A Story by Laura van den Berg in Response to the Art of Ria Patricia Röder ‹ Literary Hub


In her Scanogram series, Ria Patricia Röder creates photographic collages by bringing together a distinct variety of pictorial elements on a scanner screen, in a complex process that questions different forms of depiction. Röder invited eleven authors, including Dana Spiotta, Lauren Groff, and Lucy Ives, to each select a single Scanogram and create a text in response to it. Below is the story Laura van den Berg wrote in reaction to “Menina.”


In the summer of my failure, I discovered new ways to pass time. Norwegian Slow TV, for one. A woman knitting. The nine-hour train voyage between Trondheim and Bodø, through the frozen heart of winter. Or, Bergen to Oslo—a gradual passage from snow and stark trees to blond fields with red barns to pitch-dark tunnels. If you watched the platforms carefully you might see a woman pivot from the edge, her skirt flaring; a man in a cap reading a newspaper on a bench, the child beside him staring out and out. The arcless arc of a human moment.

That summer, sleep was among the many things I was failing at, so a psychiatrist friend suggested afternoon walks in the woods, armed with headphones and ASMR recordings; he said this activity was good for settling the nerves. The recordings were hushed and repetitive—a fingernail tapping a wall, unintelligible whispering, the combing of hair. I found a whole world of ASMR celebrities online, waiting to entrance people like me. My favorite was Dmitri, and I wasn’t alone: he had 1.5 million YouTube followers. Despite his popularity, I couldn’t find any photos of him online, just sounds. His specialty was stroking a bedspread, the rhythm amplified to sound like the ocean. At a different time, I might have found walking alone in the woods to the sound of a strange man stroking a bedspread creepy, but at that moment in my life I felt there was nothing left for me to be afraid of.

If a statue could sit up who was to say that it could not rise and walk?

On occasion, I came upon strange things in the woods. A bucket of plastic oranges. A headless doll. The carcass of a small animal, a raccoon or a cat, the ribs picked clean and arranged in the shape of a blossom. A white granite statue laid out under a tree, the kind you might expect to find in a churchyard or a cemetery. That afternoon, I paused my recording and peered down at the robed figure, to see if I recognized the face, but someone had hacked away at the stone eyes and the nose and the mouth—the figure could have been some famous apostle and no one would have been able to tell.


Excerpted from Ria Patricia Röder – #chainofaction, an artbook featuring an experimental dialog between word and image, by permission of Revolver Publishing Berlin. © 2019 by Ria Patricia Röder and Laura van den Berg.

Add Comment

By Aurora

Recent Posts