They say that your house remains exactly as you left it. I look for personal things in there—your shirts, your toothbrush. I can’t find them. It’s stuffy and extremely silent even though the sea rages outside. I’m here to work but I can’t yet. I open a window to let in some air. Later in the evening, long after I’ve left, I worry about that window being left open.
I sit on your bed. The bedroom is dark with thick curtains covering the windows. The bedside table is full of messages that they say you wrote in the night. A load of self-loathing and anxiety and insomnia all kept by the bed; the word “afraid” piled on top of itself five times. On the blue lino bathroom floor, you wrote “fucking slippery” with a pink permanent marker. I can’t stay in your house very long, I need air.
I’m staying in a place called “the writer’s cottage” a little further down the beach. It’s so beautiful here. Persona was filmed on the beach just outside the cottage. Some parts of Scenes from a Marriage were filmed in the cottage; Through a Glass Darkly, just around the corner. I go for long walks on the beach. The stones are sharp and it’s not easy to walk on them even with shoes on. I worry for Bibi Andersson’s feet in the scene from Persona, where she runs barefoot along this beach. At night I get to watch your films in your cinema. It hurts me to watch that scene with the memory of those stones fresh under my feet. Next to me is an empty chair that I’m not allowed to sit in. They say nobody is allowed to sit in it. It’s your chair. They say half-jokingly that you’re still sitting in it.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m here to work. And my work is to take pictures. The house rules clearly state that I’m allowed to work in the house every weekday but I’m not allowed to take pictures in there. I would have loved to. Instead, I take pictures of the nature. It’s a loud and mysterious nature. It tells me stories. It even tells me to move back home to Sweden so I can be closer to the trees. But I struggle. Because you are everywhere and your shadow is huge and I feel like anything I make will always be so much smaller. This is not a feeling I’m particularly familiar with when it comes to other artists and making work despite their greatness. But it’s loud here and so I spend my days walking and stretching and sitting on the beach and studying you and your work. There is another female artist on the island with me. She’s a little older than me and we sit together on the beach with her daughter and she talks about there being too much focus and pressure on what we end up producing. The tangible result is just a tip of the iceberg but everything else that you do is just as important in creat- ing. I don’t know if you would agree with her, but I take these words to heart as a relief and also as fuel.
I have to leave Fårö after ten days but I don’t want to. I’m already plotting how to come back. Just like they say you did.
Thanks to Stiftelsen Bergmangårdarna, Fårö.
(This text was commissioned by the Plant magazine)