Making room for surfaces

text by Jacqui Shelton, in response to Therese Keogh's studio practice

“As I run my hand up my bicep and push the hairs in the opposite direction,” said B, “it becomes a new arm as determined by my hand. I rub up and down and make the hairs dance, warming myself in the process. My blood circulates and my skin flushes.”

“A surface,” said A, “is more a mark of what it once encountered than of what it now supposes to be. The scratch in the wooden floorboards is a reminder of a metal chair that wounds the wood. I now make sure to put felt on my furniture, like a security blanket which prevents memories of past movements.”

“The metal chair is upholstered in leather,” said D, “and as I rise from it to look out the window at the garden, I leave a most intimate depression in the leather which remains warm ‘til you sit in it.”

“The warmth is stored briefly below the surface, somewhere in the foam of the chair, but only fleetingly so that I hurry to catch it,” said A, “and as you look out at the garden the sun silhouettes you against the window, you cast a shadow on the floor which is overlaid with the shadow of the window frame, so that your image is cut up and divided into squares and abstract shapes that cut and move across the floorboards with the day's passing.”

“Just as I pack up my paperbacks and prepare for the working week, so too do I put aside momentarily my desire to watch these shadows slowly change as the afternoon meets evening,” said B, “but just as one pays attention to a sundial only when the sun is shining, I know that the light will move across the floor, time will pass, even in my absence.”

“And like a photographic surface, which tells more about the bursts of light that once touched it than the trees it is made from,” said D, “over the years the rug will fade from the sun whether you are witness or not.”

“Because ultimately a surface is a mark of absence,” said A, “as the chairs warmth reminds me you are recently departed, and as the shadows in a photograph show where the light couldn't get in. A tree’s rings are not only an indication of time elapsed, time escaped, but of the loss of the rest of the trunk taken away by the axe or chainsaw, to reveal this circular interior time or record.”

“The cut is the moment that absences open up,” said B, “when the light cuts the floor it is divided, when the film cuts to the next scene the light filled image is different in its distinct loss of the previous framing; a portion of film is discarded. A frame is a cut between the included

and unwanted. As a rose bush is trimmed to encourage a new direction of growth, it loses its future potential unruliness – in all cuts a previous state is lost.”

“And the cut is rendered as multiple surfaces,” said A, “so that the cut is not only a loss of what was prior, but an opening of new, multiple, futures. As I cut up this pear I reveal new, sweet, interiors, marked by the blade of the knife, and with each cut the knife is altered and blunted, so that after cutting innumerable pears the knife no longer operates as a knife but as an artefact, a memory of a knife.”

“An artefact is also, then, both a surface and a cut,” said B, “In that it acts less as an object and more as an opening of absences, of what it used to be, before its potential for new futures is introduced – it is not a tool but a surface for thinking about what is lost to the tool.”

“Like a historic reminder of a space, a negative, as opposed to a physical object – a historic non-object, lack of object,” said D.

“An opening up, a clearing room, for absences and futures to be revealed or lost,” said A, “Not unlike an unused well. A once useful emptiness or space which becomes a surface, a lack, in its loss of water.”

“But which also opens into the potential”, said B, “of something other-than well, of a future possibility of something new to impress upon the well, filling it.”

“Or the paradox of the waterfall, which is a thing, but not a thing-in-itself,” said D, “as a waterfall is really just water, water is the thing, and what determines its waterfall-ness is the fall of the water, the water in motion, moving against itself and over some sort of precipice to a waiting hole, or waiting absence.”

“Someone told me about a cathartic experience they had recently,” said B, “and when she walked down the mountain she felt changed and something opened up inside her. Concurrently, she started bleeding, making space.”

“A waterfall is only a waterfall if the water falls, not if it stands still or runs backwards or dries up. A water-fall is just the movement of another thing, the making space for more water, it is not a determinate thing in itself,” said A.

“Each month I have a few days of sleeplessness,” said D, “and in that time I lie awake thinking, and move through each day dreaming. Edges and surfaces are distant yet sharper, as though my sleeplessness has pushed against them. And then, like your friend, I start bleeding, and room is made for sleep to arrive like a wave, but at the same time an intensity is lost, cut short.”

“As though this movement, and this touching of surfaces and sleep, is an impact,” said A, “a constant impact like the flow of water.”

“In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I might get up, leaving a warm hollow in my bed and in my pillow,” said D, “and I step outside into the chill, and the hairs on my arms stand up with the touch of winter. And if I were to look at the sundial there would be no shadow; time perhaps flows but will not press itself upon me.”

“The future of the water-fall remains the same,” said B, “it must remain in motion or else it ceases to be it, becomes a furrow in the stone or the surface it flows over, a mark of water that once passed by and touched it briefly, every tiny bit of water rubbing, but the water-fall is no longer and the potential future of this space is created as evidence of past water.”

“The future of a surface,” said D, “can be imagined as all potential impacts on that surface and all potential markings as a result. “

“The way a surface imprints on me,” said B, “is a marking of that surfaces future and histories in my skin. As I rise from the rough, wooden bench, red imprints and markings gouge into my thighs. This piece of wood’s history, this tree, travel with me, briefly.”

“My shirt is faded on the inside from hanging inside-out in the sun,” said A, “and when I took it off the line and put it on, the suns warmth hugged me, briefly.”