EVERY PLACE A PALIMPSEST
‘Nothing defines the specific rootedness of a location – the transformation of a place into a site – more than its being founded on a grave’. Francesco Pellizzi
‘…the snowflakes are dancing on the radio…’. David Peace
Every place is a palimpsest. We tread a forensic trace of memory, leaving a little behind, carrying a little away. The fields where she is lost and taken are invisibly layered with the facts and fictions of my historical gaze. The grave of my parents, seen for the first, and only time, ten years after their death. A contested recollection of a line of men, dark uniforms sweeping and striking the wet meadows of my childhood home, searching for the body of a lost child, my fingers reaching upwards to the calloused grasp of my father’s hand, while the cold rain mists the whole to a surreal shadow of itself, that I see in black and white. My tired eyes walking the seamless / stuttered lines of David’s fiction, wrapped, insomniac, in the last hours of a winter’s night. All these things, and more, lie translucent upon the ground.
The flat anonymity of this space bears no mark of the obscenities enacted upon it. A blank canvas: receiving and erasing the banal and dreadful brushstrokes of his deeds. Judit pauses, pulling her coat around her, and reminds me of the statement made by Beuys that “everyone is an artist”, and Metzger’s questioning reply – “ Himmler auch?”, and moments later, as we stand in the cold light we ask ourselves, was it Metzger? Was it Beuys? Have we remembered aright?
Amongst so much nothingness, we need a forensic gaze to find a beauty, to find a place where her soul can soar. In Judit’s words, “we need to pay attention to the things we do not know”. We look closely at the ground, we lose ourselves in the infinite singularity of the endless grass; the blades and the black luck of the clovers already stellar, already anticipating the labours of my pencil, the labours of my pen; until, in a wrenching invagination of the heart, the earth becomes the sky. Milky way. You will hear me call.
This really evoked a feeling of treading through the interstices between the material world, memory and imagination. The images are exquisite.
With pen and ink skills like that, you can do my next tatoo
You have certainly found beauty – I love the clover drawing especially, and your words are quite haunting.
Beautiful, deep, disturbing
Loved this – very evocative. It reminded me of Death Cab For Cutie’s song ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’. Apologies if that’s a rather lowbrow reaction. Please forgive a plug, but it also reminded me of a morning/memorial walk I wrote up a few months ago: http://lukebennett13.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/what-are-hilltops-for-a-short-walk-with-michel-de-certeau-to-the-land-beyond-pavements/
Hi Luke – I might have replied already… but it seems to have disappeared so perhaps I didn’t. The plug is perfectly acceptable. More! Interesting piece. ‘Lowbrow’ also most welcome, Contexts should be textured, not refined. Sorry to have missed the Occursus event on Friday, & I’m sure we will bump into each other at some point. Emma
Hi Emma – I thought you had too. No matter. Maybe we are both thinking of your reply tweet? I have a guest post coming up on my blog soon in similar tone to this of yours – a friend writing evocatively about the committal of her mother’s ashes to a stream in Snowdonia. An uplifting swirl of memories, materialities and a meandering river. I’m just waiting on the pics she took on her journey there…
‘We tread a forensic trace of memory, leaving a little behind, carrying a little away…’ Place itself altered by memory, and memory altered by the (renewed) contact we make with (a half-remembered) place. I think of places unvisited for years and which (due to obligations of work, family, etc) are brought back into one’s route/routine, into the ‘familiar’; the surprise at finding that these places have persisted without you (albeit altered) and how much they are still part of you. The rush of ‘contested recollections’ as you mark out the ‘known’ in the landscape and try to see (and think) beyond the known (to paraphrase Judit).
Hope I’m not simply mapping my own ideas onto the words and images. There’s a real, unforced intensity and urgency to the work (and beauty, too). Looking forward to seeing this develop.
Very helpful Brian. Be good to have a proper discussion about this sometime. Emma
I have always been drawn to the notion of places as palimpsests of memory – layers accreted over the years and polished by time to leave a patina. The secret is to know how to read them. Love the clover drawing.