Sunday, 26 August 2018

Framing Alice

'Art does not wait for the human being to begin' (Deleuze and Guattari)

I'm walking along the River Nidd, down past the viaduct towards the water. I can still feel echoes of the past week in my body; the dull itch of a mosquito bite, the ache in my shoulder from carrying the 'Posthuman Glossary' through the streets of Utrecht, back and forth to lectures for five days.

I'm here to frame Alice. Up in the town is a small art gallery, run by a kind man and his wife, who I know will take care of her.  Alice is a painting, but she is more than a painting... she is a gift, a body without organs, a 'premonition that allowed itself to be depicted.'  After days of heavy bags and suitcases, her canvas body feels light in my hands. She's rolled up, and long, so that carrying her is awkward at first. I rest the canvas against my shoulder, and we wander together further downstream.

I didn't need to come this way, by the river, but I'm reluctant to head into town just yet. We stop at a cafe and I watch the river flowing by; punctuated by rowing boats and the odd rumble of trains across the stone arches fifty feet above the water.

'To become imperceptible oneself, to have dismantled love in order to become capable of loving. To have dismantled one's self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To paint oneself gray on gray.' (Deleuze and Guattari).

I was here, at this very cafe, twelve years ago today, and I'm wondering how I could have forgotten this fact. In days of techno-memories, everything commemorated, and a lingering digital afterglow, it's surprising it slipped my mind.  That day was very much like this one; clouds and warm sun but with a slight, barely perceptible chill which signalled the end of summer. I had been pregnant, and then, that day, I suddenly wasn't. What I was carrying was as light and material as Alice.

The scan had revealed what was a temporary spark of potential, a flicker that became imperceptible, matter in matter... and ultimately of no matter, on a bank holiday weekend when the hospitals were too full to take me. I came here to walk and wait, looking at the same river I'm next to now, except it isn't the same river of course, and I am not the same person I was back then.

'My wound existed before me; I was born to embody it.' Joe Bousquet

I'm walking up the hill to the art gallery now, and Alice is starting to feel awkward; I'm warm, and the canvas is scratching against my legs. I think about her journey, from Iran across Europe to here in North Yorkshire. As I enter the shop and hand her over, I wonder if she's tired.

I look forward to seeing her again.

'Alice Goes East' - Kamran Behrouz

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Checklist

"Tip 1First, remove the items that don't belong." 

I'm a woman
And so it is time to clean.

I start by
sweeping out the cobwebs
that linger around my heart

Then prise out the dust-mice dreams
(some hiding stubbornly)
from beneath the cortex
and watch as they dissolve in daylight.

I gather the dopamine hits of fragmented messages
Lined up like dirty shot glasses
And scrub at the ground-in stains of digital detritus
Moving it all to a box marked Trash.

"Tip 2. Keep only what you need; the rest can find a new home."

I sort the memories into piles
Some no longer fit
Or fell from fashion years ago
No charity shop will take them
With their 'flammable' labels
(But a few I'll save
to show my daughter
when she's old enough to understand).

I touch up the paint
on my face
Polish my skin
Straighten the soft furnishing of my hair
And work til the fresh blank life
Feels clean and clear as the last snowfall of winter.