© Sissi Kaplan 2007-2021
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VOYAGE BY THE WINDOW

2020

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Fine art print on paper

Voyage by the window features Sissi Kaplan by her window, imagining and reenacting situations from past travels to meaningful places in her life. Each image is accompanied by a caption reflecting upon time and space, and observations of inner and outer life.

 
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Voyage by the window #1 - The Departure, Singapore, 2020

Singapore, 21 April 2020

I am so glad I made it on the boat to escape this circuit broken city. I boarded as the last and only passenger. I am heading West, gazing at the beautiful tropical skies.

 
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Being on the boat is quiet and atmospheric. We left the Malacca Strait behind and are now crossing the Bay of Bengal. It will still take a while before we’ll reach Sri Lanka. Sometimes I feel lonely. I have not seen a familiar face in 40 days. Besides observing the changing colours of the sea, I continue to edit the Egyptian holiday film. This is a scene shot at the St. George, a run-down hotel next to the Giza Zoo. Everyone was mad in this place, a reservoir for disturbed aging men who, like the hotel, must have known glorious times before.

 
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Voyage by the window #2 - Sri Lanka, 2020

Sri Lanka, 28 April 2020

The crossing took longer than expected, but what a bliss having spent a whole week on the wide open sea. The soft waters, fragrant winds and waning crescent moon were my best companions. Sweet surrender. Yin energy everywhere, and no more connections with the broken world. I feel free and expansive. The owner of the Udawalawe lodge welcomes me with open arms, we haven’t seen each other in more than two years. It is good to be back and as I settle into my room I am greeted by my friends the elephants.

 
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Sri Lanka is such a beautiful and peaceful place. I spend a lot of time writing, sitting in tree shades on the terrace. All the impressions of the recent experience are still so present. I am trying to disentangle them, to dissect them in individual emotional layers which I associate with images and sounds that are stuck in my head. I continue to listen to the doctor’s voice through medical podcasts, it gives me a feeling of security and care. He was the only human being physically present during this period after all. Every late afternoon, Abhinatha drives me into the wildlife reserve. We observe birds, bathing rhinos, elephants and the setting sun. When we drive back we sometimes put on a song, just one, to set the tone for the evening and dinner. Yesterday it was Tracy Chapman’s ‘Cross Roads’.

 
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Voyage by the window #3 - Egypt, 2020

Cairo, 4 May 2020

When I arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport the choice of flights is truly limited. While life in the countryside seemed so protected and normal, coming back to the capital is a reality check. Safe distancing, temperature check, wearing a mask, I had forgotten how all these measures make you feel. I slowly browse through the available destinations and there are only 10 flights per day. When I see Cairo my heart stops beating for a moment, I am still so electrified by my trip to Egypt last December! It's a sign, the decision is made, Cairo it will be. Colombo - Cairo, don't you agree that both names sound beautifully evocative? I leave Sri Lanka in the evening, reach Cairo in the early morning, and here I am, in my hotel room in Giza. I keep reading Marguerite Duras'"Œevres complètes". I am a slow reader at the moment, I am so full of stories myself and find it hard to relate to others. Yet there are these surprising resonances. One of the characters in "La vie tranquille" is called Jérôme, so I think of Jérôme Toh and hope that he is well. The dialectical relationship between the inside and outside is what stimulates me most at the moment.

 
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There has been a lot of desire inside and outside this room!

 
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Voyage by the window #4 - Egypt, 2020

White Desert, 10 May 2020

I hadn't planned to stay in Egypt for so long but there never seems to be enough time here to explore all the things I want to see. I also suspect that someone must have put a secret spell on me so that I keep coming back. I spent 4 days in the Bahariya Oasis, exploring the little town, walking around the salt lake, bathing in the hot springs and catching up with Ahmed's family. I am now back in the white desert with my favourite driver Michael, he prefers that I call him by his American name. The desert is undoubtedly an ideal environment for me. The dried out sea with its strange salt formations is a #strangersdreams paradise par excellence. Michael gave me these two balloons just now and told me to wait for him here. I am not so sure what this means and am slightly worried about what he has in mind for the evening.

