In residence: Technology of Tenderness. Poetic Shelter

Tania Haberland
Author text

Tania Haberland is our current writer-curator in residence. During her stay, she created an immersive poetic shelter for the Passa Porta Festival 2021, as a part of her project 'The Technology of Tenderness'. It consists of a multilingual sound collage and a video poem.

From the North to the South Station, come and listen to murmurations to rekindle humankind kindness, body and water movements that whisper, a river of voices that pulsates to the rhythm of the city, and roads that interweave stories, shaping a refuge for hearts and minds. A poetic shelter in which to (re)discover tenderness ...



With words of tenderness from Brussels residents, mixed with sounds by DJ Coline Cornélis, dance by artist Hugo Mega, video by director Romain Boniface, graphics by Amina Saadi, the voices of Lucie Pousset and Gökhan Kızılbuğa, and translations by Maïté Graisse & and Isadora Callens.

Want to know more about the Technology of Tenderness? Explore Tania Haberland's website or Instagram:

Poetic Shelter – Brussels

Once upon a time
long long ago
and not so far into the past either

there were rivers
that ran through cities

and they flowed

but then they were covered or moved away, and yet –

they continue to flow

through the veins of our bodies – rising up

like the tides of the ocean and the moon washing away our sorrows.

Whoever you are,
Wherever you are
try closing your eyes and simply listening to these words –
words written
words found
words remembered
words given
words shared
words spoken

these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness

water encloses you
the beauty of this moment
dances with closeness and compassion.
Soft closeness
opens to love presented

Where does it hurt?

Like this boulevard.
It is big.

Once it was a river, a river, a river –
now it is a wound, a slice, a cut

slices the city in half – water
has become metro.

There were yellow flowers along the banks
and an island.
Now there are shops, a stock exchange, shops, cafés, shops
and nail bars and shops.

We are flowing down the boulevard,
flowers flowing down the boulevard.

Will someone pick us and smell our perfume?

Mary Oliver wrote these following lines:

Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.

Can you hear it?

So I came to Brussels to bring a song about tenderness, but as from my first day it was Brussels that gave me tendresse, tederheid, tenderness. A shopkeeper opening up to me that it was her first day of chemotherapy and how much tenderness she feels for the nurses taking care of her. An economy student come techie whizz spending hours to fix my dying vintage phone with patience and humour, changing everything but the motherboard and hardly charging me anything out of tenderness for a stranger in a foreign land trying to call home.

Try walking with me, listening to this, or maybe just keep closing your eyes

Have patience with yourself
welcome silence and sing with your eyes
tap me on the shoulder.

Sing kind and mighty word –

Give up the silly fight, loosen your fists, open your hands and arms and squeeze me – plunge confident into the unknown

Of Brussels—it was not
Of Brussels—it was not—

Of Kidderminster? Nay—
The Winds did buy it of the Woods—
They—sold it unto me
It was a gentle price—

The poorest—could afford—
It was within the frugal purse
Of Beggar—or of Bird—
Of small and spicy Yards—
In hue—a mellow Dun—
Of Sunshine—and of Sere—
But, principally—of Sun—
The Wind—unrolled it fast—
And spread it on the Ground—
Upholsterer of the Pines—is He—
Upholsterer—of the Pond—

Emily Dickinson

Listen closely to someone else, even if the conversation becomes boring
Catch a glance that slides away in hesitation
For me, for you, for everyone,
make room for another pulse,
another soft and strong frequency,
in tune with our hearts, singing.

A benevolent feeling that allows one to show affection for someone or something.
It can manifest itself through physical gestures such as a hug, a caress, a look, words. By material things such as gifts, photos or more abstract things such as moments. Tenderness is also closing the eyes
of the one you loved.

heart that quivers.
skin that carries me,
the air I breathe,

Breathe in and breathe out.
There is nothing else to do
but breathe in and out
in and out
in and out
in and out

Hold your hand with your other hand. Just hold it.

light bounces off precipitation –
showers beauty into you,
even though its dark within the palm

of this hand holding you.

Place your hand on your heart. Hold it there and just breathe.

Understand without words
a gesture, a glance
a smile.
Always there

quiet melancholy
lifebuoy for the rejected
Always there
Always there

I see my heart through your eyes
you look at me with care
we search to find
where it hurts.

Respect our limits,
connect with our needs.

A cup of tea could be helpful right now.

What is tenderness?
What is tenderness?

A universal language singing without words

chest tight
fragile and feverish
I am happy you are who you are

No words.
Vulnerable moment.
No speaking.
Two people embracing
child, parent, lover, sibling, friend, stranger
with somebody

laying down, head in another's lap,
and the other's just caressing your hair
holding space, safe space
allowing space to feel tenderness, to let go
creating a safe space where you can let go
of your emotions and not feel judged,
just be vulnerable,
a poetic shelter for the soul.

Murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness
these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness

share information
defend with warmth
there is safety in numbers

we are starlings of stardust
snowflakes in an avalanche

we mimic sounds:
Kpop, tic toc
like the mynah

consciousness could be following our inner voice

let's clean sweet potatoes like the hundredth monkey
because a critical mass audience equals all

media, youtube, ig and google searches helped me write this poem
you helped me write this poem

the herd can be heard
there is a flock murmuration
the point of my pen tips to transformation

long distance commuters
invisible aerial corridors
migrations are the sound of beating wings

critical transition is an abrupt change
occurring when an external force (predator) triggers
a tipping point

at twilight there is a dancing black sky due to the density of a flock
a roar as we take to the roof for the night
whispers can become murmurations

tyger tyger burning bright in the forests of the night*

and deep down below
the fish know how to school themselves
rivers murmur to the ocean and:

Iridescence (also known as goniochromism) is the phenomenon of certain surfaces that appear to gradually change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Examples of iridescence include soap bubbles, feathers, butterfly wings and seashell nacre, as well as certain minerals. It is often created by structural coloration (microstructures that interfere with light). **

these are murmurations to kindle humankind kindness

Tania Haberland with the help of anonymous tenderness donors from Brussels via email, and words from Wikipedia, William Blake, Emily Dickinson and Mary Oliver
March 2021, Brussels.
* The Tyger by William Blake **
Extracts from : “What Can I Say” from Swan by Mary Oliver / Of Brussels—it was not by Emily Dickinson
Tania Haberland