2019 / 2020
BW Prints / C-Prints
each 42 x 28 cm
Ed. 6 + 2AP
I am Daniel’s friend, Mikael.
He took all these photographs.
They are beautiful, right?
At first I didn’t believe him when he told me your name;
Like in the Ibsen play.
It is such a beautiful name.
We’ve been talking about you a lot.
Me and Daniel.
Exchanging war stories.
Two adult sons of alcoholics that drank themselves to death.
Daniel says you died yellow like my father.
You were the same age.
Insane from drinking your brain away.
Your livers spewing yellow poison all over your body.
We laugh a lot,
me and Daniel.
Telling stories that are for most people so sad
but sound funny to us.
Maybe we shouldn’t laugh this hard.
We are entering our late forties
and should be more serious.
I tried to google what’s wrong with us
and according to psychiatrists adult children of alcoholics
should have the following 13 personality traits:
Have difficulty having fun.
Take themselves very seriously
Have difficulty with intimate relationships
Overreact to changes over which they have no control
Constantly seek approval and affirmation
Guess at what normal is
Have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end
Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
Judge themselves without mercy
Feel that they are different from other people
Are either super responsible or super irresponsible
Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved
Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.
But we laugh it all off.
I never expected us to be perfect.
Daniel is one month younger than me.
Born on September 21 in 1974.
It was the year of the Tiger.
We are both born Tiger’s.
I was born in Reykjavik, Iceland
but you gave birth to Daniel in a rural town in Upper Austria.
Being born on September 21 is not good according to astrology.
Kinda like being a grown child of an alcoholic.
Not really knowing who you are.
Daniel is in a limbo of some sorts
at least when it comes to his astrological sign.
He is at the edge of the Virgo and almost a Libra,
and according to my astrological guru in Amsterdam
Daniel is both boastful and visionary.
He likes to be involved in visionary endeavors
but can also be cautious and isolated,
especially when it comes to serious matters in life.
I don’t know.
Daniel has told me so much about you.
So much that I’ve started missing you too.
I didn’t grow up with my mother
so I am kind of crazy when it comes to mothers.
I missed growing up with a loving mother.
If you were alive I would visit with Daniel
and fool around and call you mother.
We’d laugh like crazy,
me and Daniel.
I’m alway playing with words like that.
Calling you my mother.
I know Daniel wouldn’t mind.
He is my brother now.
At least that is what we call each other.
He never had a brother and I never had a mother.
Daniel has told me that for the first six years of his life you lived with your parents.
You stayed in your old room and raised a boy with a man that was barely ever there.
Then that same man, Daniel’s father, built you a house
that you drank away all those years later
when you were screwing that lawyer you used to work for and drink with.
Daniel’s father asked you to stop but you told him to fuck off.
Just like my father did when I asked him not to drink himself to death.
I don’t know Hedwig.
We never met.
My friend the playwright Tyrfingur Tyrfingsson drew some tarot cards for Daniel the other day.
Even I don’t believe cards Mikael.
But I don’t care,
I just thought it would be interesting to have an Icelandic witch draw him cards
and according to the cards there is glory in Daniel’s future.
You probably know that all ready.
Or perhaps not,
I don’t know,
warned that Daniel should not cheat on his wife
and his only obstacle would be in his own mind.
I thought that was interesting.
There was no glory in Daniel’s cards when you moved out of your parents house
and into the house his father built for you.
Daniel was excited of course.
We get excited by just about anything when we are six.
But your man became a tyrant in his new house.
Maybe that is why you started drinking.
My father became obsessed with being man of the house,
Daniel told me when we were working together on Goethe’s Faust in Oslo in January.
I re-wrote this dated and stupid play while Daniel did the stage.
He told me his life story and how he climbed on top of you
and cried when you died all yellow.
But that was later.
Almost forty years later.
First you moved in with his father
and he became a tyrant.
I had to work all weekends at the house,
Daniel told me.
And he was the whole time shouting at me that I was doing everything wrong. I was young, and
didn’t know how to work. This lasted from when I was six and until I was fourteen or fifteen.
The best thing about Daniel’s childhood,
he told me,
and your parents.
Daniel sees his grandfather as his real father.
They were so much in love,
unlike you and Daniel’s father constantly cheating on each other.
Your mother was funny
kind of like you were
before the booze got the best of your personality.
