Posted on July 24, 2014
The work you do as an artist is really play, but in the most serious sense […] Like when a two year old discovers how to make a tower out of blocks. It is no half-hearted thing. You are materialising – taking something from the inside and putting it out into the world so you can be relieved of it.
Quote by Leslie Dick, from Seven days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton
Haiku of grass and sky, 2014
As I try to move forward with my practice, I find myself reflecting more and more on what it is I am doing, and to what purpose. I read the book Seven days in the Art World last year (kindly sent to me as a gift by a fellow blogger). In an attempt to unravel the elusive workings of the art world, Thornton tries to engage various academics with the question: “What is an artist?”, to which she receives a range of answers, mostly disparaging and dismissive, as she records, presumably because many found the question naive, distasteful or even irrelevant. An obvious question it may be, but it is a pertinent one, and one to which it seems to me someone involved in any way in the discourse of art and art practice, whether as scholar, producer, seller or critic, should have an intelligent sounding answer.
The writer Leslie Dick, however, does have an answer, and one which is somehow obvious and clever and thoughtful and disarmingly simple all at the same time. I have a terrible memory for quotes (and most things), so when I do remember things other people have said, or written, it usually means that it was something which resonated deeply with me and was apposite to me or my situation. Indeed, I was, at the time, spending a lot of time pondering this creative impetus and the overwhelming necessity which I was feeling to express it.
I was asking myself a lot of questions, and the internal monologue went something like this: Is this normal, to feel the need for space to just ‘be creative’? If so, why don’t other people around me get that? Is it selfish to want time away from my friends and family to satisfy this craving? Why do I find it awkward to talk about? What is it I am trying to achieve, though? Is it art? Is it a hobby? Or is it something else entirely? How do I know? How do I find out? Does it really matter?
So you see, when I read these words, they just seemed to slot so perfectly into my thinking, like missing pieces of a jigsaw which had previously brought nothing but sheer confusion and frustration – it suddenly all transposed neatly together to make a perfectly whole picture of where I was at. Which made perfect sense. Because here is the ‘guilty’ stuff which was also going through my brain:
1 – I am being indulgent (there are so many other useful things I could be doing – like the ironing, or sorting the cupboards, or baking nice treats for the family, or volunteering my time for a charity… I could be so much more organised! And charitable!)
2 – I am wasting my time (just playing around – who cares about my pictures and my confused ramblings anyhow? Why bother?)
3 – I just need to do this.
And with that efficiently eloquent turn of phrase I was able to, if not exactly answer my questions, place them, settle them, and realise that the questioning in itself was a perfectly normal, even essential part of the process. Because it does feel like being a toddler at play, in the sense that you are gifting yourself the luxury of time (and we all know how precious that is) and sometimes money also, to play. It does feel indulgent. But no-one would ever dream of accusing a toddler of wasting her time building a tower of blocks, because we also all know that play is an essential part of a toddler’s development. What is one day a tower may the next day become a bridge, then a castle, and then, when the necessary motor skills are in place, only the child’s imagination and opportunity to practice is its limit. And her mother’s (or father’s) little squeals of joy and rain showers of kisses are all the feedback and encouragement that child needs to know that she is on the right track and should continue in her modest endeavours, which will eventually become greater ones.
It’s a bit more complicated as an adult. We tend to seek recognition from a wider audience for one thing, and that toddler’s world is yet reassuringly simple and primitive, in the sense that the meeting of basic human needs and impulses are of primary concern over social ones. We cannot always seek to satisfy our desires so freely. But why do we as a society tend to advocate that play should be ring-fenced for childhood? Adults need play too, and they need it in the most serious and fundamental sense. Just like the toddler, they need time and space to explore and experiment; to practice and develop ideas and processes; to put them ‘out there’ so that they may then have the opportunity to evolve into achievements for which they can be recognised and of which they can be proud, however small or big they may be. Inside every adult is a little toddler desperate for a high five or thumbs up for good effort, or even a small squeal of joy.
