“A pile of medical books, and volumes of a miscellaneous order, reached almost to the ceiling, water-stained and covered with dust. Just above them was a very small barred window, the only ventilation. On a maple dresser, certainly not of European make, lay a rusty pair of forceps, a broken scalpel, half a dozen odd instruments that she could not place, a catheter, some twenty perfume bottles, almost empty, pomades, creams, rouges, powder boxes and puffs. From the half open drawers of this chiffonier hung laces, ribands, stockings, ladies’ underclothing and an abdominal brace, which gave the impression that the feminine finery had suffered venery. A swill-pail stood at the head of the bed, brimming with abominations. There was something appallingly degraded about the room, like the rooms in brothels, which give even the most innocent a sensation of having been accomplice; yet this room was also muscular, a cross between a chamber a coucher and a boxer’s training camp. There is a certain belligerence in a room in which a woman has never set foot; every object seems to be battling its own compression — and there is a metallic odour, as of beaten iron in a smithy.”
Did I read this at Malaspina yesterday morning? I feel like I read parts of it, maybe not even words so much as assonance, but no, they reference Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood directly, but that doesn’t mean the text needs to be inferred so directly.
I got ahead of myself. What a surprise to walk in and start immediately reading something that wouldn’t let me go. I recently discussed Nightwood in a group conversation, about how the rhythm devastates me. Alarms me. It is not a favorite book, at least not in the way that bank security questions WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK. I would never bring this book to the proverbial desert island either, as I already find the book incredibly lonely. Barnes may have written most of it in Peggy Guggenheim’s toss aways, but she wrote it out of heartbreak.
The show by Kathy Slade and Lisa Robertson exceeds what I’ve heard. And I’ve heard good things. The show courses on a particular rhythm. Language is linear, but not its meaning. Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus is the inkblot. The Anatomy of Melancholy is a tomb.
This wall is an almost perfect interlay between text and print object. I like paper on the wall more than on the table. It also works on the floor. The takeaway is my favourite part. The woman looks horrified though as I begin to fold it up. She gestures towards the lone rubber band. One minute earlier, she had suggested the take away, seeing me take out a paper pad and pen. No need to write, she had said. I fold the paper three times, but I would never write on it.