Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Lop-sided (5)

It’s a relief to be posting visual art, I feel on firmer ground here. Poetry is still so new a medium and I feel my failures in a dim and acute way (if that makes sense). It feels like I’m speaking with a faltering, croaky voice, a voice that is mine but also alien, or at least untried. The lack of familiarity comes partly from not haven’t made use of this poet’s voice for very long, but I feel similarly about my voice in general. Fact is, I do not speak enough. Everyday conversations with people I don’t know are few and far between and have become strained because of those periods when fatigue literally usurps my powers of speech. It's made me incredibly self-conscious. When I took to reading poetry aloud (long before I even wanted to write any) it was partially to re-acquaint myself with my own voice.
But enough of that: I’ve finally finished my pair of shoes. Made from brown tissue-paper they are ever so light. The layering of the shoes’ 'upper' is very thin, for the sole slightly denser, to link with the reality of such a raised sole's volume. I’ve chosen a small pair of boots as a toddler would wear for her first steps outside (also the first pair used in And where, and how). The shapes are hollow, air-filled, like empty egg-shells. This is less an act of remembering than imagination (but still of remembrance?), as my cousin was five years older than me and I wouldn’t have been around to see her as a toddler. I don’t even know if she would have had a bootie with a raised sole at such an early age, but my memory of her is inextricably bound up with these shoes, for better and for worse (I’ll come to this in another post).
There is an ambivalence about the shoes being cute as well as disturbing. I do feel touched by them in themselves, but esp. - when looking at these photos - by the way the laces curl up together. Made me think of Roland Barthes’ punctum, the unexpected detail that pierces one’s heart. The shoes pronounce a series of lop-sided relationships - my mind is whizzing away...
PS. The poem is still in flux. The changes appear below, in
Lopsided (4), which I keep up-to-date.

Material: tissue paper
Dimensions: 14 cm x 15 cm x 14 cm

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lopsided (4)

Me thinks I resolved the poem too neatly and with it the issue of memory and its taunts, haunts, demands and frailties. It’s been nagging me since I posted it, but posting was important, I wanted it out in the world, fresh, naked, and see if it could breathe on its own. It is good to have the blog as a sounding board, it helps me communicate with myself in interesting ways.
Working on this poem has been illuminating to me, as it brought up things that I hadn’t consciously considered before. The recalcitrance, resistance, unwieldiness of memory has become clearer. The mood of and relationship within the poem changed with the ‘knowing look’ –
I now have an opposite who wants to be reckoned with - unsettling and exciting. It was a surprise to see written: ‘I want speech of her’ - so true! Letting the poem breathe and change here makes me consider it a live thing, as is the process of remembering.
I’ll leave it at this for now. Made changes in the first stanza, clarified mood and direction. The ending is new. Still don't feel it's quite right, it will keep changing, you'll see.

Keeping time

She died a child, a sigh
breathed on a window.
From where she makes her play
for me I cannot say.

Finders keepers: her pale face
hovers, pain-pinched,
with a knowing look.
She clings to me like a bur.

Has she crossed these distances
to stand and stare?
I want speech of her,
not this stone-rose mouth.

I prod her, feed her lines –
she cries like a fox.
I touch her eyes –
those lids won’t close.

She keeps with me now
in my hoary house,
still as a picture.
Glassed under I heed her not:

Say my name! Say my name!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lopsided (2)

When I saw these children’s shoes on the flea-market stall in Berlin I not only thought of them as a pair but as having been worn by a girl, one girl. Before these shoes I had no interest in shoes and my need to have them puzzled me. I felt touched by them, pierced actually, by their confident asymmetry, the fact that dis/misproportion was so perfectly wed with similarity, with two-of-a-kindness.
I’m going back in time here, to when I found the shoes, to when I first made them part of my art-practice (at art-college) and further back to my childhood, as the shoes led me to someone I had all but forgotten: my cousin E., who was five years older than me and died when I was 12. My memory of her surprised me all these years after her death and I don’t think I’ve stopped thinking about her ever since.
I remember a photograph which turns out to be of myself. I saw her like this: motionless, still, peering into the eye of the camera with a small smile. Slightly curly brown bob, dark brown eyes ringed by black circles. She stands alone. A little girl with a hunchback and one foot in a shoe with a raised sole, to make up for a shorter leg. I remember that this shoe was of a strange shape, as if the foot in it was lumpy, twisted and contorted. When I find the photograph I realise that memory has played a trick on me: the smile is mine, I stand where I thought she stood, limbs intact. It makes me wonder what need her image touches in me.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Shoes, shoes, shoes

These are some of the photographs the glorious digitalesse took for me at the exhibition at Café Gallery. I love the eyes that looked here - these beautiful images reveal my shoes to me in new, exciting ways.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


I found these on a flea-market in Berlin about 12 years ago: a pair of old children's shoes, stuffed with yellowed newsprint from 1941. They look like two of a pair: one for a left foot, one for a right foot, same make, same leather, similar degree of wear and tear. But the left shoe is remarkably bigger than the right one, extending the length of the palm of my hand, while the smaller one only covers about two thirds of it. Still I never stopped thinking of the two shoes as a pair.
What is the (hi)story of these shoes? They lead me backwards and forward in time. All the pathways that slowly unfold and open up to me are entangled, make up a dense web of history, of experience, of stories told and untold, stories sensed, imagined, suspected. Stories of mine and stories of others. With lop-sided gait I want to tread these paths and see where they take me.