Next to an imposing, largely abandoned circus building in Chisinau–the house-techno-soaked capital of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova–a Norwegian illusionist tries to figure out her next steps after escaping the chaos of Ukraine.
Artist – Title – Album
Savath & Savalas – Interludio 44 – Apropa’t
Touane – Arcadia Prisoners – Awake
Billy Gomberg – The Present Until It’s Tangible – Certain Words Again And Again
Red Stars Over Tokyo – Imaginary Landscape – Hits Of Sunshine
Tim Hecker – Indigo Orange Midnight – Trade Winds, White Noise
Balil – Eshish – Trainer
Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel – Exegesis (feat. Helena Espvall) – Collaborations
Murcof and Erik Truffaz – Good News From the Desert – Mexico
Eva Julia Christiie – Illusionist
The balcony…half demolished and half fallen apart, crumbling. Not quite Brutalist in nature, but there are some really heavy components that dominate; huge windows, structural elements shaped as a zigzag. The concrete on the outside has deteriorated a bit and is a different color. The windows are partially there and partially missing. Seven balls of different shapes, just randomly arranged on the top. An inscription from somebody who just climbed on the top and graffitied ‘something-kitty I love you.’
The area in front of it is completely overgrown with ferns and there’s trash hiding among the greenery, and obviously it’s been used by the vagabonds, and there are stray dogs around.
There’s a small, faded poster here on the wall. The only color left is blue. It says, “The magic of the circus.” There is this huge bas-relief out of metal, of two circus performers, a clown and an acrobat. One of them is missing a head.
On the one hand it’s sad to see what’s happening, and on the other hand, it’s quite representative for what has happened to the empire itself. It opened its doors in ’81 and I was born in ’88. I’ve only ever been here maybe two or three times as a child, but it was all very memorable. This area was completely different. It was sparkling, paved in marble, lights all around… It was like going to a ball maybe, for a young child, ascending this staircase, all of the circus in front of you and you’d kind of feel this anticipation.
Now it’s owned by the state properly. They’re working on unfreezing the accounts and paying off all the debt. That’s why the circus has become operational recently. In 2013 the smaller arena opened its doors to some performances. The small performances that they’re doing in the smaller arena, that’s seating only 150 people, compared to the big arena that used to sit 2,000 and was one of the biggest, most comfortable such arenas in the Soviet Union.
* * *
Is it a little spooky, sleeping next to this giant, abandoned building?
In one way, yes. You have to remember that a lot of people died in this building doing their amazing shows. It’s very sad for me, more than anything. Yes, this is very sad. The beautiful, first-class marble columns are now covered with communist graffiti.
It’s an immense building, and we are in the back of it. Well, what we have is a very modern, big, magic illusion show with huge illusions, dancers, singers, kind of a modern version of a Las Vegas show.
Who sort of inspired your esthetic?
Siegfried & Roy, of course. I saw them when I was 16 years old and it was like, “Yes, that’s so cool!” No woman had done that, so that’s what I wanted to do.
As a magician, I’m talking now from a point of view that is totally different from other people. You have some information that people normally don’t have. As a magician, I study the human mind. As a magician I see that a curtain, a single curtain is making you not see my reality, but the reality I want you to see. I create illusions, and make people believe a huge cage is empty, but I know it’s not – I put fire inside of it. And inside is a tiger. Or I transform a girl in a split of a second, to a dog. Or I make people fly in the air.
I am a strong bitch from Norway. Big, whacking woman with big tits and blond hair. I’m not young, I’m not beautiful, but I have charisma for ten normal magicians. I know how to entertain the public. This show is very fast-moving, it has very many wow-effects, and it’s built basically on a good quality entertainment, but the stars of my show are the animals. It’s basically a friendship with animals show, where animals are not doing any jumping through hoops of fire; I’m just trying to show that the wild animals are not monsters that we need to attack them, and give very good show value for the money at the same time.
* * *[The apocalyptic scene in central Kiev tonight, a firewall of blazing tents and smoking tires, as protesters defiantly load firecrackers and other missiles. Confronting them, a barrage of…]
So I have been working like all the best places to work, you know? That’s why we went into Ukraine, and had a two-year contract with the National Circus, with amazing conditions for the animals, for us, great money, everything very good. And then, while we were there in November last year, it all developed to be a nightmare, you know?
