Inchoate, borderless yet sentient. How can I exist and know
who I am? I’m speaking to my self and to you but how can I do this given I’m
formless, elastic and continuous. I can sense and think anything because I’m
indefinite. How can I be when language insists on distinguishing one from
others? I make language by thinking and speaking. These things which emerge
from me condense for a moment and become intelligible. In-between there are
detours where language disperses, always taking a different route from thought
so that translation to my self and to you becomes aberrant, magical, new. I’m
supposed to be describing my self, but my ‘I’ refuses to stay still, refuses to
not conjure fabulations, wants to be everywhere and everyone. I’m powerless as
continuousness has no space for assumptions. If you need to define me think of
me topologically as shifting sounds and points in space but I’m also cloudy,
messy, a shifting pile of junk. You and I cannot represent me but it is a
delicious game to try to describe me. I always start again and I never end.
Ha! Who am I?
A shadow fingers the rim: hint of being before substance.
How it fascinates, looking ahead and seeing yourself already
there... a projection thrust forward by some ray of light reaching the place,
any place, before you do.
How now this darkness before me? What name do I give this
self which is not a self but a shifting shadow... a tendril reaching forth from
this main trunk. Still Me?
We are intimately connected of course, but I am always
Ah there's Me before Me being Me...
Imposter. There. Ahead. Flattened out, without complexity
and depth. An other Me totally present, capable of bending, climbing,
slithering up walls.
The things my solid frame cannot do. I grieve. Grounded,
groping, gasping for air... and there's you... Me... just moving on.
Moving on regardless.
Who do I see in that shape? Elastic and supple... both
demeaning and telling. Reduced to greyness in bright sunlight, being without
colour, without radiance.
Why am I thus possessed? Why do I stare at the ground
seeking comfort in a self that does not look back, that cannot see. Me...
No eyes, no mouth and words... just the shapes of nose,
ears, fingers and elongated limbs, depending how I twist and turn.
But the sound of scrunched gravel I hear, the path on which
Yet I am doing all the walking while you/ Me up there just
keeps on dancing.
'Hey, you, listen!'
'Turn and look at Me!'
Stranger than ever shapeshifter known but unknown... always
slipping, always sliding.
Effortlessly leading... taking... stealing
Me away from Me.
But if I look back from whence we've come, I know who
disappears. You/ Me will vanish because I'm not looking... at or out for you.
Behind lies no answer to that which lies ahead so I turn
again and face the way we're going. Together.
And onwards You/ Me... one behind the other
Shadows towards a rim.
He works with surface economies.
The way he sees it, nothing ever falls into place because nothing’s ever really out of place. Finding continuity isn’t the issue; it’s the one thing that’s always already there.
Determining and reorganising intermediary values is closer to what he does. It’s like being able to sense the difference between a hesitation and a timed misstep, and then predict the varying ways each can subtly change the configuration and reception of the information conveyed. It’s why he’s at ease in the backlit image-worlds of desire. He knows how to move inside the moment, and still blend in at a distance.
For him, things are always imminent, even as they come to pass. He remembers they were standing face to face, when she’d asked, “Did you say the word ‘aura’ to me last night”?
He’d looked at her and said, “It’s quite possible”.
Now he falls asleep in another time zone, his eyes closed to the sun.
Eucalypt stands fill up the environs. Dry leaves create a
dusty castanet so the westerly wind can bring some slow sighed anticipation.
Let proper moments pass now.
Ringed around the waning light, time will start thickening
and shy birds will keep watching.
Next a child will turn up, limping on a stick. Peering down
across a dozen heartbeats, she will dub the stranger 'Alligator'.
The place is impossible, an alien swamp though just right
for an Alligator and an ecstatic cloud of leftovers refusing to be gendered.
Circling are kite-like creatures, their eyes glittering in the weak blue light.
The ground, if one could call it that, undulates in every direction so that
depending on one’s point of view the circling creatures seem to be below or
afar. The place is glutinous, lonely, morbid yet strangely beautiful as though
everything is old blue cellophane. They move closer – one cumbersome, dressed
in scales and deadly, the other swift, amorphous and absorbent. They could
swallow each other whole without even thinking – a perpetual ouroboros and
that’s what the place is like too. It doesn’t begin or end but it isn’t smooth
and shiny like they thought it would be.
