Why Is It Hard to Love? Intro
Saskia Boddeke, Peter Greenaway, Counting!, 2020

A section of slanted flooring caught the eye of Greenaway and Boddeke the first time they saw the main MO Museum exhibition hall. Both artists have previously held an exhibition in a museum designed by Daniel Libeskind. In 2015, they opened their project Obedience at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, lending a contemporary perspective to the story of Abraham and Isaac, enshrined in the holy texts of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

Boddeke immediately saw the possibility of using the slanted flooring to display a lone sculpture of Susa Bubble – perhaps showing her before she began her doubling process, or maybe, showing her left alone after experiencing her entire painful transformation.
Next to Susa, light white feathers descend from the ceiling. This weightless, bright installation establishes a strong counterweight to the dark, oppressive space of projection and water. Feathers symbolizing hope and lightness contrast with the frightening black surface of the water and the chairs sinking into something like an abyss, signifying a loss of balance. This is how the curators remind us of their exhibition’s main idea: Despite every hardship, our efforts to resist these trials are what brings meaning to our lives.

Saskia Boddeke, Peter Greenaway, Number 34 Is Missing!, 2020

The dramatic installation Why Is It Hard to Love? tells the story of Susa Bubble, a character created by Saskia Boddeke. At first all alone, Susa awakens one morning to find she has doubled. The process continues, doubling over and over until it is interrupted by Susa Bubble Number 33, who appears alone, without her twin. She arouses suspicion in the other Susas, bringing confusion into their little community. The characters are symbolized by 33 suspended chairs, signifying instability and a fragile balance. The flowing water below, a frequent theme in the work of Boddeke and Greenaway, is in this instance a reference to tears of those suffering from injustice.

The story of Susa Bubble is about the search for balance and an effort to treat other humans with respect. Boddeke is troubled by Western insensitivity to the migration crisis and the lack of humanity. The allegory of Susa Bubble is dedicated to the young generation as it faces a difficult challenge: managing the enormous quantity of information available at their fingertips and, by responding to it wisely, introducing positive change.

Žygimantas Augustinas, Two Graces, 2004–2005

It is said that, as early as the fourth century BC, the Greek philosopher Diogenes once showed his middle finger to a politician. How do you behave when you’ve lost your patience? The characters created by artist Žygimantas Augustinas have also lost the capacity to settle things in a civilized way. The artist calls his creations “Graces”, the name given to the goddesses of pleasures and joy in Roman mythology. Artists in the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras depicted the Graces as beautiful women, nude or barely clothed, symbolizing springtime, fertility, beauty and atraction.

Augustinas breaks with these traditions. He portrays the Graces as men who share his own characteristic traits. In Augustinas’ work, we often see characters who, while they may resemble their creator, are less likeable. Augustinas is drawn to the portrayal of the human body, since the body is incapable of lying or pretending. That is why he finds it interesting to paint or draw less than ideal images – real people and individuals who are far from the standards of beauty or socially acceptable rules of polite behavior.

Monika Furmana, Tree of Life, 2019

Like Saskia Boddeke, the creator of this exhibition, painter Monika Furmana is drawn to explore the bond between mother and child. In her work Gyvenimo medis (Tree of Life), Furmana conveys a woman’s concern for her children’s future in a dangerous and complicated world. Children, after all, are so helpless and defenseless, which is why we see so many crying babies in this painting. But concern becomes overwhelmed by the flood of daily chores, making it harder to decide what to prioritize. In her painting, Furmana creates an allegory for Western life in a world of excess and abundance.

Furmana often portrays a woman’s relationship with the world around her. Her canvases tell the story of a woman’s life: falling in love, bodily contact, and birth, the search for what it means to be a modern woman. These narratives are constructed from a web of bodies, some of which share the physical traits of the artist herself. But the recurring character in Furmana’s works is more reminiscent of a cyborg than a living human being. Notice how many everyday objects Furmana hides within her composition, extending the body we see there!

Algimantas Aleksandravičius, Peter Greenaway in Klaipėda, 1999

The great number of subjects captured over the lifetime of photographer Algimantas Aleksandravičius includes Peter Greenaway, who first visited Lithuania in 1999. That year, Greenaway traveled to Cape Ventė on the Baltic Sea coast to take part in the Tinklai short film festival – one of the first internationally renowned film directors to visit Lithuania. In Aleksandravičius’ photograph, Greenaway is captured in dramatic lighting, immersed in himself. Aleksandravičius was impressed by the director’s ability to create a harmony of imagery, music, and color in his films. Greenaway, meanwhile, was intrigued by Aleksandravičius’ choice to create his world in black and white. In the images displayed here, we aren’t distracted by colorful details – the interplay of shadow in these black and white images helps us focus on the mindset of the subjects.

Many of the people appearing in Aleksandravičius’ photographs are well known Lithuanian artists, including painters Šarūnas Sauka and Raimundas Sližys, whose works are also on display in this exhibition. Here, however, they are just people, lost in their own thoughts, captured in a moment of solitude. As it is written in an ancient Hindu code of ethics, man is born alone, dies alone, and enjoys the fruits of his labor – alone. No action, however radical, can change the eternal, existential condition of solitude.

Ugnius Gelguda, Living Together, 2004

In his series Gyvenimas kartu (Living Together), Ugnius Gelguda captures non-traditional pairings: same-sex couples, couples separated by considerable age differences, unmarried couples, or two people who married early and had children. These photographs speak to the diversity of social patterns and the one characteristic that all couples share: the search for happiness and security. By capturing his subjects looking straight into the camera, Gelguda brings them into an intimate encounter with the viewer. The angry shouting pouring from internet commentary becomes powerless in the face of the sincere human need for intimacy emanating from these couples. But why is this need so hard to understand and sympathize with?

The creator of the Living Together series, Ugnius Gelguda, is now better known for his work as part of the interdisciplinary duo Pakui Hardware, which explores the relationship between humans, technology, and different forms of life. But Gelguda began his artistic career with his photographic series exploring various topical subjects. He was intrigued by the incongruity between images and words as created by the media as well as by people who for various reasons have been pushed to the margins of society.

Violeta Bubelytė, Nude 59, 1993

For a photographer, the most reliable, always available model is the photographer him or herself. Violeta Bubelytė, who had trouble finding suitable subjects, understood this. She focused her lens at herself and soon became known as the first Lithuanian woman photographer to create self-portrait nudes. Bubelytė began her creative career in the early 1980s, during the final years of the Soviet occupation, so her artistic choice was an especially bold one.

Bubelytė approaches the naked body like an instrument that helps her perform certain character roles. Her shots resemble theatrical tableaus in which the artist multiplies her own image to create unique dialogues: commonality, tension, or distance. Through her painterly rendering of the naked body, she develops a melancholy, sometimes ironic narrative about the relationship between a woman’s body, herself, and her surroundings. She also speaks to social attitudes about a woman’s eroticism. The characters in Bubelytė’s photographs know each other far too well to take offense – they are able to find a way to show intimacy.

Vitas Luckus, Colleagues, Impressions, Relatives, 1958–1986

The portraits of sleeping or laughing subjects captured by photographer Vitas Luckus are emphatically unattractive because they were taken up close. But none of these subjects seeks to hide their shortcomings: a missing tooth or tussled hair. Luckus’ photographs are an attempt to reject everything that is superfluous and to expose reality.

Known as a rebellious photographer, Luckus was a vivid personality. He photographed models for the fashion magazine Banga as well as touristic images meant for foreign audiences, traveling throughout the Soviet Union. He created artistic photographs, capturing his colleagues, his beautiful wife, and a company of avantgarde mimes. As if that wasn’t enough, he also raised a lion cub in his home, taking it for walks in the mornings.
In his work, Luckus focused on capturing the authenticity of a moment. After analyzing the work of famous French photographers, Luckus decided that meticulously crafted compositions were an impediment to conveying a true impression of life through a photograph. This is why he refrained from using any staging in his own work, producing photographs full of real, genuine emotion.

Stasys Eidrigevičius, Black Sleeve, 1990

The Eidrigevičius Museum in Panevėžys, Lithuania is not the only museum named after this artist – there is also one in Otaru, Japan. Eidrigevičius’ work is also well known in Poland, where he has lived since 1980. He creates pastels, posters, book illustrations, paintings, and photographs. And although Eidrigevičius works with many different artistic media, his style is easily recognizable in the mask-like faces he creates. These masks are special, because they don’t hide the emotions or inner worlds of his characters. Quite the opposite: They emphasize them.

Eidrigevičius’ characters are solitary and misunderstood, like male equivalents of Saskia Boddeke’s Susa Bubble. Only they are even quieter and timid – yet still posing the same questions: Why does something exist at all? Why do I exist? Why am I alone? When they come together, however, Eidrigevičius’ characters don’t know how to act as one community. In the pastel Juoda rankovė (Black Sleeve), for example, one character opens the inner emptiness, the black void, of another. Eidrigevičius creates a visual metaphor for human miscommunication and egotism.

Vilmantas Marcinkevičius, Angels and Girl, 2000

The drive to protect one’s children is instinctual – a trait common to all mammals. But it’s not always possible to protect them. When a child dies as a result of a tragic accident, it shocks loved ones and moves the hearts of entire societies.

Angels and Girl, a painting by Vilmantas Marckinevičius, was inspired by the death of a child whose portrait the artist was creating. Marcinkevičius wanted to convey his own sadness through the canvas and create images of supernatural beings protecting the small girl. He created three translucent blue angel figures, basing them on a child’s physical proportions. The clear color difference between the figures of the angel and the girl convey the girl’s state of separation and solitude.
The blue angel figures contrast with the yellow background of the sky. The contrast between these two colors is a typical feature of Marcinkevičius’ body of work, making his paintings easily recognizable. In the mid-1990s, when he had graduated from the Vilnius Arts Academy, it was still unusual for painters to incorporate such vivid colors in their work, so Marcinkevičius had to endure considerable criticism from his instructors. In the end, however, his expressive style brought him recognition throughout Europe.

Raimondas Gailiūnas, Happy, Significant and Secure, 2013

What is reality and what is just a hallucination? The double and sometimes even triple characters featured in the work of Raimondas Gailiūnas, considered one of the most cryptic Lithuanian painters, will not provide an easy answer to this question. Gailiūnas’ works convey anxiety and confusion, balancing on the threshold of madness. This effect is emphasized by his use of off-putting, dissonant color combinations. Even in a seemingly simple image depicting the outlines of a house, a man and a goat, we find a red flying saucer in the corner of the painting. The title of this work, Aliens Flew By, perfectly describes the artist’s work: Searching for a grain of the rational in his paintings is unnecessary, since his creations function on the logic of dreams.

Gailiūnas often explores human instincts and frenzied life in his work. This is why many of his characters often lack any well-defined human or animal identity. One such character, standing on two legs but sporting a tail, can been seen in the painting Happy, Significant and Secure. And in the painting Karma Is a Bitch, showing a dog with a drooping tail, the four-legged creature peers out with the look of an downtrodden human. What do you think – which of them is more humane?

Eglė Kuckaitė, Ego, 2011–2013

The nude, misshapen bodies in the graphic art of Eglė Kuckaitė make love in the open, but eroticism here is more dreamlike than realistic. As erotic dreams or memories – it’s unclear if what we are seeing actually happened or if it was just imagined. Did the nude Ego sprout a Pinocchio nose because he kept lying to himself? Now, he’s forced to spin about his nose like a stripper dancing around a pole, constantly multiplying his lies.

Now an internationally recognized artist, Kuckaitė works with a particularly broad field of creative expression: graphic art, painting, book illustration, and installation and performance design. Her work is intellectual, multifaceted, often ironic and provocative, and full of surrealistic and erotic motifs.
Kuckaitė speaks openly in her work about sexuality, society’s penchant for disciplined education which leads to intolerance for others, and fear and inner complexes that compel us to distance ourselves from our surroundings and feel alienated. Unrestrained inclinations are depicted in her works as responses to imposed norms of traditional behavior.

