“Applied translation of the self as the self translates its self on its own accord” – Antosh Wojcik explores the language of Dementia

Blog | Published on May 24, 2016

When you lose someone, there are continual moments when you are huddled in their left behinds; their clothes, their furniture, their lovers. It’s weird seeing Granddad without Nanny. It’s weird seeing Babcia, Polish for grandma, without Dziadek, Polish for grandad. I guess you never really see someone without the other someone. You always saw them […]

When you lose someone, there are continual moments when you are huddled in their left behinds; their clothes, their furniture, their lovers. It’s weird seeing Granddad without Nanny. It’s weird seeing Babcia, Polish for grandma, without Dziadek, Polish for grandad. I guess you never really see someone without the other someone. You always saw them together, they are the way they are now having been shaped by an expanse of time of being physically next to each other, being in love with each other, being angry, confused, sad with one another.

When they’re cremated and put in jars with their names etched on a plaque, then placed in a garden full of plaques, you’ve still got somewhere to visit and know they are physically always here, just altered. I get worried about who they were, that the person vanished, especially when both my Nanny and Dziadek had dementia, how that cultivated a shifting state of vanishing and resurfacing before they were gone. It becomes so easy to remember them as the last couple of months of their lives, their thinning, balding bodies, confused and frustrated at being locked inside themselves. The condition is more invisible than I thought. You can’t track when someone will remember everything, yet forget that they’ve said the same sentence twenty three times over the past fifteen minutes. There are no default dementias, they all affect the individual in an individual way. You think it’s all about memory too and it isn’t. It’s a physical disconnection from speech and body functions, from being able to access everything still whirling around in your head. No one really vanishes, they just become translated different, much like we all do when we’re depressed or on drugs or euphorically happy or fucking.

Grandad, Mum’s Dad, calls me and asks if he should go visit Dziadek, Dad’s Dad, as he’s in hospital, dementia slowing his functions to a point of being bed bound. His muscles still work, he can touch his toes, but he keeps falling over and can’t recall that he needs to eat. Grandad is unsure if he wants to see Dad’s Dad like this, saying he’d rather preserve the memories he’s got. And I remember when his wife died, Mum’s Mum, how Mum didn’t let us through the glass sliding door into the lounge to say goodbye to an already quieted body, resting after all of its internal renovations from this condition, how that was an attempt to preserve all I shared with her Mum before she became this way.

In Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill The Glitches In Memory, I am glitch-drumming beneath my performance of several narratives that explore my times with my grandparents at the times of their life with dementia. My practice in writing is to solidify and understand things that happen in my life. My practice in performing is to translate this to other people, in order to gain further understanding of what I write and give others space to question their own understandings. When I drum, I translate language into rhythms, communicate physically. Drumming allows me to remember vast parts of my life and people I’ve interacted with too. When combining drumming with my performance of poetry, it becomes an applied dementia, the two translations colliding and altering how they appear externally. My fluency, clarity and diction are all altered. Talking whilst drumming makes me drop rhythm and break what drummers should be good at; timekeeping. Drumming and poetry is the repetition of agreed terms, dementia the repetition of uncontrolled terms.

I understand that I maintain control of when this affects me, when someone with dementia in all its forms can’t choose to turn on and off its affects. I feel this is my closest translation of my relationships with those I love who were affected by dementia. This is my way of preserving their memory and building a voice-percussion gun that questions our understanding of loss through these conditions. In building a narrative that mirrors a condition we all have the possibility of developing, I’m attempting to make this something beautiful and human, because it’s so easy to keep it invisible, allow it to be an acceptance that the person affected is already gone, when they’re not. They’re just being translated another way.

 

 

Antosh Wojcik performs ‘Building a Voice-Percussion Gun to Kill the Glitches in Memory’ on Saturday 28 May @ Roundhouse, London. Visit the Roundhouse for tickets and more info.

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