They stretch themselves –
Alligator fully four metres and growing, the mutating collection of whatevers
unmeasurable. They are not confined here and as they stretch the place begins
to morph and brighten a little. There is a sensation of gentle spinning and
humming – time is entering. As the place changes the present moves into the
past and the future becomes possible.
Caught between then and now. The crossroad.
The inclination is to go left, but something up ahead has
caught my eye. A blur.
Locked as I am on the looming, left and right evaporate.
The way behind, I remember, had narrowed approaching this
junction and now the paths to either side have closed.
There's no going back, I am thinking, lost roads converging
Transfixed. A voice. Soft, purring...
Stranger before me, I'm trying to imagine the face that
speaks... the person – the blur – not spectral but full-bodied.
That voice: familiar but now distorted as if amplified. A
megaphone? A cupped hand?
I hesitate. Stuck dumbstruck, my silence casts a spell. I
cannot find words.
Mouth open tongue-tied: 'Speak', I tell myself, 'Speak...
Suddenly, crash-landing: 'WELL?'
Spell-broken, I am jolted.
Heel toe, heel toe, I cross the threshold and the impasse.
No turning back I decide, steely eyes at the ready.
Tap tap tap... the blur materialising, slowly, surely,
strangely metronomic. Tap tap tap... louder, louder and louder.
'What took you so long?'
'Why the long way?'
'I've been here some time.'
Face to face but the face I see is eyeless, the white stick
tapping, tracing my shadow.
A rough hand reaches out, my hands, my face, my mouth...
'Why don't you speak?'
'Did you think I could see you coming?'
I am back... back then.
'Don't you remember?'
'That day. When it all began.'
It was raining. The lights went out. The world turned black.
Darkness moves around them. It creates a sense of depth even though they know there’s none.
Faint textures of light soon become apparent. They float and cross-fade between incoherence and some kind of vague resemblance. Everything seems underwritten with a strange geometry. Appearances fold back onto them, and things seem misplaced. They find it difficult to move with intent.
Someone wonders something aloud, but the sounds don’t fully form. Syllables drop off mid-sentence. Words are spoken as a series of loose clicks and murmurs. Nothing really takes shape, except as potential.
Soon there’s no “I”, “you”, “he”, “she” or “they”. There’s just a turning inside out of collective afterthoughts, pushing against the tide of an imagined crowd. Successions of sensations follow, a drifting tempo suggestive of a general momentum.
An almost imperceptible change occurs. It moves towards something distinct. There’s a generalised field of recognition, a horizontal axis. The contour of a shoulder realigns in a breath. A body pulls into focus. The world falls away in a glance.
They have left a phone number on the kitchen bench.
This number: no real person ever answers when you call.
Voicemail simply opens and instructs to leave a message.
Yesterday, in the living room, they whispered this much into
the receiver: "I am from ancient Egyptian lineage.'
on a Greyhound bus heading north, they muttered one breath into an iPhone: 'Shy
birds are watching!'
Alligator scratches its tail. ‘Why am I ‘it’,’ Alligator
wonders, ‘Haven’t I figured out who I am yet apart from physical description
its really demeaning what do the shy birds think of me pecking on the window
hanging on by their talons I’ll show them talons they aren’t shy at all and as
for the cloud of leftovers squeezed in beside me I know this is a stream of
consciousness but I need to feel more in control of the situation its either
that or give up entirely though it would mean being sucked into that pile of
junk next to me along with everything else on this bus and the bus and I refuse
so how am I going to deal with this?’
Alligator’s tail thumps the floor startling those across the
aisle. They glare and Alligator glares back, tail rising. ‘Geez why can’t I be
more civilised,’ Alligator thinks, ‘I always get into trouble when others are
around.’ Alligator’s mind rattles on and on trying to connect the dots. After
much soul searching Alligator grudgingly eyes the amorphous pile, takes several
deep breaths, and croaks, ‘Well … whoever the hell you are … take me … I’m
The pile heaves, turns, draws a deep breath...
