THING 016 : VOCALICS
And I never left a trace
We have to drink heavily and quietly in the bunker, get really sodden, the hangovers make us tender so that CLICK! we can see things as they really are. Our community has all the vibrancy, colour and hypermotility of that squirming assembly revealed beneath an overturned rock. We do not socialise, we swarm. I have a bamboo pipe and when I remember, I play it clumsily to simulate the sound of wind blowing down the chimney. Oh we miss music in the bunker, we have to make it ourselves, you go bahdahbahdahdbdbdbdbdbaaaaaaaa ladies and gentlemen, it’s the human horn! A huge shining face, you are straining to inhabit the horn, to be more horn than human. It is difficult to maintain peace amongst ourselves in the bunker, every day is an intensely fought struggle for territory, (Where Things Go), if we could only put this to bed we might be happy and kind to each other but the things themselves urge us towards PURE RAGE. In more reasonable moments I Say, Let’s go to work not war, Stay stay stay…. But our work is war – why else would we be buried down here – and there’s nowhere to go anyway. Nothing can penetrate as far as this. Nor can anything slip through stone walls and escape. It is the end of the world here, its heart, its skull, its fist.1 A bunker is created by the imagination of an outside, but do you really believe in reality? Ah yes. Three horizontal bars carved into the trunk of a tree, a stream parting to make a Y meaning YES, seabirds circling over a patch of the ocean, a trail of encrypted signals indicates our location, and I never left a trace other than these steps of infamy.
What is the bunker?
What is the bunker? It is the skin shed by an insect, it fits us perfectly, it is a long-distance flight going anticlockwise around the planet, ENDLESS DAWN. North: rock, South: rock, East: rock, West: rock. The walls are made of the finest marble, of ancient granite, of galvanised metal, of concrete poured into the earth, regurgitated into an open mouth, of hundreds of thousands of tiny skeletons sucked inside, it is made of ammonites and bdelloids, of plastic bags and slurry all mashed up together, it is the genius of humankind. The bunker holds on to time like a bubble of air preserved in a glacier. The bunker is a hand slipped into a pocket, it is a sinkhole on the highway, it is a quiet dell out of the wind, SILENT STRATUM. Beneath the tideline the geologist should be able to study ancient changes of sea level, under such favourable conditions as to leave no doubt as to the reality and exact amount of these changes. The antiquary should find the remains of ancient races of man, sealed up with his weapons and tools. Here he will be troubled by no complications from rifled tombs, burials in older graves, false inscriptions, or accidental mixture.2
My life as a valve
Here’s what I’m thinking about today: The life of a scallop – have you ever thought about the life of a scallop? I think about my life as a scallop: my life as a valve, my hundreds of tiny charcoal beady eyes, twinkling gemlike in the fronds of a silky mantle, swimming about by sucking up water and spitting it out at angles, the jets propelling me gently through the water, with so much grace, the scallop is rich in sense organs, SHEER OPULENCE. The scallop’s principal enemy is the starfish; a starfish will crawl on top of a scallop and slowly pull apart its shell before extruding its stomach around the soft material inside. I am consumed by anxious anticipation of an attack from this aggressor, I can no longer appreciate the comfort and security of my shell when I contemplate the immanence of an assault on this place of sanctuary. If only I were able to crawl out of my shell, I would be entirely exposed but also free of this endless worry of having my bunker violated, I might conceal myself in the sand or amongst rocks and observe my shell from outside and in this way be able to watch for the approach of predators. Somehow this thought is an infinite source of happiness to me; that I might look over myself and be both safe and surveilled. I am hoping the scallop will lead me towards a GREAT REALISATION as the parallels between our situations seem very clear to me. Scallop shells are carried by pilgrims and what else is our retreat to the bunker but a pilgrimage to the heart of the problem, a struggle against the dematerialisation of the ground. ‘The earth was no longer the good lodging, but a pernicious and random expanse belonging to the oceanic horizons that it extended. Faced with this morphological ambiguity, defence installations were extremely difficult to implement because anything could happen, from any and all directions.’3