Audrius Naujokaitis, Untitled, 2011

The works by artist Audrius Naujokaitis exhibited here were begun one year before his death. The white expanses we see in one work, for example, are unfinished details. Before starting a painting, Naujokaitis would create a sketch using different collage elements. His work featuring running figures and pistols resembles a jigsaw puzzle assembled from different interpretations of modernist artworks. A nude recumbent girl calls to mind images of Tahitian figures found in the works of Paul Gauguin, while a cubist rendition of another girl‘s face is reminiscent of Pablo Picasso‘s work. In both of these images, characters involved in intricately interwoven narratives search for a lifestyle that is most acceptable to them – from ballet and music to adrenaline-pumping criminal activity. Naujokaitis constructs the narratives of his work as puzzles for his audiences to decipher.

Boddeke and Greenaway have created this exhibition as a “total installation“ – one enormous work of art made up of smaller creations. Naujokaitis followed a similar approach, becoming active in numerous different fields: from painting and graphic art, to photography and set design and musical performance creation. His broad creative spectrum flourished in the 1990s, when Naujokaitis left Lithuania to live in New York. Collaborating with Jonas Mekas at the Anthology Film Archives, Naujokaitis also embraced filmmaking.

Raimundas Sližys, A Man from Museum Street, 1977

Raimundas Sližys is best known to Lithuanian audiences as a painter, but given his many talents he could have easily become a successful actor. Sližys liked to create characters, acting on stage and in films and bringing other roles to life in photographs captured by his friends. In this image by Algimantas Aleksandravičius, however, Sližys shows his more contemplative side, devoid of all masks.

In his work, Sližys often distorted his characters‘ faces and bodies. Although it has been said that Sližys did this to express his criticism of philistine culture, perhaps he simply “allowed“ the characters in his works to be themselves? Unadorned, removed from the standards of beauty foisted on us through advertising. Perhaps this reflected Sližys’ own complicated relationship with himself? In his (self)portraits, we see characters seemingly prepared to walk on stage for a performance. Like in theatre, it is unclear where reality ends and fantasy begins. Let this remain a secret known only to Sližys and The Man from Muziejaus Street.

Laura Guokė, Monica and Rima with Muhammed Ahmed, 2016–2017

Why is it so hard to allow displaced people of other cultures into our own countries? Perhaps they lost their homes, or maybe they just could no longer make ends meet and are seeking a better life for themselves and their children?

The series Portraits from the Ritsona Refugee Camp, by the young Lithuanian painter Laura Guokė, was created after she received the BP Travel Award from the National Portrait Gallery in London. Recognized for her hyperrealistic male portrait Petras in 2016, Guokė won support for her proposal to travel to Greece, where she painted the portraits of one refugee family as well as volunteers working in the camp. She depicted a Syrian mother, her baby, and her older son. In the mid-twentieth century, Lithuanians experienced what it meant to lose their homes, be deported or be forced to flee thousands of kilometers, so Guokė feels that the plight of the displaced should be well understood in Lithuania.

Andrius Zakarauskas, Net, 2019

If we add one identical thing to another, do we get two things – or one of the same? Art is not mathematics, so the usual logic does not apply here. In the early works of Andrius Zakarauskas, people were portrayed as ornaments filling the canvas with their bodies. In the diptych Tinklas (Net), a man’s figure is multiplied numerous times until it creates the impression of a crowd of people – even though we see only one and the same man. This motif resembles Saskia Boddeke’s story about the multiplying Susa Bubble. But, unlike in Boddeke’s story, the male figures joined into one net in Zakarauskas’ paintings are so entangled that separating them is no longer possible – much like in our own society where we, without even sensing it, are all connected to each other by invisible bonds.

Zakarauskas came to prominence in Lithuania after being the first artist to win the newly established Young Painters’ Prize in 2009. In his works, Zakarauskas poses questions about painting itself, the relationship between an artist and his art, and the ability to alter reality so that it becomes different, but still recognizable. In his early work, Zakarauskas would depict characters who resembled him, hoping to create the impression of a vicious circle – a scenario in which the painter keeps painting himself.

