Performance bus: Turku

With my arrival date set, I was invited to go along as audience on a Performance Bus™ with a bunch of spectators and performance artists. It seemed an excellent opportunity to see the surroundings of the city as well as meet people, so of course I signed up. Ever since my ask over at Metafilter I’ve been trying to come up with coping strategies for performances, and immersion therapy might be just the thing to push me over the edge into something resembling professional behaviour.

Most of the time, I’m not comfortable enough with the form to have an opinion one way or another, but insofar as I have a taste, it skews toward those performances which don’t take themselves too seriously. A group performing in the bus did so in Finnish, allowing me to fill in the blanks of their text, or rather just focus on the rhythm and rhymes — as a result their performance was one of the more interesting ones. This goes to the heart of what David Sedaris learned from his career as a performance artist:

It was the artist’s duty to find the appropriate objects, and the audience’s job to decipher meaning. If the piece failed to work, it was their fault, not yours.

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Kimmo Modig, the director of Gallery Titanik was along for the ride to do a performance, and we spent the trip chatting about art and related topics, as well as chickpea pancakes. We seem to agree on many things, so he’s obviously a clever and sharp fellow. For his performance, people could help themselves to a bucket with all the money he’d received to do the performance; in the end he tossed the remainder into the river. Value-destroying performances have been done before of course, but I imagine that actually tossing fifty Euro into the drink feels different from thinking about it.

All in all, driving people around from one event to another is a good way to ensure a captivated audience, and it was a day well spend, especially with an excellent picnic at the end of it. You can read a short article in Finnish about it on and in English on Facebook, and I’ll post some reviews as well once I find them. Leena Kela, who is the regional performance artist of Finland Proper (and who organised this Performance Bus, see video) does some other projects of her own which might be interesting to check out. For example, I’m going to read up on the outcome of Alter ego — being someone else for a month, and then having to refer to oneself in third person. “Yes, she was much ruder and ate a lot of cheese.”

The night-bus travelers prayer.

Dear Lord, please let me have two seats
upon which I may rest my weak flesh.
And let not the person behind me kick the seat repeatedly,
nor the person in front violently lower their seat.

Allow me to sleep,
uninterrupted by others cellphones or luggage dropped onto my head.
And let me not worry about talking or passing gas in my sleep,
for that is embarrassing.

Keep any man with musky body odour away from the bus,
and smite the woman with too much perfume.
Let no light shine in my eyes,
not sun, road lights, nor computer screens,
for that is annoying.

Keep the bus on steady ground Lord,
for I lean my head against the window and bumbs make my teeth rattle,
and shake,
and I groan for death and deliverance.

My legs are too long,
my neck too stiff,
make me like jelly so that I may rest my weak flesh.
Lord, at least make so my iPod not runneth out of battery.

Tunsia and back, day 7

And on the seventh day they rested, and they saw that it was ok.

The last day was packing day. We were leaving at noon, and so we’re packed and out of the room with time enough to buy five litres of olive oil and cigarettes. I walk to the medina alone at first, hoping to score some cheap smokes, but my face is not one that invites haggling, and either way I don’t know where to start, and I can’t get the price below 25 dinars per carton.

Somewhat depressed I return to the hotel with the oil and ask Christoffer to come along and hold the business end of the shopping stick. With an air of gorgeous nonchalance he leads the way and within a few minutes we exit the medina with three cartons at 18 dinars each. He’s a God of nonchalance. If there ever is a war he might be that guy who will sell you a can of pork in exchange for gasoline that magically will appear because he knows a guy, but even in peacetime talents such as his are handy as hell.

On our way back we run into a man who sells cigarettes from a plastic bag. He asked what we paid for the ones I’m carrying, and I brazenly (and out of character) answer “fifteen”. He is willing to sell us a carton for 13 dinars, and Christoffer immediately jumps on him and offers ten. I end up buying a carton, and we’re soon back at the hotel.

I walk away and get two cans of harisha, the ubiquitous paprika paste, and we file into the bus. We will be at the airport three hours before departure, not counting delays, and as usual everyone is looking out at the cityscape wondering what this was all about and if there isn’t something that we might have overlooked.

Of course there is. During our week in Tunisia we got to know the country only a little, and what we learned was as superficial as doing more harm than good.

Here are a few advice on going to Tunisia:

* If you don’t like tourist traps, be sure to have read up on the country and have an actual interest in historic sites. Staying with the tour guides will leave you discontented and with an acidic fecal aftertaste.

* Tunisia has no food worth mentioning. This was a huge disappointment as we were all looking forward to something interesting. What we got was a bun with egg and tuna; in my case lots of salad. I have never visited a country with such lack of food tradition, and I imagine that Tunisia has simply picked up the food traditions of it’s conquerors, trying not to offend any-ones palate by aiming for the lowest common denominator: You gotta eat something.

