I never dream when I sleep/Mig dreymir ekki þegar ég sef

by Freyr Arnarson Length: 43:43 Original language: Icelandic Consultance: Tim Hinman This piece was produced as part of the radiofeature/documentary project RANA. RANA is funded through EU´s Lifelong learning program. More information about the RANA project can be found on http://www.this.is/rana

The characters: The The The The The The artist: .............. father: ............. mother: ........... sister: ............... brother: ........... cousin: ............. Ásta Eyvindur Sjöfn Dóra Reynir Freyr

Sound of papers Freyr: I have here a box, full of stuff from my cousin Ásta, diaries, and letters and.... pictures, and here is a cassette. It´s some program she did for radio. A cassette is put in a deck and played Jingle: Radio Roots, FM 106,8. Ásta: From the bottom of my heart I welcome you to my birthday party.... Music Ásta…this is Björk. Nervous laughter Narrator: “I never dream when I sleep”, A feature by Freyr Arnarson Music ends. Tape is shut off. Piano music.

Eyvindur: Ásta was dramatic in her thoughts .... she would sometimes use black color to cover the most of the canvas and then she would add blue to go with it, to lighten it up a bit, but in some paintings it´s mostly blue.... Piano music Dóra: This painting: When one sees it for the first time it looks like a bunch of scribbles, big portions of oil paint and she often uses the paint like she has sprayed it from a whipped cream dispenser. But it´s very much like Ásta; her hands....I picked this one for me.... maybe first and formost because there you see her hands but also because I find it very cool... Eyvindur: ... and the decorative colours, the yellow and red, go very well on top of this blue colour, are very diverged and create a nice unity. Dóra: My friend Nina has a boy called Vilhjálmur, and he comes as much to visit this painting as he does me. He always discovers something new. He finds the bird here, with a ribbon in its hair, Ásta is there, this man here and do you see the face here? This is one of my favorite paintings. And then it´s so much like her, to use this kind of glimmer. We are both like crows, the sisters, we like everything that is shiny. Gold and things like that. This painting is so much Ásta. A small rock down here as a nose ..... Music ends Eyvindur: My family supported my interest for arts. And .... from the very beginning I felt that the arts were the only interesting thing in the world. Clears his throat. Smokes. Eyvindur: The only proper artist is God almighty. Clears his throat. Eyvindur: But God and arts, those are very dangerous things. People want to connect with God but as soon as you see his face you are a dead man, no one survives that. And it´s the same with arts. People try so hard to obtain something extraordinary, especially beautiful or magnificent and when they do – they are finished. That´s the price. Yes....It ain´t for everybody. You shouldn´t think that, it´s something you can play with. This is a lifethreatning task. Piano music. Eyvindur smokes. Dóra: It´s so interesting, about both of them; Ásta and dad, who both are very talented people ..... Eyvindur caughs


Dóra: ..... but it is like...I don´t know if it is...it´s like there is some element of selfdestruction in them. Literarly. I think that people who live in the arts and for the arts carry their soul unprotected, outside their body. Don´t know ... perhaps it´s not self-destruction. It´s just so easy to hurt or damage because everything is on the outside, perhaps, I don´t know (Laughs), but they are not well protected as we are .... against various things. Reynir: The family is ... well a strong dad ... with a big ego, very interesting and amusing man, and mom has always done what he wanted. And then there are the two girls, they are the oldest ones. Then the three of us, the boys, I am in the middle. And Ásta of course is special because she is the oldest. It has been most difficult for her. Well dad of course just thought very much about himself and mom was always ... she adored him so much, so she somehow.....and the girls too, the all adored him. Sjöfn: There is only a year between the sisters, and they were not very much alike, neither their looks nor how they acted. And I remember first...Ásta Guðrún .... When they were outside, and Dóra had learned how to walk, Ásta was always taking care of Dóra, even grabbing a fist full of grass to clean her because she just went all over and got dirt on her clothes but Ásta was so tidy and was always trying to brush of the dirt, when they were just little girls (Laughs). Dóra: We were always together from a very young age. Eyvindur: I remember that she was always collecting all kinds of things. If she saw something shiny she took it and put it in her box of toys. Once at Christmas she found a sodacap so sparkling and nice that she swallowed it (Laughs). That Christmas was terrible. Dóra: Right from childhood she had a collection of dolls like all other girls and made piles of, not only clothes that she knitted for her dolls, lot of clothes, when she was 8-9 years. But she also made furnitures for the dolls house and put up curtains and carpets on the floor. Noone had as nice a house for dolls as she did. She was very good in finding all kinds of small things for the dolls house and even after she had grown up she would often see things that would fit nicely into a dolls house. Freyr: Here is an interview with Asta in the morning paper, a full page covered with pictures of her and her paintings and she says: "I never dream when I sleep. We have that in common, Barbie and I. For me, art replaces the dreams."Are you unafraid of going your own way? "No, I am scared shitless because I am just an ordinary person. If my art has a purpose for others, I am happy I can provide it in my own way. My happyness does not depend on me becoming an artist or not." ...she says. Sjöfn: She was always creating something. But she didn´t like reading and math as much. The school was ok, to draw or write but, ah, reading was not as much fun as the handcrafts. That was what captured her mind.


