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Tartu, Estonia 

Writer-in-Residence, 2024

In November 2022, I began a creative residency in the beautiful city of Tartu in Southern Estonia. In May 2024, there will be a show. Myself and my collaborator, Henri H​ütt, will be staging something rather spectacular for the Prima Vista Festival. Here's what I've been up to so far...


The City of Good Thoughts: November 2022

In an unseasonably warm November week, I visited Tartu for the first time. Nervous and unnerved, I stepped out into those streets to be welcomed by the warming smell of woodsmoke, and the open arms of my delightful collaborator, Henri. I was flung into the midsts of a carnival of experimental arts; the Crazy Tartu festival. I took to the stage and told stories of fact and fiction. I followed a sound poet to the edgelands of the place, and I learned that Tartu knows itself as The City of Good Thoughts. And so, with that thought in mind, I documented my time there in a trio of blogposts: 

Jaan Malin leads me up a staircase

The Edgenda: May 2023

Henri and Dave Promo 3.jpg

The month of May 2023 marked one year until the grand debut of the main outcome of my collaboration with Henri. And so, with this thrilling but terrifying clock in mind, I made a two week return to Tartu. This time a bigger, shinier celebration was underway: the International Literary Festival Prima Vista, and I was slated to make a couple of appearances. What unfolded was two of the most sublime weeks of my cute little life which involved bog swimming, river canoeing, five dramatic performances, an Embassy of Utopia, and another fabulous round of edgeland exploration. The piece I performed at the Prima Vista was inspired by the traversal of these thin places, and there is video footage below. You will also find the footage of one of two performances at the Eesti Rahva Muuseum (Estonia's National Museum) delivered by myself and my new best artistic friend, Henri. 

We are flirting with themes: boundaries, edges, performance, impermanence, imbalance, and the uncanny. An idea has formed concerning our performance for 2024. It is ambitious and just a little bit crazy. It should suit us perfectly.

It took me a while to process the magic of this trip, but here is the blogpost that eventually followed:

Winter Saga: February 2024

Tartu in winter. Soft snow and hard ice. Ski slopes and saunas. Sub-zero temperatures and ice floes on the Emajõgi. A time to make deeper, warmer connections to fight off the chill of the endless season. A chance to revisit previous haunts to re-haunt them anew. This time I was more attuned to the folkloric, probing people for ancient stories and strange beliefs. It felt more like a pilgrimage than a residency, like it was necessary to go there and meet again with the iron hedgehog, the frozen bog, the patient river, and the statue of the warrior hero. The lights for Tartu2024 are lit. The commission is mere months away.


Taking inspiration from the Swedish documentary Vintersaga, which I watched while on this trip, I have dwelled within 24 vignettes from fixed viewpoints, 100 words per moment. Find it all inside the blogpost below:   


The Forest of Ink and Skin: May 2024

Folktales foraged from painted bark; stories salvaged from inky roots. Welcome to the Forest of Ink and Skin; a place of ancient futures, and pasts that are yet to come. Stroll between the trees and seek the tales written on flesh. Find the symbols of protection and the creatures of transformation, seek the moth, the wolf, and the fox. Go deeper. Watch your step. Keep moving, and do not stop. The Forest of Ink and Skin will take care of you. The Forest of Ink and Skin will take you. Do not be afraid. A unique storytelling experience from Henri Hütt, David Hartley, and a legion of living, breathing trees. If you go down to the woods today…

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