Algirdas ir Remigijus Gataveckai, Brother, Father, 2009–2010

Sometimes, works of art created with the simplest of tools have the most impact. Take, for example, the colored-pencil self-portraits by a pair of twins, Algirdas and Remigijus Gataveckas, or their portrait of their father. These works are not only deeply personal because the artists bare themselves and all the details of their bodies to the viewer – they also expose their own relationship with their father.

At the age of eight, the brothers were left at an orphanage in Alytus, brought there by their own parents. Attentive teachers noticed the boys’ talent for drawing, which they displayed during art classes at school and also later during their studies at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Their series Situation, a portion of which is on display here, was created slightly more than a decade ago as part of the young artists’ master’s degree course work.
In their full-size portraits, the Gataveckas brothers embark on a painful search for similarities with their own father, asking questions about what they have in common – if not just appearances? Perhaps there are also similarities in character? The subject of children raised without their parents is a topic both artists have continued to explore in their work after successfully completing their master’s (and doctoral) degrees. In all their work, they display a sensitive perspective on vulnerable, abandoned children looking with fear at the world around them.

Eglė Vertelkaitė, Like Poetical & Political, 2007–2008

It’s horrible to be oneself. To be betrayed and isolated. It’s horrible to free oneself and reveal everything that is so personal about us. These fears are the subject of etchings by graphic artist Eglė Vertelkaitė. Spinning young women try to escape the lines that entangle them – lines that appear like intrusive thoughts or a net of preconceived expectations. As she repeats the same motif, Vertelkaitė depicts the multiplication of doubts.

Eglė Vertelkaitė is a graphic artist and conceptual project designer. In her work, she explores the themes of women‘s identity, using images borrowed from various media and reproducing them. Her works are mysterious and include cultural references. She experiments by combining traditional and new technologies, as well as some she has developed herself. The imagery created in Vertelkaitė‘s work such as symbols and text recount personal and simultaneously very universal searches for self in our contemporary world – a world in which it is not only hard to love others, but also ourselves.

Leonid Alekseiko, Family, 2014

A family is like a small model of the world. But in the painting Family, by Leonid Alekseiko, we won’t find any sense of familial communion, comfort, or security. How is Alekseiko able to create such a disagreeable depiction of the environment that shaped him and the relationships between family members?

Alekseiko’s color palette is bleak, resorting to subdued tones of blue, yellow, and gray. The family’s emotional portrait is depicted as the embodiment of alienation. This is a world of virtual strangers, people immersed in their own thoughts and affairs. The artist freezes a moment from everyday life and forces us to look at it: highlighting recognizable character types, eliminating unnecessary details and thereby focusing our attention on society’s most acute problems and states of mind. Can a person emerging from such an environment be expected to create a better, empathetic and welcoming world?
Alekseiko is a younger painter whose work is subjective and self-reflective, associated with the twenty-first century embrace of new realism which he discovered and came to appreciate during his study years. Photographs become his primary source, which he then reconstructs, combines, and repaints, seeking to reveal the intersections between the environment and our individual worlds.

Kristina Ališauskaitė, Where Is My Shadow?, 2017

What do you do if you’re not sure whether you’re a copy or the original? We’re not talking about cloning, but about Kristina Ališauskaitė‘s painting Where Is My Shadow?, depicting two similar figures who find it difficult to decide which of them is the copy. The full-size portraits show abstracted bodies of two young women. Their bowed heads call to mind the centuries-old image of women as subservient. The sparsely detailed setting tells us little about where these characters are actually located, but we do see that they are standing up against a wall, forced into an encounter with the viewer whose gaze they are unable to escape.

Ališkauskaitė asserts that she feels it is more important to convey human moods or states of mind rather than specific characters. Although she uses her own image as an initial basis for her painting, she then proceeds to remove some of her own individual traits, leaving only sketches, like melted bodies. Faceless characters symbolize a situation when, finding ourselves in complicated circumstances, we begin to dissociate from ourselves, losing our previous sense of self.

