Until I was 22 I went to Sweden every year to visit my grandparents. We went by airplane, but we might as well have gone in a rocket. Because in some ways it was an intergalactic trip to a parallel universe. Sometimes we landed in Gothenburg. And the first thing we did when leaving the airport was to check that the registration plates on the cars at the car park were Swedish. Confirming the registration plates was the proof that we were officially in the country.
In Spain, many kids didn’t believe my sister and I. They told us that Sweden didn’t exist, because they confused it with Switzerland (in Spanish the names are similar). When we replied that it was not Switzerland but Sweden they said it was not possible, that Sweden didn’t exist. But I knew that they were the ones that were mistaken. Sweden not only existed, but it was also full of Swedes that did things a different way. Half my family amongst them. I learned that one can be surrounded by people who vehemently affirm that something is impossible. And that they can all be wrong.
It was a very important lesson for me. Not only in life, but also in art. Realising the impossible is the engine of all evolution. Nothing is possible until it is. Einstein said that to prove something new, first one had to be able to imagine that it was possible. And, in order to visualise something that hadn’t been proved possible, one had to be capable of suspending one’s disbelief. The same is true in art. To create is to imagine something that doesn’t exist, and then make it.
All discoveries and artistic creations are impossible to understand by contemporary culture before they are discovered or created. Someone imagines them first and believes that they can exist. If we don’t understand that not having experienced something doesn’t make it impossible, we will never be able to change anything. That is why, when people call me a dreamer for wanting to do certain things differently, I know that they are the ones that are mistaken. And I don’t let them shatter my illusions. Because Sweden does exist.
Illustration: “Alter ego” from the Feminist Gooseneck Barnacles series.