We are always on the alert, apparently, for these homeless items—a state slightly more charged than simple expectation, as if we know we will soon be receiving a gift, but not when, or from whom—so we look around, into the traffic, or the rain, and every approach is that of the bearer, every overcoat sends a glance to us. If, when it arrives—and it often happens too carelessly—the gift turns out to be more like a problem, a token of some personal dilemma that requires unpacking, that’s fine too—anything to break this condition of aimless wondering, where a discarded possession, slipping from a glove to roll into a gutter, and there be discreetly covered by autumn leaves, could assume the pain of significance. Don’t we all consider ourselves spies, on one level? Transfixed by the important detail everyone else has missed, grandly susceptible to the day’s insinuation, which only in the slow zoom of an obsession gathers the intensity necessary to sustain us, spoiled as we are by a diversity of narrative instruments, and affords us the brush with poignancy we recollect from fiction—or merely a pleasant, consequential heaviness in the palm. At such times, as we see when we come to recreate them, the object is all that concerns us, and we treat it with quietly hysterical care, also a certain guardedness, coming to us as it does without explanation or history—it has been lopped off from the past, in fact, like a little finger, and a proportion of our duty and enjoyment rests on how far we dare go in proposing the family tree of consequences that led to its deposit in the fortuitous spot, where everything became its ornament—there, where our gazes met it. Immediately, it becomes enmeshed in our net of relations; our predictions multiply, we imagine the eyes of those whose judgments we value upon it, and we adorn ourselves with its discovery—so it brings its peculiar contact with the arbitrary, the sense of the world silently opening and sliding shut its portals, into our domestic scenes, endowing them with an allegory’s coherent glow. For a while, arrays of unused futures flash their strange icons from the troughs of steep city streets, or from the tops of churches. We know we are receivers of a message, and we wait impatiently for its full disaster to reach us. These feelings endure an hour or two, before belief in our involvement wanes, if it was ever there to begin with, and the minor character of its mystery hardens its face to us, as foreboding tints a waiting room—we treated it anyway more as a proposition that could be left on a table indefinitely, delaying the moment when we pick up the folded scrap of paper to discover it contains not a phone number or the address of an intriguingly-titled nightclub, but the price of an espresso, the effects of which are wearing off. The plans, which just then seemed rich with possibility, wither and become obsolete. Like a streetmap of a once-visited city, the difficult fortune we managed to half-read, as if over our own shoulders, is folded away, becoming as icy and remote as a statue of a leopard, the symbolism of which is lost on us, and may decree we never revisit it. The inexplicable object, as if it had been unlocked and found empty, may now be safely stored in a drawer or box of such trinkets—a sad collection, like notes on the early stages of a love affair that failed to materialise with its announcement. So even if it came as we expected—with a slight pressure on the shoulder—we can prove to ourselves the fault of our absorption lay with its emergence, not with our appraisal, only that once we watched it plucked from a pocket, we couldn’t bear to see it concealed, as if we could never imagine another life for it.
Text by Sam Rivier for Benjamin Brett: Orrlando, MÉLANGE, Cologne, January 2018
invited by Alexandra Alexopoulou
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