* You might as well be wearing a tattoo spelling out “TOURIST” on your forehead for all the good any camouflage will do. Be prepared to get hassled by a lot of people looking to befriend your money – imagine that “ordinary” Tunisians are a rock band that you would like to get to know, but you can’t get close enough because of the guards and bouncers surrounding them. You will mostly run into guards that are annoying assholes because they are making a living off of you. You will become distant and bitter if you don’t remind yourself of the role that you are playing.

* Make notes of your trip. This will make it easier to blog afterwards, and you won’t forget things like the colosseum you visited.

* Consider going to Egypt instead. I hear Kairo is really cool, and they’re bound to have better food. Or, y’know, don’t fly half way around the earth because you’re conscious of the green-house emissions you’re the financial incentive for.

It was good to get away from Gothenburg for a week, and it was wonderful to travel Tunisia with three friendly people. I don’t know if I’m going on a charter again, but it’s a comparatively cheap way to travel (vaccinations not accounted for) and it would have helped to be better prepared. Being able to smoke anywhere is awesome, I just wish that the coughing would let up soon. I’ve halved my consumption to one pack a day, so I should be able to breath normally any day now.

Also, I ran out of hair wax on the last day and would appreciate it if you would buy me another one for christmas:


Tunisia and back, day 4


We were told that we would get up early, and by golly we did. At five we wake up, at half five we eat breakfast, at six we’re in the bus. It’s really cold, and we cannot fathom why the hell we are freezing in a bus when we have snug beds back at the hotel thank you very much.

The reason would become obvious: We have a good bit to go and a few places to see before Detour is comfortable enough in the knowledge that we’ve really been shown the country.


Of course we are the elitist group in the back of the bus that is snickering and being charmingly non-conformist, but every trip has a few of those, and in this company you don’t have to try much. I imagine that everyone on the bus was feeling original, although only we actually were.

The first stop was the salt desert. With mountains in the far distance, the devils bathtub used to be flooded by the Mediterranian sea, and is covered by salt. We all shuffled out of the bus to take pictures and hopefully find some coffee at the small store.


The sun rises and of course it’s postcard-like; a pretty view with nothing but salty sand and an empty road. We are impressed, but it’s hard to vocalise when your teeth are chattering. I think this was the moment that I cursed my “pack light” philosophy the most, considering that “pack light” in my mind implied “forgoe a jacket in favour of a thin scarf.”

Someone buys olive soap, someone drinks more hot tea, we get back into the bus ten minutes later, herded like the pack of sheep that we are.

Next stop is an oasis in the Atlas mountains. The views are rather stunning – it’s very Indiana Jones (which we find out was filmed nearby) and we walk past hot springs where Russian tourists are bathing. We pass a guy who has gone nutty and is screaming “pasta! macaroni!” at an Italian tour group, and then it’s time for us to make it down to the bus again, Anna in her high heels braving stepping stones over springs.



The social highlight of the trip, except Sine befriending a lively Norwegian kid, was when a under-age couple in front of Anna started fondling each other in a rather severe way. It cheered us up when Sine told us about it (she being the one spotting them, and they saw that she saw, and she saw that they saw that she saw, etc) and the rest of the trip I keep an eye out across the isle in case they would get up to any shananigans that I could pretend reminded me of similar stuff I’d never done when in their age.

An early dinner is had at a posh hotel. The guides boyfriend works here, so we’re in slightly less of a hurry and allowed a short respit. Coffee at the poolside and then it’s off to a Mosque two hours further up north. It’s one of the oldest Mosques in North Africa, but we hardly notice because our guide dissapears into a carpet factory to pick up a rug she’s pre-ordered. Christoffer and Anna buy cigarettes from a guy outside the bus. Too bad we’re not allowed to smoke in transit.

Soon we’re back on track, and after a couple of hours we’re back in Sousse. The woman who was cleaning our rooms had taken a shine to Anna and folded her night-gown into the shape of a butterfly.

Drinking wine and discussing the nature of the tourist we arrive at the conclusion that there’s no escaping ones role, and every effort you make to distance yourself from the herd of foreigners only furthers the penetration of tourism – you’re the forerunner of global capital wherever you go. There is no escape, embrace your involantary imperialism, just don’t forget to pack proper clothes.


Tunisia and back, day 2 & 3


Having spent our first evening in the seedy lounge of Sousse Palace, me and Anna wake up hung over. Our companions in the other room are also well hung and are sleeping it off.

We leave the hotel in hot pursuit of groceries for breakfast, and soon end up in a plaza café close to the medina. We drink orange juice made from a citrus-like fruit and coffee. I sit in the sun and bitch about the sun a bit; everything is as it should be.

It’s much easier to brush people off when you’re hung over. You feel righteous when you’re hung over, you have a right to be be in a pissy mood. Regardless the validity of this assertion, it helps us to quickly make our way to a veggie market we’d spotted the day before.

Anna does her bit as the matron of a household, and I am the guy carrying stuff and paying people, appearing every bit as the whipped person I can be. We get deformed pears, damaged tomates, half-rotten pomegranates and some fresh mint.

You are far less hassled if you’re carrying bags of groceries – they act like a spell of +5 camouflage, allowing you to slip by hucksters.