'What's that saying... (pausing, thinking)... the one you of
all creatures should know...'
Then glinting, rolling over, snarling: 'Now I remember...
See ya later, Alli-gat-or!'
A sudden change of mood. The heaped up amorous pile turning
hostile and darkening – as if the shadow of being too close was seeping into
and expanding its bulbous shape.
Dejected, confused, Alligator steps back. But the gloating
globule slip-slops forward...
'Ah, it's not that easy A L L I G A T O R... "See ya
later" and "take me" are the same thing in my tongue. You keep
moving and I'll be there with you... all the way... F O R E V E R!'
'But... but...', stammers Alligator, frantic for that moment
before the crossing of paths. 'Gotta go now... think it best I be on my way...'
'Not so fast, Sunshine... just what way would that be?'
The heaped up one is surging. Same pace, a shadow lapping...
wrapping around each backwards step. Smothering...
Panic. Alligator now breathless, floundering. Swamped...
Now swallowed whole by this amorous and increasingly
amorphous blob, there's no escaping the gathering speed. How is it that
begrudgingly dropping one's guard so quickly shifted from the possibility of
pleasure to, seemingly, total annihilation?
Alligator's mind is racing: what to do in quicksand? Can't
'What way would that be?' The words heavy and ringing.
Deafened, head pounding, darkness rising. Alligator
flummoxed, searching: Which way? Which way... where?
Then a piecing maniacal scream: 'Where?' There's just Here!'
And now thunderous laughter, a chorus: 'Hear? Do you hear?'
Over and over they sing...
Loud and raucous they shout: 'Here, there is no way. There
is... NO... way!!!'
'Quick!' A feeble thread in Alligator's mind cries out as if
to stem the tormenting flood.
But here in the thunder and darkness, there is no quick.
'Help!' Alligator pathetic and dampened... wimping,
But here in the now, there is no help.
sand. A drifting, shifting pile of fossilised bone, silt and ash – the hollow
sound of something past.
Another kind of static enters the picture. Or rather, certain aspects of the scene seem to drop in and out of registration. They don’t come to a complete standstill, but they don’t keep moving either. At some point the atmosphere disperses and a vague feeling of light moves in.
The remnants of things gradually make themselves known again. But their recognition doesn’t take place as an encounter of loss. It has the opposite effect. It provides an opportunity for transference, a way for people to cast their own likeness back into the world. He realises it’s a need for equivalence, a way to keep everything close yet somehow separate. Later he thinks about the idea of remainders, the leftover balances that sit outside the equations. Nothing specific comes to mind. He wonders if the possibility of nostalgia still exists. Probably not. Or maybe it’s the wrong question.
A restoration of sorts inevitably follows. He sees it as an attempt to remake things from the outside in. Their efforts remind him of the converging perspectives of a two-way mirror. Transparent reflections succumb to an opulent blindness. A type of peripheral vanity takes hold and everything looks the same, even when it’s not.
As when Birnam Wood arrives at Dunsinane, a vast crowd
appears as if removed from covering glare.
A witnessing legion? Vanquishers?
No: peacemakers, thronging so thick they clog the militant
streets. Like a Million Man March repelling ire with some other urge. And then:
onward surges civil disobedience underwritten by the female codes. 'We nourish
you,' the women say, 'but all future quests must be founded strong on nought
So the town grows quiet. Days and nights replenishing.
Predators howl nocturnal outside the walls. But vigilance within brews unity
and exponential strength. The power of believers fixated on the prize. From
loudspeakers across the bastions, this voice declaims, as bold as Joan of Arc:
'Let barbarians besiege us, let them test our Love. We are not meek tonight
although we'll never roar. We only murmur like the myriad rivulets that abrade
the solid shore. This is all we need to do.’
Judy Annear is a writer and curator
based in Sydney, Australia.
emc2 is a sometime relative of Sydney, Australia-based writer Ewen McDonald.
Tanya Peterson is a writer, artist and academic living in Sydney, Australia.
Ross Gibson is Centenary Professor of Creative and Cultural Research at the University of Canberra, Australia.
Design Ella Sutherland
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