Below/Above

Below: Archive

Begin. Low and dark and cluttered – this is the cellar. The archive, the stacks. Cage. The stacks are organised but overwhelmed by stuff and words. But these are not not the conventional words – these are a different kind of word archive. Signs and records, photographic documents, a scriptorium, a mausoleum, abandoned words, words which need to be rehomed, conclusions without context, words without meaning, slews of data.

Data comes from datum. A datum is a line, is a date, is time; it is a reference, a linear reference, extended in one dimension.

And below there are words and this is the crypt, the underworld, cryptography. That which is buried. A place of sedimentation, of accumulation.

You can’t stand back and look at it all at once. There is no point of reference, no single view which puts everything in perspective. To discover you must dig. Labyrinthine, Knossos, mythology. Cave-paintings. Everything out of scale – no reference to size, the way things are expected to be seen, and no reference to time, just the enduring artefacts buried within the layers of history.

Above: Record

And up. Up above, you emerge. Suddenly you are in the context of the world; you can look around, see the coming and the going and the distance and the travelling, see the arriving and the departing, and everything is around you.

You watch and you record. You make marks on the walls, the walls made of paper, the walls made of stone. You make marks without knowing how long they will last, you make marks because they somehow matter, they will say you were here, you were here and you were watching and this is how it was. This is what you saw.

You engrave your way of living and moving on the place – into its shapes and its marks – as it captures you. Because this is a search for a way of enduring.

And so you watch. As people meet and talk you watch; as they move around each other you watch. And they know you are there but they do not know you watch, and you watch. Watch-time.

You write. This is your reference. You are on the outside, isolation, exile. Because you can see that you are on the outside – relative to the rest of the world, you are here. To know that you are in the beyond you must see where that place ends.

“This new world weighs a yattogram.”

– Jeanette Winterson

One thought on “Below/Above

  1. 'This is how birds think, or at least this is how Mr Palomar thinks, imagining himself a bird. “It is only after you have come to know the surface of things,” he concludes, “that you venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface is inexhaustible.”'

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