SetP Stanikas, Cirle of Life, 2015

Sex and death – what else is there to talk about? So asked Peter Greenaway in one interview. Everything in life is about that. We begin with sex, we end in death – the only clear things in life are how we begin and how we end.

So, love is the world’s driving force, propelling the circle of life. In their work Circle of Life, contemporary artists Svajonė and Paulius Stanikas incorporate all of the following motifs: love scenes, waiting for life in the pregnant body of a nude woman, the emergence of a baby, its growth and eventual old age and death. The Stanikas duo combine fundamental contradictions into this eternal cycle: childhood and old age, life and death, growth and decay, peaceful expectation and horror.
In their work, Svajonė and Paulius Stanikas often use classical forms of artistic expression. The centrally placed face of a main character, rendered with classical precision, resembles self-portraits by Rembrandt. And since Greenaway once directed a film about the Dutch painter, his work and that of the Stanikas duo have something in common: the same characters and similar themes.

Vigintas Stankus, Bird rook, 2017

Abstract birds emerge within the paintings of Vigintas Stankus from a radiant grayish fog, like a metaphor for freedom, light, and hope. The works radiate a tranquility and silence so needed in today’s turbulent world. Starting every day in meditation, Stankus would only approach his canvas in a good mood, thereby hoping to share harmony, simplicity, and tolerance with the world through his works of art.

Stankus began to create his art in the early years of Lithuania’s restored independence, a time of great change in the Lithuanian art world. New, independent artistic groups were being established and abstract expressionism was taking hold in painting. Stankus graduated with a degree in stained glass and was also a professional athlete – one of the first in Lithuania to earn a belt in karate.
Stankus’ painting style was heavily influenced by his own personal interest in poetry and meditation. His works would emerge quickly, in one session, like a Japanese haiku or a precise karate punch. Stankus liked to experiment with the texture of his canvases, laying down a thick layer of paint, using unconventional materials and not only paint, but also ashes.

Šarūnas Sauka, The Legend about Sigitas Parulskis, 1997–1998

Crowds are an important motif in the work of Šarūnas Sauka. Sometimes, he depicts a multitude of human figures as if they were worms covering the body of a seated man. Other times, they are characters in a recrafted biblical narrative. In one of his most important works, The Legend of Sigitas Parulskis, Sauka reimagines a story in which God fed manna from heaven to the wandering Israelites. In Sauka’s work, a crowd watches different kinds of pasta falling from the sky. Not all of them wait patiently – some starving characters begin to tear the meat from the bodies of their neighbors. Others are less interested in the unfolding scene, including a girl standing in the right corner (painted by Sauka based on a childhood photograph of his mother), while the man lying on the ground is the writer and essayist Sigitas Parulskis.

Through small details, Sauka succeeds in creating an engrossing artistic atmosphere. If you look closely at the items lying on the ground, you’ll see not only cigarette butts, a jump rope and a ball, but also a modern-day sewage grate. Unrelated items symbolize man’s multifaceted nature – particularly his darker side which, as Parulskis has observed, Sauka is able to render in a particularly masterful way.

Patricija Jurkšaitytė, Still Life, 2019

Would you have the patience to paint nearly 500 oranges? Patricija Jurkšaitytė creates her art using the ancient techniques of grisaille and glazing, when a clear, thin layer of paint is applied to a dry grayish and white painting to create an optical image. This is why Jurkšaitytė had to create this enormous work twice: first by painting the oranges in white, and then the second time by applying color. As if that weren’t enough – she created four of these enormous canvases!

As she painted these still lifes, Jurkšaitytė felt as if she were experiencing a long retreat, atoning for her part in the creation of society’s growing inequality, consumerism, and indifference. There are many exotic oranges here, and they are all similar to one another, like a crowd in which it becomes impossible to recognize any particular face – like refugees, for example, strewn about the world from their exotic countries and often described with a single word, without bothering to delve into their individual lives.
Jurkšaitytė is a student of the renowned New York abstractionist Kęstutis Zapkus, who taught her to take a conceptual view of art and its process and to critically ponder the world around her. Although she adheres to reality as she paints, Jurkšaitytė does not copy it. For her, reality is the expression of a relationship with one’s surroundings. She is intrigued by time, transience, the meaning of symbols, and a personal relationship with the search for existence, social, and religious phenomena.

