You could start by listing major events, key figures, compare best-of lists across the decades. But this has been done enough. What would happen if you omitted accepted distinctions between important and trivial, if you omitted the idea of progress itself?
You could try writing without an alphabet, using only numbers. These are democratic, unfettered by the weight of the ideologies of domination. With numbers, you can celebrate a belief in permutations.
Try it like this: fill room after room floor to ceiling with tiny panels: postcards, city views, tourist sites, greeting cards, illustrations from children’s books, photographs of artworks, of artists, of unnamed people. Present constellations of images instead of a neat line.
There will be no way to summarize what it is. What will matter about it will have to do with what happens between the images you present.
Something breathes. It isn’t progress.
Inspired by Hanne Darboven’s “Kulturegeschichte 1880–1983” (“Cultural History 1880–1983”).
Anchoring breath to breath.
If time is the rhythm of a group, breathing, consider the befores an inhalation. When tomorrow comes, we will exhale; and again, and again.
How different this is than the model of the pointed arrow, to pierce the next flesh of its landing.
If time is the rhythm, it is now, an anchor point that moves nowhere, holding the beat of our breath.
Between dreaming and waking.
The original void, they called it, and we thought like a womb and imagined ourselves a sort of placenta but who can say. We might have been the baby or the amniotic fluid, because where in that space do you find enough context for measurement?
What grows here cannot happen outside of time, they said, and we had no reason to argue; besides, who would listen? We couldn’t even name ourselves beyond we, beyond here, beyond you, and we used these interchangeably, depending on what fit the mood. Our words were the music we held between us.
All movement begins here, they said, and we had only known ourselves to be ever floating with it, in this space that only exists because it is empty enough to hold whatever comes. One evolving over time might decide to call the growth a contract between years and intentions, and who can fault them for this? It’s easy to forget this space, where the names of what we are keep sliding between us.
A lit match in the dark and a family museum in flames. Removed of these objects to ground us, we start slipping from our assigned roles. Without the grain of a dated photograph, who will draw the borders between what happened half a century ago and what is in our midst, right now? At a certain age, it doesn’t matter; it’s all here again.
As the veil thins, she sees. The past was always right here, but it was too much for us to hold and still go on with the living. She’s releasing the burden now, and vision returns. Time to call the names of the ones no longer here and be moved by the volume of their answers.
In the end, we become our grandmothers, caring for our mothers, forgetting who is who as we walk in and out of one another’s dreams. Now, with the smoke in our eyes, we are singing.
Inspired by consideration of this announcement of Rea Tajiri’s film Wisdom Gone Wild, exploring themes of collective memory.
What happened when the light changed.
The ants were marching one by two, hurrah, and from a chrysalis came particles of light. The old light waved from the shores we had left, and there was no going back. Clocks melted in these new sands at our tentative feet and soon after, the bodies on canvas began to separate from themselves and from any of the forms we thought we knew. It became possible to be neither in or out of being, but both at once, and above it as with dreams. The ants were going somewhere but here was another unknown among the unseen worlds, now in catch of our breaths.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and––
Show me a straight line in nature. And yet, this insistence on the fastest means from point A to point B. Not to mention, the idea of this continuum: Then, Now, Tomorrow. As if.
Well, there is the horizon, as seen from anywhere on water.
Come to think, it was the seafaring people, wasn’t it, who so ardently embraced the linear alphabets and syllogisms and systems for organizing space?
True. Inland, its all curves and oases, mountains and arabesques, and everywhere space fracturing into its heavens and black holes, not to mention time and alphabets, and when the temple veil tears the shelter from the old masters, so do notions of antiquity shift away from what is solidly past to include what also was dreamed and may yet be, and there we are in it, singularities before our own consciousness and the moment among us, these mortals chanting to our own heartbeats and also to the the origins of time, insisting at each beginning, World without end.