I Had an Empty Place

Author: Anna Dziapshipa
Edition: Taboos/ Stigmas

This multimedia project consists of fragments from a diary I kept in 2012. That was a point in my life, which encouraged me to make number of personal videos, audios, texts and images. Sharing them here was not an easy decision. I felt myself nearly drowning as I assembled these witnesses to the past. Finding the right form of expression was as challenging as making a confession. And, at the same time, I am sharing only a tiny part of my experience. 


Our first encounter was unexpected. I was terrified when I heard the name. An uninvited guest entered my home without asking. I knew almost nothing about the visitor. I also couldn’t see it. Just hearing the visitor’s name turned out to be enough for me to set off, eyes closed, on a long, difficult and strange journey.

I accepted that we had to be together for a while and that this encounter would not be easy and painless. I also accepted the idea that, someday, our coexistence would end and one of us would leave forever. 

Initially I thought it would only be an inner journey, but it included physical transportation as well. Ultimately, this journey brought me a different culture and a new language and home. 

I realized that, in order to be free, I had to give up everything old and dear to me, including my own body. 

I learned so much during this relationship. Sometimes, even now, I ask myself what was this presence in my life - a gift or a curse?

Occasionally, my guest was so aggressive and brutal, that I could only respond to the aggression with an antidote of the same strength. Once every three weeks, I would travel for several hours by subway to the other side of the city, to a room with a large window, and a view on a huge green tree.

There was a painting in shades of bright pink across from my armchair. From the ceiling, instead of a lamp, some red and white tubes hung down. They connected with my almost unseen blue veins. With my permission, my body received a strong toxin for hours. I felt tortured. But this toxin helped me to stop the guest’s aggression for several weeks.

Even in this room, the guest did not leave me alone. It was always by my side. I looked into its eyes and felt my strength and weakness simultaneously. I also felt it was getting weaker and smaller after each week. It was doomed.     

Though very weak, it still demanded sacrifice, for me to give myself up fully. I accepted that, and, as I did not have another choice, did everything required. Sometimes I would cover the mirrors, avoid everything that reflected me, close the shutters and look through old photographs for hours. I was surprised by how I had looked before and could not accept myself as I had become. Caught in a blind alley, I was obliged to find ways out; everything became an exit sign, a means of forgetting myself.  Precisely then, I realized the importance of each moment. I learned to live in the here and now. 

In spite of its intensity and conflict, this relationship radically transformed my understanding of the world. My perception changed. In exchange for giving up my physical self, I could now see myself from a distance, from a different perspective. I realized how everything could become just a sign or symbol.  


After several months of communal living, the relationship with my guest was severed. I had overpowered it. I never regretted this guest’s absence. I already knew so much about it that it would no longer be able to influence me. I returned to my familiar surroundings with the knowledge born of a new experience, like Alice after passing through the looking glass or Dorothy after her journey to the Land of Oz. Like them, I had grown, and was stronger and wiser.

Now I realize that experience only becomes power when you can share it.   

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