I’ve thought a lot about you,
Your mother and father were perhaps too pure for you.
The greatest love story.
That is there story.
You remember how much your parents were in love.
How perfect they were for each other.
But you were one of Eve’s ugly children.
Do you know the story?
God came to bless Adam and Eve’s children
but Eve hid the ugly ones and only presented the perfect ones before God.
This is a German story,
from the brother’s Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm,
Die ungleichen Kinder Evas.
And God blessed the beautiful perfect children by saying
You will be a King,
you a a prince,
you a count,
you a knight,
and the whole aristocracy was created.
Eve was so happy that the Lord didn’t murder her children so she brought forth us,
me and you,
the ugly working class children of earth.
God was good enough to bless us with all our faults:
You will be a peasant,
you a fisherman,
and the final one was to become a house servant for the rest of his or her life.
We call it a slave today,
but the Lord didn’t care
and when Eve objected
he told her that her children can’t all be kings and princesses
because somebody has to work the fields
and make the clothes.
In the German story Eve apologies for complaining
but I come from Iceland
and in our telling of the story some of Eve’s unwanted children ran away
and hid in rocks
and became Elves,
or Hidden People.
I imagine you are with them now.
I doubt the Lord will have anything to do with you
because of the way you lived your life
drunk and fucking whoever you wanted.
Just like my father.
And I doubt that you want to have anything to do
with our Lord in Heaven who hated us from the beginning.
Daniel has told me your mother was funny.
He doesn’t remember her stories anymore.
They were trivial.
She went to the store
and someone told her a joke
and she repeated it fifty times
and laughed harder every time.
All those stories are gone
but he remembers the slide shows.
You remember the slide shows?
Yes, you do,
because you hated them.
When your mom and dad,
our Adam and Eve,
came home from thei week long holidays in Austria,
Germany or Italy.
They drove around and he took all those pictures
of your mother posing as Eve seeing the world for the first time
after being expelled from Paradise.
This is one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever heard.
I’ve already said that right?
All these years your parents went on these trips
and took all these pictures that you and your sisters hated.
Daniel was the only one who loved sitting in their living room
and travel with his grandparents through the slides
your dad projected on the white wall.
I guess you and your sisters were lost from the beginning.
You didn’t talk to each other.
Eve’s unwanted daughters.
One of your sister fucked her sister’s boyfriend.
That happens in families like ours.
My father tried to impregnate my mother’s sister once
and when it didn’t work she asked to adopt me.
They seriously considered,
because I was sick in the hospital
and they were exhausted.
It’s a long story.
Everybody is dead now.
After your father died
Daniel saw him everywhere.
He visited his dreams like he just stepped out of the bathroom.
They even argued,
Daniel and your father,
because Daniel is a good Austrian boy
and you don’t have the same relationship with the dead as we do in Iceland.
My daughter visited Iceland from Germany this winter,
she is ten,
and when she came back to Berlin she asked her mother what was wrong with people in Iceland?
She was reading the newspaper
and they had a serious news article about ghosts in a museum.
Apparently the dead where haunting that museum,
which is normal news material in Iceland.
They don’t write news about ghosts in Germany and Austria.
So Daniel finds all this extremely creepy.
I think he feels good talking to me about this
because of where I come from.
He still has these dreams were the dead haunt him.
Especially your father.
Perhaps you could tell him from me to go easy on Daniel.
He is a grown man
but also just a boy who told me that his grandfather,
in his mind,
was his real father.
but you know,
he loved him very much
and they argue all the time in his dreams.
You died one year and one week after your mother died.
She was so difficult.
Tied to a wheelchair for all these painful years,
and then tied to her bed.
Dying and dying and not dying.
You took care of her.
Drowned a pint of vodka
and went over there.
Like a rock.
You were a rock.
Never gave up.
You could do things drunk out of your mind that me and Daniel can only dream of doing sober.
That is a real alcoholic for me.
Alcoholics are my kind of people.
I don’t care what people say about the alcoholic,
but in my family the real alcoholics are the people that have stuck by me.
I mean it.
My father was like a rock.
The most difficult man on planet earth
but he never gave up on me.
No matter how sick I was,
or how insane my mother was,
or how drunk he was.
He was like you.
You never left your mother's side
and you took care of her until the day she died.
