Radioactive bodies. 24 fragments

Door Kasia Torz, op Wed May 18 2022 22:00:00 GMT+0000

Voor Dance&Dare werkte Kasia Torz aan een catalogus van radioactieve lichamen. Vierentwintig fragmenten over ons lichaam in de ruimte. Op het internet. In de krant. In een theater. In een oorlog. In een auto. In de trein. Feitelijkheid en spiritualiteit, binnen en buiten, kunst en leven komen samen in deze poëtische excursie.

1. A beep notifies of the latest events published on the RSOE website.

I’ve been a regular user for years. The Hungarian National Association of Radio Distress-Signalling and Intercommunication monitors ongoing disasters around the world.

The website provides precise data – what happened, at what time, at what latitude and altitude. Accidents, terrorist attacks, geological and hydrological catastrophes, biological hazards, fires and public riots. All grouped into categories and sorted by severity.

The catalogue keeps the reporting transparent. Ascetic cartographic accuracy ignites a feverish awareness. On an interactive world map every user can navigate their interests. Zooming in and out. Searching for glowing dots that announce places on fire.

2. A body of a teenager shot dead by Israeli troops; the West Bank; category: social incident – public safety incident; severity: low; event date: 2022-03-15 7:15:19 (UTC); latitude: 31.78456; longitude: 35.31395; area range: local event.

A body of a three-year-old girl violently attacked by a kangaroo; North South Wales – Australia; category: biological origin – animal attack; severity: unspecified; event date: 2022-03-18 6:19:21 (UTC); latitude: -30.516169; longitude: 151.66825; area range: local event.

Bodies of nearly 200 animals frozen by a man in a garage freezer; Arizona – United States; category: other – other event; severity: unspecified; event date: 2022-04-15 09:30:55; latitude: 35.21847; longitude: -114.1418; area range: local event. Sometimes the website displays: ‘this event has expired’, or: ‘this event does not exist’. However, something is always going on.

3. On 22 March 2022 at 11:33 when I start working on this text, by 11:33 local time (Brussels), 13 earthquakes of various magnitudes had occurred at different locations on earth.

A few weeks later, on 16 April 2022 at 17:55, while proofreading it, the website reports an event on the Mediterrean Sea near Sabratha: ‘Six dead, 29 missing after migrant boat capsizes off Libya’. Longitude: 12.483607; latitude: 32.866749.

4. I walk along the Thames. March 2022. Near Southwark Bridge I see a bee split in half. The head and abdomen lie on the pavement with no contact with passers-by.

I am drawn to Westminster Bridge nearby where groups of people are posing for selfies. A man in a wheel-chair is riding against the grain on a bike path. His legs reach only his knees. This body must know about the halved bee with legs sticking out of its torso.

5. On the train across Limburg I’m reading an article displayed randomly by my phone. The headline: ‘In Sweden, one in ten urns is not collected. In Germany graves become anonymous. Then the fee is avoided.’ A free newspaper distributed at the station, Metro, provides information about more recent research: Drie op de vier kiezen voor crematie.

The number of traditional funerals is declining. The new techniques for decomposing bodies are getting advanced. For example resomatie which environmental impact is reduced. Het lichaam wordt dan opgelost in een chemische vloeistof.

What happens to the cells of the body in this final condensed liquid?

Unspecific dangerous thoughts make my body float like a cloud.

Spinning head.

I fall asleep.

I fall down.

Suddenly the train stops. Suicide on the tracks. It is unclear whether this was ‘an attempt’ or that it actually happened.

‘The search for the person is ongoing’, a voice announces through the speakers. As if only a shadow remains and the body is gone.

6. I visit an exhibition dedicated to pop art. I pass electric chairs by Andy Warhol. A stain of the lethal object situated against backgrounds of different colours look like an altar. Yellow against pink, grey against yellow, yellow against light blue.

There is no final take. The reproduction must be constantly copied. Even if ‘everything has been seen’.

But what have I seen?

Only the outlines of this sanctuary of death reverberate in my body lined with nerves. Touched at the ear it responds in the lower back. Uninhibited migrations of impulses, converse and pain, to which my words can add nothing.

A body that has no end inside. Its depths can be explored like underground catacombs, caves and sewers. All it takes is a dip of the hand.

7. The afterimages of the executions in Ukraine are displayed. Legs stretched out stiffly, backs not moving. Het Journaal. Faces, the first and last sight of a human being, are almost never included in the final image. Shot people lie by the side of the road. Left alone in disgrace like fallen birds. Close-up on a pack of cigarettes. The sole of shoes. A woman's hand with red painted nails. There are hundreds of bodies who will never respond to any gaze.