Soon after I wrote the first draft of this post, I went away to a music festival with (husband) Alex for the weekend. We try to get away and do this every year, just the two of us and our tent, to indulge our shared love of music and escape (just for a while) from the trappings of a terribly bourgeois existence. There was a young unsigned American band who were all over the festival and generally working really hard, but having a great time. We saw them play a couple of times, and on one occasion the lead singer introduced a song called “Innocent” saying that as people get older they often feel the need to get all serious and tortured about creativity, but that really, well, it should just be about having a whole lot of fun. Yup. And that “fuck it, let’s just have fun” vibe of a festival is just generally the best kind of atmosphere to spawn creativity. Even tonight, I start to reprimand my children for blowing bubbles in their milk and making a mess all over the tablecloth, but whilst launching into the familiar rhythm of weary chastisement, I suddenly stop and check myself. Because I realised they knew. They were already getting the cloth to clear up the mess they had made (even if they made a terrible job of it). Play is good. Play is experimenting. Play is learning. But like anything good, it must have its limits, and as adults and educators, that is our job, in our wisdom and experience, to gently and sensitively educate our children in the seriousness of play, and thus instil a sense of individual responsibility for any mess they may make in the process. And maybe next time they will know exactly how hard they need to blow to get maximum bubble fun without spilling the milk over the edge of the cup (here’s hoping at least).
Answers to my questions? I haven’t really found them. What I have found, I think, is some reassurance that what I experience when I need to ‘create’ is derived from a most basic and natural human instinct. Whilst other people may feel the need to pigeon-hole my outward self as one thing or another and may find this confusing, really it is OK for me to be ‘just me’ on the inside and to continue to play with serious focus, energy and passion and a self-reflexive approach in order to push my practice forwards. All the rest is just a fine balancing act (and that, of course, is a little more complicated).
This image is part of a new investigation into photography and poetic expression, in which I am exploring the relationship between photograph as both surface-object and subject-referent. I don’t really know if it’s art, or if it’s any good, but I’m definitely having lots of fun playing.
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014
Posted on November 3, 2013
Rich, elegant and thoughtful. Another beautiful response to ‘The journey’ project from Kate Rattray of katerattray.wordpress.com
I got the photo today. It was inside an envelope covered in layers of address labels, stamps and scan labels. Layers of history, not ancient but recent history, at least within the last year. A photo too is a record of history, and this particular photo made by Emily is intriguing. Every time I saw it on the blog it seemed to say the same thing, and now I have it in my hands it still says the same thing. Emily writes that she took the photo over 10 years ago whilst on a journey, and many of the writers and artists who have received the photo have interpreted that journey as a train ride. To me too it seems it was taken from a train. It is dark, ambiguous, mysterious. Those circles of light are like lost souls waiting, watching the train passing. Lost souls from the past waiting……
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Posted on August 17, 2013
Another collage I’ve been working on. I wanted it to have a feel of movement and energy, but also be subtle, and gentle.
It’s always difficult to know when to leave something alone, though!
© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013
Posted on May 9, 2013
The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach, of intellect, in some material object … which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.
Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project
journeys… childhood… memory… history… home… traces…. objects… spaces…. magic… home… memories… traces of memories… journeys… secrets… magical objects… childhood memories… ghosts… traces of journeys… secret spaces… memories of home…
layering… merging… mingling…
There have been some loose threads floating around my blog of late. A little indefined. Vague, perhaps. Though not entirely disparate. It requires for me now, I think, at this point, to attempt to weave a shuttle through those loose ends; to bring them (if only briefly) together. I feel I have now come to a point where I need to write about Walter.
Yes, I think if I tell you about Walter, it might all start to make just a little bit more sense.
I am not generally a person who craves neatness or completeness in her life in any way. I am comfortable with the ambiguous and the abstract. Vague ideas and concepts excite me, even. I enjoy trying to wrap my brain around impossible notions and theories. In the end, I really don’t need to tie it all up in a ribbon with a perfectly neat bow.
