*originally performed as part of Syrinx at SET, London, 2019 & Recovery, Chalton Gallery, 2020

The placement was very careful and efficient. In a tender caress of decisive, slender hands, I emerged from a stainless steel container. Macerated in warm liquid constituents of which seemed to seep into me, like viruses attaching to cells, entering them, entering me, multiplying, mutating until I dissolve, slowly, in deliberation, to solidify again, a recollection, a spatial recording of a past, previous form.

I wake up, she looks at me, she looks in me, touches what feels like a lump on top of my vertebrae; there is no lump she says, your body cannot reject it she says. I wonder if it can reject me, my body, my tissues, my liquids and gasses. What if I can contain no longer, what if it doesn’t want to be contained, if it voids me from the inside out. But the void is already there, it’s always been, and rising from the empty below, a scream fills my mouth, thick and dense, blurs my vision but emits no sound. The pain of speech infests me, little splinters hatching through the membrane of my skin.

Once again, I find myself in the dark. Not the calm and velvety darkness that turns cerulean with beams of light, a memory of which, although not experienced, exists as real as the pounding sound that resonates through this sack of flesh I am in. Nor the silent darkness of brief, rare moments of electrical blackouts, severing the continuity of accelerated growth in the constant shimmering metal halide light and the almost indiscernible, but always present humming noise of machinery outside of the glass tank. Here I am tightly slathered in biofluids, trapped in an enfolding of soft tissues. Suspended between two hard structures, I sense their distant resemblance to me, a mutual history perhaps, neglected lineage that tried to renounce itself, but could not ever succeed in doing so. Like a child that mimics the speech of the mother, exercising space given for their own subjectivity to emerge, yet still floating in the mother’s linguistic galaxy.

I am static and in motion. I begin to hear beyond the thudding heartbeat. Groans and sighs, bits torn from words, clicks and gurgles - the transit and expulsion of fluids, cracking and rubbing of the interior structure; the living cradle for an involuntary symbiont. They expected me to perish, to disintegrate, to repel myself from me, from you or us, give in to the enzymes, to lose in an act of hollowing, abandonment and refusal. Yet it loses not. The miniscule particles still material, still holding on to their memory and composition, and I grow, inwards and outwards, embracing and all living the other.

No longer a separate entity, my budding anatomy tenderly permeates new regions of her body and feeds on the ions suspended in its plasma. Coiling around her fragile bones and ligaments, it folds on itself, I am neither and both, my particles die and self-generate, fuse with hers and transform into a hybrid mass of pulsating amphibious matter. I drown in her flesh willfully, as she is the source of my growth and I am of hers, engulfed in this internal swamp I am undying, neither soft lump of the waters nor stone of the air. I learn her movements, miniscule contractions, erratic and habitual gestures. I rise, reach inwards,  softly examine her spinal cord, and as its fluid seeps through my multiple mouths, I can finally hear her, her voice no more inside than outside, echoing silent vibration, soft touch, rush of oxytocin, a desire inhabited for once.

New voices stream down my blood vessels, fill the orifices of my body, glide over its cracks and slits, burrow in and germinate. I share a myriad of histories once experienced outside the peripheries of myself, now interlaced in a new genetic code, embedded and embodied, I become them and they become me, intra-active entities in the process of growth and decay; the embrace of fragility. I see with a hundred eyes, I touch and I am being touched by perpetually multiplying limbs. I am no longer hearing myself, I am the hearing. My speech is broken, for I have swallowed my crippled tongue, and from the shreds of severed flesh like weeds new tongues writhe and wriggle, little polyps swaying in and out, rhythmically, in the internal currents of my spit. Void the words, void the distance and the proximity, both same and different, unheard in deafening silence.

We are the voice devoid of the phonic substance.

The Untranslatable Otherness

1 Julia Kristeva, Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia
1 Maurice Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure
2 Marguerite Duras, The Malady of Death