Four Pages on Müleskind
(1hour deadline, Kassel, August 2007)
A body, oddly shaped. A striped t-shirt, the neckline of which is complicated by various strings, thongs, and the like, some of which are inhibited in their free movement by labels or tickets in plastic sheaths, threaded onto a thong, twine, or heavy mono-filament, through a roughly administered brass eye-ring. These tickets display information which is now illegible due to the bleaching effect of the sun, the oils of the skin, or through having been soaked and dried repeatedly. The stripes of the shirt too are faded, making what was once an unpleasant colour combination now more pleasing.
The shoulders are broad and rounded from habits of bad posture; the face and its features are obscured by shadow. But the shiny blackness of his hair is apparent. These details are seen through the slats of a Venetian blind behind which he sits, rather too close to it. The pages of his notebook, which move unhelpfully with the motion of the writing implement, being in contact with the blind, makes it shake too. Is it possible that in has fastidiousness, this note-taker is using the hard divisions of light and shade provided by the part-opened blinds in some way in the unfolding of his diagram? What other reason could there be for his decision to work here so close to the window – to its shade-providing device – that the book and the blinds are in contact, when behind him there is a vast expanse of adequately lit space, chairs, desks and other furniture, where he could sit to do his work?
The eye adjusts to the bright reflection, then to the impenetrable darkness of the shadow as it follows the tip of the pen across these divisions, diagonal lines (themselves shifting with his fevered hand). And the dark bands reveal the spidery shapes of darker ink. And the light bands come into more normal exposure as the retina tightens, allowing to spread to their still narrow width the lines of the letters, the numbers, the boxes, that had been eroded as acid eats into an etcher’s plate.
The writer, then, is not recording ideas formulated earlier: here witnessed is no transcription. Instead, he is involved in the work in a way that is rarely true of others described using these same words. The textures of the moment are gathered from their diverse sources, the work insinuating itself, as if such contingencies might be the bones of an organism in construction.
On other days when there is no direct sun, he may work a different way, giving not a thought to the successes of previous sessions – feeling no nostalgia for intensities that have been achieved, but trying afresh to devine in the conditions of the day, new methods that will make and unmake in turns, his process.
A smile, or a part-smile, twists one end of the line of his mouth.
There are tall plants, the leaves of which are a rich, glossy green. They crowd in on his work-space from behind. (He placed them there some days ago.) If the plants are watered and healthy, this is not his doing. Another user of this space has made it her responsibility to administer plant-feed diluted in the correct proportions, more or less, and poured from a watering can of moulded plastic designed in the shape of a stork that has been sitting near by all this time, and that might be full or empty depending on the phase of her watering cycle. (This detail is missed , invariably.)The stork was once a brighter pink. But the sun through the windows has left it with bleached exterior. The inner surface is coloured by mosses. An aluminium rivet, roughened and oxidised, affixes a pouring handle onto the container, while the bird’s neck, head and beak, make the spout.