Moddertaal / Mud tongue

Ingrid Vranken, Sepideh Ardelani & Mihaela Brebenel

A poetic dialogue between some bodies and the swampy landscapes whence they emerged.

In Dutch, mud tongue = moddertaal. Mother tongue = moedertaal.

Abridged from the lecture-performance Thinking With the Swamp.

Brussels was once a swamp. Many Belgian place names are connected to the swamp. Where the Flemish “moeras” can be traced back to old French origins, “broek-” is suggested to have Celtic origins, stemming from “brâgo-”: “region, land”. It is used for wetlands but also for forestry regions. Place and language are intertwined and work, like peaty mud, as an apparatus that slows down time, that preserves a sliver from pasts no longer imaginable. Language, just like the swamp’s mud, forces us to live with ghosts and pasts un-dead, un-decayed. Something is rotting, but a form remains.

~。.:*・Feeling swamped, being bogged down, we're getting sucked in… being flooded, being mired 。.:*・゜゚

:.~~ *・゜ ~~ *:.~~…

Mud, in Flemish “modder”, MODD DDER — sounds that suck us in. A mix of earth and water. An entity in between solid and liquid, it only gives you an unstable grounding.

Historically, the word "modder" was also used for rotting and in particular, the rotting of corpses. Marshes were drained to reveal the fertile soil and transformed into grasslands – profiting from the mud and rotting of past swamps. A lucrative activity for some. The creation of the stable grounds. The property grounds. The parsing through of mud. Parcelling out and handing over, again and again. A tiresome history. An ontology. Algorithms that count all and none.

Peat bogs are made up out of rotting plant deposits, mainly mosses, accumulating over hundreds of years. These muddy pools hide bog bodies – perfectly preserved human remains, sometimes thousands of years old. Due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area, bog bodies often keep their skin and internal organs while their bones dissolve. The best preservation conditions can be found in colder climates, with proximity to salt water. The bog has a level of acidity that is very similar to vinegar, conserving the human bodies in the same way fruit or vegetables are preserved by pickling. The past gets locked in by the mud. The lack of oxygen slows down time even more, until fertile decay becomes impossible.

The release the bubble brings, pickled in a virtual pile of emails about swamps. Once a bog body is unmudded and exposed to the atmosphere, it may begin to decompose rapidly. As if once freed from the time of mud, they try to catch up and disappear in the now.

Mud pies. Mud kin. In mud, a string of water or watery substance creates a trail; it makes its way seemingly with ease through the consistency of the mud. The muddiness navigated more through time than through space.

In Brussels, with its sink holes of communes, institutions, and ever-unfinished infrastructure, getting stuck also reminds us of the crisis of people forced to leave their homes behind and ending up in sticky paper swamps, being detained from arriving. There are many ways to get stuck in these muddy times. A beauty treatment and a sinkhole are not the same.

The swamp, like any other body, is the past, the present and the future. Layered. Meshed. Simultaneous. Nested. Situated. Localised. Embodied. The Swamp: between catastrophic time and time of re-seeding and germination.

┌( ~ ~ ~ )┐
     ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄
~。.*・Recipe for a potion ~。.*・ Make a liquid, whirl it into a foam, eat three spoonfuls of it, add flour to it, knead a dough, make a bread from it, eat one slice of the bread, soak it in water, then dehydrate it, break it in pieces and deep fry them, make a big bread salad (fattoush), don’t eat all the bread, take the soaked leftover pieces of bread and ferment them to a kvass, compost the culture, grow a squash, chop the squash, sprout some of the seeds, save some seeds to give to others to grow more squashes…..~..~゜ ~~ *:.~~…~~~彡°·_·°~°·_·°彡~~~

A bog is a language

Walking through the local bog we wondered what kind of language could start to emerge from the liquid soil; a mud tongue.

A small mudDDDDDDDDdy pond, riplpleplples ~ ˜ ◦ ~ ∼◦ ~˜~˜◦ ˜ ∼ ~◦in the water reflecting blue sky and trees. Small streaks of green, gooey pollen. ¦⎨¦ ¦⎭¦¦⎬¦¦¦ A larger lake, fluorescent green swirls, a thick surface layer, the sound of fro°°°°°°°°°°gs, you hold one in your hand. Slippery jumpppp. The grass looks dry and yellow, a worm has made intricate patterns in a tree, a labyrinth through the monotony. 

We were criminals in the bog. We didn’t follow the path but went the other way around. We endangered the object of protection. We followed different pathways. Driven by curiosity. Hungry for spectacle. Desiring a secret to be unveiled. Like children. Our eyes touching everything. Our fingers, too. We followed paths that were no paths.

Because they are {either} stuck and can do nothing {or} they are nothing and they are stuck.

– JUDGEMENT – The ground opens and the skies burst {Either / Or} [Fire, Pluto]

{Either} the body comes out of the soil and cleans their fingers of it, looking up, craning their necks and sharpening their ears to their own coming {because let’s face it, nothing else could be coming but a body, both in the messianic and the erotic sense} {or} we are going to see the skies bursting out and we are not going to recognise even a planet for what it is, like we did with Pluto. The bog is the perfect place to do it. Go pray in the bog. Make a piercing sound in the bog. Wake up in the bog.

My body doesn't want to touch the bog body. It wants to stay dry, clean and warm. But my mind plays with the metaphor. It translates the bog body into an idea, a story, a dream. The story has morals. I think of the ancient Greek gods. They didn't have morals. They were vain; they valued drama, entertainment, competition, strength, victory, pleasures, luxury... The bog is becoming my religion. I weave stories with its grasses, jewel them with morals. I idealise the bog. In a way I take its body away. Platonify it. 

Following a small wooden path through the boring sameness of surface ------------------ , we see the decaying remainders of previous paths underneath it. Beyond the sound of the water now, there is silence, no birds, no leaves, no frogs. {        ° °◦◦        ° °◦◦        ° °◦◦        } 
A small spider is floating by on a piece of wood. A lifeboat of the tiniest kind. ---------⊿ ---------

{If} you take the doing to the bog {then} the bog will take your body {the bog can be a bodysnatcher} and make it its own.

A Bog in Every Backyard