You try to imagine what you really see on the other side of the sliding door, the bay window. Not the burglar bars or the flower boxes, no. Because when you look out the window, you’re not looking at all that, really, are you? Not all the things – the street, the cars passing and in their parking bays, whatever sliver of sky you might see, even the other buildings, housing other people, also looking out the window, not really looking at whatever is outside that window, but rather at the spaces between, the vast expanses of air. In a way, when you really think about it, you’re really looking inside...
You don’t want to say it, but is it really, you know, yourself? It’s a trite thing to think, you think, because really, what is yourself? Your self? You say that word over and over again in your mind – and how can you say something in your mind? how do you hear something you say in your mind without you even seeing or hearing it? – until the word is just a sound, a meaningless sibilance like the crashing of some distant breakers. For you can see your body in a mirror – even, if the light is right, your reflection in the window-glass. But that is not your self, is it? Not, at least, the entirety of it. And you know that, because you have always looked to other things to show you what your self is. And yet, do they show you your self? You think of your favourite song – but everyone’s favourite song is also someone else’s favourite song. No matter what it means to you, it means that to someone else, too, or at least something similar. That’s a nice thought, of course, especially when you are looking out a window and see no people, and you might feel a bit lonely, a bit pensive. You think perhaps of a poem you found in a book in the second-hand bookstore, randomly selected – well, you think “random”; it was a book you picked up only because you
liked the cover, or the colour or title on the spine, and you know that isn’t the way you should select books, but that is the way life is, isn’t it? you cannot hold yourself to all of the axioms and commandments people give out – that you know no one has read for decades. And that poem, well... what was it again? You can only remember the shape of it, the way it looked on the page. But you also remember the way it made you feel. And that you read it to someone, and they said they liked it – but you know if you asked them about it now they would say they didn’t remember it. But then, what do you remember? Do you remember even the beginning of this thought, where it was going, going toward something like...
You can’t even remember it yourself. You are still looking into the space, the thing you cannot
see but you know is there, like the teacher in Grade 5 who held up an empty glass and said What
is in this glass? and the class chorused Nothing and the teacher smirked and said, No, it is full
of air, and the air is full of everything. But it is more than everything, because you cannot even
sense everything. What would the space look like if you could see a broader spectrum of light? Or radio waves, the entirety of your sensory domain boiling in a sea of information? But you cannot imagine that, obviously. It is beyond yourself. Your self. The majority of what you see is colourless, but if you could hold a handful of air and look into it? Sure, you might find some dust – great.
But dust is maybe what you were looking at, looking for. Because you can never be sure what
it really is, and every part that makes it up can take you somewhere else. Thinking about where
it came from, the dandruff of the universe: ash – the fired remains of someone’s home, or just some distant veld – or earth – whorled up by wind or the bare feet of a child – or the dead skin of animals – some of it probably your own, or perhaps the broken fronds of a swan’s feather—
But you remember there are no swans where you live, so it can’t be that. But why not? Is every thing everything? Semantics, you know, but. Can your breath, now gathering wet on the pane, end up in some distant future as one of those waves you still hear in your ears? But those aren’t waves, you remember, they are the cars below, they are the—
The curtain flutters. The phone rings. You step back. You crumple up your imagination. You know you must start again.
Exhibition soundtrack available on Spotify: