”Personas I encountered across continents”

Ida in her workspace at Ashka Alwan, Beirut (photo courtesy of Ida Balslev)

Ida in her workspace at Zoukak theatre, Beirut (photo courtesy of Ida Balslev)


The following text is from the performance that Ida Balslev enacted on the 24th of May at the Kindergarten Collective in Beirut. The final performance will be shown in the end of July, stay tuned.

The first persona is a man who wants to become a woman. I meet him in the streets of New York. On Kent avenue. It was raining when he was telling his story. He was a buisnessman for nearly 20 years then he experienced the need of a radical change. He had always loved to go shopping with his wife. But he never understood why he always had an incredible desire to touch the silk materials and the ability to wonder in the shop for hours. He was obsessed with his body. He didn’t want his muscles to be too big, yet he wanted tight buttocks and slim thighs; just like a woman. He grew up in a family surrounded by macho men. He was beaten every time he showed emotions. Now he wanted to be able to marry a woman one day and cry in church during the ceremony. His biggest wish was to give birth. When I said goodbye to him that late afternoon, he put on his fake mustache, he was going to a dinner party with his family.

The second persona is an actress from Russia undergoing an identity crisis. I meet her in Lithuania. She had become unable to see the purpose of representing stories written hundreds of years ago. When I met her she was questioning the relevans of Homer, Shakespeare, Pirandello and Ibsen as well as their visions, the very same ones that had filled theatres all over the world for so long. With all the old theater reviewers, the usual cultural radical ladies in the front rows with long amber necklaces, how could an experience in a theatre make a difference now? That ambience made her feel as just a part of the experience economy. ”I was always told if you loose your purpose of being on the stage, get away from the stage. So now I am gone”. We left the old café, where we were sitting in the early morning, and took separate ways.”

The third persona is a young priest I meet in a church in Copenhagen. It was the expression on his face that attracted me and was why I went to talk with him.His face was filled with anger and loss at the same time. He was holding a Bible under his arm. Suddenly he started pulling the pages out. He was tired of this thousands of years old text filled with long recitations and family stories wondering and reporting on the origin of the World. It did not make any sense to him. Or rather: the story made sense, it was more the fact that the meaning of life seemed reduced to the story, the old narrative with wholy words people had fought about and for who’s sake blood had flood. The words he had represented many times and people had represented many times before him and people would represent many times after him. Words he had dictated to the people so the people would be saved in heaven. He was wispering ”bullshit”. Before we went out of the church he told me that he had been given the permission to slaugther a cow every Sunday, it helped him to deal with his anxiety.

The fourth persona is a woman I meet in the diamond quarter of Den Haag in Hamburg. She insisted that we had to go and eat on a Michelin restaurant. I saw the prices on the menu card. She immediately said: ”Don’t worry honey, for me it is like putting money into a black whole and I already have a very strong feeling of this void. Banknotes are dirty anyway, there are a lot of bacterias on them. Banknotes in China are the most dirty ones”. That’s how the conversation about her crisis with moneyflow started. She had the experience of suddenly standing still, in her high heels, in the middle of the entrance between two glassdoors. She stood there for 10 minuts without moving. The only sentence which came to her mind was: ”I don’t know who I am and what I want”. She had had it all. She was playing monopoly as a kid, she got pocket money, spare time job, student job, full-time job, more full-time jobs and now her career was at its peek. But her drive was gone. She told me that in her sleep she heard the trees talking to her and the birds whispering. She sees an image of herself in the hills where she builds her own house and she looks happy. After 15 dishes of small wierd things our meeting came to an end. She told me that she wanted to think again and feel free. She wanted the earth to eat up all the money. She would dig a big whole and put them down there, so it could become worm feed like human beings.

The fifth persona is a scientist I meet in Rio in May 2012. I arrived to late for our appointement. He asked me why I was late and I told him it was because I was so thirsty. I had to buy a bottle of water. Then he started talking about the universals which connects people. That he understood why I was late because he knew, how it felt to be very thirsty. He went on talking about how he believed that the strength of the capitalist world was pluralism, that the reason that the socialist world was falling apart was because it had a way of doing things that was to narrow. Then it felt apart and now consumerism is getting into every walk of life. It leeds to a narrowing of products. Previously people agree that pluralism would allow all of us to do a lot of different things. Yet, we are developing into a system that clones identity and objects and makes them look alike. When I left his office he gave me a new bottle of water, but it looked different that the one I had bought before.

The sixth persona is the owner of an old café in Tripoli. Around me were old posters from 70’s. When I told him that I am from the small country in the North, he pointed at his head and said, ”very rich”. First I liked to believe that he thought that Danish people were crazy or a bit insane. But it lead to the conclusion that he thinks we are rich on knownledge. He told me that the countries in the Middleeast are rich of oil ad that it makes a lot of money, but it doesn’t create happiness. Before he took over the old café, where we where sitting, he had a lot of money, from the buisness of his father, and a lot of friends. Friends come with money, he said. One day, that day where his wife left him, he burned all the money in one of the old oil tanks and went to Tripoli without any money in his pocket. When I said goodbye he insisted that the coffee was on the house.


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