Dóra: Eh ... She was an extreamly open kid, very social and fun, she was of course a natural beauty and very popular amongst the kids. But she wasn´t too successfull at school and found a way to hide out for the teacher. Reynir: She could just sit in school and keep low profile so noone noticed her ... she was just forgotten ... somehow ... Piano fades in Reynir: ... she didn´t learn to read until she was 11, Ásta. A cassette is put in a player and starts playing Ásta: Nowadays anyone can write a poem and nobody minds or has an opinion about it. But on the other hand everybody seems to think they know how to read poetry and how not to. Ergo, noone likes how others read and they are good at pointing out the flaws. So it might be fun to play an old recording where I am rehersing. It has all the flaws in it. There you go: “Sleep my love”. Eyvindur Erlendsson translated. Ah ... sleep ... No ...The wind is blowing and and the day has come to end and the gates are closed. -The fog creeps in from the sea and the sun goes down to the salty, deep red sea. Sleep my true love ... Give peace to my soul ... The cassette player is turned off Reynir: But then of course you could say that ... I must make clear that dad was never mean to us, you must not misunderstand it in that way. And he was a lot of fun, when he was in that mood, and had a lot of fun friends. Dóra: I was so pleased with them when I was a teenager ... very patient parents for teenagers and allowed us everything. One found it thrilling to be from an artist family and fun to meet all these strange people that came to visit and things like that. I was proud to be a part of this but on the other hand I also think that maybe it was not so good for us, because maybe it made the tolerance to great ... Because one just felt that people were allowed to be so strange, possibly that made it more difficult to see things that were not alright later on. The cassette is turned on Ásta: Has she become ... Oh no ... Has she become tired of fighting ... The cassette player is turned off Dóra: She took a qualifying test in order to try to get into the Arts Academy but she was not optimistic. I remember we brought the letter from the Academy to her ... and I took a funny picture of her while she was reading it (laughs), she looked like a fool. But she was very happy that she got in. But still she didn´t go to the school this winter because Ásta decided that mom needed a new stove. That she had to work to buy a new stow for mom (laughs). So she went to sea this winter and earned money for the stove.