Although modern bathymetry can correlate to surfaces relating to earlier periods, in many instances there may be a significant difference (up to c. > 20 m) between them. This can lead to inaccurate representations of shoreline positions (up to 60 km difference) and past topography can be markedly misinterpreted. The bedrock horizon represents a minimum value that could be used in reconstruction. However, modern bathymetry does not represent a maximum value as processes of erosion may have reduced its height over time.4 Today I feel good, I am resurfacing, have been resurfaced like a road in soft black asphalt, I feel good, clean and sharp, so smooth that wheels can barely make contact on my face like a touchscreen zzzzzzipp! My skin is diaphanous!!! On days like this, I can think about the surface. We raise our faces towards a New Earth, if we can think the surface, distinguish between bedrock and tideline, then tectonic plates might move, planes start to shift, strata begin to fold and the sky would turn red, TOTAL WAR. If we ever make it out of this, I think about being interviewed one day, a hero, an inspiration! What is your life goal? To be absolutely relentless. I promise myself I won’t creep blinking into the madness of the sunlight but will charge into the middle of things like a battering ram, erupting across the crazed surface like molten rock covering the entire planet. How did it come to this? Our ‘retreat was now into the very thickness of the planet and no longer along its surface […] the essence of the new fortress is elsewhere’.5
Letters from Doggerland
Letters from Doggerland begin: Dear John, or whatever, I write to you from the North Sea. Look, are you aware that this inundated landscape was once terrain extensively populated by humans? A profound lack of knowledge has been maintained concerning the area of Doggerland; we can only deduce from this that environmental disaster is simply a massive failure of imagination. On excavation we find on different layers: peats, swamp plants, ferns, bog plants, birch trees, pollens representative of forest. Starting generally with something like tundra, like Siberia, harsh winds coming down from the north. Things warm up, thawing in the summer, creating lakes in the valleys, nice quiet areas. Glaciers start softening, meltwaters flowing in rivers and swamps, rapidly changing shorelines, amongst lush vegetation everybody feeling fluvial, beaches and lagoons, hippos and elephants wandering from Denmark to Yorkshire, peaty bogs and reed beds subject to rising marshwaters until finally everything is totally submerged. But this landscape also moves in reverse: hippos walk from Yorkshire to Denmark, mountaintops suck up the water from the valleys and crystallise it into jaunty caps, warm lagoons frost over and fish swim lethargically in saline ice slurry. Let me ask you: What do you call a lake at the bottom of the ocean? What sits at the bottom of this question is sunk below the abyssal plain, amongst cold seeps, marine snow, pearlfish, cusk-eels, tube worms, eelpouts and other unspeakable elements. Dear John, I can tell you that the cliffs of Doggerland offer a vista of the future in technicolour; by which I mean the drowned brown banks of humankind’s earliest habitations. ‘With the exception of rock, all the Earth is part of the movement of the ocean, a mutation of physical territory, in fact the first type of “disintegration”.’6 Seismic mapping under the sea allows hydrophones to pick up changes in the density of the sediment as sonic waves rebound, these acoustic surfaces create a map of horizons. Seen from below, the horizon line of the North Sea reflects water back on water. Ever more letters from Doggerland: Oh come join us! The water’s lovely.
1 J.M.G. Le Clézio, The Book of Flights (London: Vintage, 2008 ), p. 297.↩
2 Clement Reid, Submerged Forests (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913), p. 9.↩
3 Paul Virilio, BunkerArcheology (Hudson: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994), p.41.↩
4 K. Westley, J. Dix, R. Quinn, ‘A re-assessment of the archaeological potential of continental shelves’, Unpublished English Heritage ALSF (Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund) Report, (2004).↩
5 Virilio, p.39.↩
The cut-up poems above were produced as part of Catalina Ouyang’s show “it has been the perfect instrument” at Knockdown Center in March 2020. The words in the poems are all taken from a print out of Catalina Ouyang’s undergraduate Title IX case.
JAMIE BRACKEN LOBB
EPIC OF GILGAMESH (UNRELEASED MIXTAPE FROM 2012)