Evacuation
Tapes

My I, I, I be broke / Where I be put

IAN

‘Here, are no confessions. It is because the thing said is to be there, thrown from me, not of me. “I’m not here” cannot be spoken, stupid. But it is one way of describing agency. And desire. (I’m trapped.)
If objects that ordinarily are removed from time can have time introduced to them (again) for their own erasure, and this is political, so might the opposite be: A thrown voice or subjects subjected to something like architecture, a split. As we are, that is, amongst material. Here is information. Mobilise.’

Ian White, ‘Statement for Appropriation and Dedication

This is a summary of all life, but also my life in particular. The scene in which I find myself or where does my body belong? This life, the one we meet in Ian’s paragraph is the one I know about, a life that exists in a body, where things grow and multiply and also die. At the same time as knowing for sure, ‘my body’ is not an envelope around which ‘my I’ is wrapped. But split, splits, splitting. My and I and my me is soldered steadily onto this moment of throwing and the subjected subject. Cut into history from where *all our bodies are born*.
Figure 8.
My body: this dark and mysterious place is not vertical, and comes at me from my centre, earthing its way through my stomach and that very expensive part of our bodies—mysterious and churning—our colon. Fashioned with bugs, bees, birds, trees, plants.
Life:
Described and built at a distance by other bodies, like a tradition—it is a tradition to build buildings and put bodies inside them.

A confession is also a feeling. Lol.

Sitting together on a couch, that is a futon. Ian has a candyfloss pink T-shirt on. I am sweating. It is salt-slick. Babies. A baby. He has a bright red leather bag with magnet fastenings. We are working on our book/my book. We find ourselves in a bind between a split-open architecture (history is a knife and it cuts) and, ironic as it seems, the library we are trying to find language for. We are in a bind that turns on itself as we seek to reconcile this blown-up structure through the pain of politics and architecture and biography: the IRL events associated with a city (Berlin) library and its public collection of books torn apart by war, ravaged by wind, and slowly disintegrated by calcium and water. We come to evacuation and occupation. A strong sucking in that is palpable, a vast emptying out that is palpable. This is the split. And this is material. But also, I am not a modernist. Nonetheless, the image of this library’s collection in motion, ravaged, blown, drowned, cast all the way into the evacuated, and occupied (again and again) is probably the best image for what Anne Boyer describes when she writes that we are always more than one:

‘What philosophy often forgets is this: that few of us exist most of the time as just one person. This un-oneness can hurt, just like any oneness can hurt, too. We move in and out of each other’s holes or make new ones.’

That is to say *we be is*, that it is to say that we are always in the process of cutting ourselves out of the unbearable shape which history holds us within, in order to occupy a future permutation that is a vaster scape of the many mores of our one selves and their fixtures (history is a knife and it cuts).

Who put me here? The scene in which I find myself? Where does my body belong?

IAN AND CONFESSIONS AND AUDRE

As it stands. I was born weak, or I was born strong, but became weak, obviously.
I was born weak.
And it is still where I belong.
Or I was born strong but became weak.
Or thrown.
Life:
Described and built at a distance by other bodies, like a tradition is made at a distance—it is a tradition to build buildings and put bodies inside them.

I was baptised in hospital. I was seriously ill. My parents worried that I would go to baby-limbo, which was a place for them. There are images of this event, the baptismal bath is plastic instead of marble. The curtains of the hospital are visible too, thin, wispy, vinyl. I think of that painting of Marat by David, the first painting I studied in art history at high school. Things in places, put in relation, by those things in places in relation. Foundational moments of plastic and marble and tears in things. Either made by ourselves or by others. Split. And since I’m writing this as if time were a Möbius strip, which it is of course, I’m reminded of  Ian’s text ‘In. Adequate. Time. (Prisons I)’, where he discusses de Sade’s play of this scene, the death of Marat, and his own time in a hospital bed/prison. Ian was a dear mentor to me, he became ill and died. The curtains, and the power relations here, in the structure of care: ‘It is because the thing said is to be there, thrown from me, not of me. “I’m not here” cannot be spoken, stupid.’

Ian’s writing gives me permission to write (like) this, but also I take the permission. And the (prison) violence of these structures we are in, with our weak and our strong engines, and flesh: my brothers protecting me as I was bullied daily on the school grounds = physical difference.

Earth/Salt
Sweat/Slick

When my face stopped working near the end of my second pregnancy due to an event with symptoms similar to a stroke, I was shot back in time to those early years of weakness. These foundational moments of plastic, marble, asphalt, textiles, dirt, dust. The things I didn’t know about, the annihilation. The eating up of all of those things, and sending them down to the flora and fauna of insides, those expensive places like colon. Like the dread conjured in the hubcaps stacked inside a freezing works shopping cart depicted in a photograph that hangs on my wall.