But. I do need to understand. I need clarity. I need structure. This is vital. Since without clarity, or an attempt at it, there is no understanding. There is nothing. Just words, just fragments, drifting.
Now, it may be that you understand already. Or it may be that you understand better than I, or it may be that you don’t that much care – in which case you’ll skip this post, and just look at the pictures (that’s fine, by the way) – but I need to understand, and I also need to believe that I have made some effort to bring clarity into your thinking as well as mine.
So what I’m hoping is that Walter will provide a sort of loose context; a framework if you like. Less tying up ends, more catching them together. Briefly. Just imagine, please, a little girl in a park with a fistful of brightly coloured balloons. It’s a warm, breezy Spring day. She’s clinging onto those threads for dear life because she doesn’t want to let them go. In the end, she knows she will have to let them go, and watch the pretty balloons floating away into infinity, but she is holding out as long as she can.They are something beautiful, and transient, like all the best things in life. She is enjoying the experience of having those balloons. She feels insanely happy inside, but there is also a unpleasant shadow of a sensation fleeting across her, quietly hovering, clouding her sunny day and tugging at her bursting heart. She knows it must end. She has experienced moments of pure joy like this before and the memory of having to let them go is surfacing and it is painful, but she is learning to control her emotions. She is a little too old to tantrum and whine. She is also learning that the bitter aftertaste which coats the sweetness of a joyful moment is the flip-side of that heady emotion; that we cannot hold onto joy forever, and part of the process of experiencing it, is also letting it go. Watching the rainbow orbs carry away bobbing gently on the wind, fading ever so gradually into nothingness. They were there, in her hand, and now they are not.
Now they are shelved somewhere in a compartment of her brain.
Memory: holding a brightly coloured bunch of balloons in the park on a windy Spring day.
This, for me, is one of those moments where I am trying to hold on tight for as long as I can; pulling the threads together. It requires thought and concentration, and willpower. It requires me to focus my energies. And in the end I know I will have to let them (the thoughts) go their disparate ways as they will pull and tug and try to out themselves from the confines of my words. (I will let them go.)
I’ll do my best.
So, let me tell you about Walter, and maybe, together, in the process of me writing, and you reading, we will come to some kind of transient state of deeper understanding. Maybe.
Now, I am being overly familiar of course, but I do feel very connected to the late Walter Benjamin. I have always had a fondness for German Intellectuals, and he is unashamably my favourite and most treasured. It is true to say that he has been a great influence on me, my photography and my thinking since I first discovered him in my early university years. Since then he has cropped up again and again in my life, been rediscovered countless times. Possibly one of the most under-rated literary figures of the 20th century, for me, he is up there with Rilke, Baudelaire, or Goethe. He wouldn’t have described himself as a poet: an essayist, social critic, translator (he translated some of Baudelaire and Proust’s work) historian, diarist maybe… an assembler of words; a master of the literary montage. But to me he has always been, and will always remain a poet. His words work some kind of naive, awkward magic over me and continue to resonate time and time again when I am searching for that something which connects everything into place, locating me in that sideways vantage point where I can find distance, and reflect, and yet at the same time place myself firmly in the here and now in a way in which everything around me seems more alive and more exciting. Maybe it’s fate, or serendipity, but my thoughts seem to spiral a trail which lead me back to him, there at the core every time.
Let me explain a bit more.
When I write about phenomenology, I am mostly thinking about it as a philosophy of experience; a celebration of how the self engages with the everyday world around her. Because it is the subjective consciousness which is key in this experiencing, the sense of perspective is also important, requiring a sort of immersion into the sensory world of ‘things become magical’. Like watching a rain drop drip, diffusing undulating ripples in a puddle, or pocketing an irresistibly tactile pebble for my son’s collection. When I look at the world like this I am Alice, who has shrunk to tiny proportions after foolishly eating something labelled ‘drink me’. I am in a state of wonder at the world so familiar, yet so strange and surreal at the same time. There is much more to be explored, of course, but in relation to photography, I suppose, this is what interests me most about phenomenology as an ontology, and as a way of seeing. The sense of perspective and the large-miniature dialectic is important because it serves to heighten that sense of awe, exactly in the way a small child experiences the world around him.
