Spill Writing

Spill Geist: Portraits (three fragments)


by Anna Mortimer


Portrait One: NO WHERE// NOW HERE

My old fear returns.

I am shepherded on to the stage; it is dark and the temperature is rising.

On the floor, a seam of black coal – a sharp diagonal with its cut surfaces, occasionally picking up light.

Noise, thumping and unidentifiable, grates and deafens. I am caught now and not going anywhere.

On the screen above scenes of destruction; iconic images of our age.

She stands, plain shift dress, head thrown back and the miner’s lamp swings. She catches and throws, catches and throws. The coal glints and dims in the sway of light. I wait, I watch, I wait.

I am getting hot; my ears are rebelling against the noise. I know that I have to endure.

There is an intensity of looking as I anticipate her next move. The coal sits waiting.

Then she melts away and I am left to wait. We know without being told what she is going to do. I have nowhere to hide.

The seam of coal is pushed, gathered, shoved, piled and moved across the stage in rhythmic rituals.

I remove my cashmere cardigan. I am getting so hot now, and the noise has increased to uncomfortable pitch.

I stand and watch, an hour creeps by, a dark hour of hell.

Is this labour hers alone?  Why am I not helping?

But I don’t get involved, I have not been invited to play my part, she wants to atone alone.

A passive passenger I slip away on a road to nowhere embraced by the blessedness of silence…

What a relief!


Portrait Two: Stone Tape Theory

In a very (very) dark space , where the absence of visual content comes as a shock, this is a finely crafted work, wrought through endurance. The work explores memory lost and found, revisited and expunged. There is much to consider here.

A deep excavation and an uncovering.

It is a traumatic journey explored through recorded sound, edited, layered, over and over again. It pays to listen intently in the intensity of the dark, to pick out fragmentary words and phrases.

Catharsis through randomness.

The work seems to be about language and articulation an expression of endurance and pain and a longing to make some sense of it all.

An expiation.

The piece barely leaves a visual trace. There is no record of attendance. No token to take away but a stain on the memory that cannot be easily erased.

A vestige gift that cannot be returned.


Portrait Three: Site

She is Majesty.

Proud (still) figurehead at the prow of a ship, seen from far below, she steers a way through a darkling sky sitting astride a roof apex, the colour of her skin concordant with the brickwork, eyes fixed ahead, she is focussed on her task and oblivious to the rising storm around her.