Spill Writing

Spill Geist: Symbol to skin

Today we begin with an ending (or an opening up); with a Horse ossuary, with relics that become alive, with rebirth, with a ritual that stops the rain (and concentrates our energy). This leaves its traces on the terrace of the National Theatre, rushing away from the river, and I recall the Moth antennae and legs (crawling, poking through), searching for fire (and it arrives on Sunday, with Cassils, with a confrontation).


We’re on the edges of the canon in the making (we’re on the terrace, at the National), and in walking the dawn we ask, once more, about contemporary stories, about spaces of rebirth and folklore, about the vocabularies and practices that mark its fabric. And once more, we’re more than just onlookers, we witness and take part, we mark this ritual (and what poetics unfold from it).


The Horse, born anew, (follow its backbone, the white hair wet from rain, look at the outline and smell the honey, look at these figures that guide us to it) asks us about new mythologies, about how we build our spirit, our vigour and our energy, about the role of ritual (and its theatricality, too), about taking time. Underneath, people are acting, other stories are told, and I am watching them blend, the traces left by one onto the other.


It’s the end (or an opening up), and the ice Swan has melted (the letters collected), and the Moth has flown (through the social, natural noise of the Barbican Conservatory) and the Horse has awoken.


I recall Othon’s piano loops in Kodama, the build up, the theatricality of these contemporary musical myths, and they wash over Walking the Dawn in the midst of the pouring Saturday rain, in this space of release, battling the energy of the Horse.  PAN as a genre freefall in which the spiritual and the narrative collide (‘ecstatic interdimensional haemorrhage’, in Othon’s own words)


The narrative figures (Kodama stands for tree-inhabiting spirits in Japanese folk culture; they are often hear in delayed, echoing effect, reverberating spirits) etch themselves into the sound, flowing from the piano, looped into the synthetic sounds that wash over. Sound is a skin to our thoughts today, meditating into the night. The symbol drowned in sound.


This theatricality (the sounds of a different era) is also present in La Salle d’Attente, in which two video documents (by George Stamos and Robert Pacitti) are placed in dialogue, constructing a cinematic space of recall, speaking of Quentin Crisp (restaging encounters) and the edges of experience .(Pacitti introduces his work by speaking of the time he was born, when homosexuality had just been decriminalised in Britain, embedding this within his filmed encounter with Crisp wandering the streets of New York, to the soundtrack of Nico’s Chelsea Girls). I think of Crisp (‘I don’t want my time dead. Time is meant to be lived!’ he once said) and his gaze in Stamos’ video, watching a young male body perched on a reclining chair in the Versailles Room of Pandora’s Box (red velvet and gold, sculptural and classicist). The resistance, the remembrance, the desire and the skin, historically embedded and not to be forgotten. A different kind of symbol, culturally constituted nevertheless.


The skin is also an inscribing surface, yet in this confrontational mythology, it sits uneasily amongst pearls and serpents, revealing openings and closings, navigating surface and organ. In Lauren Jane Williams’ Here is not the Place for Nostalgia, the skin becomes that which both keeps the outside in, and which reveals the inside to us in the baroque landscape of bodies and organs and states of in-between. From cultural figures, environments and embodied resistance to opulence as a mode of finding anew. In Williams’ work, skin become a state of renewal and decay, of different temporalities, somewhere between the destabilised and aestheticized image – the symbol as process.


I hear the Moth flutter in this fairy tale of a forest, iron clad and bejewelled, but no trace of Kodama; instead this sensorial, live and cinematic space constructs and reconstructs itself, and I watch the serpent glide over the body as desire and the abject collide.


– Diana