My first ever published work was available at the school library on those school grounds. The book was gold card, stapled. The teacher wrote it out for me, I made the illustrations.
Page 1: I had a duck.
Page 2: It died.
I was born weak but with a good understanding of the reality of our world and the power of those traditions—at a distance—crammed into buildings, books, structures torn open (wispy vinyl curtains).
And a decent sense of timing.
The timing gene is not attached to the nerves which rule our eyes. These eye nerves, also ‘optic nerve’, are always ready to shut down if they go into overload. Bad times. The snaky muscular lines that connect the thin glassy layer which protects the wet surface travelling at lightning speed to the larger muscle kept safe by the skull. If they, the eye nerves, go into overload, the eye, droops, closed.
The flesh.
Reminded again, of the many chances my body has had to touch the structures of care, and the slurring that this almost invariably stimulates.

Stroke out.

I, the I that I be. Am. The it, the I, and she, she, she.

Today, the storm. Tomorrow, the sun.

Confessions have feelings too. And my summary. Of this.
It’s not that I’m weak but fragility and loneliness do come into it, that is if she/who/I be understands loneliness as a prerequisite for openness not being the same as being alone or feeling lonely.

What Ian does here, above (agency/desire) is summarise life, a life with/in/of a body, which takes place in public (often) but also exists alone, for itself, inside itself, in private, and in relation. Ian discusses in great detail contingency, also. As well as the provisional, the moving. Also prisons. Ian was a dear mentor. He became ill and died.
Confession is also feeling.

But not to be semantic. That is the tru-logical impossibility of being, no? There was that cave, etc. But when I have ‘I’ that I acknowledge, that feels, is in feeling of, feeling and flesh and body, was raised (Catholic) and split, and I, who I am. It is beyond the capability of all these things: language, the skin, the clothing, that I wear, what I eat. To whom I speak. To have a child is to put oneself constantly in a state of existentialism. I do not see this as a ‘normal’ thing to do, while many people ‘do have children’, this is split and cut: throwing ourselves into an overwhelming sense of connection and history. Our bodies can only exist in history, part of it. As it. And same with ‘this kid’, who is my responsibility.

There was that cave, etc.

Audre Lorde: Poetry is the most subversive of all languages as it tries to change us through feeling.

CONFESSIONS

In Levin, we were on holiday. Who would go there, a piss-beach. There is no real beach. The beach was filled with horse piss. I can smell it. The window could not be closed, and my thin cotton nightie with a scooped neck. Mosquitoes. Sandflies. I don’t know the difference, but I can still hear the zzzz zzzz zzzz in my ear, and I can still feel my mother, scratching my scoop-shaped back, she didn’t want to. But she felt sorry for her daughter. Or I guess she did. We ate from-the-packet pudding in orange plastic bowls, the eye patch I needed to wear made it harder than typical for me to feed myself, the pudding drips from mouth to chin to chest. My mother scratches. The buzz and the piss.

Riversdale, the sun hot, dry, lawn bowls in the holiday house cupboard. For families of disabled children. My father explains.

When you live with a disabled child and you are also one, you understand. You were one then, but time, as a googleable thing. Time. Time is also eating. And colon. And I ate already: ‘If objects that ordinarily are removed from time can have time introduced to them (again) for their own erasure, and this is political, so might the opposite be.’ A time-bowl.

Chrono/Deepness/Food

At home you *teach* your disabled child. And you know that weakness and fragility are always locked in a time-bowl made of mercury.

When you read about your disabled parent locked in that same time-bowl, and the measures being taken to protect her. Where the meter of time becomes kilos or stones and grams. And you know that your weakness and fragility is shared through the generations, that these eggs were once nestled inside the other, and you see the line of those fragile female bodies. It is one of those sentence diagrams that grows and splits across the page. I went for a walk—but felt too weak.

I stole drugs from a hospital. I had no money or insurance but I needed the drugs. I was weak with high blood pressure, a co-morbidity not allowed to co-exist with the drugs I needed. The man left the room. I stood there, not for the last time, naked, the doctors and their students (a learning hospital) photographed my entire body, sucking in their breath when they saw me. That is a sound that is not inaudible, this makes it worse. It is the sound that is reserved for moments that are stuck in the time-bowl. Tell me about you. I am weak. I was born weak. Just one more section—they used a different word, ‘quadrant’? Just one more quadrant. But you can’t take the drugs because your blood pressure is too high. Leave the room. I was born weak, but I felt strong for that instant as I grabbed the boxes of drugs and left. The train stuck in the tunnel on the way to work, the sweat sticking to the co-morbid body I owned. Clutching my quadrants.

Midnight/Worker
Blood/Pressure

Knowing where my body belongs.

