dasniya sent photos of our performance, we both took many photos throughout the week (as did everyone). I’ll defer a description in lieu of those later. NYXXX are LARPers. I found that out late in the week. When she told me it was like the secret that makes coherent everything which preceded. First day: a warmup, some exercises/tasks/trials with ropes. Second day: a warmup, Dasniya showed some of her work from rehearsals, talking about how performance is made. The difference between performance for each other, playing publicly, and performance as a branch of theatre are discussed. Third day: an assemblage of objects, ideas, wishes, things to try; an agreement of who does what with whom; experiments with rope that become installations. I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking good” to myself quite a bit.

Friday. May Day.

Saturday, Yoga and Shibari. On more familiar ground here. The performance workshop went into new things for Dasniya (and myself). Some things worked, others not completely. Working or not-working for me are somewhat questions of engineering; it’s the ground they operate on that’s either fertile or arid (pushing a shaky mixed metaphor there). I think the performance workshop, especially with LARPing was really this, several things coming together that fit so neatly and I’m kinda watching myself watching it thinking, “Faaark! This can go so far into Weirdsville…” and wanting that in all its rawness, messiness, bits of failure and bits of sublime on the stage at MDT cos it’s so much more relevant, so much more real.

Dasniya’s yoga approaches Isabelle’s warmup from different directions. I’m doing all the same all over the place. Same. Different. Slightly different. Kinda the same. We rehearse before and after. Firstly after is a Podcast dinner. NYXXX, a Tascam, a table of food (yes, large block of cheese). The talking goes from performance to stomach bacteria to cosplaying … I thought there was an interesting formality in how this was prepared, which contrasted with the informality when let to run on its own accord. After that, full stomach, more rehearsing.

Sunday. I go to the museum. The bus driver and his music. Later, after the Self-suspension workshop, Tova helps me find the music, poems of Gustav Fröding arranged by Torgny Björk. People start laughing immediately when we play it. Different people in the weekend workshops to the week one. Many the same. Different energy in Rökridån also. I try suspending myself in two different hip harnesses. I’m unsure lately if I want to hang at all. I do find some possibilities, but there’s a physical reluctance towards pain that comes from dealing with chronic injuries, as if the surface of my skin is too sensitive.

Performance. Rubber dog mask for me. Cat for Dasniya, Pig for Tova. A green bicycle. A white calico skirt, beaded green vest, also a black ballet tutu, gold glitter heels, a table and chair, a ladder. From the inside performing with masks, it can feel nothing, or stupid, or whatever, but from the outside with these not-quite human not-quite animal masks, it’s dead strange. It’s like they become blank signifier volumes. It’s not anthropomorphic either; more like becoming animal. The practicalities of dealing with much-reduced vision and hearing, the inner experience of wearing this cave-like helmet causes a different mundane physicality and movement. They’re also good for shy performers.

It takes an hour to pack the ropes,

A rope jam takes place. Stockholm people are well-handy with shibari. All quite astounding, really. Dasniya and I have a beer in the local pub. It closes early, by pub standards. The sky still has a faint tint of the sun riding the horizon at 11pm.

Monday, pack, train, lunch with Tova, we don’t manage a ferry ride and wander. Bus to airport, liquorice and chocolate. Plane makes land somewhere around the border of Germany and Poland. We see Uferhallen on the descent. Florian is at the arrivals gate with a sign, “Shibari Express” and chewy sweet stuff.



Historiska museet

Sunday. Not a day off. I squeezed an hour from the morning to devote myself to mediæval art. Train to T-Centralen, confused directions and opted for a taxi to Historiska museet. “I am here for the mediæval art!” “Well, that is good because the collection has just been restored! You must go up the stairs, into the Baroque collection, then follow the timeline backwards. Here is a map.” I lost the map.

Up the stairs, onto the timeline (it’s an actual timeline on the floor), into the—nope, not that way, back onto timeline, into the battle room, cases of skulls and bones hacked, chipped, dented by swords. One skull has a red oval drawn on it, marking a dent grown over with fresh bone. There are chainmail and steel plate helmets to try on, and gloves. The gloves have polished metal fingernails and spiked knuckles, satisfyingly heavy and damage-inducing.

Into the art.

I was looking for the Swedish or Scandinavian regional equivalent of what I’ve seen in Berlin, Wrocław, and elsewhere. Also hoping to see how far north St Mauritius travelled, and if Balthasar was represented as African. As well, wondering if a couple of more obscure Saints turned up north of the Baltic sea. Was I disappointed? Nope! Only 50 minutes for all of it though.

The earliest pieces, from the 1100s, are gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. The square, frontal, tall and narrow symmetrical sculpture style takes an alien countenance in Madonna från Mosjö kyrka (Närke, c. 1150), huge, black-rimmed eyes, down-turned mouth, long, almond-shaped face, high forehead, and the Jesus som överstepräst från Forsby kyrka (Västergötland), both seem barely human with such unreadable expressions. There were some more recognisable pieces, but none I saw ventured far into the International Gothic Style—Madonna från Hedesunda kyrka (Gästrikland, 1350-1375) and Sankt Olov från Frötuna kyrka (Uppland, 1325-1350) are about as far as it goes.