 
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When Michael returns to pick me up he looks bewildered. I ask him what has happened and he tells me that he was stopped by soldiers who instructed him to drive back to the oasis tonight to get them bread and some other provisions for the weekend. I remember that when we came last December, we were also stopped by the army who gave us huge bags with warm flatbreads to transport from A to B, and also asked us to pass them our full jerry cans. I felt uncomfortable back then but Michael explained me that they are untouchable as they protect the boarder with Libya and had put substantial efforts in stopping illegal boarder traffic. I feel sorry but understand that this is a non negotiable order and that we would have to return to the oasis shortly. Michael looks so disappointed and I don't dare to ask him about the meaning of the balloons anymore. He has this great tape with what he thinks is cool Western pop music with Kylie Minogue (Na na na….), Gwen Stefani (Hollaback Girl…. This my shit, this my shit), The Ting Tings (That’s not my name), Tina Turner (Private Dancer) and Madonna (La Isla Bonita). I think it’s a striking selection, we drive and just sing along. I spent one more night at Ahmed’s Safari and am now back at the Cairo International Airport. It is slightly disturbing that they kept the 2020 new year’s balloons as a decoration and I wonder which celebratory moments of 2020 we will actually remember.

 
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Voyage by the window #5 - United States of America, 2020

New York, 14 May 2020

I have always been drawn to the East and never felt any particular affinity with the US. But hey, sometimes our travel decisions are made according to our budget. Cairo-New York was the most affordable flight and here I am, having a drink in Manhattan! I am waiting for a friend before we’ll open the Prosecco, so for now I am just sipping a glass of water and think about this Western world. It feels so outdated to me, its values are worn out, look at this architecture, it is impressive but does it express what we want and need now? I received some charming pictures from home today, Singapore’s nature is slowly taking over, no more manicured gardens, everything starts getting wild and beautiful. I must say that I miss home, in exactly 1 week it will be 10 years since I first landed on the tropical island that conquered my heart so easily. But for now I will enjoy empty New York, it will be a special time for photography and some American movies and #strangersdreams fantasies. Sending love to you.

 
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We made bagels this morning! It’s nice to catch-up with friends and to spend long hours walking through the city, taking photographs and remembering iconic American independent movies. I don’t know if I have ever told you that Jarmusch’s "Stranger Than Paradise" is one of my all-time favourites?! The trailer starts with “A New American Film” / “By a New American Director”. I dream of being that new director to make a new Singaporean film. I actually made the bagels with a guy called Apollo. We met randomly when taking similar pictures of Guggenheim’s facade yesterday. We ended up having a chat and he told me that he likes everything round. Circular shapes, LPs, plates, the planets and bagels. I am curious to find out more about this obsession and also his name, who is named after a Greek God in this day and age?

 
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Voyage by the window #6 - Outer Space, 2020

Andromeda Galaxy, 19 May 2020

Apollo, Apollo, Apollooo! It took me a while to connect things, the bagels, circular shapes, spinning music and planets. Apollo and I get along really well and after 2 days in New York he insists that we have to go to California. I immediately think of Kerouac's "On the road" and get excited by the idea of driving and even shooting a road movie but he says that we have no time to drive and would need to fly. Now. I feel slightly disappointed but agree because my instinct tells me that he is up to something exciting. We share this strong belief that anything is possible anytime and here we go. On the plane he offers me a gift and as I open it, it is round as expected, and a moon lamp! I am so happy as I was scammed on Instagram last year when ordering a moon lamp that never came. He also tells me now that he works as an astronaut and that he will take me to see the moon and Andromeda galaxy. Now. I am transported and damn scared, if you would have asked me last week if I would ever fly to the moon I would have said Never. A military jet is waiting for us at Los Angeles International Airport to bring us to the Vandenberg Air Force Base. I quickly go to the toilet, put on my cosmic dress, we get into the rocket and the picture you see here is me right now. Being weightless is the best feeling ever and while I struggle to keep my balance I hold on to my cute moon lamp which is happy to see her big brother right outside of the window. I think I am in love.

