Bottna, July 18, 2019
Just as I sat down to write this letter to you, a very flat being flew by my window: a beautiful brimstone butterfly.
I can wholly understand your fascination with butterflies. They are peculiar beings, not only because they are metamorphic. But also because of their flatness, which you told me was why you became interested in them. They go through the sculptural stages of egg, larva, and pupa, until they reach the mature stage of flatness, in which they resemble leaves and flowers more than other insects. And just like flowers they always evoke fondness and delight, and never disgust, like many other insects, such as ticks and mosquitos, often do.
To me, the butterfly appears as something in between plant and animal. As an animal that pretend to be a plant, or a plant that pretend to be an animal. For that reason, maybe butterflies are better understood as signifying organisms or living images? How else would they have managed to become clichés?
Unlike most signifiers, butterflies are not rigid or dogmatic at all. Instead, they are playful, flamboyant, and superficial like wall paper, flower bouquets, textile patterns, stucco lustro, and the kind of crockery that you collect and use in your works. But that things are superficial does not mean that they are trivial or irrelevant. It only means that they are fragile, just like everything that truly matters, and that they’ll lose their significance rapidly, unless we treat them with care.
Moreover, as humans we all live on the surface, on the thin layer between the earth and the sky; we all are on the same level as the snake’s belly, even if we happen to be vertical creatures and therefore tend to pretend that we belong elsewhere than on the ground.
Letter from Jens Soneryd to Lulu MacDonald, ”LOWER THAN A SNAKES BELLY”. July 19–July 27, 2019. Åplus, Berlin.