Sea fades in Dóra: Hildur Hákonardóttir was the schoolmaster at the time and Hildur thought that this was absolutely brilliant, that the child was going to work for a new stove for her mother so she gave her the year off and allowed her to begin the following year. So Ásta went to sea, worked as a cook on a boat without even knowing how to boil potatoes. So she called mother; Mom, how do you boil potatoes (laughs) ... Sjöfn: (laughs) Yes and then she called me: Mom, how do I make porridge ... (laughs)...or boil fish or whatever? Sea fades out Rustling of paper and things Sjöfn: That´s it ... Here are letters and all kinds of stuff ... She always wrote a lot, from a very young age, wherever she was, in Iceland or England or France or whatever ... Yep. Eyvindur: She had these diaries and filled them, with text and pictures ... Sjöfn: Here is something ... Yes ... was it something like this? ... no. Eyvindur: Especially after she started studying arts for real because there they teach the students to write things down, to save and use. Sjöfn: ... no ... This is just a header from some exihibition ... Freyr reads from a diary: Dear diary ... Sjöfn: ... I´m not wearing my glasses. Freyr: ...I think it´s best to thread very carefully in arts because it´s right what has been said to me that art is no contemporary fling and caution must be shown in the precense of a soul. I have no appetite at all, to paint. I think I let this be, I’ll turn to something else; Love. But seriously, dear God. You could have provided a manual with this terrible brain that one has. One stands completely perplexed in the high seas of life. I would so much like to have a boyfriend on my birthday. Make my day. Yours sincerely, Ásta. PLEASE! Dóra: See, she was was of course very beautiful and ... (laughs) I remember I once said that I was going to put up a shrink service because when we went out to dance, I had to spend the whole evening talking to men who had to tell my how much they loved my sister, I got rather tired of it. But she could pick any guy she wanted; they were crazy about her ... Still she was never very much in love, I think. They vere always more in love with her. She was very charming and she was a primadonna. And I think she was just married to her art, and if she would have had a man he would have had to marry both of them, her and the godess of the arts. Sound of paper


Reynir: This is from the headmaster of the Arts Academy. Grades: Third year in Graphics –. January: lithography: The student posesses a poetic imagination that sometimes overrides the subject. Caracter B. Yeh … yes. Dóra: Actually she wanted to become an actress, wanted it more than becoming a painter and tried that a lot but she was not meant to become an actress. But the visual arts were like a open book to her. You know, maybe that was why she didn´t think so much of it in the beginning. It was just so terribly simple. You know ... Freyr: Here is something from London: “Dear diary. I don´t know what it means but I easily got into the Central School for Visual Arts. I neither have talent ... ”, she has crossed this out, “I neither have talent, belief or interest in visual arts but everything goes my way there. A cassette player is turned on, tape fast forwarded Freyr: But what I would give everything for I don´t get ... It´s not fair.” The cassette is played. Music. Ásta: Back to Brixton (laughs). This song I´m playing now is from a demotape from ´83, I think. Those black guys are different from us in many ways I think, eh, yes. Maybe like the reality is often stranger than the fiction. That´s why I don´t read, that ´s why the fires burned in Brixton... if you know what I mean (laughs). Dóra: London was complicated and difficult I think ... Music Dóra: London. I know of bad things that happened there, but still she loved living in

Music turned off. Eyvindur: She thought she was in the big city to live the free life of an artist but it was only bullshit and nonsense ... Dóra: She just lived the life of a student like people do ... Eyvindur: ... lots of hash, liquer and that kind of junk ... Dóra: She was there when there were riots in London. Eyvindur ... and no order, what so ever. And nothing firm at hand. Then she was in bad company, she was with negroes and that sort of trash, down there in Brixton, as it is called, which is an immigrant and no good trash ghetto, and she often got involved in street riots there. These people took houses and sometimes burned cars, and even houses.


Music is turned on Ásta: These were my friends in Brixton. But know it´s time for the fiction because one must not forget about it. Music is turned off Eyvindur: She was associated with the dregs of society. If I made any remarks she thought that I was the one who was crazy. She was impossible to control … (laughs) ... at all. Then she got married to a damn negro there. And that was a bad thing because he was an evil person and beat her. Dóra: Eh ... I don´t remember the name of this brother´s in law of mine, and I don ´t think he was very important to her ... But they lived together, rented an apartment together ... but he was just some bloke. Reynir: Lehmar. Dóra: Lehmar; that was his name. Lehmar beats people. Yes yes. ... that was his name ... Reynir: He was, well it was a gang of black people, I understand he was like their leader, very cool black guy. Dóra: A beautiful guy ... Reynir: ... and fun. Dóra: ... I don´t remember where he was from. Black as coal. Do you remember where he was from? Reynir: ... She didn´t talk much about it. Eyvindur: I have no errand with him other than maybe shooting him. He was an evil person. Dóra: What happened was that he went away and she didn´t want to be alone in the apartment so she spends the night at her friends place ... then he comes home earlier than expected, so he is there, when she comes back and when she walks in in the morning she is just arrogant when he asks where she had been and says something ridiculous; „What, it´s none of your business“ ... but still you can´t just beat people, can you? She told us that she had to pretend she was dead, otherwise he wouldn´t have stopped. She said that there were two men working on the roof, they saw, she said, they must have seen but no one did anything, noone ever came to help in the big city. So it was ... I know it has been a great shock to be beaten like this, it´s very shocking ... and her staying there didn´t end well because she had started to use drugs quite a bit, and her friends called home ... Eyvindur: In the end I went to London and took her home.


