Here there are two sets of feet top left, and three thinly bodies center left. It is the first time with human bodies. I think of the people as reflections of my research about mapping the relationships between staff, people and communities in museums. I haven’t had the visual device to begin to talk about museums and people, but in this composition, there is clearly the evidence of ground, and an ice surface where the people are all wearing skates.
The bodies, top left, are eclipsed by the black bar that runs across them. The tall bodies centre left shadow the black body that lies down center right like Sleeping Giant against the sun’s set in late summer. And the little body center shares a dotted set of cautionary red lines that encircle it and repeat above it.
I look at this composition as I complete a reading of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977). It echoes the need for citation found within Katherine McKittrick’s Dear Science and Other Stories (2021), in identity formation, specifically the idea and formation of the I with the other. Barthes begins his book with a note,
“How this book is constructed… The description of the lover’s discourse has been replaced by its simulation, and to that discourse has been restored its fundamental person, the I, in order to stage an utterance, not an analysis. What is proposed, then, is a portrait – but not a psychological portrait; instead, a structural one which offers the reader a discursive site: the site of someone speaking within himself, amorously, confronting the other (the loved object), who does not speak.” (Barthes, p.3).
Whom do I love here if not these others? Child? Mother? Artists? Museums? Myself?
But it is more than these people I am thinking about. I am also thinking about this pool, the subject location of my photographic walks. And yet I already misrepresent it: it is not the summer’s reflective pool here, it is the winter’s outdoor skating rink. On this winter day, December 29, 2021, it is the ice rink. And yet today is April 1st, a fool’s day from which I sit recalling my traverse past the rink two days ago, where the sun shone on the white residue of the melted ice so beautifully. And the surrounding buildings reflected off the small pools of water gathered across the surface of the now nearly empty recessed surface.
I move back and forth seasons, and many impressions of this pool that sits at the base of a decommissioned city hall, make no mistake despite its derelict, transitional state, that it (the pool and the building and the square) remain symbols of governance. David McFarlane, Justine Woods, Andrew Lochhead, Daniella Kalinda, Stuart Duncan, Finlay Braithwaite, Jorge Ayala-Isaza, and Michelle Cochrane ask me, “What do a museum space and a civic space say to one another, and what do they not say?” (qualitative research course with Dr. Gauntlett, my presentation and group discussion, March 25, 2022).
This is a long game…
I return to Barthes, who introduces his own book in this way,
“The necessity for this book is to be found in the following consideration: that the lover’s discourse is today of an extreme solitude. This discourse is spoken, perhaps, by thousands of subjects (who knows?), but warranted by no one; it is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages; ignored, disparaged, or derided by them, severed not only from authority but also from the mechanisms of authority (sciences, techniques, arts). Once a discourse is thus driven by its own momentum into the backwater of the “unreal,” exiled from all gregarity, it has no recourse but to become the site, however exiguous, of an affirmation. That affirmation is, in short, the subject of the book which begins here… “ (Barthes, p.1).
The ice upon which we skate here becomes a form upon which to see these contested spaces: museum, civic space, land ownership. The ice allows people to enter into the rectangular skip-stitch, this man-made, re-made landscape requiring more re-working. chipping.
The winter turns people into visible subjects both alienated and fragmented.
In her presentation at the panel discussion, “Under the Museum, Under the University, Under the City: THE LAND,” Susan Blight spoke about: “a fugitive sense of movement” asserting her right to reclaim land, and its waters. She asks, “What does it mean to not forget the waterway, river?” She explains that walking is an embodied mapping of both the self and the land. In this manner, her actions bring forward a way to “reorient back to the true governing bodies,” including the rivers and lakes beneath this concrete.
I thank the ice for false stability – for gliding me across trepidatious discourses that might bear more weight upon this rectangular crypt.
glitch9, dec 29, 2021
text, april 1, 2022