Vernunft und Ordnung @ Milieu , Bern, Switzerland

An old man has gathered berries and nuts
in the forest
in a basket he carries them home through the forest

When he arrives at the clearing
where his house stands
he sees a snake lying in the grass outside the door
‘What are you doing outside my door
snake’
he asks it
the snake replies
‘I am the queen in the forest and I am waiting for you
old man
if you try to go into the house
I will bite you to death and then
eat you
if you try to escape
then too I will bite you to death and then
eat you
if you try to stay
where you are standing
then I will wait
until you have starved
you will die all by yourself and then
I will eat you’
meanwhile the man has recognised
that the snake belongs to a species
which is known in the whole region for its deadly and
particularly painful bite
‘I fear your poisonous bite
snake
therefore I prefer to sit down
where I am
on the ground and wait
until I have starved
but look
I still have these berries and nuts in my
basket
what am I supposed to do with them’
‘Just you eat them’
the snake replies
‘they might make you nice and fat’
‘I don’t think so
I’ve never looked different to the way I look now
at my age I will hardly grow fat
but I am still happy to eat the berries and nuts’
the old man takes a handful out of the basket
and pushes some of them singly into his mouth with
thumb and index finger
chewing he turns to the snake
‘If this proves to be my last meal
then I would at least like to converse
a little
tell me
snake
what makes you
want to eat me
you have seen
I am old and thin and certainly no
treat
the snake raises its head
‘Don’t you see
how big I am
to sustain such a body
I must take
what I can get
if I meet an animal in the forest
I will eat it
if I pass a house in a clearing
I just eat its inhabitants
that’s quite simple’
‘Oh
I understand’
The old man says
‘that’s how you do it
yes
I see that now
you’re big
huge even
and you’re beautiful at that
your scales gleam like precious metals
but not as hard
on the contrary
they gleam smoothly
it looks to me
as if each one were a single dew-drop
reflecting the morning light in colors of green and brown’
the snake twists and turns
it sticks out its tongue
‘Yes
you’ve noticed
I’m not just big
I’m also beautiful
have you looked at my eyes as well
they are as yellow as the inside of a bird’s egg and
in between
a narrow
deep crevice
so dark is the black of my eyes’
the old man opens his eyes wide
‘No
that hadn’t occurred to me yet
but you’re right
your eyes are wondrously beautiful
and your tongue is beautiful too
fine and pointed and split precisely in the middle’
‘I know
my tongue is beautiful too’
says the snake

‘Recently when I wanted to dive into the lake in the forest for
the first time
to catch a fish
I saw my reflection and in it I recognised
my beauty
I swam to the middle of the lake and curled up
there on a lily pad
until my tail was elegantly rolled up on it
and my head stuck out like a blossom
I called into the forest
‘Look at me
I am the Queen in the forest’
then a bird cheekily twittered from a tall
tree
‘what a spectacle you’re making of yourself
size and beauty by no means make
a queen
prove first that you are strong as well’
I swam from the lily pad back to the shore
and bit into a fallen tree
my teeth left two deep holes in the
wood
the bird sailed down from its treetop
to the lowest branch
to make sure
how deep the holes were
and it admired
how sharply and smoothly the teeth had pierced
the wood
it had recognised my strength and was willing
to believe
that I was the queen in the forest
then a second bird of the same
small
precocious species joined the first on the branch and cried
‘Who knows
perhaps this time you just got lucky
and the tree is rotten’
then I slipped back into the clear water
and bit into a big stone
immediately the stone turned blood red
crimson the blood ran down the stone
trickled away among the stones and dispersed in
the water
this made the birds fall silent
startled to death they fell from the tree and
splashed into the lake
they became my first meal as queen
in the forest
now you can imagine my strength
imagine
how hard I can bite’

‘That’s a great story
that you tell there’
the old man interrupts the snake
‘but for my meal I want to fetch some
bread and cheese from the house
without bread and cheese it only tastes half as good
to me’
the snake hisses
‘Stop
what are you trying to do
have you forgotten already
if you go into the house
I will bite you to death
you are afraid of my bite after all’
‘No
I haven’t forgotten
that you threatened to do that
but I don’t believe it any more‘
‚Why don‘t you believe it any more
I advise you not
to try’
‘Still
I want to try
I am an old man and I have heard a lot
in my life
if I have never heard something before at my
age
I can’t resist doubting it a little
a snake biting into a stone
is something I have never heard of in all my life
and it seems very fatuous to me
because a snake would break its teeth
on a stone’

Michael Fehr
(This is not the final English version. Original language: German)

 

Exhibition View

Brigham Baker

Brigham Baker

Exhibition View

Nadim Abbas

Nadim Abbas

Nadim Abbas

Nadim Abbas

Eloise Hawser

Eloise Hawser

Eloise Hawser

Exhibition view

Thomas Julier

Thomas Julier

Delphine Chapuis

Nikola Danaylov

Exhibition view

 

Photo Credits: Claude Barrault

Milieu
Vernunft und Ordnung
28.10.2017 —09.12.2017
Nadim Abbas, Brigham Baker, Nikola Danaylov, Delphine
Chapuis-Schmitz, Eloise Hawser, Thomas Julier
Münstergasse 6, 3011 Bern