We was touring Ukraine with a big show. We was in Kiev, we was in Odessa, where also very bad things happened and a lot of people were killed. The whole world knew about it, that the political situation in Ukraine became very dangerous. It was getting and worse and worse, potentially very dangerous, so we had to leave the country and we had to do go quick, so we ended up here in lovely Moldavia, in Chisinau. We have done now 26 shows run in one month.
And how long have you been here now?
Nearly three months. About two months and three weeks. I’m just trying to get out of the country again, because being in old communist countries, you have three months to stay there and then you have to get out again. So now I have to bring a big show and a lot of animals quick out again, to find a decent place to work.
The thing is you can’t transport wild animals over the borders without having a new contract to go to. You need to have a reason to go to your next, you can’t start to just put animals in a truck and go. You have to have a reason to go there. That means that you have to have import papers and export papers made. I can make that in a second, because everything is correct, I have everything legal, all my animals have their vaccinations, so it’s not that complicated, it’s just that I have no contract.
Now I’m stuck. I have lost 110,000 dollars in a few months, my savings are going, I don’t know what to do. It is an extreme situation. And now all my employees are leaving, because on the 19th they have to be out. The only one they can do now is they can get some prolongation from my papers to stay here to take care of my own animals.
So you’re stuck here, and are they okay with you keeping animals here for a while?
But what happens if you’re not able to get a contract in time? Do you have fallback options?
No, but I will find a solution. I always do. I’m a survivor.
* * *
Where are the animals right now, where do you house them?
In the back, there. Do you want to see them?
Hi, Bee-Bee. How are you?
Oh my goodness…
Hi, my darling.
We have a white lion here.
Oh my gosh…
Hi, my love. How are you? Good girl… Come, baby, Maya. How are you?
That is Maya, she was a winter lion. All the zoos in the world are beautiful, eh 90%. But then you have many of the very sophisticated and the big ones, are killing animals – perfectly healthy animals – but it happens everywhere. When I lived in Denmark, the lion park in Denmark – very famous, it’s very nice, it’s very cute, it’s all the fluffy, small lions. Now when the season is finished, these 30-40 lions, where do they go? To heaven, because they are not commercial any more. The same thing would happen to my little Maya. Maya was in a zoo in Odessa, and nobody’s interested to feed an animal that nobody wants to see, so winter lions die. So I took her quick, I put her in my apartment. Maya, the young lioness was sleeping in my bed, in my apartment in Kiev until she was 8 months old. A different life, but she loves it, and she’s very healthy in the head, she’s really funny and has a lot of humor, and she’s a little gangster. She’s wonderful.
That’s our white tiger here. The white tiger – the same history. He was by a guy who had no clue in the world about animals. He drugged the animal and used him very much for photos, and drugged him with Valium, so he became aggressive. When he didn’t have his Valium, he went crazy. He had a fight with another tiger, so his hair is a little bit scruffy. The guy was supposed to kill him, put him to sleep, and I took him quick away and I said “I’ll give you 14,000 Euros and the tiger is mine.”
* * *
Have you had any accidents?
Yeah, I had one accident. It was by a sick tiger who for 11 months had injections every day. She had – we found out after – a birth defect in the shoulder, and she had pain. So I was giving anti-inflammatory every day, and her kidneys went and she didn’t want any more, and she bite me one time in the arm and let me go, nothing else. I looked at it, that looked very horrible; it was really open because the canine went inside. I got some antibiotic. I always use very high-quality human antibiotic for my big cats, I don’t use animal antibiotic. I got myself some antibiotic, put some alcohol inside, some homemade bandage. I said, “You can’t sew it anyway.” She’d like bite and let go, and she looked at me and you could really see she was super sad. Super super sad. It was horrible, but apart from that never. The animals doesn’t attack their own mother. That’s what you are playing at when you are social training an animal and being friend with an animal. They don’t attack what they love.
* * *
I think I will most probably end up as this strange cat woman, with a little bit bigger cats and a lot of normal cats. They are such genuine creatures… They don’t lie to you. They love you – they love you; they hate you – they hate you. I’m far less scared of tigers and lions than I am human beings.
