Rolf Nowotny at Simian / Copenhagen

Rolf Nowotny

May 14 – June 26, 2022

Kay Fiskers Pl. 17 
Copenhagen, Denmark

All images courtesy and copyright of the artist and the space. Photos by GRAYSC.

Paper Wasps

It’ll be a wonderful place for our little ones to grow up. The school is just a few blocks away. They teach entomology and hematology there, but none of the soft philosophies they’d make our children learn in the city. It’s such a nice, quiet neighborhood. Some nights it gets so quiet you can hear tongues churning underneath the topsoil.

The neighbors won’t be a problem. Up the street is an old man who tends to the holes in his yard and never talks. Down the street, the house is still chewing up the remains of its last tenant. It probably will be for years. You can hear that some nights, too. A slow grinding, like a huge, sluggish machine; like we’re termites living inside the warm, wet mouth of a grandfather clock. It’s a safe, comforting sound.

It’s a very walkable town. The abattoir is only a few blocks away. The roads are wide and empty. The only cars that come by are the ones without drivers, whose trunks and back seats are full of meats and bones and offal. You can smell them coming, so it’s easy enough to get off the road and hide behind something, and they only ever come one at a time. The rest of the time, you can walk straight down the middle of the road without a care in the world. Nobody with windows around here ever opens their blinds.

We love everything about the house. It’s a house for raising unhappy children who’ll want desperately to leave, but will end up dying here; for smoking indoors until yellow trails drool down the walls and the vents become black; for frying meats in oil without turning on the fan above the stove or opening any windows, so the air thickens and chokes and settles on your skin; for dying and leaving behind rooms filled with trash that someone else will have to carry away.

The walls are soft and pulpy, like flesh or wasp-nest. They’ll absorb sound well, which will help us keep secrets from one another. Nobody likes to know what anybody else is doing in this family. They absorb smells, and moisture, and particulates in the air. Eventually they’ll stink and discolor with all the things that have gone on here. Every wall will be a tapestry of bruises. A house should become a history of the people that lived inside it, a recording made of stains and mold and wood rot and holes. That’s what father says. He’s always right.

Mother was very pointed about finding a house with no windows. She didn’t want anyone looking in to see her when she took off her clothes, or the children looking outside and thinking about the world or the bare black trees or the heavy, hanging serum-colored sky. Our lives will be contained here; we’ll stew in the things we seep. That’s how the children should grow up, says mother, because that’s how she grew up, and she starts shrieking and pulling out her hair if change is allowed to come into the house from outside. No windows means no fresh air.

The back yard is spacious and fallow. The treeline is so near to the house. It gets dark there faster than the rest of the property. The mud sucks at your feet; the roots smell like sewer water. The air is cloying and damp and too warm; it leaves a film on your fingers and your teeth. The children will love to play out there. The branches of the trees are filled with the gauzy nests of spiders, and of worms that change into flying parasites – bristling white wombs full of larvae and eyes that never blink. If you set fire to them you can hear all the little worms inside battering their heads against the walls, trapped and trying to tear their way out. A house should be a kind of nest. Nature is full of beautiful parallels.

The little ones aren’t used to places like this, and so their skins are red and raw and itchy. But they’ll adapt. They’ll grow up how we want them to, which is the most important thing, more important than fresh air or windows or the roads that lead out of town. This will be our home, because the walls will smell like our sweat and taste like our blood and our breath. Home is the place where the world intends you to die.

-Kitty Horrorshow