THE CASTRATION OF CAELUS
A KNOT, A NETWORK, A THING, A WORLD
It is overcast and the light entering through the window casts soft diffused shadows. The table is positioned to capitalise on the available light; the curtain opens and closes to adjust to the changing light throughout the day. Living high up, the light enters in a different way, it feels more horizontal.
This apartment is a vessel. I’m not sure if it is a ship or a container but its cargo is life, matter, and affect thrown together. Objects are thrown together; the root of the word “object” is a combination of ob “in front of” and jacere “to throw” which applies to both the verb, to oppose, and the noun, a tangible thing perceived by or presented to the senses. Apartments, like objects, are deceptively not static.
This drawer is a vessel: a knot of objects.
This wooden canister is a container and a network of lines.
This incense burner is a thing and a holder of things.
This still life is a composition of rooms in an apartment: a world.
They are emptied of their contents and recomposed, each object repeatedly touched and moved. There is an easy precision to their placement: quickly considered with rote attentiveness to their relation in space and their performance for lens and shutter, window and curtain.
Pebbles tumbled into smoother and rounder shapes wash up on the shore with shells formed from the mantle of mollusks. Some find their way into a hand-carved spalted wood vessel discovered in an antique store a stone’s throw from their Fife Coastal home: a border between land and sea.
Spalted wood is also known as web wood because of the zone lines it contains. The dark lines are a result of a mycelial defence: a zone of interaction where the fungus protects its territory from its fungal neighbours. It is rare for this to occur in living wood. There are a specific set of conditions that enable fungal colonization and a short window of usability during the growth of the zone lines before the wood decays.
The drawer opens and the contents shift but remain together. This is not top-drawer stuff, but items relegated to the lower tier of randomness and infrequent use. Expired antacids and bright orange earplugs will be thrown away. The orange plastic case is a provocation of future travel and a reminder of past adventures, unpacked and repacked at each destination. The polaroid now lives in the drawer: an inaccurate representation of the drawer’s current contents.
The thing stands in goat-legged contrapposto: a slight leaning towards, owing to a missing bolt. A shiny modern replacement bolt wasn’t helping, so it was removed but still lives within the vessel. Why does it have those holes in the lid?: an unspecific specificity. On one of the boy’s visits, he lifts the lid expecting to find the scarab beetle encased in resin that he knows is always there, but a different object is revealed: a surprise. He is older now and no longer interested in its contents, so it is used to house a lighter and matches – a fitting function since its identification as an incense burner.
A photo, a spoon, some pills, an awl, a clip, a rock, a cube, a vase, dead leaves, a camera, the paper, the window, the curtains, the light, a table, a wall, a pandemic, an apartment, a human, a composition: “Disparate and incommensurate elements (human and non-human, given and composed) cohere and take on force as some kind of real, a world.”[i]
[i] Kathleen Stewart, “Tactile Compositions,” in Objects and Materials, ed. Penny Harvey et al. (New York: Routledge, 2015), 119.
It is overcast and the light entering through the window casts soft diffused shadows. The table is still positioned to capitalise on the available light: the curtains drawn wide to let in as much of the day as possible. This laptop sits in a red and blue paper scene amongst the detritus of compositions un-knotted, re-networked, and re-worlded. I have been sitting inside this still life world for a month now. The paper is frayed and creased, not in the pathetic fallacy of a decaying photography set, but simply in its service as a desk. The paper is covered in a pink dust that has eroded off of a geode. Why have I not put these things away?
Did I need more time with these things?