Poem “Why Is It Hard to Love?” by Saskia Boddeke

This Is the story
Of Susa Bubble
Who went to bed single
And woke up double

Woke up as two
In a single bed
‘Who are you? Who are you?’
She said, she said

There was no holding on after that
They kept doubling up
In the same tiny size,
with short little fingers
and round blue eyes

And then…
All of a sudden
It stopped finally
But they ended up with thirty-three

33 was unbearably sad
She did not double up
Arrived all on her own
And someone had stolen her party hat

They thought it first a harmless joke
Thinking 34 was hiding
They teased 33 just to provoke
But she fell sobbing and sighing

Single she stayed
Without a friend of her own
Why did she not become double?
They suddenly had doubts
Is she really a clone?
is single 33 truly a Bubble

They gave 33 a sturdy look
Examined her teeth
The blue of her eyes
The size of her feet
The strength of her thighs
Single 33,
could easily be,
a mysterious enemy
In a very good disguise

‘She is too thin ‘
It became frostily quiet
‘But….. stumbled 33:
I’m really you
You are on a diet !!’

They were all rather puzzled
and had a curious unhappy feeling
Why did this happen?
What had gone wrong?
Did 33 come with a special meaning?

Perhaps 34 would arrive one day late
Their patience was put to a challenge
They had to come double
That was their fate
Frightened to be out of balance

The friendship started to crumble
Doubt was born
‘Who is really who
Well I’m me
and, I’m me too!
and I’m better and more beautiful
then you and you and you’

How the fight began
None of them really knew
But it was violent and harsh
Very sad and blue

Maybe the sun was too bright?
The night too dark?
The water too cold?
Or a wrong remark

Perhaps the bread
not sweet enough?
The bed too hard
The bees too loud
The dog that barked
That rainy cloud

Shoes too big
Shoes too small
Not liking red
Or fight over a doll

An annoying drip
Tea too hot, or just an itch
Birds too high, birds too low
Maybe the Susas are bewitched

To resolve the problem
And out of despair
33 slayed 32 with a knife
And hoped that was the end of the matter
‘We are even again, I became 32’
And immediately she looked a bit fatter

Yet who would have thought
That 32 had so much blood

Out, out I say damned spot
Out damned spot out I say,
Out out damned spot of blood

But 31 did not agree
‘My earlobes are longer,
My belly is more soft,
My legs are stronger,
You don’t feel like me,
Find a clone of your own!!’
Was her desperate plea.

Fake 32 flustered
What had she done?
She killed one of her own
Blood was spilled
Just to become as one

They all became very quiet
Time was standing still
That was the day the rain began to fall
And despite they were with many
They felt very very small

The fact is
Harm was done
Hearts were shattered
Tears down cheeks
Trust was broken
Minds insane
No one speaks

Then 22 screamed out loud
‘I know what to do!!
We need a religion
Something to believe, a leader, wise and strong
Someone who can turn wrong into right
And right into left when it’s wrong’

Among themselves they choose Susa 1
The source from which they all sprung
Despite the fact she was the first to be double
1 took the role of the leader on her own
Which of course was causing some trouble

Drinking the wine,
Eating the fish
Breaking the bread
Sharing one dish

For a moment it felt good
All seemed to be at peace
But number 2 kept sighing
She was not at all at ease

2 was jealous of the attention 1 got
and betrayed her with a single kiss
There was rumble in the sky
and the sun disappeared
1 spoke soft: ‘why, oh why
Do you commit an act like this?’

And that only because
of jealousy or greed
We were all friends
What more did you need?

2 shrugged her shoulders
-and turned all pale
‘I don’t feel like a Susa
I’m person of my own
my name is Judith now
leave me alone!’