In the evening Sine cooks a mint/chili pasta, and we decide to take a two day bus trip arranged by the travel agent the next day. It’s rather pricy, but we figure that it’s the only way we’ll get any grasp of the country and what the hell, how bad can it get.

We drag ourselves out of bed the next morning and at seven we’re in the bus, slowly realising that yes, it can and will get bad. The name of the travel agent should have given us a clue: Detour. I imagine that whoever came up with the name wanted to imply a detour off the beaten path, a trip into the unknown and real. Rather, it proved to be a detour from common decency and any sense of well-being.

Our guide quickly enthused about how fun we would have, and even made “fun” rhyme with “detour” to instill an association between those two words. She had Tunisian parents but had grown up in a small Swedish town, and spoke Swedish with an odd Norwegian flavour.



She was happy with her job. Not that she was particularly interesting or bright, and not that we enjoyed her folksy racism and lack of knowledge, but she did set the tone of the whole trip with her jolly remarks that she blessed us with over the loudspeakers that didn’t have an off-switch.

-Look at that woman everyone! She’s wearing black and lives in a hole! That’s their style!

The goal of the trip was Sahara, with a dash of oasis and local colour thrown in. “Local colour” proved to be references to what movie was recorded where, and a slightly different tomato salad from one place to another.



Tunisia is not a very large country, but differes in flora – south of Sousse you find a steppe that changes into a desert proper the closer you get to Sahara. You’re watching olive trees change into date palms and then into underbrush and then salt and sand. The change is rather gradual; you’re snoozing merrily and drooling onto the person next to you, and waking up you can’t really tell if you’re in the same place.

One of the few tell-tale signs of actual movement is that different regions deal in different goods. Selling peppers by the roadside becomes selling date palm juice, which in turn becomes selling petrol smuggled in from Libya.


Whenever I travel through Sweden, I am surprised that people actually live in all those small places in the middle of bloody nowhere. Gothenburg and Stockholm feel small enough as they are, but what are you going to do in Töreboda except smelling your cousins underpants and sell strawberries to tourists? I imagine that the situation for those living in El Hamma is similar.

When we passed the Mareth Line, a system of bunkers the French built in defense against Italy before WWII, our helpful guide explained that “the French would jump into the box on your left (everyone in the bus looked left) and then pop up in the box to your right (everyone in the bus looked right)” and that seemed to exhaust the topic. Later we were told that if we were looking for a more in depth history tour, we should definitely go on the historic Detour trip on Wednesday.

Anyway. We reach Sahara and everyone in the bus but me gets on a dromedary after being dressed in Sahara chic tunics and scarfs. I have some animal rights issues and stay behind drinking coffee, writing a polemic on morals or something.



At the café I have the first of only two exchanges during my stay in Tunisia that doesn’t involve someone trying to sell me something; I’m alone at a table and there’s a guy who asks me for the extra chair next to me.

It’s hard to appreciate, but this was really encouraging – tourism has fucked Tunisia in the ass with a tour-bus shaped dildo; protruding hands grasping at the intestinal lining for souvenirs. As a result all visitors are alienated from any sense of normality. You’re a tourist and that’s all that you’ll be, constantly suspecting everyone of wanting to cheat you in some way, and you’ll become so reserved and impolite that no-one in their right mind would want anything to do with you, except the assholes that made you suspicious in the first place.


We’ve managed to reach Sahara in time to see the sun set over the dunes, and it’s a very pretty sight, even from where I’m sitting. Darkness comes suddenly, the cold with it. I watch a group of Japanese tourists dismount their dromedaries and laughingly look at the pictures of themselves in the desert that have been rapidly printed. A generous hour later my friends ride back into view, their silhouettes appearing over the horizon in flashes from compact cameras.

Judging from comments made by some of my travelling companions, the walking style of camels has a stimulating potential that should not be underestimated. They rode in from the desert with rosy cheeks and nothing but praise for the animals. Good for them. The closest I get to a sexual encounter on the trip is when a cockroach scuttles over the bathroom tiles and sees me naked.

Anna and Christoffer buy pre-packaged Saharan sand because they are being ironic, and we all file back into the bus. We’re staying at a hotel nearby which proves to be very nice – it’s an open reception area with a proper bar, and we finish the evening drinking and smoking as much as is humanly possible, occasionaly doubling over in bouts of caugh and blowing our noses. It’s getting chilly and Sine retires for the night, citing an oncoming cold and the un-godly hour at which we have to get up the next day. An hour or so later we all follow suit and go to bed.

Bumb-ily-bumop-bymop-bumpup – a busride

I visited my cusin in Cracow the other day, and we ended up sitting in pubs watching football; Occasionaly I danced like a god (like a god I tell’s you!). Nice city, nice cusin. One night when we took a bus home to the subs I just had to capture the busride – the bumpiest parts where those that promted me to take out the camera. Trust me, before I started filming it was [——–this——-] much more bump.

If I could only find a way to work here, I’d consider moving for a while.