When I accidentally knocked this blog offline trying to update it and then wasn’t able to fix it for over a month, I was beginning to think it might be a sign that it’s time to give it up. The original purpose, of course, which was to provide updates about Christopher’s illness, has thankfully been obsolete since May 2006. The subsequent transformation into a kind of form of entertainment for me in allowing me an opportunity to simply amuse myself in writing trivial posts about everyday life has worked well for years. But now my everyday life does not really involve my two sons, and if I’m not blogging as Christopher and Patrick’s mother, I’m not sure I have that much to say for myself.
Now that the blog is up and running again, though, I find it looks very inviting. So much so, that I’m sitting here looking at it and thinking about what to write instead of going to the symposium I had planned to attend today.
The Ars Electronica Festival is on again in Linz now. For so many years, it was such a vitally important part of my life. During the years when I worked on the book for the competition Prix Ars Electronica, I enjoyed sitting in on the jury meetings, listening to experts – many of them interesting and friendly people that I felt privileged to become acquainted with – as they discussed what they felt was important, a kind of overall view of digital and media art. Translating and editing the artists’ statements about their work was a different view then, often very personal and passionate. When work on the book was finished and it was time to start setting up the exhibition, it was fascinating to hear from the technical set-up team (including Peter) about their understanding of the works, how they were made, how convincing or obscure they seemed just by themselves. Moving right along from there, I worked with the gallery education staff on their texts in English, what they wanted to say about each of the works, which ones meant the most to them, which artists they found most interesting to work with. Then, when everything was set up and the festival started, I enjoyed going through the exhibition with festival guests, hearing their impressions and their informed views on the individual works, the overall exhibition and digital and media art in general.
Going through this same process year after year was a brilliant education in art, something that I am still grateful for. After I stopped working on the Prix book, the festival was still important to me, because I still felt – in some small way – a part of that “scene”. And of course the festival still brings interesting people to Linz.
But I wasn’t here for the festival the past three years. It was not a part of my life, it simply didn’t exist for me. In September 2008, I was supposed to fly to London for a presentation and return to Linz with other people from London for the festival. When I had to suddenly change my plans and fly to Michigan instead, nothing else mattered. London, Linz, Ars Electronica – everything else simply ceased to exist. In September 2009 my friend Ruth came to Linz by train from London, and we planned to spend a few days at the festival together and continue on by train to Istanbul for the Eclectic Tech Carnival there. When plans for a memorial for Amy had to be canceled because Mother’s health took a turn for the worse, and she was not expected to live more than a few hours, a few days at the most, the Ars Electronica Festival dropped off the bottom of my list of priorities. It felt strange to get on that train to Istanbul with no way of knowing whether my mother would still be alive or not by the next time I would be reachable again. Then last year, the Ars Electronica Festival never even made it onto my list of priorities at all, because I went to Michigan again to help scatter Amy’s ashes at last on the second anniversary of her death. That was important, calming and healing – nothing else mattered.
Now it is 2011, Ars Electronica is on again in Linz, and I am here with not a family emergency in sight (knock on wood). It’s here, yet it still feels so far away, disconnected. When I opened my work calendar last Monday and saw that the week would end on 2 September, I felt disheartened, blocked. All week that date just seemed to be waiting to pounce on me, and I could see no escape. When Friday finally came, I gave up fighting the memories and just let them play like a film in my mind over and over and over again. I consoled myself with the thought that although the dates 7 January and 11 May are still – and will always be – significant, I no longer feel blocked or needing to cry every year on those dates. I also remember feeling confused earlier this year, when people started posting tributes to Douglas Adams on the tenth anniversary of his death. I remembered that Douglas Adams died on the same date as my father, but I would have sworn it was only one year later, not three. Maybe a period of three years also has some significance in the process of mourning. Somehow I found that an encouraging thought, even as I put on the same clothes I wore for Amy’s memorial in Michigan, along with the shoes I had to buy there because I couldn’t find mine in the hectic of packing, with the addition of a necklace and earrings that had belonged to her.
Although I wasn’t feeling very motivated to go to Ars Electronica, I managed to make an effort and found it was worth the effort. It felt comfortable, familiar, a place where I belong. All the knowledge and experiences I have gained over the years are still there, and I’m sure I will find a way to make use of them. Having relived the nightmares of my childhood in the course of my mother dying, it felt like a welcome confirmation that that childhood is long gone now, because I can walk into a room at an international conference, recognize people, be recognized, simply walk over and join a conversation, or just stand on the side and watch for a bit. This is me now, this is my life, and it is good.
So although I haven’t seen much of Ars Electronica this year, I’m back now, and I’m ready to go on from here.
One next step is that Paddy has announced he is moving entirely to Vienna on Wednesday, day after tomorrow. I don’t think I’m going to think about that until I actually find myself confronted with an empty room, however. One step at a time.