I am forever heartbroken over the loss of Anna-Stina Treumund. An unforgettable friend, a wonderful artist who gave me so much more than access to her art and her soul when I was writing my PhD dissertation about her art. I don’t have many words in me right now. I will have to rely on my words from 2013.
“I first met her on my birthday at the breakfast table. I had wanted to talk to her the day before but the ever-changing constellations of conversations around us killed the possibility. There was always someone else who grabbed her with words, always someone else who cornered me with an endless exchange of niceties. She appeared so frail, so fragile, so far away. And then suddenly she was there sitting beside me.
“Happy birthday! Are Leos really good keepers of hearth and home?”
She is Art, I am Academia, both shifting and balancing between small and capital As. Serious representatives of our fields – or at least aspiring to be – and caricatures of ourselves at the same time, blown out of all proportion. We speak in separate tongues, light years apart. Twisting, turning, touching, almost, but not quite. She sends me photos, I send her texts. She is puzzling, obscure, intimate, fragmentary, elusive. I am self-explanatory, overcautious with words, distant, but appear to be complete, together. Two mismatched worlds, each unsure about the other. She has what I have been looking for. She is what I have been looking for. A case study, an object/subject of analysis, ample material for testing theories and methodologies. I have what she yearns for with her body. Words, concepts, theories, explanations.
“Can we talk outside? It’s crowded here.”
OMG, what did I do? So sorry, I’m very clumsy today. I spilled influence all over, contaminated my research data, ruined the results! She read my text, she responded. She asked me if she should change her title. She asked me if she should change. Am I allowed to affect my research subject, to mess with her mind? Can I analyze and criticize her art project idea before it makes it to the gallery? Can I teach her, give her advice, point out what I think are her theoretical blindspots and then write it into my thesis? Who am I to guide Art?
But what if she asks for it? What if she wants to be taught, criticized, pushed further? I don’t understand her. I don’t understand art. She hides it all so well between the lines. She is teaching me, isn’t she? We are both each other’s teachers. Where do we draw the line? Would we necessarily have to be bounded?
“I left. I wanted to leave you your space.”
Look, this is not just any conversation. Let’s set the record straight. I mean, I have to. I am being held accountable for my words. My words will be weighed against other words, compared and contrasted, interrogated and cross-examined. My sentences will be tested for quality and compliance with ethics, my chapters searched thoroughly for suitability and substance. What do I take from her? What do I give her?
“Yes, write about me! Your analysis will maybe make me understand myself better.”
Is she giving me anything (besides my dissertation)? What is she taking from me? Everything and nothing, give or take. It’s all up for grabs. My struggles, my ignorance, my insensitivity, perhaps also my over-sensitivity, always trying to do the right thing, carefully constructing boundaries between Art and Academia, stubbornly sticking to capital As. She takes it all. My knowledge, my experience, my position as somebody within while she is not entirely without. I’m just as much of an informant to her as she is to me, an insider, a native, an expert who is in possession of something she doesn’t quite have yet. She is preparing for a potentially provocative exhibition, I want to get my PhD. She has her stakes, I have mine.”