Nephertiti Schandorf on 'Contoured Thoughts'

I can feel the tension in your jaw. The scent of your daily commute lingers in the oil of your skin. Your shoulders are hunched and your breaths are shallow. Your thought patterns have changed. Your internal prose is condensed, chopped and screwed, altered by digital chatter.

Take a deep breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

When was the last time that you heard nothing? What sound does your body make? Does it hum? Do you crack? Does the weight of the world pull at your centre? Are there stones in your stomach or a lump in your throat? Take two deep breaths. What are you made of? Bacteria, stardust and trauma? A twinkle of the eye and the wildest dreams of your ancestors?

Where are you right now? What do you see? Not the names of things but their colours and the way that they move. Is a pattern forming in your eye-line?

Before you close your eyes, I want you to lift your gaze, straighten your back and pull your shoulders back. When you close your eyes, take three deep breaths and think of the person whose voice makes you calm. 

Close your eyes and take four deep breaths.

What does your body feel like? Can you feel the pressure of your feet against the ground? Are you seated? Can you feel the end of your fingertips? Can you feel your heart beating?

Take me with you.

Find a space that belongs to you.

Breathe.

Take your time. Take in the texture of your clothes and the fabric against your skin. Can you feel the mass of your body as it presses against each contacted surface?

Take three deep breaths.

Think of every part of you. Starting from your toes all the way to the top of your head.

Think about kindness. Think about touch.

Breathe.

Think of yourself floating in a wine-dark sea. Think of all those you are connected to through memory and by touch. Think of those you have laughed with and grieved with. Think of the acts of self-protection. Think of all you have endured.

Do you remember the feeling of when everything went to hell but it was not the end of you? In alchemy, this is where everything (paint, dirt, silver, hope, fatigue and experience) is reduced into a state of putrefaction. That was your nigredo phase – the period of blackness. Did you tread water, get taken under, survive or thrive?

Breathe.

Inhale. Exhale.

Deeply.

You are standing barefoot in wet earth. The scent of heather and moss form a mist around your lips. What does it taste like? Your eyes are lowered. Your breathing has changed. Take two deep breaths. Whose voice is the sound of your internal monologue? Are you filled with poetry, static or silence? 

Tell me about the earth under your feet. Is it between your toes? What does it feel like against your skin? Think of the details of its appearance, nature and form. What makes it distinct from all else you have ever walked on? Think of its potential futures and what causes it to grow. What has the earth learnt and what memories has it formed? How does the earth communicate and protect itself from harm? Think of the smell of fresh cut grass as a call to arms. We have moved from imagination and into evolutionary ecology. Let it pass.

Breathe.

Inhale. Exhale.

Deeply.

Have you thought about The Artist? Are they a charlatan? A shaman? Can we think in the non-binary? Consider an image of your thoughts; that they open up along multiple branches to populate circles of infinity.

It has been said that artists try to look through the cracks in the world – that they want to decipher the paintings and the stars.

Have you thought about The Artist? Did you see them and their body at peace? Did you see their stillness as a form of resistance? That their occupation of space is an assertion of hope?

Did you hear the quote in the film? Resistance is feeling singular instead of plural. Here, The Artist isolates the self as a way of seeking plurality. Think of plurality as connection. Think of requiring something more.

In Orthodox Christianity icons (those paintings and representations) are used as portals to divine realms. They (the iconographer) would physically prepare their body before the task through prayer and fasting.

Are you thinking about The Artist? About the decisions they made? That they chose somewhere otherworldly represented by the heat of the natural springs and the glacial cold of Iceland’s Krauma and Hof. Did you note their shrine?

Let’s do this together:

Take three deep breaths.

The sweet offerings of heather and pine.

Who do you desire? Heather will bring them closer to you.

Imagine their voice. And know that it is believed that heather used in a place of silence and meditation has the power to conjure spirits. That it can open portals between worlds. Let’s connect our worlds. Know that it is considered a sensual plant but that will not protect you from the consequences of acting on your desires.

Who do you desire?

Take a deep breath.

Heather used with the correct ritual will bring their spirit closer to you.

Imagine their voice. Imagine their warmth. Imagine unfurling.

Take two deep breaths and let the blossoms calm you.

Find your ache and your hurt. Make a preparation of the flowering shoots to tend to your wounds and use the plant to treat the inflammations that ail you.

Do you have faith? Do you have trust? There will be some who tell you that white heather will protect you against of violence. That although white heather is luckiest, that red heather is better for spells because its colour comes from being soaked in the blood of Scottish soldiers.

Are you tired?

Take three deep breaths.

Use pine to purify and grant focus, protection and prosperity. Burn the resin and transform adversities into strength. Clear your cluttered paths. When you get home place the needles in running water. Are you imagining what it feels like to be submerged and cleansed? To have your worries washed away?

Find a space that belongs to you.

Take two deep breaths.

Close your eyes and think of the person whose face makes you calm. Imagine your burdens leaving you one by one. Thank them individually as you send them on their way. Find gratitude in all those you are connected to through memory and by touch.

What does your body feel like? Take me through the topography of you. Layer by layer, each contour, dip and curve. Your belly button is the centre of the multiverse. Describe inch by inch. Describe yourself with love.

Where are we?

Take me with you.

Let’s make a space that belongs to us.

By

Nephertiti Schandorf

Nephertiti Schandorf is a producer and researcher of contemporary art with a focus on performance, audio and moving image in non-gallery contexts. As Producer for Larry Achiampong’s Relic Traveller (2017- ) she has worked in partnership with Somerset House, Tate Liverpool, Jerwood Visual Arts and PS/Y. Nephertiti has also developed and delivered mid to large-scale exhibitions and programmes with the Royal College of Art with the British Film Institute, LUX and the Picturehouse Cinema Group (2013 – 14).