Essay #1: the day in the night, desire, waterfalls
The beholding of a waterfall can be seen as an innocent act of appreciating nature in its beauty, or rather a traumatic experience of being incredibly close to the sublime. In this experience of the sublime, you’re at the same time afraid – awestruck even- and yet beguiled by the raw power, the promise of being overwhelmed totally. The waterfall is a screen or curtain of the sublime. Behind the waterfall, there is always some safe chamber – a place of desire. It is as if you have to take the risk, bet everything that you will somehow be impervious to the crashing down of thousands of gallons of water in order to attain your fantasy. It is here, therefore, that the subject is affected. The kernel of a seed within starts to germ, an awakening of a desire – the beginning to hear of a question which will torment.
This photo (above) is a good example of a concept I have been thinking about a while, which is summed up by the phrase “the day in [the] night”. I.e. that of the day which leaks into the night:
AS IF the day is too strong to just hold,
To just check itself – its force –
To accost itself on the border, on the badlands,
Near that dotted line of Night’s House and Land;
And since this AS IF is SO, it is also AS IF the Day’s
Wounds dye the Night an all-over-different hue;
And it is also AS IF at first you see only dark and you flee,
But the Night’s dark proffers you its Day Light,
You sit surprised at the reversal, at this flip-entangling.
It’s only through straining,
Only through an askance look,
A misjudged gaze that it shows at all —
Otherwise it’s all abyss.
And in that murky town,
Wherein you held all to be obscurity and shame,
you all-at-once realise,
all is Day dislocated.
There is no harmony here since the day leaks into the night, there is no escape from desiring. Any comfort night held is removed, there is no time for let up. The struggle of the day is brought forth into the night. The colour, sound and pure life of day time which can be reassuring to us after, for instance, a nightmare, is a fake. Its real character is in the abyss of the night, this is where any sort of unity between day and night is found. So what is left of this insight of the day in the night?
Nothing but the
flashing, passing, the
glimpse, the skewed look
down a forgotten road, the
streetlight blasting you down.
The one constant prevails:
loitering with an
unease which unites them both,
only to repel them ever further away,
leaving only the defile called No Man’s Land
in which there is neither White nor Black – but Red.
This redness is obvious in the photo. It seems as if, in this photograph, the dawn will not be white or yellow, but red. A red dawn where the realisation of the end of the easy dichotomy between day and night is at an end. There is no respite. Indeed, if one looks hard enough, there is a small figure between the trees, a figure kneeling down in agony. Perhaps, this agony is caused by this very realisation that not only is he a creature of desire, but that this desire will never be sated, nor will there ever be a break from desiring. And this idea is only ever pushed to its limits by this photograph.
This hellish red tangle of trees, with a light source shining through is a complete abandonment into desire. The light source beyond the trees beckons us on, it is a light which we seek because its whiteness and nullity offer a hope that perhaps if one gets through all this and reaches the light, there will be a Paradise, not of pleasure, but of a cessation of pleasure, of a passive moderation.
It is the home of desire, so that there, we can know our desires without interruption. However, when faced with a return back to civilisation, to exteriority, we are confronted with the fact that our subjectivity is at odds with “reality”. We try to repeat our thoughts from last night, and they don’t quite ring true in the morning. They have a touch of farce about them, and they soon, like the photograph below, seem to dissipate all too quickly, you forget or else they lose their correct form and with it their exact heart-rending meaning. Thus our perdition arises out of our failure to bring forth what we learnt in this red, purely subjective realm into our everyday reality. Our perdition is never saying quite what we mean. Speaking aloud what is written in our hearts is difficult to voice; to verbalise what you’re thinking at any given moment is bizarre and awkward, even when alone. Sometimes the words get stuck in one’s throat; we are taken aback by the mundane practicality of speech after so much insularity of mind.
What can the next two photographs have to do with any redemption?
The woods here are uncannily dissimilar to the woods in the other photographs. They are colourless and hint at a complete apathy and numbness. Even the fog can only remind us of how – in these times of apathy – useless and hollow our minds can feel. There is nothing inside but a dead wood, promising much but delivering little.
So what is left?
The last photograph is definitely the most mysterious and brilliant. It is completely otherworldly and even anachronistic. The figure looks as if she is dressed in a Victorian night gown. The pose is utterly obvious in its meaning; a careful trepidation, yet with an intent to go on. And that is what is necessary; to, when all is gloom and murky, to stand out as a solid figure of apprehension and push on, to make things happen, to create, to dare…
Words by Ryan Boyd
Photography by Daniel Grant