Gezelligheid: Dutch abstract noun (adjective form gezellig) which, depending on context, can be translated as convivial, cosy, fun, quaint, or nice atmosphere, but can also connote belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness. The word is considered to be an example of untranslatability, and is one of the hardest words to translate to English. Some consider the word to encompass the heart of Dutch culture.
I’ve been talking lately with my friend Jessica Lah about ‘Artistic Fitness’ a term we use to describe the very traditional practicing of the an art practice. And how we both feel we’re not doing enough of it, yet we’re both very much around art. She teaches at a children’s art program and i’ve just finished term one of my MA. I frequently, if not always, have a sketchbook with me yet i don’t fill them with regularity. Too often i turn only to my iPhone camera telling myself i’ll do proper studies later. Which doesn’t happen. I just try and work larger directly from the photos, which admittedly are valuable research, but the results are not the same. The resulting work lacks a richness and it preserves an exclusionary zone in my work—something i’m trying to minimize.
Which, in a bit of a roundabout way, leads me to Andrew Bird’s Gezelligheid show in LA at the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian. Totally entranced by the shadows of the horn speakers flowing across the the Cathedral’s warm red-lit walls, i took some video and a few photos. Still, i knew that the results would really be just a ghost of my reaction to Bird’s eerie folkie yet classical music filling that cavernous space. I wanted to draw but the light was so low and only my near-invisible-in-that-light orange pen felt right. Luckily, i got the self-restraining part of my brain to get the hell out of the way and went with it.
Not quite automatic drawing, but almost.
I don’t think these capture a gezelligheid feeling, but i think only those fortunate enough to be up close the the show’s literally close-knit trio enjoyed that a sensation. For those of us father back the feeling was different, not cozy nor distant, but much more intangible. Not ghosty, but rather expansive and mysterious and dare-i-write-spiritutal? I dunno. But any-which-way here they be. Soldier on. Soldier on.
(endnote: if i manage to get my hands on the set list for that evening i’ll add the rest of the song titles since each drawing is a single song.)