 
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I don’t forget about you. I actually think of you often, but I am hesitant to come back. Space seems a much better place right now. There is light while the earth is drowning in black matters. It saddens me much. But I will be back soon, a lot needs to be done. And I will take you somewhere so that #youandme can be together and not against #oneanother. We are all others, all the time, somewhere.

 
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Voyage by the window #7 - Philippines, 2020

Mabini, 14 June 2020

So much has happened since I last wrote to you and it will take some time to put order in my thoughts and feelings. Being in space was incredible, the light, vastness, weightlessness… all intoxicating! But after a while I started missing earth, the smell of things, the feeling of being grounded and surrounded by others. Being with Apollo was fantastic for a short while, he taught me much about the galaxy and the metaphysics of space. Yet I also quickly understood that it is impossible to be with someone like him, he is addicted to the endless possibilities of space and that’s okay. I love my freedom too and feel excited to continue this journey. When reaching the airport I did not hesitate a second where to go next. Asia is the place I want to be. And here I am in the Philippines, by the sea, surrounded by volcanos and enjoying three mangoes at once.

 
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Let’s rise and shine while moving forward.

 
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Voyage by the window #8 - Vietnam, 2020

Hi Chi Minh City, 18 June 2020

Looking from cage to cage has its own charm. It is fascinating to contemplate each other, feel for each other in silence, without giving any sign. I spent all day looking at animals and felt a special connection with the giraffes, maybe because they are tall like palm trees and we both wear patterns today. I like to visit zoos when I travel, to study animal behaviours and sharpen my own instincts on these occasions. And also to get a better sense of the new society I am in, the way animals are treated says a lot about how humans are treated too. In Ho Chi Minh City where I arrived yesterday, the zoo blends seamlessly into the city and I still have to think about what this means for the animals and if they are hence counted as citizens.

 
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Today is my last day in Ho Chi Minh City. I loved the city again, was out all the time and literally had no time to write. I took notes of situations and feelings with my camera, the words will come at a later point. The traffic however is getting worse and I had to ask so many strangers - and mainly elderly couples - if they would accept to hold my hand and to help me cross the street. I really can’t do it on my own, it’s pathetic and amusing at the same time. My journey continues tomorrow and you’ll find out where to very soon! I also hope that you are all well and enjoying the early days of the summer of 2020.

 
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Voyage by the window #9 - Japan, 2020

Osaka/Kyoto, 27 June 2020

It was a bumpy flight between SGN and KIX. Six hours of trepidation as we kept falling from one air pocket into the next. It’s good to be on firm ground again, even if today’s walk on the spongelike moss in the Kokedera gardens felt like flying. It is such a dreamy and magical place. I kept a strong memory of my visit in 2009 and thought it was a good start to my week in Japan. Like last time it was raining cats and dogs adding an incredible variety of scents to the experience. And after last week's incessant scooter cacophony, listening to the rain hitting the leaves and my umbrella was real music to my ears. I am now waiting for the bus, then the train to Osaka. The desire of returning to Osaka is always there. It is one of my most beloved places in the world and I wonder if I will ever move there. I have been coming here for more than 10 years and can’t wait to see my special friends for another week of art, promenades and tiger talks. We will meet at the Peking Bar tomorrow at 4pm where they serve very good eggs and whiskey.

 
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July is here and I have not seen it coming. Time feels so different this year but the signs of summer are there. I swim every day and contemplate the pink waterlilies.