‘Who do you think you are?’
They screamed out loud
‘You are not more than we are
Maybe even less than more
That should be enough to make you proud’

They all knew it was the beginning of the end
Today’s enemy was yesterday’s friend
6 was irritated by the way 7 ate
4 did not like the time 9 went to bed
3 teased 21 with a freckle on her nose
11 convinced 16 there was something wrong with her toes
10 spat in the wine of 8 just to provoke
8 hit 10 in the face not charmed by the joke
15 annoyed 12 by just laughing out loud
and 2 just kept refusing to be one of the crowd

3 times the cockerel crowed
It became the period of denial
To be a Susa made nobody proud
and without any shame
they made Judith to blame
and convicted her without a trial

‘It is not my fault’, Judith cried
‘I’m not to blame
Blame her! and her!’
And rather upset
She pointed around
‘We all make mistakes
You seem to forget’

But the verdict was loud and clear
You are not a Susa
You are Judith now
From now on you have to live in fear

Hours later they found her back
Her face even more pale
Sad tearful big blue eyes
With a rope round her neck

They gave up on religion
Gave democracy a chance
The single vote did count
Some were left
Some became right
Some did not care
And gave up the fight

Too much talk
Too little action
Too many compromises
Democracy went out of fashion

Hate was born
Not planning to depart
I want what you have
I have what you want

The Susas broke up
Opponent or friend
Some did believe
Others had doubts
Real or pretend
With or without

And the question was raised
‘Why is it hard to love?
Why is it hard to love?
Why is it hard to love?’
Repeated so many times
It sounded like a hollow phrase

They became very quiet
Again, time was standing still
The rain began to fall
And some of them fell ill

The one who suffered most
was number 5
They found her back,
early in the morning
In the cold water
not anymore alive

Out came the morning sun
Over the sea a tender breeze
They knew the despair had begun
But 5 looked suddenly at peace

Then 4 spoke out loud
‘I’m the leader now
You have to listen to me
I know what makes us unite
We find ourselves an enemy’

At first, they were puzzled
Not knowing if they should agree
But then they cheered and smiled
Afraid to become that enemy

The scapegoat was found easily
As one, they turn to fake 32
They knew for sure
She was the cause of all the misery

‘You are not one of us!’
They cried out shrill
32 pleaded her case
‘I’m really you!
Being a Susa gives me a thrill’

32 never saw the morning light
She was found back under a tree
Her face covered in blood
Her arms spread as if in flight

They gazed at each other
Not knowing how to survive
And number 7….
She rapidly threw away
her blood-stained knife

No one dared to be out of tune after that
Singing the same song
Dancing the same dance
Smiling the same smile
While wearing a stupid party hat

The days grew shorter
Nights became longer
You would have thought
The killing stopped after that
But Susas uneasy feeling became stronger and stronger
And the story continued painfully sad

And despite them being short and stout
The Susas are incredibly strong
And dangerous without any doubt

8 gave 7 a serious frown
I know what is wrong
Your brows are upside down
7 not knowing how to react
Slayed 8 with one stroke
Just to protect

That was the trigger
The final battle began
Blood splattering, suffering cries
The ending of the Susa Klan

Number 1 was still standing
When 34 arrived
She was Just a bit late
In her hand the party hat of 33
She had been hiding behind the gate

34 looked around
With a terrifying gaze
1 realised she had to kill 34
and smashed her frontal in the face

Single sad Susa
Back on her own
Beginning and end
No one to blame
Maybe tomorrow she would double up again
Would she do better or repeat the same?

Who to trust?
What to feel?
Where to go?
What is real?

Are we two?
Are we one?
When I smile?
Do you frown?
When I’m up?
Are you down?
Am I your foe?
Am I your friend?
Am I the beginning?
Or the end?

Life is a mystery
A game within a game
A balance of odds and evens
We are different but also the same
Why are we here?
Where are we going?
Why is there something?
Why is there not nothing?

Why is it hard to love?
Why is it hard to love?

Poem by Saskia Boddeke

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