I’m too old for this kind of doubt. I was lying on the floor and a friend said something that really annoyed me. But cut forward to now: me thinking of my mother, and the protection she requires, and the protection she requires means she is open, but also often alone. Me dreaming that her ring had not been lost, ‘it’s back’, she exclaims, ‘it’s back!’ The IQ of my child measured again (the colour of sneezing and spitting and licking on mass).

A weak mind is contagious, an unpredictable body is genetic. Swollen in those eggs, nestled inside each other for centuries and years. My sentence diagram: I went for a walk, but faded under the weight of my own weakness and knowing.
Life:
It is a tradition.
It is history, and timelines, and dots on a graph, and weight measured in stones and bees and flora and fauna.

Getting my buzz on now.

The weakness is the same as the dresser I purchased at the age of nine. I wanted to be able to see the back of my head as I attempted to plait through the rat’s nest growing underneath. A warm middle brown, curved edges, central mirror with two side wings that I could angle to view.
Me/split/hair
An envelope wrapped around an I.
Dusting the surface daily, hand running across the edges. Mirror. Viewing my me, splitting, at the same time as obsessively observing the differently sized eyes. Other people split me too, constantly asking to whom was I speaking. I. Gaze. And so on. Marat. Bathtubs. Marble.

Mum drove pretty fast, ate a lot of carrots, apples. Notebooks, stacked. Pages.

Viewing the other eye as it moved out to nowhere.

Getting clothes on.

Other words for disability: large sheets of silver metal stacked on top of one another, each with multiple holes, the circles the size of my fist. Place this view over the view of the girl and the trifold mirror.

‘What philosophy often forgets is this: that few of us exist most of the time as just one person. This un-oneness can hurt, just like any oneness can hurt, too. We move in and out of each other’s holes or make new ones.’

It’s not that I’m weak but fragility and loneliness do come into it, that is if she/who/I be understands loneliness as a prerequisite for openness not being the same as being alone or feeling lonely. Or I was born weak, or I was born strong and became weak. I am looking for the things that allow me to feel hopeful. And strong. I find it in the holes, the splitting mirrors.

PRISONS

Language, body.
What does my body write?
Your body is a sentence, etc.
Your body is a sentence locked in a building.
And caves, etc. A tradition.
Where is language?
Language is in my colon, it is even more disgusting than a stomach. If you clean it, you die.
In Anne Boyer’s The Undying, she describes the relationship between pain, language, and the body like this: change language to adequately make space for pain.
She also takes exception to the way Elaine Scarry claims that pain destroys language, Boyer is not a modernist either. She asks for change rather than destruction.
And further (Woolf, Lorde).
And then Sturm says: ambivalence and cups of tea. And then I say: I have so much to learn and so many more prisons to build. Or split.

The labourers built the prisons and piled each stone on top of their own lung/spine/throat. The money-people invented the prisons, rubbing their mouths and tongues across the cold smell of the coated brick. And feeling good. Money. Money/Prison. Wish I had more. Wish it were made of trees, or taken from the colon, that sick and disgusting place, the true menu of what I know: weakness is contagious. Eggs nestled, and sick: SHRIV~EL. Culture stinks (Acker). Locked in rooms (Acker). Locked in rooms with stinking culture (Acker). Breaking my body, broke, broke, break, broke.

QUOTATIONS

The question here could either be where does my body belong or what is cruelty?

A bitter woman.

I used to think I had something special to offer—like a unique view (tradition: build buildings, put bodies in them). Or a ‘voice’. Now I know that I have some experiences and some responses to those experiences which can be harvested. Such as, get your wobbly bits out M’bro.

This is the real me: language that ate a body that bore a building that broke a sweat. Prisons in time, of money, in time, of the weak/strong, in time, the lost split in time, the I, the it, the me, me, me. Thrown, subjected, thrown. Open.

That is to say *we be is*, that it is to say that we are always in the process of cutting ourselves out of the unbearable shape which history holds us within, in order to occupy a future permutation that is a vast scape of the many mores of our one selves and their fixtures. The vaster scape of the many mores. Where we are not put but where we bring ourselves. Where we bring ourselves otherwise.
And.
We call it life.

Ruth Buchanan

  • References (in order of appearance)
  • Ian White, ‘Statement for Appropriation and Dedication’ and ‘In. Adequate. Time. (Prisons I)’, in Here is Information. Mobilise, ed. Mike Sperlinger (London: Lux, 2016).
  • Ruth Buchanan, The weather, a building (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012).
  • Anne Boyer, The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness (London: Allen Lane, 2019).
  • Audre Lorde—The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992, directed by Dagmar Schulz (2011).
  • Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
  • Virginia Woolf, ‘On Being Ill’, The New Criterion, January 1926.
  • J. C. Sturm, Postscripts (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2000).
  • Kathy Acker, ‘The Persian Poems by Janey Smith’, in Blood and Guts in High School (1978; repr., London: Pan Books, 1987).