My old friend said that, when he was sick and in pain, his body felt physically connected to the suffering of all the people in the world. I realize that he must have been very strong to handle all this nuclear mass.

8. Nederlands-Italiaanse pornoster (26) vermoord, lichaamsdelen in vuilniszakken gevonden langs weg. A headline in a Flemish newspaper. Charlotte A. was murdered by her ex-partner Davide F. The man had divided the body into 15 parts and put them in plastic bags. Then he dumped them along the roadside.

The attention of a passer-by was caught by a dirty female hand sticking out of the bag. Especially the long lilac nails covered with glitter.

I think of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The integrity of the body after death. He believed that it needs to be resurrected in a new form, as a whole.

The remains of his left arm are kept in the Basilica of San Domenico in Naples. A small fragment of its bone is exposed in a black hand-shaped reliquary.

Next to it, there is a heart of an unknown owner on display.

9. The biography of cancer written by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an Indian-born American physician and oncologist. I’m reading a paperback version.

Soon after, in my spam folder I find a message generated by a lot of an African woman suffering from heart cancer. She wants me to inherit her fortune. I believe that her heart may still be alive in this or that form. The cells of cancer can multiply for years even if their donor is not alive anymore.

Every cell lives its own life and independency. A stem cell has the ability to become any cell. For example, it only takes one blood stem cell to the blood in the entire body in two weeks.

10. I read about plastic particles found in human blood. This is now the norm. I imagine a stream of multicolour glitter that warms me from the inside out.

The world is composed of atoms from which anything can arise. Every object can be broken into tiny dots. Any new shape can be made from this powder and then blow away.

I write this text on dotted paper. Bullet type. It produces its own movement.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11. A concert of Baroque music in a church that has been desacralized. It feels dry and devoid of any mystery. Nothing smells anymore. There are no candles, no incense, no dust covering the bodies resting in the catacombs. The air is ordinary, empty. A secular air-conditioned building. As if someone sucked out all the air that was accumulated there over the centuries. As if someone left the internal organs in the body, but disinfected and waxed them.

12. In the city centre of Antwerp, final work is being done before the opening of a luxury hotel. Every day suppliers drive up with furniture, electronic equipment, plants. Although the hotel has not yet received any guests, a black plastic box has been placed in front of the main entrance. A trap into which rats and mice from the neighbourhood can fall.

13. Technical breaks, mistakes, changing decorations.
Since some time, I ‘m moved mostly by performances which reveal stitches of the theatre’s structure.

While watching, I imagine the noise in the heads of the people sitting in the room with me, or the stillness. A distance that can't be bridged. We occupy the same place, looking at the same thing, but we are also in a thousand other places.

14. At Schouwburg Tilburg. Hissy Fit by Christian Guerematchi. A few pieces of white cloth draped as a backdrop. Three performers dance a story of blackness through physical fight. The footages from Black Lives Matters protests are screened on folded fabrics. The image is not clear. As if by default disrupted by the given matter. Faces and bodies fragmented. A message becomes broken. I feel pain. Then the technicians rush on stage and strip off the curtains. It is a matinée. The next show is about to begin.

On a train back home I’m reading De Standaard der Letteren. A text by Josephine Dapaah – a gastcolumnist of Black History Month. She writes about postcolonial African literature. Each contributor is portrayed by a drawing. Her face has been whitened and only a black outline distinguishes it from brightness of the paper.

15. If cancer is inscribed in the human body as a possible copy, in a version that we do not want to acknowledge, that is rebellious, uncontrollable, incompatible with expectations, what happens then to all the cellular fluid?

Update no. 196 outdoor fire – Ukraine: more than 10.000 Hectares of Forests Burning in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Some Russian soldiers drove through the forests around Chernobyl without any protection and their bodies are radiating from now on.

16. I have been noticing changes in my body for several months. The contours of my lips are kind of blurred, the colour is spilling over towards my chin and melting into regular skin shade. I have to refill it with lipstick. Hair loses pigment, it becomes quite transparent. Fingernails (only on the left side of the body) grow with a distinct trace of horizontal splitting, a sort of mark engraved earlier, internally, before it extracts as a chitinous void.

17. At UCLA a biologist completed a study on the skulls of wild-living lions and cheetahs. It turned out that many bones have injuries. The wounds are caused by wire traps that the animals fall into. The snares clamp down on the body so tightly that they leave an imprint on the hard bone.

