Antje Stehn: a WordCity Gallery

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Eggs inside eggs
When I talk to poet, artist and curator Antje Stehn, we are seven hours apart, her in Italy and me in Canada’s Northern Rocky Mountains, speaking on WhatsApp. I can hear my own voice as an echo. But other than that, things couldn’t be more clear: Antje is a creative visionary, and her project that we’re discussing–a blending of art and poetry–lies very close to my heart.
I’ve already had a chance to look over a write up about Rucksack.
As an art installation currently in residence at the Piccolo Museo della Poesia, Church of San Cristoforo in Piacenza, Italy, this project, involving tea bags, was designed to express one of the most fundamental steps in human history: the gathering of food, objects and memories into carrier bags.
The use of tea bags is significant. Dating back to the eighteenth century in China, they “continue to be one of the smallest containers that we use and find in every home.” Every home, in every country, uniting us in this one, simple, container.
“Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, but actually gatherers were predominant, given that 80% of their food came from collecting seeds, roots, fruits in nets, bags and in any type of light container…This is why we decided to place the tea bag at the center of attention, as the heart of a cultural meeting, and the Rucksack as a trace of our bond with nature and migration.”
Gathering, however, isn’t something we find painted inside the walls of the caves of our ancestors, where scenes of hunting tend to dominate. When I ask myself why, the first answer I think of is that gathering, like shopping for groceries today, is considered women’s work. Inglorious.
And so, when I consider the image below, with its spire of tea bags, it feels like a certain correction.
Meanwhile, also central to the installation, and surrounding its floral and fragrant centerpiece, where each tea bag is coloured by its contents, there are also pages and pages of poetry.
This poetry, and an introduction by mutual friend Mbizo Chirasha, is how Antje and I came to be talking.
5.Installation poems Rucksack (4)
As we talk, Antje and I find other common points, as well.
German by birth, she’s familiar with a town of Mennonites that were safeguarded from harm during times when they were endangered by the dominant politics and religion of a certain time. Although my ancestors left Germany and the Netherlands for Ukraine, and then Canada, my family name, Friesen, easily identifies me as belonging to those same people.
Suddenly, we have these shared memories, this conversation, to slip into the carrying nets of our thoughts.
Soon, though, we return to poetry, and talk more about Rucksack.
On show since September of 2020, it’s thrilling to discover that Rucksack is set for a 2021 refresh. And while it’s a joy to bring the story of this installation, and others that have preceded it, here to WordCity Monthly, Antje also invites me to put forward a small handful of Canadian poets (globally inclusive, there are curators working in other countries) to both write, and now also speak, words about gathering.
In this time of Covid, this is a theme that is both difficult and easy to steep. Easy to think of which of my own nation’s poets I might hope to see gathered.
And as Antje and I say goodbye (she to her evening, and I to the rest of my day), I soon pick up a pen and write.
That’s the thing about artists meeting artists, no matter what their medium. A simple conversation can lead to a poem. When mine is finished, I sent to Antje with thanks.
In kind, Antje sends pictures of her work, along with this short documentary on Rucksack.
Now, as we–Antje, you, I–gather up our thoughts and carry them forward, I invite you to watch these few minutes below, then spend a few more scrolling and learning about Antje’s other works in the gallery space that follows. ~ Darcie Friesen Hossack

A short documentary on Rucksack

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Eggs inside eggs

“A large egg has been opened to reveal its contents: numerous small eggs, piled one on top of the other. We are invited to imagine that the system of mirrors continues even inside the eggs: these contain other miniatures of themselves, thus giving shape to a harmonious interlocking succession that seems to allude to the possibility of its continuation even beyond the boundaries of the work that it represents, towards the outside. Eggs inside the egg is therefore an imaginative threshold between the infinitely small (which is inside the eggs we see) and the infinitely large (which is what contains us).” ~ Andrea Raimondi

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botanical essay ‘The Metamorphosis of Plants’ which describes the tender leaf that rolls up and hardens to turn into a thorn: thus, under each thorn, there is a tender leaf. It is a beautiful metamorphosis.”

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Unvernähte Fäden

Schau mal die Samen

des Jasmins in ihrer Schote

auf engstem Raum einer neben den

anderen gefaltet

ununterscheidbar stummes Leben

nimm sie aus der Schale!

Wort für Wort

einzelne Stimmen in Form eines Fallschirms

suchen ihren Landeplatz


ein schönes Wort

ein Pulloverwort

hunderte male mit sicherer Hand

über den Kopf gezogen

plötzlich falsch herum

unvernähte Fäden baumeln

um die Utopie

einer offenen Gesellschaft

Unstitched threads 

I'd like to show you the seeds

of jasmine in their husk

lying in the minimum space

folded one on top of the other

indistinguishable silent life

peel them from their pod!

word by word

isolated voices in form of a parachute

seeking their landing site


a nice word, right?

a sweater word

pulled over the head

hundreds of times with a sure hand

suddenly it's the wrong way around

unstitched threads dangle

round the utopia

of an open society.

