In the midst of the second lockdown, towards the end of 2020 (when this exhibition was conceived) you find yourself absorbed in thought as you cross an unnecessarily busy London street. You don’t live in that part of town, nor have you had the privilege of working from home, but the news of the distinctively middle class preoccupation of lockdown home improvement combined with the government’s decision to keep department stores open as essential have planted a seed in your mind involving some curtain rods. As the light changes to green, you hurry to the entrance of the shop, distractedly already choreographing in your mind your errands for after you leave: pay the electricity bill (insistently not online), pick up food for the week (include ingredients to make a cake for your birthday; interrupt the rhythms of the everyday). But you don’t make it across the street; your body encounters a force stronger than you that pushes you out of the way and onto the ground, landing on your wrist, and the next thing you see is a glimmer of a face that stretches into a Cheshire cat grin as it utters feigned concern, having just pushed you, and disappears. Ambulance, hospital, codeine, two operations: your right arm (you are right-handed) has been fractured into pieces and a foreign object that aches with the cold weather is inserted. In time, when the waves of shock, then pain, subside, you will try to write the event off as one of those illogical absurdities of life that are a test of your patience with the world, but even as you do, your body will learn a set of postures not known fully even to yourself as it compels you to cradle your arm at night, or flinch at passers-by when they breach an imaginary threshold.
Does this image give you a sense of familiarity with this body, and maybe the owner of this body, down to the metal under its skin, even if all this lives in the space between two people’s imagination, where a fracture of this kind is a physical, though not a creative impossibility? Two people write this. But there is a point to this story (besides attuning you to the artifice of the autobiographical mode and the false proximity that it engenders), which is to draw your attention to the relieving posture in action: the behaviour of withholding from putting the damaged limb at risk without thinking of the event that caused the injury, and without needing to think altogether. It is avoidance in crystallised form. The patterns and behaviours that characterise this relieving posture demarcate a space of the event felt through them, but not seen. In broader terms, it is a space not admitted to explicit knowledge, but undeniably obliquely present when made sensible through those recurring habits. The act of its negation is its acknowledgment.
It is the act of demarcating this space that is of interest to us, and the potential of the space itself. Politics may be considered to begin in abrupt events through which the disempowered redistribute the register of the sensible – i.e. redistribute what can be said and by whom, and what can appear as discourse and not noise. This position, however, operates on the necessity of divulging a part of one’s subjecthood. Only by making oneself transparent, by putting oneself on display, is the individual given a temporary stage to tell ‘the public’ their story that said ‘public’ expects to move through an arc of external acknowledgement and resolution. Undignified in its request to perform pain, it does not recognise the existence of something beyond what is permitted to be made visible. All the while, the procedures of exclusion and the normative unconscious are left unrecognised as the cause for why the ‘reveal’ is required.
Acts of translation into the language of hegemonic culture cannot touch and therefore do not acknowledge the part of sentience that is opaque and untranslatable into ‘clear’ discourse. We want this part of the sensible acknowledged in its shadowy form without the prerequisite of assimilation. If anything, it is to do justice to the incoherence at the crux of subjecthood. We are, at least in part, strangers even to ourselves.
– Dina Akhmadeeva and Adomas Narkevičius