14 December 2021

The cross-media project If you are not there, where are you? by Maartje Nevejan is selected for the Children Forum at IDFA 2016.

IYANTWAY gives access to the personal, inner experiences of absences. For the first time, children with abscesses have spoken about the experience when they are not there for a while. It had a surprising outcome. Where it was always thought that there was “nothing”, a complex world turns out to be present, revealing itself in just a few seconds in one individual. A world where dark shadows appear, unicorns, wolves appear, sometimes perceivable with all the senses, at other times only in sound or touch.

There is only one experience, there are thousands of ways to express it, and, although no single expression can accurately describe that one experience, there appear to be similarities. The absence stories stand for something greater, they collectively show the all-encompassing fear of the uncontrollable, the fear of being out of control. This is recognisable to people who have not themselves had absence epilepsy. The fact that “something”, a seizure, can happen at any time of the day, and that your whole reality changes for a moment, evokes all kinds of recognisable associations, even in our time. The condition appears to say a lot about the sensation of our condition humaine.