Hilos sin coser

Me gustaria mostrarte las semillas

semillas de jazmín en sus vainas

tumbado en el mínimo espacio

doblados uno sobre el otro

vida silenziosa indistinguible

¡sácalos del caparazón!

palabra por palabra

voces aisladas en forma de paracaídas

buscando su lugar de aterrizaje


una linda palabra, ¿verdad?

una palabra de suéter

desfile para la cabeza

cientos de veces con mano segura

de repente es al revés

hilos descosidos

cuelgan alrededor de la utopía

de una sociedad abierta.


Би сакала да ти ги покажам семињата

јасмин во нивната обвивка

како лежат во сосема мал простор

превиткани и едно врз друго

тивкиот живот што не може да се определи

ги лупи од нивната мешунка!

збор по збор

изолираните гласови во форма на падобран

бараат место за слетување


убав збор е, нели?

збор како џемпер

навиран на главата

илјадници пати со сигурна рака

одеднаш тоа е погрешно направено

несплетените конци висат

околу утопијата

на отвореното општество.

Препев од англиски на македонски: Даниела Андоновска-Трајковска

Translation from English into Macedonian: Daniela Andonovska-Trajkovska

Fili scuciti

Vorrei farti vedere i semi

del gelsomino nel loro baccello

adagiati nello spazio minimo

ripiegati uno sull’altro

vita afona indistinguibile

staccali dalla buccia!

parola per parola

voci isolate a forma di paracadute

cercano il loro atterraggio


una parola bella, vero?

una parola maglione

sfilata dalla testa

migliaia di volte

all’improvviso è al contrario

fili scuciti oscillano

intorno all’utopia

di una società aperta

Antje Stehn  2018

Antje Stehn was born in Freiburg in Germany. Visual artist, poet, curator of exhibitions.

She studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. Lives and works in Naggio, Lake Como and Milan. She is part of the international poetry collective PoetryismyPassion which promotes cultural linguistic diversity in the international communities in Milan. She curates the column: "Milan, a city of a thousand languages" on the book magazine TAMTAMBUMBUM. She is part of the scientific committee of the Piccolo Museo di Poesia, San Cristoforo di Piacenza; editor in the South American on-line poetry blog LOS ABLUCIONISTAS and in the blog TEERANDAZ in Bangladesh.

Most important exhibitions: 2020 “Rucksack, a Global Poetry Patchwork”, Little Museum of Poetry Church of San Cristoforo, Piacenza."Origin and regeneration in new lands", performance of art, dance, poetryMUDEC Museum; Milan2019 Invited artist at the Biennale Open-AirAart, “A home for R.T.”, Mariano ComenseSoncino Biennial, Tribute to Pippa Bacca2018 ArtDeFacto, Kunsttankstelle, Kontakt-Grenze, LübecK, Germany2017 Biennial Outdoor Art, “Cloak of Earth, Featherdress”, Mariano ComenseSoncino Biennale, Installation "Hammock of Blowballheads"University of Milan, Installation "Life is Art of Encounter"2016 University of Milan, "5000 Blowballs waiting for Future" installationStudio Gabelli, "Chaos and Order", Milan2015 Factory of Experience, "Zebralli", MilanBiennale Soncino, “Hemp Head "2014 Galleria Farahzad, “Dear Art we are doing well...”, Milan2012 Studio Gabelli, „Postcards from New York“, Milan2008 Anwaltsgemeinschaft Altona, Hamburg2006 Kunstverein Elmshorn, Germany2001 Kunstkreis Schenefeld, Hamburg2000 Anwaltsgemeinschaft Altona, Hamburg1998 Trisorio Gallery, Naples,Italy1995 APC Gallerie, Cologne, Heimatmuseum Wedel, Germany, Rathaus Halstenbek, Germany,Industrial Museum, Elmshorn, Germany, Garance Gallery, Yverdon, Switzerland1994 Janus Avvison Gallery, London, Schleswig Holstein Musikfestival, Elmshorn, Germany1992 Landdrostei Pinneberg, Germany, Garance Galleries, Yverdon, Switzerland

1991 Albert & Heckes Gallery, Bonn, Germany, Les Arcades Galleries, Bern, SwitzerlandAPC Galleries, Hamburg, GermanyAwards and scholarships:Scholarship”Pentiment”, Ministry of Culture, Schleswig Holstein, GermanyCulture Prize, Pinneberg, GermanyCollections:Saatchi & Saatchi Collection, Milan, ItalyCollection of the Museum of Salò, Italy

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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