And it was years and years of screaming and suffering
and you just took your pills,
drank some vodka
and swallowed the pain.
You did good, Hedwig.
I don’t care what they say.
Yes, your apartment was disgusting when you died,
shit all over the place,
you shit yourself,
urinated on the floor
but you didn’t give up on anyone
That is the hard part of being one of Eve’s unwanted children.
We are fighters,
but we always give up on ourselves.
We are no queens or princess or princesses.
We are the working class losers of this capitalistic world of our Lord in heaven -
may he rot in hell.
They called from the hospital last October.
my friend Daniel,
drove from Wien to your bed.
The last time you met and talked it was just screams.
You had given up on yourself.
Drinking yourself to death his hard work.
It takes a real rock of a person to do that.
My friend Daniel and I we laugh about it now.
We cry to.
and my dad.
You guys all yellow dying from failed livers and kidneys,
everything falling apart.
This friend of mine in Amsterdam,
the Icelandic guy I told you about,
he keeps telling me that my father is always with me.
He can see him right next to me.
I know it’s crazy.
It is Icelandic.
and this friend met Daniel
when me and Daniel were in Oslo doing a new version of Faust.
what he said is that he felt you when he met Daniel.
You were with him.
I don’t think Daniel knows this.
I didn’t tell him.
You had become so crazy in the end
that I don’t think Daniel liked you that much.
It’s hard work hating your mother.
because I hated mine for so long.
But you made your amends.
You and Daniel.
You just lied there unconscious,
waiting for death
as your only son,
sat next to your bed.
At first he couldn’t cry.
He wanted to but couldn’t.
Then it came like a flood.
The doctors asked if they should try another operation,
take out your stomach
and cut of your legs.
Just let her go.
Yes, he said that.
Just let her go.
Let my mother die.
They weren’t even sure you would survive the operation
but asked anyway.
So it would be the only son’s decision to off his mother.
Modern medicine in that regard is like a real Greek tragedy.
The son is made responsible for killing his mother.
I wrote a book about that once myself.
A son killing his mother.
It was a novel but it was really just me killing my insane mother.
She is still alive,
but perhaps I will stand in front of the doctors one day and tell them to let her go.
Just let her go.
Let my mother die.
Then he stayed in the hospital.
Daniel stayed with you
and one and a half hour later you …
You’ve would have died weeks before
if you hadn’t had all these operations to keep you a life.
It wasn’t really living.
It was artificial life
in a hospital bed.
Daniel says you guys had a good time together for 90 minutes.
5.400 seconds of you breathing your last breaths.
For 20 years you had been so difficult to love
but for 90 minutes you were wonderful.
The greatest mother that ever lived.
Daniel thought of all those times you drove him to football practice
and you played music in the car.
You used to be fun a lot of the times.
really loved you.
They thought you were funny
and you played with them.
At first Daniel just sat next to you
and then he stood up
and crawled into your bed and laid
on top you like your only child.
I held her like I was a baby,
he told me in Oslo.
And then the crying started,
it was like Noah's flood washing away all your sins.
He just cried.
Daniel just cried
A middle aged father of three became the child he always was.
This is how you passed away.
He held you so tight.
The monitor told him your were alive.
Then he stopped thinking of the monitor
and connected to your last breaths.
Your breath became deeper and deeper,
the distance between each breath
growing and growing.
It was so long.
iIt was as if you had died over and over again.
And then you took yet another breath.
You heartbeat fading away.
Daniel looked for your soul,
But he didn’t find it.
You just stopped breathing
and your heart stopped pumping blood through your veins.
It is very peaceful to watch someone die.
I watched my father die a year before you died.
We have the same experience,
me and Daniel.
You were calm and quiet.
You hope to see something leave the body,
but it is just death.
You just die with your son crying on top of you.
This was the moment Daniel cried the most.
He told me he knew it was sad and heartbreaking,
but he still does not understand why he cried so hard.
It should be physically impossible to cry that much.
To this day Daniel does not understand where all these tears came from.
I don’t understand.
We don’t understand.
And then the nurse came and kindly asked Daniel to leave your bed and cry outside.
He was so shocked he did what she asked
and then he just stood there and called his wife,
smoked one cigarette.
Yes, he did.
I am sorry Hedwig.
I will try to get him to quit.
Mikael Torfason - Daniel’s friend