The colours used also seem distinct, as in Helgonskåp från Fröskogs kyrka (Dalsland, 1250-1300), with pink and rose skin and clothing. Mary here looks especially Swedish to me, like people I’d seen on the streets (I kinda wanted to say to someone I know, “Hey, you look like a 13th century Mary!”, but that’d probably sound weird, no matter how I phrase it). The crucifixions, like the magnificent Triumfkrucifix från Botkyrka kyrka (Södermanland, 1325-1350), often had this pulled-up, twisted legs, and sharper, geometric limbs and clothing.

Then into the big hall, name forgotten because of aforementioned loss of map. (Found map. Name is Gotiska hallen.) Two things in here I especially found charming. The first, by the entrance is the cordoned-off work area where two painted panels are being restored. For all the museums I’ve been in, I’ve not seen this, and it somehow made the works around stronger for the mundane extension cables, work chairs, utilitarian tables. Next to that was a small door into a dark room: a recreated rural mediæval church. The altarpiece lit only by candles, the walls, ceiling rafters, almost everything in darkness, the works now seen behind glass or properly lit experienced as they often would have been. I wanted to stay here, let my eyes adjust, feel the cold. No time.

Other side of the restoration tables, Altarskåp från Vadstena klosterkyrka (1383-1394), behind glarey glass but a fine piece of Bynum (what I call excessively bloody crucifixions). Same side as the church is the quite massive Altarskåp från Ganthem kyrka (Gotland, 1325-1350), which I assembled from several images. Jesus’ vagina-shaped inter-dimensional orifice is splurting gloriously, and Mary’s chest bears a heart of similar shape. Her hands and fingers, Jesus’ torso, feet, arms are all long curves and unusual proportions.

And then St Mauritus turns up. Well, I’m guessing it’s him in the Altarskåp från Törnevalia kyrka (Östergötland, 1470-1490). He’s missing a forearm and the banner-pole but otherwise he’s dead jaunty. This is also one of several attributed to Hermen Rode of Lübeck, and one of several here that seem stylistically closer to what I’ve seen in Berlin and Germany than specifically Swedish. I didn’t stop for an audio guide, but quite a few works have additional notes beside the captions that are informative. Context! Historiska museet does it!

Rode also is responsible for the massive Altarskåpet från Österåker (Uppland, Lübeck, 1468). Besides the gigantic central section and wings, there are the outer panel paintings, (the right one I couldn’t photograph). I find it frustrating that photographs don’t convey size so well, it could be this piece is no larger than say, a tabletop. It’s in fact several metres long and almost as tall as me. It can be seen in Historiska Museet — 64: Kyrka Hall on the right-hand side.

Altarskåp från Odensala kyrka (Uppland, 1514) next to it isn’t in that photo, but is equally large. This piece is interesting for several aspects: Mary standing on the moon, surrounded by sunbeams which are also stylised in a manner that represents Jesus’ spear wound; the partition of his wounds from a single body to isolated parts, hands alone in the upper corners and feet in the lower. On the left at her feet, the clergy, but on the right, the laity and females, possibly Beguines and Beghards.

From here into a smaller chamber, darker though still with windows. From outside only the back is visible, but one turned around to face it, the vast, tall, incredibly detailed carved wood altarpiece with Life of Christ is one of the most beautiful objects I’ve seen. A problem here in this room is almost all the works have no captions. I could spend ages photographing this one. The depth of the sculpture, its massiveness combined with the multitude of small figures, the detail of their clothes, headdress, the animation in their bodies, their facial expressions, it’s a whole lot of wow, I was going, “Faarrk!” grinning like a loon, squeezing just one more minute out.

These pieces also mark the arrival of the Renaissance, and coincide with the end of the mediæval art collection. There are other rooms though, many of them. I dash (broken-toed dash, that is) through the tapestry collection, difficult to photograph because the light is dim and yellow. The Wall Hanging from Fogdö Church (Södermanland, late-15th Century) I made an effort on for the almost houndstooth stitching of Jesus’ blood, which covers him from head to toe in a regular pattern. I have no idea what the actual colour of the thread is, I tried to balance out the yellow of the light without pushing the white thread to bleached, guessing it’s something like this, but could go either way, more brilliant or more muted.

Departing and getting lost, I find a room for Saint Birgitta. The hand is actually a seal’s foot. The reliquary itself contained part of an upper arm. It’s a strange and close to incomprehensible object. I would come back to Stockholm just to go through this museum properly.

Departing, into the sun, I land on a bus. The driver is playing what sounds like Swedish folk music. After the second song, I have to ask him. It’s Torgny Björk, arrangements of the 19th century poet Gustav Fröding. Later in the day, Dasniya, Tova, and I perform to this music.


I’ve been very remiss. I wrote to the Historiska Museet shortly after getting back to Berlin, and received a beautiful reply (which has been sitting in my “reply” folder for three months) from Elisabet Regner, Senior Curator in the Department of Cultural History and Collections, filling in the missing information on images 56-63 below. More than filling in. Oooh excitement!