Spill Writing

Spill Geist: Orientations in darkness




It appears we are in complete darkness.


It appears we are in complete darkness.


It appears we are in complete darkness.


Let’s rework this. Let’s think it about it some more.





It appears we are in complete darkness, and the writing keeps trying to undo itself; it’s confronted with structures that battle with its meaning.


It appears we are in complete darkness, and we catch a glimpse of something: immaterial; in the sphere of feeling, fleeting and fickle.


In complete darkness, nuance is harder to notice; we lose immunity; our steps become more tentative. But we also become braver, with time. A different politics of visibility emerges; a different poetics of being. Contrasts take time to appear. We find spirits and confront our own; we are in a constant becoming.


In complete darkness, reflection, projection and potential gather momentum.


But it’s not all that dark, actually, if you give yourself time to adjust. Soon, it’ll seem bright enough. And in this new darkness, there’s a paradigm shift too: our vantage point changes; suddenly, there is volume and a shifting perspective. Nothing is singular.


In partial darkness, I find an invitation to think of Spirit in a polyphony of ways – being, ghost, traces, attitudes, confrontations, otherworldliness; a way of understanding human experience beyond embodiment and rationalisation;a way of accessing different states and, inadvertently, different politics.


In partial darkness, I think of how the event (and the experience) are contemporary paradigms of engagement, modes of framing or delineating art. But in experiencing darkness, I encounter a productive uncertainty. Here, ideologies are made and unmade, severed from their usual mechanisms of invisibility.


It appears we are in partial darkness in the city, veiled by shards of light and flickering signs and histories of the day, erased, stamped on, contoured.


It appears we are in partial darkness, but there’s so much to be found here. In darkness, a poetics of the spirit emerges.


It appears we are in partial darkness in Sarah Jane Norman’s Stone Tape Theory; in Pacitti Company’s Moving Mountains.


We begin, then, with partial darkness, as a space of recovery and regeneration.




Partial darkness is not linear, nor is it necessarily narrative; partial darkness is a space from which our precarity might be reconsidered, where time (loops), memories (re)form.


In Stone Tape Theory light flickers, occasionally, temporarily, quickly, and what I discern are merely sculptures: the borders of the room, the bodies that have gathered there. I encounter a timid and internal temporality, a process of freezing that only lasts for a second. I encounter fractured memories, a committed exercise of remembrance and distortion, and although the narrative dissipates every time I try and pin it down, other means of recording occur.


Stone tape is a theory that proposes that a traumatic, or notable events imprint themselves psychically onto a particular location. Such ghosts behave like recordings, residual hauntings, be they spatial, immaterial or embodied, capturing electrical impressions that are then replayed under certain conditions.


In Sarah Jane Norman’s piece, this concept is returned to both body and place, investigating the residual traumas that shape our experiences of the present, but also the displaced temporality that such memories hold. Stone Tape Theory speaks of a ritual of haunting, in which the looping narratives of the past become shared in a space of distortion, reauthored by other bodies complicit in the evolving soundscape.


I recall the intricacy and precision of Sarah Jane Norman inscribing a forgotten language onto bones in Bone Library; here, she is searching for electro-magnetic imprints, for something much more immaterial in her constant chain of associative memories, a hidden recall of trauma. When her body occasionally emerges in the darkness, it’s only for a brief encounter; we let go and we capture, moving beyond the narrative dimension of memories.


In the same way in which Bone Library become a testament to remembrance, a performance of cultural memory, here our own bodies inhabit this sonic landscape. Memories haunt us, but they are not are own; in darkness, though, memories have no author, and we feel their decay.


A different politics emerges in Moving Mountains, in which we are confronted with a cinematic triptych that speaks of visibility, representation and agency in relation to disability. These are images that operate aesthetically and indexically, building a lexicon of power, contestation and agency. Energies are channelled: there is gesturing, mirroring, reworking.


Bodies are draped and revealed; identities refuse to be fixed. Moving Mountains, it grows over time, it loops back into itself, it takes over. It emerges from these bodies that are gathered, but references other spaces, perhaps instances of confrontation; but this is not about remembrance, but mapping a form of agency. The work navigates instances of oppression without giving them visibility; instead, it speaks more boldly about power; these actions and portraits, they act as manifestoes, and ask for no one’s permission.


Piss on pity’, as the work itself states.


Moving Mountains challenges mythologies of representation and identification of disability, and delves into questions of agency, oppression and assault. It makes visible through the visual what written narratives fail to do; it finds something in the darkness, and suggests processes of its coming into being, whilst walking the line between personal and public, between ideologies that render identities invisible, and responses that call on responsibility.


– Diana


Geist has no direct equivalent in English; it is often referred to as ghost, spirit, mind. Also see Zeigeist, meaning literally time-spirit, or spirit of the age.