Dóra: ... she had become so disturbed that her friends where afraid for her. Eyvindur: We made contact with some friend of hers over there. Drinks Eyvindur: I talked to him on the phone and asked; how is Ásta? She´s not well he said. You should come and check on her. And that I did. Lights a cigarette Reynir (reads): To Eyvindur´s family ... Sound from paper Reynir: ... Yes, he has sent … a letter. Freyr: Who? Reynir: Lehmar. “Take your daughter Ásta, she is not well at the moment. I don´t want to tell you about other things, I do suspect.” He is talking about drugs and that she is not feeling well and wants dad to come and fetch her. To London.“ ... Drugs ... sick ... to ... (Rustling of paper. Mumbles) “ ... which is not good for her, which is not good for her at the very present moment” ... yes, which means she has been on drugs, which is not good for her right now. Which tells us that she has been pregnant? Doesn´t it? I didn´t know that he had sent this letter. I just knew that dad went there to fetch her, when she was going crazy there ... It has been because of this letter. Eyvindur: I don´t remember wether she came home with me or if I just made arrangements so she would come ... but she came. Dóra: It was a very difficult time after she came home. Eyvindur: ... then she had become pretty much insane ... poor girl. Dóra: She was very discontent, she never saw herself as disturbed or mentally sick. And she never saw that there was anything wrong with this life of hers. Eyvindur: And I didn´t believe it either. And I was far too late to force her to see a shrink (caughs). By then her mental health was gone, it was as simple as that. Sound of paper Freyr reads: Dear family: It was never my idea that I was mentally sick. I have been forced into this nonsense at times of distress ... is it insanity to run into difficulties? ... I was attacked!! I have to simplify my life, disassociate my life and the art.


Eyvindur: Once back home I tried to get her on track. Offered her my workshop where she could work as much as she wanted and live with us, for free, but she didn ´t want that at all and ran away from us to Reykjavík (the capital). And lived there on her own. And was always trying to find herself a man but wasn´t able to finish that all the way because in the end she disliked them all. Many of them were lousy people. Sound of papers Freyr: Here is a bill for an advertisement in a newspaper ... Eyvindur: Idiots. Freyr: They´re charging for an ad in the personals... “Beautiful woman, with no child, wants to get to know a trustworthy man, aged 30-45 in the city or out in the country. Send answers to DV, signed ... CONFIDENTIALITY 7376 ... ” Dóra: When we were teenagers and my sister and I went out for a dance, it was me who drank alcohol and was out on the loose. Ásta didn´t drink much. But maybe I was just naiv. In those days I never saw drugs, there were no drugs when we were young, I think. But this seems to have been just it for her when she got to know it … actually it was very bad for her but she liked it. Eyvindur: I don´t think she was not using it a lot but it was there. I´d rather not make fuss about what people eat or drink. Dóra: Yes, she was very difficult and had a very difficult time ... Eyvindur: Uncontrolable, first and foremost ... Dóra: She was in complete denial, was not connected to reality ... Eyvindur: ... and hallucinations. She claimed to be...(caughs) ... talking to God and heard him talking to her. Dóra: I mean there was no question about it, she was insane when she came home; she was. Eyvindur: It´s a common mental sickness that follows depression, and from those wrong ideas and hallucination developes what is called schizophrenia. People become two persons that battle. Reynir: That’s how it is; Asta has certainly had depressive tendencies ... whether genetic or from the upbringing, could be both. It was not only due to the drugs, rather a combination. As it’s not just the boose with dad, but a combination of depression and alcoholism. Eyvindur: She had quit listening to me altogether ... because she thought that I was the one who was a lunatic, not her ...


