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A somewhat oblique text that emerged from the A.I.R/Cocheme residency.

“Toward the effecting of works all that man can do is put together or part asunder natural bodies.

  The rest is done by nature working within”

                                                                     Francis Bacon    Novum Organum (Aphorisms) 1620



As the coach reached the end of the Holloway Road, he looked from the window.  

‘Snow lay on the ground, and it came into my lord’s thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow as in salt…’  

He went straight away to a poor woman’s house, and bought a hen, watched her gut it, then stuffed it with snow himself. After a life struggling and plotting, tasting power and disgrace the philosopher was killed by a chicken. 


‘The snow so chilled him that he immediately fell’. 


He fell ill and soon died. Died at Arundel’s house in Highgate, looking over a garden so full of statuary that locals seeing the crowd of figures bursting from the greenery had dubbed it the ‘Resurrection’. And indeed in the days after the freeze the clinging snow and the framework of icicles and frosting that had clothed the stone for the past week now shifted and dripped in flows of water, a thousand tiny twitches and shivers that animated the carved flesh. 

These were matters that had much exercised Lord Bacons mind. Flesh solid and liquid, fire consuming too fast or freezing to a halt. The shapes of order might perhaps be extended. A shape growing like a scaffold, the mind constructed through matter, and also through matter dissolved to invention. 


That is the beginning of the story. Our Lord Bacon crawling in the snow, experimenting in a frost of buttons and opium.  The drug fascinated him. ‘From youth upward let there be every kind of opiate diet’. Here was a way to cool the flesh, to halt decay, to preserve youth’s beauty, to still thought’s rush and prevent a lifetimes form melting into the world’s flux. This was his final project, ‘the great instauration’, the ordering of all knowledge and preservation of the intellect, an ascent into crystalline angel order. 


It would only take, he thought, a little time. 

Time extends all around and then contracts as you shiver and vomit into a bowl, and in a moments respite from the heaving notice and become fascinated with how the edge of the hard shadows seem to vibrate.


I would think of that as the bus crawled around the roundabout at the bottom of Archway Hill.  



On the same spot, years later, a bold new building appeared from a nest of scaffold. A small tower. Designated as sheltered accommodation, but looking like an imitation ocean liner; a post-modern refuge. 

Post-modern, I had heard of the style, but this was the first example I had seen. 

Briefly it was a minor landmark, a cool kid in a small school. 


It reminded me of Bacon’s utopia, the New Atlantis, bits of everything, religion, science, philosophy, sex, art, power. All these matters, this matter, just needing to be arranged in the right way, to be balanced into vital order beneath a clear unwavering sun. 

I saw the new building as his, pictured it as a monument, inhabited by acolytes. I imagined a group of scientist priests strung out and decaying. Their dogma had a purity that became stripped to a skeleton of habit and need. 

But it was intended as a place of revelation and reformation.

Generation by putrefaction. 


An empty shell. It was unloved and now it is to be dismantled, hastily swept away, and perhaps tomorrow never there. No ocean liner but a refugees’ hulk, sunk into the tidal mud, unable to sail or dock. The crew of the vulnerable and addicted, the refusals and the idyll struck, the vicious and disconnected had no friends in the vicinity, none made homes on the shore. 



If you trust your first impression this is a place to forget, a turn your back place, a no where no thing land. A place only here, because there has to be something to fill in the gaps between the significant. 


If you trust your first impression you will swear you saw some one fall from the sky.

A bundle of rags tumbles from the top of the scaffold unfurls and flaps as it falls to a near soundless collision with the earth. You think again, consider and weigh, make another decision.  It was nothing. The landing too soft, the shape formless. The event demands no response, Turn away. 





There was not an ounce of heaviness about my master. He walked across the surface of the snow and left no imprint. No trace except for one. A moment when he turned to me and winked and cast his eye downward. There behind him was a solitary footprint.


About me however there was nothing but the heavy. My coat was crusted with buttons, all glinting and ivory. A shell for a hermit crab. Bones stitched on a skeleton coat to hold together the jelly of my being, of my irresolution. 

My hand flicks automatically to my breast pocket. I pluck out the little mirror and scrutinise my face. Oh gaunt, yes but I am still handsome. Still handsome. My skin is dry and inelastic, and straining to contain my brittle branch bones. Coral crusted with anemones and fronds, pushed this way and that by the currents which flowed around them. 


But look at my eyes. My pupils are little pearls, spinning in space. Pupil and master. So close you see yourself reflected in the centre of the others gaze. 

My eyes pearls spun from grit. Shaped from the outside in. Made over the four hundred years since my master died.


We must examine what we cannot see. We must be what we are not. 


I have climbed to the top of the tower. 


What is the tower?  


A house of order to contain our rituals. The lift stopped working years ago. The ascent is good. It reminds me of my master crawling up the hill with the weight of illness within his chest. He, who could not bear one mite of ordinariness, had to succumb to this casual mundanity along with the most thoughtless of the mob.


What is the tower?  


A shrine. The temple, the laboratory. The monument to the last experiment. My school, my home, my minotaur and my maze.  A place where the possible and the actual lay close upon one another, close as a couple in bed…


Even in my present state I have a relish for the dramatic… a tremble of hysteria… a strain of tragic vanity.


What is the tower? The house of Solomon. 

What is it now? A wreck scheduled for demolition, a modern relic. Sheathed once again in scaffolding and slowly eaten away. 


Our father who reproduces without conception.


I am a container for all that it was. I have swallowed it whole. I have followed the right path and have dignified my consumption with poise and beauty. For above all I have sought balance. Yet if my eyes don’t fix upon something I am lost. If my hand doesn’t hold something I am lost. And the heat just kept seeping away, into the particle slab of the concrete structure.


As the building consumed us. We gradually consumed all the furniture. Piled it on the pavement and sold it, or in the winter broke it down and burnt it for warmth. And of these last years it is the winters that remain, the cold, the frozen pipes, the snow.


The noise of the traffic outside is subtlely altered by the snow. Not muffled, but cleaned up, freed from the usual echoes and reverberations. Each engine clear and distinct, pulling its burden up the hill, buzzing through the concrete gorge. It feels more like the future. Crisp, hard, the rubbish and detail erased. 


This cleanness is how the bells sounded, precise and placed. A single note, a single toll.  One for each storey, marking our ascents and descents. Their echo was not a decay but a set of measures in space, holding each slice of time apart. In such a way the pages were laid open for our eyes. We tried to shape it to a whole. Feel it. We could not blink, for fear of missing a particle of this fearful joy. We are assured that it is not beyond our holding. Infinity bracketed in a flash, a tumble, a seventy year high. Pouring into us. Pouring out of us.


The window catches have been screwed shut but the glass has been knocked out, and the metal shutter prised away. It is relatively easy to climb out onto the scaffolding that now surrounds the building. High. I am high again. On the seventh floor. The metal tubes are cold. No wind, the air feels as crisp and soft as the snow that lays even and undisturbed on the boards, until it is compressed beneath my feet.


No workmen today, no demolishers, no un-doers. 


The rigging is shrouded in parts with sails of blue material.  Our temple cloaked and hidden. That is how I once sat, wrapped beneath her blue mantle. My master and me. Embraced in hollowness. 

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