The relation I have with men is like a very different thing. I mean, my relation with my big cats is based on unconditional love. A relation with a man is conditional love. With the big cats, you love them anyway, but the men, they have to prove something before you love them.
What if your big cats went crazy and killed someone? It’s still unconditional love then?
Of course. That’s what they are there for, they are predators. I have my testament, I have my will done: if they should kill me, nobody can kill the cat because I chose to work with them, they didn’t choose to work with me.
I did something that very few people dare to do: I did live my life. To live your life, to live your dreams costs a lot and I paid the price, but I was willing to pay the price.
* * *
Can I have another one like that? Do you want a beer?
I’ll take that one, yes… I don’t think I’ve ever been in a country as poor as Moldavia, where the women are…
Yes and no. I mean, they’re mostly just sort of skimpily dressed.
Yeah no, that’s for sales reasons. Nobody is like that. They need to find themselves a rich husband, that’s what they’ve been told when they were young, by their mothers. They have to be as slim as possible, as little dressed as possible, but they are stunning beautiful many of them, and it’s very sad to see, and that’s when the old feminist comes up in me and I say “Wow, that’s so wrong and it’s so sad.” You choose your husband, you don’t take any twat coming around because he has money or a good car or good education, no. That is what you are brought up to. You have to be a good product, so somebody can buy you. It’s sad. From my point of view, but…
Being a man, it’s very simple to be in show business, but it’s more complicated to be a woman on stage. I mean, Cher does it because she’s Cher and she’s amazing. You can’t have wrinkles, so of course Botox and collagen – that can save everything. But my back has to be in ruins; I have to take medication to survive when I put weight on. That’s no go. You can get away with a lot, but overweight is like sign off, lose.
As an artist, you are a product. Wrinkles look wonderful, but on a neighbor, not on me. I can’t afford to have a lot of wrinkles, because then nobody wants to give me work. I have done it by Mark R. basically, which is Madonna’s surgeon and, well, you can’t see very much and I think it’s done. And I think it’s pathetic if you are like me, being 50 in a few months and running around thinking that you’re gonna look 28, or whatever. I just want to look fresh.
Was there any piece of you before you did, of just like “Fuck this, I’m not gonna buy into this male-dominated bullshit.”
No, yeah. You can fight this. I mean, I’m a fighter, but to a certain limit you can fight a few things. You can’t fight… Really, like it’s a male-dominated society anyway, especially in show business as well. A lot of rich, old, white men are the owners and they are deciding. The sad thing is that I fill up arenas with 18,000 people and I have standing ovations but I still have difficulties getting a job.
I hope this isn’t a too personal question, but I would think with your lifestyle it’s very difficult to have relationships with people.
Yeah, it is. I mean, I’ve been married three times. My first husband, I was 20 and he was 33. Very handsome, very wealthy, big businessman in Norway and it was perfect until two years in the relationship. Then he started to change, his father died, his dog died… He started to drink, he started to be like my dad. I come in one day through the door and he said “Eva, you have to go out to the garbage.” I said, “Yeah, don’t worry. I have to take the horses out and before I go, of course I will do it. Don’t worry.” He socked me up and it nearly killed me. I bled from everywhere possible. We lived far away in the countryside, and we had just his car. I managed to stop the bleeding and I went into town, and I collapsed by my friend. He nearly killed me, and then after he raped me, so it was okay.
I sued him and I won, and that made me some money. [laughs]
The cool thing was that somehow he wake up and after one year or something like that he was sitting a whole winter with a pump gun to his head and he wanted to kill himself, because he find out what he had lost. Because I loved him more than my own life. He is dead now. He died.
He killed himself?
I have a funny feeling he did. I never get to know this truth.
Then I fell in love with a pilot. Half-English, half-Iranian-Jewish. Very strange genetical background. I loved him very much, and then I found out that he had some… It was like the last five, six years I was like, I could never put my finger on it; there was something wrong. We had been together nine years. We did a big show in Malta, and I find him with a 12-year-old girl in my hotel room. So, then I tried to kill myself, because that image you can’t live with.
