thirteen ways of looking at a snowscape

    “Location (6)”, Hans Op De Beeck, 2008: Singapore Biennale

    Have we been here before?

    botched climate planning
    blue chip imagination
    clearly not enough

    O verily how great are the works of the Creator
    He layeth barren the verdant plains, he leaveneth all color
    He bringeth down the crown of the proud birch
    He stoppeth up the waters, yea even unto their deepest reaches
    He causeth the very air to smoke and blur like a lamp put out
    The might of the sun is as nothing to Him, nor the capricious breezes
    Tremble ye who know not the name of the Maker

    24kg wood ash
    48kg sawdust
    35kg chalk
    2 kg volcanic sand
    4L housepaint “Arctic White” (non-toxic, waterproof, EzyCoat)
    5kg albino elephant bone
    13kg fossilised dandruff
    67kg talcum (Silky Smooth Baby Soft TM)
    30kg milk powder
    22kg salt
    109kg flour
    42kg instant mashed potato flakes
    49kg coconut flakes
    10kg melamine
    3.14kg cocaine
    900g Monosodium glutamate
    May Contain Nuts

    Not quite aiyowishiboughtthatthickmerinowoolcardiganonsale
    but certainly goodthingirememberedmyextrajumper
    and perhaps even aboutthesameastheofficeaircononarainyday or hokkaidowasmuchworseinspring1997
    for those accustomed to alwayslikethatthenhavetoroadmarch or thisiswhyiwanttoemigrate
    in diewaitkenaheatstroke and reallyfeellikehavingicekachang conditions

    The hard September that broke my grandfather was worse than this
    and it was only rain, premature and pitiless, daggerfuls of the stuff coming down
    free of charge, rendering his whole naked lorryload of rice worthless.
    Grandfather was a tough man, he’d outlived the Japs, the Communists,
    he’d traded his pre-war fortune for a sore back and a labourer’s diet,
    but this was the bayonet in the side, this was machine cruelty, and he
    said so in so many kicks to his ruptured, mudsucked tyres, breaking a toe
    in the telling of it. , his wife my grandmother would have said.
    Snowfall in summer, downpour in dry heat, that operatic, cosmic signifier
    of a world gone awry, some terrible injustice done.  He healed
    and fathered children who fathered children, lived to see them slush
    through decades of bewildering growth, a deluge of riches, his hair gone white
    in its proper time, a pipe in his mouth, more often than not, smoke-screened.
    Read the papers and took them lightly. Watched the sky for undue clouds.

    Are those rabbit ears
    or the upturned feet
    of a monk atoning
    for treason?


    In outer Cairo they met on the backs of camels approaching the desert, but in Tibet surefooted Yaks were preferred when available. They timed their assignations to coincide with the Yangtze floods, and avoided solar eclipses except in Jutland. But here at last they could meet unaccosted by prying eyes for miles, veiled by the powdery fog in the shadows of bare trees, provided they were always careful to retrieve every scrap of clothing, and brush away their tracks, when they finally deigned to part.


    “Not here, Andre.
    The blood will show for miles”

    a prolonged and quiescent ceasefire
    settled over the map

    silence as premonition:
    the clean sheets
    the intact branches
    the prospect of thaw

    The first to go is your sense of place, and then of sense.
    Dexterity declines, sight fades to blue, then white,
    then darkens entirely. The memory of your first kiss
    slips shyly out of view, and your mother’s face follows, tsking.
    The bullies grab their tawdry, empty schoolbags and trip
    you one last time as they escape. Exeunt the seven cars you drove
    and loved, the sixteen women who thought you were the one.
    Farewell the coffeeshop on the corner of the narrow street,
    the saltfish stench of passing bumboats on dark green rivers.
    Every leaf on every tree fallen away long since, many more
    than the days you remember, more than the days you forget.
    Now you have shivered off your clothes, and now you are a mark
    on the landscape, and now not even a mark. Turn over the white pages

    always, a fresh canvas

07 October 2008   16:54 hours
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