Please, No Photography in the West Galleries

In five white rooms styled in clinical sparse sterile modernity, bright lights (akin to futurist canons) project orbs of illumination upon the walls and around floating pedestals, egg yolks whitewashed into transparency, trapped in space, immovable like massless particles in time, draped across rectangles of coated glass, shapes and shadows––photographs, paintings, sequined mixed media monstrosities, American linocuts and Japanese woodcuts in simple squared frames, swimming in the depths of conservational ragmat; names, dates, locations, media, details…

1944: five o’clock, (fall? winter? spring?) in Times Square; a striking young brunette, timeless gaze burning holes somewhere beyond the lens and film, beyond gelatinous silvery suspension, somewhere inside the ribs or infrequently-used extremes of the lungs; the interspersion of hot electric illumination glowing white with cold hard darkness; leather gloves, wool hat, heavy coat; a shivering jaw, furrowed brow––maple eyes trying to make out an anxiety a thousand yards or seventy years away.

Follow her unrelenting stare, toward a simple cola-hued house of glass, like amber, like permanence, solid save for a half-sphere burrowing through the back wall, not quite breaching polished façade, effecting the semitransparent glow of irradiated nothingness. An emptiness not seen but felt across the decades and mediums, lack of substance filled with something like loneliness, that weightless burden, the human anchor unknown in others, unrelenting in oneself:
The consequence of matter aware of its own quantum vacancy.

One turns away as syncopated footsteps cross the painted concrete floor––an unhurried succession of asymmetrical percussions…shuffle, click, clop, pucker, shuffle, click, clop…each step demarcated with sounds of unsticking, the separation of soles from coated surface, the antithesis of twigs and leaves crunching underfoot.

Motion and noise trips a sensor, a series of electric impulses, triggering, (like a thought set in motion), the whirring arousal, an electric concatenation of a hundred seventy-five direct current motors attached along a wall, drawing attention to a hundred seventy-five metal wires hanging below, twisting fervently, dark and dull with explicit abandon, the slight curvature swinging their centers in lithesome arches out and back into the wall, ends dangling impassively below, a cacophony of steely wobbling susurrations restrained to a muted din.

Five mostly-blank rooms brim with a jangling like slinkies down an endless, echoing stairwell, the recurrent impacts and quick scrapes of wire along wall fills the bleached soundspace like trees in a coppice, rustling in all directions, like rainfall on dry leaves, the sound of a stream always behind you.

The straightest of the wires move least and leave little evidence of their existence on the wall, while those with greatest arc ceaselessly document their struggle––tracing troughs and peaks, mapping the topography of nothingness, their combined effort amounting to a silhouetted forest edging over the horizon; a vacillating, magnetic mirage, disappearing in the absence of distance, as a crowd’s undulations dissolve into the subtleties of a single face.

There is disquiet in the sea of dark smudges and tinny, pathetic clinks of the wires that made them, almost aware of their part in a galactic harmony extemporized from stellar turmoil, and while their lines are distorted in the perversity of abstraction, there is solace in their writhing song, too, as they defy their objectless plight, collectively drawing a bold line between their speckled domain and the pristine unknowable cosmos just out of reach. The line––like all shimmering resistance––gently wavers into the limitless indifference of the universe.


About andrewwhiting

A sentimental and sarcastic poet, lover of language, traveling and nature (not a fan of the Oxford comma).
This entry was posted in Poem, Prose and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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