“Edmée turns around, but all she can see is whiteness melting into whiteness and, over a few metres, the traces left by her own feet in the snow…”
– Marie Darrieussecq, from White
Words on a train heading north. The sky a climbing field, from crop haze to Klein blue, a colour, if any, out of time. Wasn’t it that he was leaping towards, in his continental suburban falling towards a moment clear of falling while, passing by on the other side, the cyclist, out of the solitary street themselves, daydreamed by their own wondering, worry, futures past and yet to come, a ship to Klein’s Icarus but no splash here, as he slips between the waves of air to become his own Pantone tab, the final hallucinogen, none greater, think now of yourself, meadow-resting, back against the summer, eyes wider and wider as the sky pours in and soon you are, Magritted by the incursion, you are, you are becoming, and becoming a vessel for the clouds, a skin vase for the ceaseless blossoming of… of what, of time.
Because this clockless space, this yearned for delirium of sky delivering itself and us to hope, to full sailed sense of all the clear potential for our lives – a walking through the pines and dunes to glitter gleam of tides and all the elsewheres, all the might be, all the distance, promises, breeze-borne so very close – this dimensionless arc of shelter and sea but aerial, is our oldest timepiece, our ancient measure, days and gone and years away and all the empires faded in its gaze.
Undeniable its present tense: we are here; we feel, we know it to be true; beneath the sky, confirmation that we are, consolation that we live, not yet loam or birds of ash in seed-sown final flight. But now it shifts, we close our eyes a beat, a century, and all the scapes of sky are changed, the cloud towers toppled, the billow softened to mackerel; so fast our present past, and there the future is, carried on the coming wind – all change it calls, all change.
Derek Jarman knew – he sung the sky blue song of time in his own Blue; has there been a simpler, more complex, more fragile and enduring lyric of the lasting things that pass; the love we have of being and all the being we value.
Hard to know, however, still, where the hours are made; do they issue from the earth, kind or callous crops, and thresh themselves clear of the stalk to step the ladder of light up and over us, descending with the dark back to the night of soil and forests, and where we sleep, and breathe them in, one day more, one day less.
Or are they far flown, solar, in, a story like the rain, the sky a sieve that lets the smaller scales of time just through, so that we might not, always at least, dwell on the greater, deeper giant clocks that whirr and roll around us.
All of this to simply say that we dwell inevitable in time, bridged between the earth and stars, partly players, partly only parts; the future in us equally as much as any of our pasts; and when it comes to this, who still has versed it better than this here…
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
– T.S. Eliot, from Burnt Norton in The Four Quartets
From the window – time as transport – a stave of crows alighting on the plough.
This is the month of cherry blossom; in places, this is faith. And why not? Who would fail to subscribe to the promise trees reveal, latent in their winter wood; you thought I was this, but look; this is myself, my message, I am more than now, this hibernating present. But most present I too am: in this moment of my putting forth, I am all my times. I blossomed once, I blossom now, and so I shall again.
In such uncertain times, as described acutely in the newspaper essay accompanying this exhibition, it is barely a surprise that most self-helping wrestles with relations to the clock as primary, as the device by which we might make lives anew, or certainly afresh. We all know there is only now, and yet fear is evidence that the future really does exist and that it’s getting closer by the minute. And as for the past, that foundation pit of horrors, of happiness so keen, so fleet, so lost…
Once it was that we fretted over physical collapse; now it seems more fearful that the mind will unscroll first. Whichever it might be, it’s an exhilarating anguish to exist and has been since we crawled, one-celled, out of soup and spawned. If the stakes feel higher now, it’s partly because they are and equally because we are more, and messaging about it. The world was and is and will be; we might not, and have not been that long, so there will sometime be a loss. How to site ourselves then in this scale of constant alterations? Is this where the moving image can somehow prove of use? Because… I have just read this review. Clear now that the polar is our future, however we might manage it, whatever it might look like. There are lakes under the ice so large… and these sheets so huge, and yet so much we have unravelled their peace (and likely soon our own). These figures…
“…the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet seems to be stable (which is just as well because it comprises 60m-worth of sea level rise should it melt) but the West Antarctic Ice Sheet – which contains enough water to raise the sea level by 4.8m – is breaking up because a warming ocean is undermining it.
The Larsen B Ice Sheet in West Antarctica disintegrated spectacularly in 2002 and this event is a key indicator of anthropogenic climate change. The ice sheet had remained intact for at least 10,000 years…”
Ice as time and space. Ice in time and space. The graphic axes of the filmic. If the melting ice is time and space translated (or time in a different place), then can we say the future lies where we are now, but in a varied guise, a diverse station of the elemental? Can the moving image tell us something then about this shift, this jolt?
In this way, does the ice become our faith; is white the colour of a prayer, its tentative, pale hue?
In 1977, the American writer Walter Abish published a novel all too little known here. His most acclaimed across the (rising) water, like much innovative writing it is probably much less read, even by those who know of its existence, than it should be. One of its own singular reasons might be due to its title, which seems in many ways so complete, so perfect a summation of the potentialities of fiction, of what we seek for and in it, and in our own living. Fusing aspiration with an inevitable accompanying melancholy, and hope with a keen awareness of all that might have led to that moment, it is in its own way, before the spine has even been cracked, a book in and of itself, perhaps the shortest novel ever written, a text to which we can bring all that we were and are and all we wish to be. The book of time, and where that time might take us… In the Future Perfect…
The flooded silver birch grove, the morse of horses still in railside pastures; and all the passing houses of the living and the dead.