Isn’t it true that when we go back to visit places which were important to us as children, like schools, treasured secret dens in the garden, playrooms… they always seem smaller to us than they did then? And as their proportions normalise to our adult eyes and adult perspectives, they somehow lose their magical, transformative properties?
Explicitly, Benjamin didn’t have a lot to say about photography, but it was there in the background, in his contemporary history, and it surfaced from time to time in his writing. However I am not so much concerned with what he said or wrote about photography, as his writing style itself which is so descriptive, and so focused on the minutiae of life that it could be called photographic. This is what interests me, as this is the key to understanding his writing, and his thinking on history, the past, and memory.
A Berlin Childhood is probably Benjamin’s most personal and poignant of works. It takes the form of a sort of assemblage or tableaux of ‘moments’, which are recollections of his childhood in Berlin in a middle class Jewish home at the turn of the twentieth century. The recollections are unusual, perhaps, and written with the perspective of an adult who remembers clearly what it was like to experience the world as a child (see for example The Mummerehlen). Benjamin believed in a kind of material history (he described himself as an ‘historical materialist’) which is buried in the strata of our everyday lives. To uncover the past, then, we must take on the guise of archaeologist-detective and search for the clues of the past in our present. Memory is an important medium in this search, since it plays out our past in the way that a theatre stages a play (see the translators forward to A Berlin Childhood, 2006 by Howard Eiland, for more on this), but memory is also complex. It is not linear, instead appearing in flashes, which burn brightly and briefly… and the next moment are extinguished just as rapidly. These memories – flashes of the past – must be snatched at that very moment at which they burn at their brightest:
The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognised and is never seen again.
Benjamin, from “Theses on the Philosophy of History” Chapter V, in Illuminations
Memory is also composite. So as archaeologists we have to delve and dig deep. It is messy. It overlaps, much like a multiple exposure (see Eiland again, translators forward to A Berlin Childhood, p xiii). We have to scratch at the surface to expose the faded, peeling paint layers of a forgotten history: rubble trodden underfoot into the receiving earth, waiting to absorb its bounty; layer upon layer of stretches of time compressed; centuries compacted into seconds.
It seems to me then an obvious and small step to make to link Benjamin’s writing style to that of photo montage, or collage. The principle of montage (of which Benjamin was a great admirer for its revolutionary potential) is one of interruption. It creates a gap which is like an inbuilt critique mechanism, inviting a space of questioning. In The Arcades Project this takes on a structural and visual form, but here it Berlin Childhood it is more directly linked to how we experience memory (in the sense that the structure of the text is built up of seemingly random snatches of memories from Benjamin’s childhood, so is more akin to how we experience memory). Michel de Certeau describes how the signifying practice of language can, through the structure of literary forms, create spaces; “ellipses” and “leaks of meaning” in The Practice of Everyday Life.
The verbal relics of which the story is composed, being tied to lost stories and opaque acts, are juxtaposed in a collage where their relations are not thought, and for this reason they form a symbolic whole… Within the structured space of the text, they thus produce anti-texts, effects of dissimulation and escape, possibilities of moving into other landscapes.
(p. 107 of the 1988 publication)
These spaces, then, open up gaps, possibilities of departure, of escape, of other landscapes, other stories. This is especially relevant to my recent thinking around photography and memory-making, layering and composite image-making:
Is a “broken” or multi-layered mode of expression a more effective approach in attempting to convey memory? Is it more akin to how we actually experience memory? Is this the only way that the medium of photography could truly come close to the real experience of memory, and move beyond mere nostalgia?
For a long time, life deals with the still-tender memory of childhood like a mother who lays her newborn on her breast without waking it.
