The light flares in the deep blackness like the coming of a new world, a new reality, an unknown. It destabilises and promises reorganisation, making us all adolescents, minors. Tenants. There are surges of flowing material forced between areas of hardness. Masses that have tumbled down from mountains, and mountains themselves, abstract enough to be metaphysical. The light stands proud from the dark as another form of intensity, and it is not clear what forms of engulfment will take place. Whether they will be positive or negative seems a clumsily anthropocentric consideration.
There is more horror in unknown unknowns, in denials or aporia that arise from encountering what is hard to accommodate. This is the foundation of a fear of the dark, or what looms over the edge of consciousness, outside of our earth’s atmospheres, in deep epistemological space. The solid, inanimate forms are at once liquid and bodily, interior and exterior. Physical and metaphysical, psychological and evidential. Sense is eroded by waves of the unrelenting sea of our own attention. It is our own nightmare, this new information that rips holes in our sails and forces us to use energy generated by our flesh prisons to understand our environment.
To pay attention is to pay attention a lot. The space indicated is not clearly landscape or cosmological space – it is possibly airless, but also a study in disruption in paint; in the relationship between attention and matter. Is distance meaningless? All matter forms and returns to the greater system, to this so-called doom, which is macro-real and therefore calls to be embraced, celebrated. Women nature authors and black-metal apostles unite in their joyful proximity to the cataclysm:
Doesn’t anyone in the world anymore want to get up in the
middle of the night and
There are frozen flows that are openings. The light flare is that of early photography, the magnesium blast Painting indexes this new way of seeing. The frame demarks an entrance into which things can flow, in and out. This is the intimate generosity of a painting.
A camera pans past a building in a street with many vacant lots – demolitions have taken place, but not recently. It is implied that the viewer is moving past in a vehicle, looking for accommodation. The building is two-storeyed, made of stone, and its former entrance is on the left-front corner. The opening has been concreted in so the rectilinear mass neatly follows the lines of the building.
Flows shift sediments, rocks. Planes tilt. Surfaces move. Mudflows, fresh slips, wash-outs. Unseen forces. Glaciers grind out valleys and retreat. Glacially.
High in the mountain passes there is a sound in the background like the constant shifting of a sea caused by the wind rushing across the tops of the ranges. I imagine this excites the air’s molecules and makes the effect of ozone, and it renders those able to hear it more psychically open, to elements and whatever other forces are in play. It is rare that being dominated and altered as if porous feels calmly acceptable.
As we move through time it becomes easier to write from the subject position of a ghost, becoming less and less sensible to others. This is a kind of bliss, as much as a loss of attention and care. It is the way of the world. Attention itself is a kind of apocalypse.
Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face in the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness. Something is wrong. I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. 2
- Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays, New York: Penguin, 2016.