Cassette player turned on Ásta: News, advertisements and politics have bad influence on me. The sound of it, that is. Of course I don´t pay any attention to this damn propaganda. It´s best to listen to the telly in French. I am going to France. I love that language, and I love you too (giggles). Cassette player turned off Dóra: I have to admit that I didn´t know my sister very well in this period. We met now and then and then I think she went to the Technical Collage where she got to know Sólveig who became her best friend. She got an apartment at Hallveigarstígur (street in Reykjavík) and held an exhibition there. She was somehow convinced that this exhibition would be her breakthrough. Now her time had come. And then people came for the opening and then practically no one. .. That was disappointing ... very dissapointing. And then times had become more and more difficult in many ways, she was definantly using more drugs than she should have, and she was feeling increased anxiety, would rather not sleep alone, even though she had this house for herself, she often spent nights at her friends Sólveig’s place at near by Þórsgata (street in Reykjavík). Reynir: It´s this longing for a career ... She was always trying to make it, but then on the other hand were the drugs. She has definantly been stressed, always strechting further than she should. Dóra: ... and in the end she tried to commit suicide and then she was sent straight to a mental institution and was hospitalized in a terrible ward, it was plainly terrible. Freyr: Here is a letter to me, or rather a draft of a letter to me: “Hello Freyr. This word, this terrible word: Insanity! What is it? To me it seems like taking people who have had a serious blow, people that have had a breakdown for some reasons, tearing them down instead of building them up. Was it perhaps my idea that I was insane? No, it never crossed my mind, no way. I am so utterly exhausted and in such a shock, I couldn´t go on ... ” Dóra: She was left there and there were psychopats wandering in and out of her room, a man came and urinated on the floor, and she was given pills so she talked like this ... with drawl and just lay there, high on pills: “I can´t be here, I can´t speak, the spittle dripples from my mouth ...” “Uuuuu can´t you take me with you? I can´t stay here” It was terrible to leave her there. Freyr reads: “My life had become very heavy, sad and complicated. I couldn´t control anything, I was seriously stranded, no way out … except maybe death? Everything pointed me that way. I had become afraid of my mental health. I didn´t succede in dying and since I live, I must belive that what doesn´t kill you must include some sort of answer to your prayers- hope. Death is not something I long for, as such and I will not try to find it. Not at all. My best regards ... would you write me- anything at all! Your cousin and friend, Ásta.”


Dóra: They made some mistake there, she was supposed to come there again every once in a while after she was released but she just went home to our parents. But anyway, maybe it wouldn´t have changed anything. But then she went to Reykjavík and mom felt that something was wrong and tried to call her over and over again and in the end she called Sólveig who went to her apartment and she saw her through the blinds and called the police. Piano music Dóra: And the autopsy showed that she hadn´t taken her medicine, she was clean. No drugs and no sign of the medication she was supposed to take. Sjöfn: Yes, yes ... Reynir: That´s how it is ... Sjöfn: … it was difficult ... it was ... Reynir: ... the drugs, and lack of relationship ... Sjöfn: ... it was a disease, that ... Reynir: ... that has lead to it … Sjöfn: ...that is difficult to handle. Reynir: ... that it went the way it did for her … Sjöfn: But anyway ... she could not cope with ... with ... the life ... and soon after she made herself disappear. It was terrible, yes ... Piano music Eyvindur: I have an announcement to make ... ( heavy breath). Usually people appear on the radio to advertise … something they have to sell, a new book or a play or something like that, but I don´t have to do that. I am only going to announce that there is nothing more to expect from me. Lights a cigarette Eyvindur: All considered, I don´t regret it. And then I don´t pay attention even if I don´t like things, because I suffer from a disease that is called depression and it makes everything worse than it really is. I have always been working on this, and perhaps I made some progress after I went to see a doctor (clears his throat). And he gave me some medicine. Then I went to more doctors but in the end I met in Reykjalundur (a hospital) a doctor for the lunatics, and he gave me some more medicine. Since then I have been feeling a bit better. Expecially since I found out that I had to free myself from all my duties. I just decided that I was an old man (the voice break) and a patient and that I couldnt be struggling, not with arts or anything else.