Benjamin, A Berlin Childhood, ‘Loggias’
For Benjamin, the most important repository of memory was childhood, in turn, the repository of the past. In childhood we are closer to ‘things’ and their magical properties. The child experiences the world around him in a state of mimesis; she (also the collector and the flaneur) truly dwells in the everyday and alone is privileged enough to be initiated into mysterious, enchanted life of everyday objects. For the child, objects come alive – they are comfort and security, but also portals to another, more exciting dimension of play and imagination and other-worlds. The door which Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy step through, and which leads them to Narnia is just an old wardrobe door, full of old coats. An everyday thing. It is only the children, fully engaged in the world of things, who are privileged to have it revealed to them. Thus the magnifying eye of the child enlarges seemingly insignificant objects, which become clues, or portals, unlocking the secrets of a hidden world.
Where this journey will eventually take me I am still not sure, but it will involve some detective work. I’ll worry at the gaps and the cracks. I’ll dig my fingers into the very soil of the watchful earth. I’ll turn it over to sift, to search, through the exquisite detritus. I’ll whisper to it to yield up its secrets. And there, I’ll discover gems, dance with spectres, and etch shadowy traces on the blasted canvases of the past.
© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013
Posted on April 5, 2013
There is an old nursery rhyme that tells of Muhme Rehlen. Because the word Muhme meant nothing to me, this creature became for me a spirit: the mumerehlen.
Early on, I learned to disguise myself in words, which were really clouds. The gift of perceiving similarities is, in fact, nothing but a weak remnant of the old compulsion to become similar and to behave mimetically. In me, this compulsion acted through words. Not those that made me similar to well-behaved children, but those that made me similar to dwelling places, furniture, clothes. I was distorted by similarity to all that surrounded me. Like a mollusk in its shell, I had my abode in the nineteenth century, which now lies hollow before me like an empty shell. I hold it to my ear. What do I hear? Not the noise of the field artillery or of dance music a la Offenbach, not even the stamping of horses on the cobblestones or fanfares announcing the changing of the guard. No, what I hear is the brief clatter of the anthracite as it falls from the coal scuttle into a cast-iron stove, the dull pop of the flame as it ignites in the gas mantle, and the clinking of the lampshade on its brass ring when a vehicle passes by on the street. And other sounds as well, like the jingling of the basket of keys, or the ringing of the two bells at the front and back steps. And, finally, there is a little nursery rhyme.
“Listen to my tale of the mummerehlen.” The line is distorted – yet it contains the whole distorted world of childhood. Muhme Rehlen, who used to have her place in the line, had already vanished when I heard it recited for the first time. The mummerehlen was even harder to rouse. For a long time, the diamond-shaped pattern that swam on my dish, in the steam of barley groats or tapioca, was for me its surrogate. I spooned my way slowly toward it. Whatever stories used to be told about it – or whatever someone may have only wished to tell me – I do not know. The mummerehlen itself confided nothing to me. It had, quite possibly, almost no voice. Its gaze spilled out from the irresolute flakes of the first snow. Had that gaze fallen on me a single time, I would have remained comforted my whole life long.
From A Berlin Childhood by Walter Benjamin
© images Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013
Posted on July 5, 2012
I’m trying out new things. Collage is a way of seeing differently. Denser, more complex. Layered. Compressed.
© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012
Posted on June 21, 2012
© Robert Frank, Mabou 1997 – image reproduced at Mutual Art
Stories are necessary, enchanting, evocative things; but they can also be the means by which our dreams are traduced or defused, defiled or filed away. We learn to read sideways. We learn to read by the light of secret planets and signs.
Excerpt taken from From one state to the next by Ian Penman (included in the forward to Robert Frank, Storylines)
One of the things I love about blogging is the opportunity it provides to make connections with so many other creative and truly inspiring people. When I posted the pictures Alex and I had taken of the house of a friend of ours I never imagined that they would provoke such generous response. Nathan Filbert at manoftheword asked me if he could use the images as writing prompts. I was curious to see what he would come up with.