 
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Voyage by the window #10 - Hong Kong, 2020

Hong Kong, 2 July 2020

I had not planned to wear this dress so soon again, but had put it in my suitcase just in case. It does not take up much space, is waterproof, keeps me warm and I imagined that it might look chic with this headscarf and belt. When arriving in Hong Kong this morning I felt so much solidarity with the people, the struggle is real and I wish I could do more. So the dress seemed somehow appropriate as I got ready to leave the hotel. Sitting on the Star Ferry now brings back important memories of my most beautiful stay here in 2008. I have always been fascinated by cities’ capacities to keep memories safe in storage and generously release them as soon as we return. This is one of these moments and I am grateful that the sensations have not aged — the joy and togetherness is there and vivid, and that people live on through places, our loving hearts and minds.

 
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Time starts feeling limited again. How do we hold on to the positive effects of our isolation and this liberating feeling of finally having the time we need and want to take care of the things that are close to our hearts? I spent a lot of time sitting at this desk contemplating the beautiful cityscape and this important question. I have been trying to understand which hopes are realistic and which illusionary, well knowing that in the end it does not make a difference for me. I never really knew how to distinguish reality and fiction and it’s okay, they mutually inform each other and provide alternative mental and emotional options. I better sleep now to have clearer thoughts tomorrow. Good night world. PS. One more stop before coming home, I can’t wait to see you soon!

 
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Voyage by the window #11 - Taipei, 2020

Taipei, 15 July 2020

My week in Taipei has been magic as always and I dream of settling here in a near future. My instincts tell me clearly that it is a good place for me to be. Today however I was quite surprised to see everyone naked on the streets. I still haven’t figured out if there is a particular occasion or if people just feel free and lighthearted because of the summer. I think it’s kind of cool. But while I grew up so freely in Germany I have developed some paiseh attitudes in France and Singapore and did’t dare to fully follow the trend. But I looked for some flesh tone clothes and am showing at least a bit more skin. The process of cultural assimilation always takes some time but I am glad that I am taking some steps in the right direction. Two more nights and I will be back home. What an incredible voyage it has been.

 
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The way we navigate the world is fascinating. While following certain lines and objectives it is random or at least unpredictable most of the time. During my last evening walk with my friend we encountered this interesting visualisation of how a life journey could look like. I love this meandering chaos of lines, markers and the dysfunctional red signal and the stick - it looks like a promising future to me, full of possibilities and new avenues to explore. Borders to transgress and gaps to fill or jump over. We’ll return to our 24h massage salon now before taking our cab to the airport.

 
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Voyage by the window #12 - Singapore, 2020

Singapore, 20 July 2020

Hello home, here I am, enjoying your presence after 3 months of absence. I will never forget that morning of Tuesday 21 April when I decided to leave you, without much reflection, to resist the imposed restrictions and follow my natural instincts of freedom and desire for expansion. When I realised that I was the only passenger on that boat I was uncertain if I made the right decision but every day that followed confirmed that it was. It has been an incredible journey this time, with a particular depth in the discovery of places, my interaction with people, old and new friends and mainly strangers. Each chapter felt dreamy and unreal in the beginning until the stories started to naturally unfold and magically connect with each other.

Standing here at this window now brings back other memories. Memories of an inaccessible past, when I greeted and sent off my friends from here, when my lamp was a blinking signal for secret suitors, and also the moment I saw an ambulance coming that took me on a different trip. While the rest of my apartment looks intact and the plants amazingly fresh, I realise that the window is covered with thick layers of dust, traces of raindrops, sunshine and occasional wind. Oh how I wish it could tell me about the different atmospheres, events and vistas that it observed during my absence.

I have several homes in this world and doubt that this will be the last one, but right now it feels so good to be back, being surrounded by familiar objects and smells and my favourite afternoon light, leadings into the golden hour. Thank you for following me all along, feeling your presence through fingerprints and beating hearts made me incredibly happy.