I The Armchair Traveller
You cannot remember how long you’ve been travelling. For so long now there has just been you, your raft, and the sea. It is night, and you are navigating by the stars. At times gazing out into the universe you feel as though the arrangement in the night sky is steering your raft through the darkness towards some long-sought narrative. As night wears on the seas become less turbulent, the winds more favourable, and you sleep. In your dreams you are a Modernist in search of inclusivity. There are candles flickering warm yellow light in a circle. You are standing in the centre of the light, then you become the light; an array of possibility, moving fast, faster. A sorcerer steps into the circle, slowly opening their cloak at the chest. A colour at the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite of violet, as of blood, fire, or rubies bursts through. The world is burning.
When you awake, the dawn is brightening the sky and you can see the land to the south. You steer toward it across a cool green sea until eventually your raft tilts forward into a gentle bay. The still waters reflect the outline of a city. There is a great archway made of plastic ribbons; grey concrete blocks painted with black stripes; a high tower filigreed with differently coloured masking tape. It is a city like a crystal globe, full of tensions.
Raising your eyes from the water’s reflection you look towards the city gates, its plastic weave casts the water, your raft, and you. As you walk toward it you feel a strong desire for an object, a material thing that can be seen and touched. You have never felt this way before. The gate, supple as a snake, swings open toward you. You enter. You are being admitted to a Pure Land where everything is what it is. Here, you are surrounded by surfaces. You sit by them, or in them. You take out your phone to photograph this place but you find that it’s not working properly. A message lights up on the screen:
The Photograph Is Not A Substitute For The Experience.
The message is sent by a someone, or something called Mystic.
Dear Mystic, what kind of borders does confusion have?
Open, replies Mystic and then:
Confusion Is Not Only A Feeling, It’s A Way Of Looking.
Then the battery suddenly and completely dies. A perfect black out.
You walk through the forbidding gateway of the enormous colourful porous plastic curtain. Then you turn around and walk back through it again.
II Showing your kolours
Leaving there and proceeding three days southward you cross a great desert. At first there are trees and shrubs then nothing, just sand. The desert winds pile the sand into extraordinary moments. The sharp bright light takes the air with it - there is nothing left to breathe. Time passes yet the sun seems to perpetually hang directly overhead. Sand curls into your skin. You remember English tales of English travellers in Arabian sands, stranded. You discover you are made of sand. It’s in your mouth, your armpits, your hair, your ribs. You are becoming a seashore.
Finally you reach an oasis called Brickworks, a small village with one thousand and one cheaply built inner-city apartments painted in block colours; purple, green, blue, yellow. These cascading apartments built quickly lean at an angle 60 degrees or less, into the winds of Progress. On the terrace of one of the apartments a muscular man with blonde hair, and sunglasses stands smoking a thin rolled-up cigarette. He smells of monsoonal rains, and wood-smoke, and he’s smiling at you in flaxen camaraderie. All the doors are closed, hatches down, blinds lowered. You have that unmistakable feeling that you have already lived an identical evening once before and were very happy, at that time.
‘Oh here you are,’ he says. You stand beside him for a long while before he tells you that he has spent a good deal of his life watching the light change on the trees and the buildings and the passage of great, slow horses and yet he is not without sorrow, that he shares your own troubles of being an independent artist traversing treacherous sands. He tells you that just because he is a wizard with a white plastic thumb doesn’t mean that he received any special support, care, trust, encouragement or respect from bodies of power and authority. ‘Look,’ he blows a perfect smoke ring ‘when it comes to funding I know I’m a straight, white man so what can I expect? Don’t get me started on that.’
You gasp. How beautiful he is, standing so balanced like a golden lion in the golden light. Born on a single peak a mile above the storm-racked Mountain of Privilege his blue eyes sweep horizons upon horizons available for his flight. You dreamed of horizons like that when you grew up - or even better of becoming one of those horizons. After a short pause, still very friendly and sunny as is your disposition, you say, ‘Well I’m not a straight, white man but I didn’t get One, Two, Three or Four,’ and go on to list the separate appeals to the Lands of Abstraction from which you have recently received rejection after rejection. He offers you a drink, a home-brewed Mexican beer with lime and coriander in a pale pink can. Cheers! You drink it thirstily. When it’s time to go he offers to draw you a map.