Everything else I stand for is an ethical treatment of my fellow human beings, and he had sex with a very under-developed 12-year-old, not a developed 12-year, and under-developed 12-year. Then I tried to kill myself because I couldn’t live with this image. You can’t imagine that you spent nine years of your life with a man that knew what I had gone through with my first husband. He knew what I had gone through with my first husband. I was very honest, I told it all, and then that happened. But I still love people.
It is a lot of damaged goods out there. You can’t be so naive and think that everybody’s kind and sweet, because there are a lot of damaged people, there are a lot of sociopaths and psychopaths out there, and people who want to ruin your life, and people lying and cheating.
I mean, we only just met, you don’t know anything about who I work for, or anything; to actually even just speak into a microphone is a big act of trust, you know?
The thing is that you try to analyze the people you meet, and then you try to select, but you can still do mistakes. I still do. As long as you keep to the truth, nobody can come after you, and that’s what I always did. I learned to keep to the truth.
I know, but people can twist it.
Of course, of course.
I could go home and edit this and make you look very bad.
Yeah, of course.
I’m curious, what makes you trust me?
You have very nice eyes. And I like nice people. But you can still do mistakes, but it doesn’t matter, really.
So it as just the two husbands, or there was a third one?
A third one came into the picture. He was 15 years younger than me, and very handsome, and looking even like you, actually. But he had ADHD, and to live with people with ADHD is extremely… is impossible. Hyperactivity syndrome.
What kinds of things would he do that…?
Not being on medication, he could just explode in your face and beat you, or spit on you, or attack the person beside him. He broke my ribs, because he started to attack other people so I had to stop him, and then, of course, he went on me. I got in the middle. Now he is armed security for one of the most posh… how is it possible? He’s armed security for one of the most posh shopping malls in all of Madrid.
The infection of the mind is the most dangerous. You have these traumas that ruin you, you talk about it and some of the infection or some of the past goes out somehow. And the scar will always be there, but after you can survive, somehow.
How did you get into your line of work?
If I tell you the truth, the truth is reincarnation. Because it’s so simple… You explain me how a little girl from a wealthy family who had nothing to do with show business, for the first time I came inside and I saw a circus show – but a circus show on a very, very, very high level – I felt home. I’m very… All my family are psychic. On my mother’s side we all have somebody who can see the future and is always correct. That’s also a reason why I was always deeply interested in parapsychology, metaphysics, or things like that, because through my life I’ve seen a lot of things. I always seen in the future and each thing that comes. I know when people are gonna die, and I’m always correct. I know how I’m gonna die.
How I’m gonna die?
Well, I go out of a big door, in a big official building, a big glass door, and in the middle of a staircase.
In the middle of a staircase?
And do you know when?
When it was supposed to be, yes. But I don’t know, maybe it’s coming before. It’s not so dangerous. That doesn’t exist. It’s just an illusion.
Maybe it’s also why I’m interested in magic. Magic has nothing to do with it, but real magic has.
I find this very interesting because I think a lot of the other magicians that I know of, in part because they spend so much time constructing them, they’re much more skeptical people.
Some of them, yeah…I mean, he’s fantastic. He’s really cool. Houdini was also… he was really desperate. He wanted to have contact with his mom; he was also in deep sorrow, and everything. The problem is that magic is not when you look for it, magic comes very automatically. Magic is something you have. The definition of these powers – you can make many different definitions. The most important thing is to have an open mind.
I have done my thoughts on these things, it’s not like I’m done talking because my mother taught me something very interesting and very important when I was young. Never talk about things that you haven’t thought good about. Don’t have a meaning if it’s not a real one. You don’t buy meanings from other people, she always told me that. And this is reality.
* * *
It was so interesting to see how an animal responds if you don’t put an animal to any stress, or if you don’t put an animal to be scared of you but to love you and respect you. It’s all about balance, harmony, respect, love and a deeper understanding. Everything has its code: you have a code, I have a code, we all have a code.
So what is your code?
Everybody has a different code.
eah, what’s your code?
My code is… Well, the code, for me as a person, that’s a secret.
Eva Julia Christiie
Nick van der Kolk, Host & Director
Brendan Baker, Producer