This is the place – One

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(The following was written in a process-collaboration with Anna Brownsted and unclaimed creatures, for The Fictional Woods) (Image by John Fraissinet, 2012)


This is the Place/This is the Space

27th May 2014; 12.07pm

Isn’t it funny how a space is rarely occupied but merely skirted? As if you don’t want to impinge on the space too much, and politely let it ‘be’ space that is not yours, or anybody else’s for that matter. The table tops and benches apologise for their presence; tucked tightly up against the raised skirting board, but infrequent, economic. Wooden benches face into the wall to avert the sitting gaze that might otherwise be directed toward the centre of this transient space; images, pictures, art, bribing you to turn to the wall like a naughty child in a corner.

Transience. You dwell on this word a moment. Passing through: ephemeral; impermanent and fragile.

In the time it has taken to consider these thoughts, a number of people have passed through. They have offset this same oppressive transient architecture with the aid of a destination, a motivation as pure and unrelenting as the expansion of space itself. And what if they were to dwell as you are dwelling now? What if they were to neglect their destination – their motivation – and abandon agenda? What without project could survive in this space: inertia?

Inertia is alien here: much more than people have passed through on their way to fruition, manifestation, between these walls: Ideas and thought on their perilous journey to knowledge. Though thought is impermanent. Knowledge is impermanent.

In this spirit you decide to move. Towards the room’s centre, to your right. A protest to this very idea that the space is not yours and you should make apologies for your presence and move on beyond, or else sidle to the corners and walls so as not to impose too much. For now you shall dwell, and challenge and remain. Approaching the centre of the room: Do you feel that? Your inconvenient and uneconomic position in the centre of the room, stopping, disobeying, and remaining. It’s a strange thought, inertia. Precisely because a thought can neither be inert nor fully comprehend itself and its movement.

The longer you stand, the more awkward it feels. People begin looking at you. And less: sensing your different, anarchic, inert presence, they don’t have to look at you, which is all the more unsettling. At least if they looked you could acknowledge and reassure yourself, and them.

A stranger crouched on a bench, hunched over a thought, an idea, a problem, or absolutely nothing of much consequence at all. Observe them. You may even look, but don’t get too close. You don’t want to give the game away. Are they, too, aware of your glare? Does an unconscious urge compel them to complete their journey through this space? What if you were to make a stand, together? There is strength, and permanence, in numbers; maybe this is a fundamental tenet of civilisation: to defy the space of the world as merely transient, persistently directing you to move through and disappear beyond its material formations.

You’ve proved your point and laid down the gauntlet – though to persist would not achieve anything more than to become a fixture of this room and what use would that be? The very fact you have the choice is testament to your special position as sentient and free. The room is suddenly envious of you. If you so wished you could swap this rectilinear world for the spherical one of outside. The door, to the footbridge; that door to a new space, a new experience. Take a look.

The walls out there are not quite so nearly as visible, defined, and geometric. True, there are paths and there is gravity which assigns some structure. But they do not control your eyes, your mind. Rising upward into the void above, its expanse lightens the load of what is expected of you here. There is something unfathomable about it; something comfortingly oblique in which your thoughts are not striated. But what can be achieved out here is of little consequence to you. It is all so…unfathomable.

Returning to the rectilinear world, you see the door directly opposite, flanked by two absurd features of nature whose obsequious presence make this space seem all the more oppressive. What is outside of that door that is any different from the outside you have just returned from? People pass through their entrances and exits spanning the full range of combinations and it seems all entrances and all exits are just gateways for making innumerable journeys of which you cannot fully comprehend. The oppression of transience returns.

So far all thoughts have been about space; even the space of thought. But what of that space that is time? That space that has swum through this corridor since the last brick was laid and sealed its integrity? Has time too felt the strain of transience in here?

Towards your left, at the end of the corridor, two glass boxes housing stone lions stand sentry. What do they look for? What do they guard against? They are making me anxious – do they also make you anxious? Do I belong? Do you? Nobody else seems to have noticed them. They may have been here as long as this hall. Perhaps they hold the key to understanding and feeling comfortable here. They seem to have mastered permanence. You walk closer, slowly. People may pass you, either side, quickly and without pause for thought, but they are not protesting; they are not aware: they are not you.

Oddly you spy yourself in the reflection of the double doors between the sentries: a ghostly apparition that mocks your project of defiance. Other ghosts of those around you cut in and out of the screened image, appearing and disappearing like the passage of time. You remain defiant in your careful stride, keeping your ghost in full view at all times. If you are to succeed in remaining in this space you must not fall foul to this mirage’s trick.

Past the archway you first entered and out of the corner of your left eye, a static figure draws your attention. Static like you had been, just moments earlier, in the centre of the space. You consider that the figure has managed to achieve what you had not: the inertia of not just body but of thought also. It is entombed, stationary, stoic. It is a part of the space and defiant of transience. It – he – has achieved what you have not been able to: immortality.

Step closer. Observe as you have been observed. Take in the expression that is fixed and lasting. What does it say? Where do the eyes look? Follow the line of sight over your shoulder. Across the room is a box almost identical. What lies inside? What is hidden? Why has the figure chosen to fix its gaze here, everlasting? What would he want to take in for the rest of eternity? What would you? You consider the ever so slightly melancholy expression beneath the longing eyes that fix on the box. The figure longs for what is, or might be, inside.

Approach: take a look.

What does the figure long for?
What do you long for?

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