[This is one section from a heapdhone-based walking piece for the streets of Melbourne I created with the brilliant Australian artist Dan Koop and the designer Nathen Street, as part of Arts House’s Going Nowhere project. We’re hoping to continue working on the project in the next few months.]


Part 5. Distance
Little Collins Street Flight Centre

Look around you
Find the darkest spot you can
You have one minute to do so.

You can’t see me
But I’m watching you

It is dark here
I am sat in the corner of my living room
A small glass of water
A coffee maybe
Except that I don’t drink coffee
A small yellow Formica table
I’m pressed up close to the radiator
My right leg crossed over my left and swinging distractedly as it always does when I’m concentrating
Or trying to concentrate
I am breathing slowly
I can hear the sound of my own breathing
And the frail whirr of the fan inside my ageing computer.
To my left I can see into our under-cared-for garden through two sets of French windows
Trees shudder and glisten in monochrome
I am lit almost entirely with laptop glow which I know you are not supposed to do because the glare apparently is bad for your eyes but nonetheless this semi-darkness feels more appropriate to the task I am undertaking
I am sitting
Trying to concentrate
Trying not to be too cold
Trying not to wake anyone in the house
Trying not to entertain Hollywood fantasies of masked figures suddenly appearing between the trees in the grey garden
And although there as you know several people involved in this performance
I am watching just you right now
The fact that you are listening to this means that I am watching you

All of that might be true about the living room by the way
Or it might not be
You are in the dark
So to speak

There are many things you don’t know about me
But then, there are many things I don’t know about you
I don’t know what you look like
I don’t know how tall you are
Or what your voice sounds like
I don’t know whether you’re having a good time
Or even an interesting time
I don’t know how warm the air is
And how it feels on your skin
I don’t know what this particular dark corner of the city smells like
I don’t know if you know any of the people that I know in the city
Or if we have ever briefly shared the same overcrowded bar space
Breathing in the same beery air
I am in the dark
We both are
And I suppose I could
I probably could if I really wanted figure some of these things out
I could try and find you on facebook
or on twitter
or via linkedin
I could ask Dan or ArtsHouse or somebody else I know in the city
I could call you
I could so easily call you
You are on the other end of the phone
And you would say hi
And I would say hi
And we could shine floodlights into the dark recesses of the space between us
We could illuminate everything if we wanted to
We could wash away any uncertainty
To feel safe perhaps
Or just for the sake of finding out
For the relentless pursuit of knowledge

But I am remembering a journey I once took in a very small boat on a very big lake
And how it got dark unexpectedly quickly
And we found ourselves me and her and the pilot moving through oil-black water
With nothing but the spindly chugging of the engine
And a sprinkling of lights on the distant shore side
And though we were afraid
It would be fair to say we were afraid
Of what we could no longer see around us
How above us suddenly hung the universe
So impossibly expansively there
How absolutely exhilaratingly here
constellations of stars
cloudy drifts of milky way
And then the realisation
That it had always been there
Underneath the night-time glow of the streets of London
Underneath the glare of the Melbourne sky above you

Or in New York even on the warm night of August 15 2003
When the power went out along the Eastern seaboard
and above the dark black shapes of skyscrapers and tenement buildings
that same universe from the lake was suddenly visible in that noisy belly of civilisation

And how we might marvel at something so big
So impossibly beautiful remaining so thoroughly hidden
Undetectable by even the most powerful torch
Hiding not in knowledge
But in unknowing
Waiting for us to grow comfortable with the idea of real darkness
In order to see properly again