9 DEC 2008
you're sitting in the kitchen. you're alone in the house. you're dying.
this is about sitting worrying about the results of blood tests to investigate the growth in your throat or neck. it's a cold hard winter in london. you're feeling low.
a person subject to low feelings rapidly contemplates their destruction. they're not thinking about the odds. they look about them, seeing ruptures everywhere. Annabel Stockman has shown this very simply and clearly in the case of being in China, trying to adopt a baby boy: sometimes your view of a place is unrelievedly bitter, literally cast over; then it may open: it can change back and forth diametrically. the reality of the situation spans the extremes of such ups and downs, perhaps. it involves the range, peppered with snatches of raw footage. the mode may tell us about the register of some person, as they live. ie passages that recur in similar form. the median and the mean tell us next to nothing. the bulk of what is at stake surfaces in specific small outcroppings, erupting in real time then spreading: breaking out extensively
an example is the very fleeting sighting of a rare bird: highly significant for one person, triggering instantaneous download of rich emotion laden stores, for another person it is meaningless; it's nothing
language in time encases smooths and assimilates, like the secretions of the shellfish. but first there was the incursion on the life of the organism: the bit of grit. it doesn't get changed, you remember, just covered.
in the first raw moments, there is a lot of silence, a lot of unsaid uninteresting rudimentary registrations of a state of a mind that is immobilised: grief, in one form or another crushes the victim, stunning and stupefying them: the person holding up the bit of shattered clothing is somebody else: a relative, a reporter; the person closest is out of shot
a person needs to be careless with themselves: throwing their body into the sea. however, a person also needs to find a form of caring about what's happening to themselves: what they can and can't do: what they can recover and must abandon. it all takes time. in each encounter with an official, we are bartering for an extension. these tedious transactions bore and alienate the listener, concerning a person they don't even know. everyone has their own worries, surely, they think
are you going back to work? asked the nurse, as she was labelling the phials of purple blood. yes. where do you work? you work at home. an artist! so you're warm in your house. it isn't that warm. don't you have central heating?
it's the coldest winter in living memory, you're sitting by the fire
Jacques Roubaud has shown how the horizon of history shelves off into complete obscurity merely 2 or 3 generations ago. we know nothing of the texture of those times. we have the rooms, sometimes, as spaces. they barely resonate, if at all.
there are several lumps in the neck, lumps under the armpits, impaired use of the left arm. the tests have been scheduled immediately. you presented and were immediately prioritized for tests. assuming you will die by Spring, you review your life.
Villon twice reviewed his life, sifting for things to leave behind, famously taking the form of a Will and Testament. he found next to nothing of value. reading through the Testament and its precursor, you encounter a bickering, acerbic, prosaic voice, periodically coalescing into passages of tightly structured verse. these are the ballads, the epistemological kernels and the human remains of the Testament of Francois Villon, whose name is also inscribed repeatedly, we can say obsessively, in acrostic. in the prose passages, which early editions segue into directly without a break in the text, which you navigate in the way of a creek or ditch, Villon enumerates the betrayals and abuses he has suffered, the effects on his wellbeing and the symptoms of his current ill-health, including the oysters or large clots of sputum he is now disgorging. a small number of ballades have been excerpted from this bitter bristling text and recast for the national curriculum
by spring you will be gone from this house, you think. you threw a plate at the floor. you have failed. you tried to starve yourself and poison yourself. now it looks like you succeeded, you thought, when you were first referred for ultrasound: what a relief, was the first thought, it's almost over. the whole sorry business is almost over, you thought, thinking of your life. by the time the leaves on the sycamore are fully out, this house will be quiet.
there has been too much noise and disturbance. you never found a purchase on the outer world. the fine structures of the inner world also eluded you. you sensed there were mechanisms to bring them together: following Braque: a bird: jumping into the air from a branch - as that branch springs back and sound is produced - this launches a series of overtures: it sets in motion a string of authentications and replies - it animates the space, the way a person with a spade up on their allotment, or Ponge's work on shrimps. you could not move fast enough into clear space, you see, to satisfy your mind
we love to hear stories of getting through against the odds: we laugh delightedly at the cleverness of the spider, the hare, the jewish tailor, knowing at some level these stories are there to compensate us
constrained and constricted in itchy inappropriate clothes, fobbed off with some miserable template for a building, some sorry plate of food, we are maddened, you think, totally iredeemably disillusioned misled and betrayed, lashing out at the nearest provocation. instantly at that moment the force of the law is brought to bear.
my early dreams were constantly haunted by the image of a finger and thumb, held so they were barely in contact yet exerting at the same time an inconceivably great force. you may be able to replicate this experience yourself. I asked my friend Rachel about it when we were in school. she said she was paralysed on the toilet by a similar contradictory force. this is precisely the sense of the Law that poses as natural and barely there, then discharges massively on its targets: pulverising them
military, industrial and service sector instances of this opposition are well know, where a light contemporaneity is underwritten by draconian codes and sanctions
such contradictions invade a person, impairing them. experience, memory and speech are severly impaired, while emotional transactions are impaired or disabled. consequently presenting as a terrible object, you think, a person ruins the lives of those they encounter closely forever, the same way their own life was a ruin.
in the installation [MY LIFE] a storage unit or shipping container is lined with all the books you have ever read. you have to track down buy or borrow a lot of books for that you'll have to look through all your reading lists. in the middle of the container will be your tools and your bed
you got to the ultrasound department at 9. you were seen quite quickly. the consultant spent a long time looking at your neck running the scanner over and over around under your ears up under your jaw the gel began to run down your neck you were lying on your back in the darkened room looking at the lights in the ceiling
they arranged for the blood tests today
you see a cat sleeping in a corner on a pad of clothes. these cats of yours would grow old and die, you thought, a while ago; this house without them would contain voids. now you realize they will be here after you. they will be aware of your absence, as they are when you are away and Eduardo looks after them
you have begun trying to arrange some of your unfinished stuff. it is clear it can't be done. nobody really knows what's going on. everyone's drawn and down. you became tangled in with each other without knowing why.
it is a cold bright day in december.
Tu Fu's project of attending famous tourist viewpoints and weeping, coincided with the last part of his life, when he contemplated the historical and cosmological destruction around him and the failure of his own political and personal projects. the chance preservation of the poems he wrote at that time reveals the extent of his isolation. you knew almost nobody, you thought. nobody will ask and there is nothing to say
a human being is a polluter and destroyer of other beings.
air and water are filled with foul discharges, the sea is filled with whole and disintegrated plastic bags which outnumber the weight of phytoplankton. animals, even bees, are forced to grow to unnatural size. the speech of human beings forms a toxic mantle around the earth. were a person to be burned in a final belch of impurities, those carbon atoms would be released which have strayed in to their body. where they are layed in the ground, embalming fluids prevent even that small return of nutrients from breaking down