Let’s Start with Utopia and Go from There…

“Desire, loneliness, the wind in the flowering almond - surely these are the great, the inexhaustible subjects.” Louise Gluck

From where we sit, in a room that primes us well for the spaces beyond, the garden offers itself as a model of the kind of consciousness that could be of help. We follow the streams of shadow and light (what is shadow but light’s olive secret), this delta of texture as it courses through the assembled leaves, washes across the imbued brick of the wall, spills onto flowers and shrubs. We listen to the light’s breathing as it makes and makes the world. We find ourselves briefly elsewhere, calm as sand that once was cliff, caught in the tidal work of time, its ebb and surge, and us made more modest by its ceaseless coming into being; separated now yet still together and able, more fully perhaps than the looming height of headland, to feel ourselves into the weave, involved and belonging.

Interstellar Stella animate! commission by AL + AL 2005

Today, we are gifted: there is another garden within our reach. E4’s live feed of the most recent Big Brother offers us the lawned arena of the spectacle in a tall, wide surveillance shot that replaces cctv’s sand-grained smudges with a high-colour edge designed to catch the fine hairs on a contestant’s arm, the sleek surfaces of furniture and the embedded urgency of performers looking to code themselves, through acts of pure will, into the wider, unseen sympathies of the viewer. The feed is continuous, except for commercial breaks (the feed is continuous). There are no textures, no depths, no deltas except those of flaccid sexual and personality intrigue.

There are no wild birds in the televisual garden.

Five minutes from this house, strenuous work on the new high-speed European rail link continues apace. Building on existing rail networks and also crafting new chasms through the Eastern flanks of the metropolis, this vast construction project, centred around King’s Cross / St Pancras, currently the largest building site in Europe and employing numerous migrant workers from dozens of countries, if viewed from the air, would appear as both river and delta. Its sidings, junctions, marshalling yards and service areas seem to offer an accumulation, a gathering of narratives embedded directly into the fabric of the project, and these tales are of course only amplified by the stories of both workers and those passengers already latent, early ghosts, in the steel and sweat, concrete and chrome of the gathering edifice.

S 46°36’ W 70°56’ Argentina, Santa Cruz, Perito Moreno Glacier Earth from the Air website © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Send a text into the teeming air and, like a bird, it looks for somewhere to land.

A sidebar to the huge building is the question of names. Pancras, patron saint of springs and exemplar of the ancient inheritances of this remarkable quarter of the capital, is deemed too obscure, too medically inflected perhaps to appeal to the brand-hungry masses, to the capital of incoming corporations and their agents, riding the rails like sleek hobos in constant motion around the planet…

A substitute name, then, to conjure with: London Fleet, a blessed merger of value with deep England; the area’s buried river, tributary of the Thames, the spring the saint here blesses, now a sewer forced through culverts, drains…

1.45pm: a person under the train on the local line north. To end on oil-stained rails or in her quiet arms.

Surely the most optimistic point in the garden lies where the tree leaps into sky, where the stretching branches write their desire into the hum of summer afternoons and each leaf reminds us of the conquistador’s raft in Aguirre, Wrath of God, a vessel returned to the forest’s apes, as Kinski’s incomer, a skeleton dressed only in a soul (as pale as a dream of milk) drifts towards the river’s mouth. Witness his exhilarating defeat, his imminent immersion, his startling impulse to add his signature, however flawed, to the endless page of things.

Silent as shadow, a cat moves through the garden, and becomes the garden.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

Post a reply

animate! will moderate your comment before it goes online here