I love the way that he has interpreted them, partly because it is so different to the way I interpreted them myself. When I write about my own pictures I am much more prosaic, I think. It’s really fascinating to discover what someone else reads into your images. Beautiful, lyrical, and very true to the work, his words evoke love, passion, deceit, a fracturing, deceit, destruction… then quiet acceptance, release and, finally, hope. I picture the push and pull; the ebb and flow of a relationship which is spiraling into self-destruct, and the images suddenly come alive for me in a completely different light. It’s like an exercise of fill the gaps – and so to my rough outline Nathan has added shading and definition; to my skeleton some succulent flesh.
Of course they were very much intended to be open to interpretation, yet it’s nice to have that kind of feedback that confirms that your photographs can not only tell a story, but they can provoke an emotional response, and one which has resonance. It has also confirmed my passionate belief that photographs can construct narrative, and that words and pictures together can generate a stimulating coupling. It is something I try to convey in this blog (probably with varying degrees of success). It is something that I am working on.
I remember the exact moment when I realised that exploring narrative in photography was something not only important but necessary, and that combining words with images was what I wanted to aspire to do in my own photography. It was when I went to see the Robert Frank exhibition Storylines at the Tate Modern in 2004.
Frank is a storyteller; he attempts to convey narrative and sequence in his work employing not just photography but text – sometimes just single words and images, sometimes scratching the words into the surface of the negative – as well as video and film to create a dialogue (although more recently he has focussed exclusively on still photography). His later more experimental autobiographical work (and especially his polaroids and Mabou series from his home in Nova Scotia) for me is extremely powerful; saturated with emotion and complex layers of meaning. Photographs are grouped together haphazardly, peppered with random words sometimes scratched angrily or smudged. Fragments of writing, like diary entries, sometimes typed or handwritten are cut and pasted onto sets of images, creating crude collages which further add to an impression of fear, confusion, but also of profound sadness. There is so much to look at and explore in this work which reads like an expulsion, an exorcism even, of inner torment.
Although his later work never received the critical acclaim of the earlier projects such as The Americans (perhaps because it is less accessible?) I found it very moving. It speaks (to me) and tells the story of a deeply disturbed state of mind, of a man who is broken.
© Robert Frank, Mabou 1987 – image reproduced in Fashion for Writers
And so, back to What Once was Here. Now it is something transformed. The exciting thing for me here and my images, is that words have charged them with new meaning. They have been taken in a new and intriguing direction….
I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to you Nathan for your words. Here they are:
WHAT ONCE WAS HERE: A Rhapsody
(photographs by Emily & Alex Hughes / text by N Filbert)
Rhapsody: n. [via Latin from Greek rhapsōidia, from rhaptein to sew together + ōidē song]
(Collins English Dictionary)
What’s left hanging, a dangling or loosened shadow, often ends determining. A note you
left with simple instruction opened on unprepared mystery. Unable to handle and afraid
of the dark, tiny conduits tunneling everywhere. The twine wobbly and knotted, but the
lines of the threshold so clear. When things are left hanging, though exciting and
ominous, possibilities frighten. The key to what once was here is risk.
Light flooded in, deepening our shadows. Made us strangely opaque while leaving us
veiled. We overlapped and enfolded, X’d-out and crossed over, offering ourselves to this
light. Details increased but wrinkled together and shaped themselves new in our joining.
Some things were lost in the edges. Gaps dotted the patterns we formed. Love imbued
what we made with exposure – tracings and bars from behind and before. They’d stay
with us. What once was here was not easy to see in its layers.
A sewing of selves in our mating. Geological ruts shaped in our time, cross-cuts we dug
and uncovered. We compared, we abutted. The ripples and tremors from you became
mine; I gave you my rifts and my fissures. This continental shift and dramatic drift, with
we stitching seams like a medley. Rolling fro to our solace and shadows, rolling to in
tempestuous waves. What once was here was a rhythm, a rocking. What once was here
– a confluence of dreams.
Little by little unmasked. The landscapes and portraits had been our decor. In the gaze
and reflection of us, our stories and fables were stains. We erased and absorbed, we
retold. And with time began peeling away – at each other, at us, at our space. Seeking
faultlines and secrets, hidden keepsakes and such. We wanted it all from each other – the
truth unadorned – but stripping it down wasn’t wise. What once was here was the color,
the dreams, the feelings and fictions of persons. What once was here was the different
story, what signaled us one to another. What once was here was ourselves, the many and
varied, the each calling each, the creations we stripped in our glare.
But look close, it remains. The mold of your thoughts, the worn edge of my fears. The
stiff stitching we wove will not hold, it is cracking. We press against things that won’t
change in the changing. Structures refusing to bend. Like a bite we attacked and we tore
and we warped. The surface beginning to seep. What once was here was a study
discovering. What once was here had been making more life. Some substances proved
an impossible impasse. Unassimilable to growing the web and its fade. What once was
here became focused on hard things, losing sight of a world all around.
Stepping back, we observe a merged shadow. A discernible action now blanched and
unsure. We set out on a search for markings and signs, some tokens of whom we had
been. Somewhere for imaging whys. Dissolving and tarnished our outlines were bleak
and colluded. Identities patterned with time. No doubting there had been an other – but
whom? We’d come to be looking so same! Let’s begin, we begged, rediscover – let’s
restore and provide a fresh space. What once was here had been sharper – with purpose,
intention and luster. We moved back, turning toward, growing dim.
And uncovered the remnants of frames. Spaces held, oh so vaguely, but there, all the
same. We marked what we found for the future and asked. Intent toward content and
memory. Divvying out and agreeing what’s yours, this is mine, we must place them
again, we must fill. We moved into a seeking as finding, the wishing we had it to make.
Shading the borders we shared, we founded the boundaries we needed, saving
establishing place. We engaged and departed, forging and foraging, inventing anew what
once had been here.
Lines had to be drawn to secure us. The grilling and divits were rough. We hardened
and scaped, we stamped out a sieve, we were leaking with sounds in our silence.
Austere. Our limits grew cold and unyielding, fears and defenses with no room to
expand. We were forcing a form like a unit; marching our freedom to death. Our love
wouldn’t give, it insisted. What once was here had been meant to protect. What once
was here became prison, severe. What once was here needing flow.
You pushed out of your hollow, your void. Swooped in and then turned. I respond with
a circling back, a new dance. Move forward, retreat; hold back, singing out – fresh
motions withdrawing our lines. I ache, you arched forth, we recoiled into balance, a
mysterious call and response, and it held. We’d slice out and dash back against
movement, swelling forth in compelling return. Unwittingly, exchange was emerging in
this – freed up yet in-formed and recursive. What once was here was springing to life,
swirling and drawing out depths. What once was here was transposing with all of the
requisite tones – melody, harmony, dissonance too, a swoon toward new resolutions.
A zone we’re commencing to build. Fashioning a firm and porous, liquid border we
texture a gradual glow. Each day we thicken and act, enabling both darkness and light.
We increase, inward and upward, fluid yet firm, purposely crafting a realm while leaving
clear traces, together. In tandem, we say, we are many – what once was here become
now and then an also, and also a plus. A joining like earth to its sun – such necessary
interdependence – a complex and dissimilar symmetry.
What once was here is bursting out. From damage strange flowerings grew. Whenever,
wherever, the tearing, and laughter. We each drew in lines at odd angles. Somehow it
cushioned our falls. Worn from use and worried with play, we threw ourselves reckless
in joy. Secrets crept out and wounds would appear, then we’d carefully tongue to their
health. There seems no intransigent ruin, our inevitable demise rhapsodized. What once
was here is incessant, reborn.
And thus we map our journeying worlds. Retracing trajectories this way and that, no
lines slip away, but are definite paths. Each wriggle, each stumble and stray and
excursion; riffing versions of high points and vales. The recording of what once was here
the organs and nerves of our bodies, divining effects and undoing – no occurrence not
finally seen. We call it the Geography of Now/Here” or “What-Once-Was-Here-In-
Process,” without end in our limited sphere.
What once was here is where we begin – an open field with loose leafage – the lines and
the tears, the staining and ripples are there inscribing relief, but what once was here is
always, just before what is will be, and what’s here right now is this pure between.
© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012