The Complicated Beyond Rings of Saturn †

Please let me know what you want me to see
Please let me know where do you want me to be?
In this old mirror, I’m just a reflection
But I might be brilliant if you’d give direction?

    —Merle Haggard, ‘Bad Actor’ (2010)

Harley Laffarah Eaves, Working on some night moves (2019)

A comissioned text work to accompany the online exhibition ‘B-Sides’ (Rick Banger Gallery)—a selection of works by Harley Laffarah Eaves.  For B-Sides the artist was asked to present works that hadn’t made the cut, the second set, the understudies. Whilst still successful as works the presentation of the supporting acts offer a sliver of insight into the selection process of the artist, a peek behind the curtain to reveal the paintings waiting in the wings. For Eaves’ show at Rick Banger, the gallery commissioned a text in response to the notion of the B-Side. Though not expressly tethered to Eaves’ work on show the response looks to accentuate the importance of the supporting act, the B-Side to the A-Side. A reduced version of this text appeared on the Rick Banger site, 25.05—25.06.2019.

Harley Laffarah Eaves, 3:54 am (2019)

I read a book on secondary things by an ocean. A book that ran a little number on a private etymology of feeling and the failure of language to sound out an adjuvant meaning. His is a poetics of refusal, the author’s. An ironic thumb against a world. The author is listing familiar terms of contempt; words borrowed from his forebears to better pick apart generous feelings of hatred for places and publics. It is not the book’s subject, this itinerary of invectives, but it’ll remain my chief takeaway as the hour elapses and I sit here and smoke.
    The pages run as a look-book of adjectival addendums to people, spaces and things. Sitting here, watching a narrow river widen out into an ocean, it seemed appropriate to think on the discrete terms of somebody else’s discriminatory impulses so I sit with the book for a time. We’ve no protagonist, just an array of secondary characters; supporting terms of attack. A supportive script to prop up some verbs. Remember them better and reproach them accordingly. The author thinks on ways to weaponize the words of others. Give their impetus a little job. Circulate second hand material in a shining little gift economy. Reflect on the scandal of employability as a limiter to the various meanings of all these jibes and pointed adjectives. Every insult wants to be an index finger, and his grandpa had a good one. A good word. A term of indictment. Corredor. This stabilizes a moment of misinterpretation.
    Although phonetically sounding itself out as a hallway, a corridor, in the Spanish a Corredoris an itinerant person. Rather than someone caged in by the annals of a building—stuck bowling down a narrow alley of action with all the various uses and ambitions of a million rooms closed and cloistered behind doors—a corredor was a person in constant motion. Was free. Someone who just ran around. Someone who never settled. Giving in to this advert for the sagacity of motion alone, the author admits a wish that he could have carried that title. A heavy desire. He imagines himself as a corredor. Could’ve been one, he says. Could’ve been one if things were different. A running horse addicted to sugar; the wild rings of dust that push out beyond the edges of a planet; a picture of a person carrying a title earned by vicarious actions; a little king built out of carrion doing words. A past tense that ever opens up possibility rather than nailing a mind determinately down. Movement being the only context and justification, a corredor is a peripatetic thing. A Spanish reason for something. A boat that floats and floats for the sake of it. I pause with the paragraph and I could echo that author’s wish. Ape it. People that live under the perpetual thumb of movement had always fascinated me. A corredor is a fantasy. A baseline for desire. An Apache name. An outlaw. A rationale. A romance novel. An antedated and ever-impinged freedom that spills and spills in spite of everything. But this author was more like a corridor than any prospective picture of sovereignty. No corredor. He shrugs that feeling off with the syntax of poetry and, point for point, moves on to the entreaty of all his various entrapments both public and private. I read on and I think about all of the options closed to me. A run of doors. I consider a love of chance. Amor fati. The total abeyance of control. The corridor.
    Corridors had been heralded as an important minute in a long history of ideas; I’d heard that one somewhere. It was one of those long literary moments, one of those convergent seconds whereby ephemeral thought gets given architectural context. Prior to the post office, to the proper invention of active literatures, the corridor prompted a kind of storytelling wherein brick and mortar demand a little invective innovation for the stories that would be set down and given ground on paper thereafter. It gave them a human context. It’s a vacant hallway but rendered important solely by the things secreted into the rooms that demand its existence. A corridor is a codified book. A cinema. A narrative twist. A painting. A platitudinous portrayal of the narrowness of human longing. The animal shapes of desire needed some cement to clear themselves up; the building gave them a channel for all that feeling. The other spaces that render it—the corridor—the supporting parts that let it play out its long line from A to B—that’s all a corridor can ever be. A corridor is like a person. A corridor is a supporting actor. A minor B Side to a major A. The need to have heard a song before you could imagine singing one of your own; to have slept in a room before you could conjure the feeling of waking up in one. The effort to elect importance is like writing a little library of books on a history of corridors and the colors all run. Anecdotes spill like drinks, and the characters are all unaware of the level of their co-dependence—their co-operation—as their names and actions hem into one long line of self-suggestion and self-presentation. You build a corridor as you look to portray yourself as a corredor and that had to be the joke of it. A sad one, admittedly, but a joke nonetheless. The ubiquitous bit-player, the minor part; the ongoing importance of the supporting actor. That was all there was to investigate behind these pages; the ballast, the keystone, the second violin. Let the corredor run as a character living under the illusions of self-determinacy. One that can spin unknowingly around the orbit of a thing like the complicated beyond rings of Saturn. Like a moon and a sea beneath it, you know the moon’s in charge. There’s only a flat train of path that leads straight out to the Atlantic and I walk out and sit at the water’s edge. I slide little words out from underneath a thought or two given over to all of the options closed to me, a run of doors, and consider a love of chance. Amor fati. The total abeyance of control. I consider a spell strolling the length of a corridor; think on the stakes involved in painting a picture of one.

‡ Elias Canetti, The Secret Heart of the Clock (1989)