You accept this gift and in exchange you tell him a story:
I have travelled long days and nights to arrive in this city, this great city with its crystal spires, misunderstandings, and voluptuous vibrations. My parents never named the list of ambiguous losses that haunted our childhood home in the suburbs. We were immigrants with two tongues in our heads, and another home elsewhere. My father, a lawyer, was a measured, unspeaking man who loved to grow roses in the backyard, and since my six sisters were older than me by many years one by one they went from home to sail the seas or work in other towns, in other cities, and there was no one to teach me that ‘closure’ does not exist.
One day I was walking in the suburbs when I heard wonderful, fresh, clear laughter come dancing down the street, and when I looked towards the sound of the most joyful music of the world I realised that it had come from behind the old church doors. On that day I was nineteen years old, unschooled in creative processes and knowing nothing of the arts and the powers that are in the world. I stood on some planks of wood and looked into through the dirt marked window and saw a group of people several of whom were young like me preparing to make a play. I did not know the words they were shouting, their use or meaning or the gestures they were performing. A girl came along twirling a lollipop in her mouth, and twirling also her rounded hips. A young man with a surfboard under his arm stared out into the darkness as if it were the bright blue sea. Something ran among them, exchanges of glances like lines that connected their bodies with the cosmos. Then more characters came onto the scene, and they sat around with suitcases from which they unfurled a long white bed sheet on which they painted the words, ‘Nothing Is Happening’. I watched these encounters in which strangers imagined a thousand things and said words in the darkness that carried all the weight of life in them. Later, alone, I yelled some of those words out loud and they drifted like dandelion seeds in a desert wind into a secret lair that I could not see but sometimes felt.
The Director of the play was a woman with a crown of twelve stars around her head wearing a robe of red velvet. She lived alone in a hut fragrant with herbs. She invited me in, and there we both sat cross-legged by the fire, and she asked me what I knew of acting, the art of manifesting a split body. She found that I knew nothing, and yet had easily remembered all the words of the rhyme and that when I spoke those words a strange silence fell, and she said that she saw in me the makings of Presence. She said that she could teach me how to appear taller than most, older than my years, or forever young, or closer to the audience even when I was standing much further away. She said that most of all she could teach me how to bargain my presence in the darkness in exchange for an ideal, and perfect body. “Ay, teach me that” I said puffed up with my own cleverness and luck and youth. She picked up a grain of sand and placed it carefully in my hand. Was this a joke? No. It sat in the palm of my hand swollen in the sun and she asked me if I wanted to learn the secret sorcery of stagecraft. I thought then that I had nothing to lose so I nodded and instantly I was standing in a vast and fertile plain. In all directions, pale, golden wheat blowing in the breeze.
III Saying it with flowers
You take the map, and follow it towards the infinite light as it sinks into the west. Ahead of you is an office. It is beautifully proportioned and regular like a home in a middle-class, Melbourne suburb. You approach the gates. They are made of rubies and stand four-square. Inside there is a large circular room with green velvet chairs and footstools. Two large framed prints of the Egyptian gods OSIRIS - 'King of Living' and MUT - 'The Mother Goddess' hang side by side in the enormous wood panelled room. Within the office all is abuzz with administrative activity. On the table are documents in a neat pile that signify identity, nationality, legal status, powers-of-attorney.
The Barrister comes in smiling, and the first thing he says to you is that India is 5 for 122. It takes a moment for you to understand he’s talking about cricket. You don’t care for cricket but you smile, and pretend. The second thing he says is, ‘Where are you from?’ Although your Australian passport sits in the palm of his hand it’s clear to him that you are a foreigner here. You tell him your origins to which he replies smiling radiantly, ‘Well you’re not as dark as some, some of them are very black’. Well Barrister, you say very friendly and sunny as is your disposition, I’ve been here so long now all your whiteness has rubbed off on me. He laughs too, and nods. It’s as if Barrister knows that you’re writing an essay on Kolour. It’s as if he knows you’re trying so very hard to think beyond colour into something like geometric progression or the direct intimate relationship with materiality, but cannot. Is he Mystic? A Mystic Monitor here to invigilate your complex and circuitous entrances, exists, acceptances and rejections into the Lands of Abstraction? He hovers over your legal documents with a dark red seal given to him by The Law.
You think of all the measures and rulings stamped on your brown, female body.
He hands you the affidavit. When you hold it in your hand you become very small like a bee enclosed in a golden flower. From inside this height you suddenly understand that kolour is not only presence, or absence but always both; that kolour is not only a way of looking to light but also a great blindness; that kolour is a wayfinding.
Dear Mystic, you call from inside the flower, what kind of borders does kolour have?
Get Ready For Fireworks, Mystic replies.