Reynir: Yes ... the depression has probably always been there ... Eyvindur: ... yes. Reynir: Probably he has always had some depression. It runs in the family, depression. Maybe it was less obvious when he was young and beautiful, then it has struck him as he got older. Eyvindur: Listen, Freysi, I have to ask you to wait a while, I have to go to the kichen to get more health drink. Freyr: Health drink? Eyvindur: Yes Freyr: What is it? Eyvindur It´s water, with one dash of vodka in it. Sound of Eyvindur stumbling. Chairs and doors. Reynir: He is taking some pills because of it but the doctors say that the effect of the medication vanishises if people drink with them. Surely it doesn´t help. But this is not a fun life ... Eyvindur stumbles into the kitchen Reynir: Yep, he stumbles on with a walker ... Only gets dressed occationally … Door closes Reynir: I think that he´s just waiting to die. Sound from a freezer. Eyvindur stumbling in the kitchen. Eyvindur: I can´t find the vitamin ... Freyr: No? Eyvindur: I guess I have to ask you to help me. Freyr: Is there any? Eyvindur: Don´t you think you can find a bottle there with clear liquid? Sound of bottles


Freyr: It´s empty Eyvindur: All empty Cassette player is turned on Ásta: (sighs) No, the weather was quite still and clear. I laughed heartedly. Actually I needed a breath of fresh air. It is fantastic. Well … Cassette player is turned off. Cardoor closes. Sjöfn: Hi ... how nice to see you. Woman 1: And you too ... Freyr: Hello Hugs and kisses Sjöfn: Hello my dear. Freyr: And congratulations on the exihibition. Sjöfn: Thank you, you haven´t seen anything yet? Freyr: No. Eyvindur: Well hello to both of you. Hello little girl. Woman 1: Hello brothers, hello Eyvindur (laughs). Freyr: So how are you? Man 1: We´re just fine, everything considered. Eyvindur: Except for me, I am about to die. Freyr: Why? Eyvindur: Just because, old age and various diseases. Freyr: Really, Is it killing you? Eyvindur: Better if it was so. Woman 2: Hello my dear Eyvindur. Man 2: Do you still have that damn cigarette in your mouth? I am amazed, are you never going to grow up from this nonsense? Eyvindur: No, and I almost brought some liquer with me too (laughs).


Man 2: Well, I think it´better to drink than to smoke. Eyvindur: Yes I think that is true. Door opens and closes. Sounds from a crowd. Sjöfn: I was very happy, after we finished putting up the exhibition last night, to see how it looked. I think we have done a pretty good job ... Woman 3: Dear guests ... Sjöfn: ... in how we mounted the paintings. Woman 3: ... I want to ask everybody to walk towards the east hall. We are about to open the exihibition, dear guests, silence please and walk to the east hall. On behalf of Kopavogur Art Museum I would like to welcome you to three indepentant exihibitions, held in the memory of Asta Guðrún Eyvindardóttir. Applause Sjöfn: I think this exhibition gives a wonderful retrospective of her works. Eyvindur: Yes. Sjöfn: It´s from different periods in her carreer. Dóra: I never really understood why she didn’t have more success. I felt that she ought to have had more success. She always had good critics for her exhibitions … and for instance, Bragi (an art critic) wrote after the last exhibition that was held after her death, that she was one of the greatest artists of her generation. She deserved more success. Piano music Sjöfn: This one always hangs on the wall over the freezer in our home. It´s a beautiful painting. You see a plate on a table with a red rose, a very beautyful one, and then there is the fork and the spoon and the knife, the glass, the tablecloth and in the corner is written: “Oh dear mom” Yes … I’m very fond of it ... yes. Music.Crowd fades in. Narrator: You have been listening to: “I never dream when I sleep”, a feature by Freyr Arnarson. The End. The music is composed and performed by Heimir Eyvindarson and Freyr Arnarson.


©2009 RANA/Freyr Arnarson