Maybe the person who jumped under the train had transparent skin. Like the skin removed from a dead animal, prepared for the clothing industry. Is this why s/he can’t be found?

18. In front of the Opera House in Antwerp, I see a man with stains on the face. I cannot take my eyes off him. He seems to radiate an inaccessible beauty. I think he reacts to the fate of the bodies that are tortured elsewhere. The skin of his face is coloured by the experience of the skin of others.

I watch a performance. Half Life by Sharon Eyal. A fusion of contemporary ballet and techno music. The aggressive rhythm numbs my senses. It makes me look at the group of dancers and their bodies as machines. Everyone is dressed in flesh-coloured bodysuits. Sometimes the beige changes into greenish and light lilac tones. The costumes anticipate future bodies, the colour of cooled skin.

In the cloakroom, I meet a man with a mechanical hand. Chrome joints connect muscles that are enamelled black. I feel calm.

19. A perfume that spreads through the car. I am a passenger. I get nauseous. I open the window. The molecules of the fragrance contain too much – animal particles, burnt coal. Will I explode from inhaling all this? Is it the scent of over-sweetened fear? Perhaps sweat secreted by an army of mice whose life consists of constantly avoiding falling into a trap.

In the meantime, the hotel undergoes a meticulous cleaning procedure. The wall above the main entrance is washed with water. It takes on a sombre expression. It is as if someone is picking at the embarrassing dirt of history, wanting to remove it as a precaution so that it does not affect visitors.

The mousetrap has been removed.

20. When two bodies merge the dark blue space sparks from the darkness. All the skin cells that come in contact with each other activate their nuclei and heat up the cell fluid.

Glitter is spilled on the white torn envelope. I use it to write down scraps of thoughts that are lingering, before getting a body of a text.

Silver particles stick to the surface. Sometimes they stay on the skin of someone I happen to know. Or they nestle between the threads of a carpet, under fingernails.

21. When I get back home I look out into the backyard. A wall that has always been even and dry is suddenly covered with extensive dark spots. They could not be explained by the rain. The sadness condensed into soot and this is the outcome.

Ronde van Vlaanderen. I turn on the TV. A man wearing a white T-shirt with CLIMAT JUSTICE NOW caption runs across the road where the race takes place. The cameraman quickly reacts to the incident by blurring the outlines of the intruder. His body seems to dissolve.

22. I pray to Carlo Acutis. His heart was taken out of the body and exposed publicly. Acutis was born in a wealthy Italian family. He died in 2006 at the age of 15, from leukaemia. Known for his computer-programming skills and love of the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary he was beatified and became the patron of the internet.

A friend of a friend, who follows the posthumous life of Acutis, reported that his limbs were recently transported to the US.

I’m drawing my heart going over the inside surface of my body. It moves across the liquid ocean of the wholeness. A shape, a colour, an intense warmth is released from the depths. The heart as an open wound, a wind rose, a treasure.

23. In my dream, mountain ranges, coastlines, solar plexuses, rows of trees in a field, braids of hair, trails of airplanes in the sky.

All these lines strangely connected and deeply indifferent to each other.

24. People whose auras are drawn inward. They crystallize in such a way that I melt down. First from the in-side. The lime of the bones. The thinned blood. Then the skin becomes whitish. Finally quite transparent. A silicon armour. A sheer shell.

Fever. In an all-night struggle I reach the core of the earth within me. Then I walk in the opposite direction. Layer by layer. Like an onion.

Sometimes I feel a dull thud against the bottom of the bunker. A movement of atomic disintegration.
The fluid in each cell is reaching boiling point. The nuclear reactor needs to activate the cooling tower.

Antwerp, Schuttershofstraat 48b, a graffiti painted on a plank replacing a broken window at Medi-Market, 8 April 2022


A graffiti by enpleinpublic, a street artist from Antwerp. I find out who is the author in a copy shop. The man who prints out a draft of this text sees the photo. He asks if I know whose work it is and whether I write about him.

The whole situation turns from ridiculous to prophetic. This unexpected piece of knowledge gives the text new body. It strips my registered gaze of homelessness.


I send an email to enpleinpublic. He replies that the pharmacy doesn't like his work but is slow in decision-making process. That's why graffiti has been there for a few months.


Next morning, I'm biking along Schuttershofstraat. The painting has been removed. Medimarkt. Workers are installing new letters in the neon. Flashbulbs and wires stick out and stare.

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