The Edge of Things

In 2010 I was invited to write something for David Mackintosh’s exhibition The Edge of Things at Cornerhouse, Manchester. Here is a link to his website >>> Go see it

The Edge of Things installation

Here’s a PDF of the exhibition guide. David_Mackintosh_The_Edge_of_Things

The only way to begin is to talk to you.
The harr has almost lifted and the tenement
opposite is becoming visible. Something
compels me to look out of the window, and
I take leave of my task as well as my senses.
Looking beyond the foreground and past the
empty street below into the middle distance,
the golden section of the composition draws
my eye up until it reaches a singular seagull
hovering and still against an ominous grey
sky. The scraggy bird swoops down taking
my eyes with it. It is only then that I catch
sight of a shadowy figure stooping low inside
the window opposite me. He rises up gently,
meeting my gaze with equal inquisition. The
hooded man continues to stare intently and
glides a little closer to his glass, one world
separated from another. I am riveted to the
spot. I forget when I blink or when I stop
looking but both the moment and the spectre
are gone. Disappeared from my line of sight
and the frame of vision to the back of my
mind and the edge of things.

I understand that I am at the seaside and
believe you when you say this. But the
water is murky and I can see that its foam is
thick with rancid effluence as it encroaches
onto compacted sand. An estuary is neither
of service to the sea nor its slave, hardly
one thing or the other. Not a river or an
ocean but at the cusp of both. The tidal
ebb begins and the fl ow recedes, shifting
territory and boundaries without purpose.
All manner of things have bobbed to the
surface and washed up on these shores.
Things are thrown up like thoughts from
an unknown source, disappearing as fast
as they seem if they are not singled out
for some other purpose. Each fragment is
pummelled, distorted and remade by the
water. I catch sight of something glimmering
in the early morning sun, and notice that a
tiny crustacean has made itself a home in a
golden locket. Legends of lost manacles and
ship-wrecked treasures are told as often as
stories of severed limbs and blood stained
tables. Like the sea, our tales stretch out
before and after us so that we never reach
the end of the narrative. The people walk
slowly and with great care because the
climate is stifling. Why are they here and
what do they plan to do? It is true that
the mind does not move much in the still
and hot air.


A stage, like paper has four edges and
more often than not only one side is used.
Sometimes a frame delineates the edges.
An edge has no identity as such and each
sentence is a blink. So when is a frame not
a frame? A drawing is no more contained by
a support and its structures than a sudden
thought intent on escaping the confines of
the most rational mind. The protagonist turns
a corner and finds herself within a forest
with no visible glade. Have I been here all
along she wonders? In a trance-like state it is
tricky to distinguish fact from fiction and one
surface from another. It came from nowhere
and looms in to envelop her, as far as she
can see. Branches stretch out, overlapping,
sinewy and wet with dew. The treetops are
not visible but she rightly assumes them to
be up there somewhere out of sight. She
observes the scene reluctantly, panicking
and unsure if it is safer to go deeper into
the forest than to seek out its edges. As she
moves evermore swiftly moonlight catches
her, its silvery tones illuminating her skin
and not the way forward. So she runs.
The faster her legs spring forward the more
the light flickers to strobe and confuse. The
trees are densely packed with shadows and
decaying vegetation. She must fight her
way through, occasionally and breathlessly
uttering, what brought me here? Now the
snow is falling, the page is white and our
protagonist will keep running.

As I catch your eye you look away. Dipped
down and deadened. Yet our relationship
persists. Dialogue between us is thin on the
ground and we have begun to enact curious
rituals invoking a kind of discourse channeled
between various static media. This media is
the conduit and without it we would run out
of things to say. We go for journeys in books
to places we can no longer visit. If we both
read at the same passage at the same time
we might bump into each other. We place our
cheeks against the page. Where the paper is
smooth, the skin feels rough. These days we
sit together, in the top floor tenement, chins
on the back of my sofa peering like lovelorn
dogs through the wintry sashed glass. This
perfect viewing device promises to protect
those inside from the contamination of the
streets, and the unknown. These edges might
save us from an abyss. The world appears fl at
when we look out of the window, through its
four mitred corners. Like the clouds that pass
by from edge to edge life does not come to us
here. They drift onwards, becoming our past,
sometimes slow, sometimes fast. My dreams
are fl at, my screens are fl at, the world, for all
I know, outside my window is fl at. There are
certain limits and I am unable to see past
them. Self-imposed boundaries are there for a
reason. When I can’t think what I should do, or
what I think I should be doing, I make a list.

Because we have not left the house for long
enough, the remnants of life that we receive
through our outmoded technologies and
which we see from our windowsill are
always second-hand. This does not mean
we are unfamiliar with them. At first we
presumed that it would, but this is
not the case. The more we compare our
visions, the more wildly they seem to differ.
I had dusted our collection of knick
knacks and art upstairs in the back bedroom.
Dust needs removing from the inside as
well as the outside and it is important not to
forget the crevices which debris can so easily
settle in. The objects are quite heavy and
the job requires concentration. If I am honest
it is quite laborious and something I put off
doing until the accretion of bluey fluff and odd
gritty particles is visible and detracts from the
contours, rims and colours of the collection.
I might be collecting dust now and it would
be a much more impressive hobby. The dust
has settled and so have I, to take action only
when it seems ridiculous not to. Accumulated
particles have softened my edges, covering
up the true quality of things so at the point
when cleaning becomes a necessity I begin
the ritual.

The relic is still operable and it has no center.
We have access to sections, various sites and
pages; it is just that now it is not so easy to
find them. We will find them, collect them
and create a map. We will cut into them,
force them out and reassemble them without
classification. I would like to do the same with
all the things and thoughts that have passed
through my mind of late. This would be one
way to acknowledge the troubling phenomena
occurring at the periphery of the thought. My
account is disjointed and maybe this
is a reflection on how I have come to think.
I can only speak for myself, but it might also
be the case for you. I write to extend
my concentration span, to fix the fleeting, to
get to the point, to get to the end. I know that
things are often empty but the difference now
is that I have no urge to fill them. No need to
furnish them with my misgivings. Some things
you will recall from the past and others could
jog your memory, this is not important; the
way things resonate with you is surely a
by-product. What I consider to be edges have
all but dissolved. Thoughts delineated and
outgrown. You need to get somewhere and I
want to help you.

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