The sweetest fruit of the harvest

Oct 05, 2018, 08:18 IST | Rosalyn D'mello

Sometimes you return to a place and find it changed, ripened and ready for harvest. Makes one think, 'Have I also secretly matured?'

The sweetest fruit of the harvest
I found the orchards, which once were full of blossoms, now pregnant with apples

Rosalyn D'melloI still remember arriving at the residency apartment in Eppan, Bolzano/Bozen, in spring, and noticing the ivy wound up on the staircase leading up to the door. Then the creeper was bare, its leaves curled up like newborns. By the time I left, the foliage had taught itself to crawl.

Now, upon my return a few days ago, I found interspersed between the red-green vegetal organs, bursts of inedible berry-like fruit growing wildly, with abandon. Even the orchards, which then were full of blossoms, are now pregnant with apples. The olive trees that stud the pedestrian paths have also come forth with new offspring; black and green. Now is the time of harvest. Now is the season of gathering and chestnut roasting. Did I ripen too? Am I now readier? Did I also secretly mature?

Last time I was here at the apartment, I remember speaking to my aunty Nivea. She told me that if you really wanted to return to a place, you had to just pray enough. It had worked out for her, she got to go to Lourdes twice. I have a different, not un-Catholic notion of prayer. I perceive it as a form of attention, a kind of fixation. I didn't pray to be returned to Bolzano/Bozen. And yet everything beyond my control guided me back here. On the overnight Flixbus from Vienna, I found myself overcome by the impatience of anticipation. I could barely sleep. I was tired from having spent my last day between various museums. I was still reeling from the sight of Louise Bourgeois' Arch of Hysteria.

I've only ever stumbled across her work. Each glimpse has come as a surprise because there has been no premeditation. I've never known beforehand I was going to encounter her work. The last time was on my last day in Italy in May, when I went to the Prada Foundation in Milan and stood in awe and surrender at her work, Single III, at the Haunted House, dating to 1996.

Two forms, male and female, with the texture of stuffed cloth, are enmeshed into each other. I wrote to someone in Bolzano/Bozen I'd met on the cusp of my departure. "It lies on the floor, and it is full of softness, like two stuffed beings; the patchwork nature of their constituency suggesting also their fragility. Their legs and torso are enmeshed, like they are one being… It's a body in rapture, more significantly, it is one body, not two; there is this amazing dissolution of selves, of materiality."

So, unexpectedly chancing upon Bourgeois' Arch of Hysteria (2000), a foot-length female figure made of pink fabric suspended by the navel from the ceiling, at an Egon Schiele retrospective on my last day in Vienna felt like another intervention of fate. As my bus began to wind its way into the Alpine region of Sudtirol, I kept myself awake by catching up on the new season of Bojack Horseman. In one brilliant episode I came upon a term that felt bespoke, like it had been custom-designed to describe not just the female protagonist in Bourgeois' Arch of Hysteria but also my own private state of being: "a tangled fog of pulsating yearning in the shape of a woman." The animation had Princess Caroline, the feline figure in the series to whom this qualifier sentence was ascribed, looking like an uncertain, evolving being with balls of unstable yarn instead of breasts. Once again it felt like I was being spoken to by women who were conversing with each other in my imagination. Bourgeois was talking to Lisa Hanawalt, the designer of Bojack Horseman.

Apples have farmers who tend to their needs, like many have religion, or find sustenance in prayer. I have found that the source of the greatest deliverance for me has always been a lineage of female consciousness that exists in a vast constellation that's constantly realigning itself as my universe expands. Attention creates reality. But attention is also a form of prayer, which is inherently an articulation of desire. I love the innocence of my Aunty Nivea's invocation to God to be returned to a place that has begun to exist in one's imagination as solidly as it exists in reality. But I practise my faith quite differently. I believe in people more than I do in abstractions.

Sometimes you return because you left something of yourself behind in a person and realise it can only be retrieved in the flesh. Then you discover the sea change in your bodily constitution; your cellular framework has been recalibrated. You are so much riper than the grapes or apples you confront around you to whose seedling state you had borne witness. And you know for sure that you have arrived at a place towards which you now share something umbilical.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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