Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Lopsided (12)

Following on from the photo described in my last post where E.’s legs are all but invisible I made a set of drawings some years ago. At the time I had a stamp made from a small (unfortunately very bad) drawing: the figure remains the same while the ‘legs’ shiftshape and become ever more incongruous - as do the phantasies and projections we indulge in when faced with and shaken but perhaps unmoved by the mystery of an other. I’ve got a whole stack of these drawings somewhere, found three on my computer the other day – perfect timing.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Lopsided (11)

There is a photograph of her, tiny against the mass of happy relatives: Whitsuntide 1957, my mother's and father's engagement, the whole family photographed standing in the park. Everybody smiles, my mother's face lit up like I have never seen it. E. is about five years old.
She stands there, one hand clutching the other one as if she had to keep them from moving, from gesturing uncontrollably; stands there, her little body so tense, like a jack knife about to flick shut; stands there, clutching her hands to her stomach as if it was aching; stands there, pressing her hands to her middle as if about to fold in onto herself. She stands there, as if all she could do was try to contain her pain, as if all she could do was try to hold her aching body in this transfixed form for the eternal moment it took to take the photograph. She stands there with an old face on a child's body.
While some of the women in the photograph wear sleeveless dresses she is dressed as if for winter. The coat with its little round collar is cut like a dress, only that the material is heavier. She wears a sweater or blouse underneath, its edges just visible under the coat sleeves, and a pair of dark trousers, which in the photograph have congealed into a heavy black pedestal for a legless girl. I read pain into the hands clutched over her stomach and into her little serious face that is the only one in the photograph that doesn't show at least the trace of a smile.
She looks straight into the camera.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Lopsided (10)


Material: tissue paper
Dimensions: 40 cm x 82,5 cm

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lopsided (9)

This view of the paper shoes - photographed from above and close-up - comes closest to the pair I found on Berlin flea-market and which moved me so. I'm thinking again about how they move - the sadness about them is manifold. Leaving aside their unevenness – it’s enough that these are children's shoes which would not fit anymore on the feet of whoever they belonged to - if they were still alive. It's enough that they have obviously been worn extensively and repaired and repaired, with tears and cracks in the leather and lots of tiny nails hand-hammered in their soles. But there’s something beyond the passing of time that (de)rails me, twofold: It’s the actual time they seem to refer to - war time, fascism in Germany, which I need to explore. Just for now I’ll focus on this though: what I find most immediately disconcerting is the discord here - there being two of a kind, but (probably) not two of a pair, and thus the impossibility of a whole and of restoring them to an owner, even an imaginary one.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Lopsided (8)

For me the shoe has many functions, none of them identical with the real function it had for E.: it is my way in and my barrier, boon and bane, thrall and threnody. I can’t see her without it, but I can’t see her with it either.
Found this in my thesis: ‘but what has happened is that the thing we are staring at has sunk into its image’ (Maurice Blanchot). When does looking become staring? At college I made a video-piece where I seamlessly edited out people’s blinks to get permanent stares. Blinks of course are like little breaths for the eye which can’t function without these nourishing moments of darkness. People who looked at the piece often couldn’t work out what was strange and straining to see ended up not blinking themselves.
I feel like I’m staring back into my childhood, searching for E. Everywhere I find her she is standing and looking. Always frontally, always head on. Might she move if I turn my back?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Lopsided (7)

The shoe

Eyes straight she wades
through a thicket of stares.
Under a drab frock
her spine’s a bony squiggle.

Her limbs’ imperfect rhyme
drags scores of prying eyes
to a brown boot
with a high-raised sole.

Those looks roll down her
like dribble. Her shoe’s a piggy bank
where she stores stares, a clogged
register of tags and snags.

Whispers hang in every air,
brush her skin: ‘The poor girl.’
‘If only she’d.’ ‘Who will ever?’
She sways on thin stalks.

Night-time she’s a pink flamingo,
stands poised on one leg
in shallow waters. In the sky
the moon turns a blind eye.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Lopsided (6)

I am working on a new pair of shoes, using this very thin, faintly pink, porous paper with some more deeply pink tissue paper. This time I want translucency, lightness and light, but also girlishness and prettiness, qualities that aren't to be taken uncritically, but which were denied E. by default. She was a little girl at a time when disabled children were dressed in drab colours and shapeless shifts, doomed attempts at hiding away an imperfect body, as if it carried shame.
In the process I’m finding new forms and softness where I didn’t expect it. For an instant I see through the shoes and feel the feather-light touch of another being brushing against me, hear a murmur as if from a conch shell. I hold still, all ear.