I am going revisiting.
With a stone in the pocket of my coat.
With a hair from my love caught in the cuff of my sleeve.
I am sitting on the floor with the backs of my calves pressed into the floorboards.
I am going visiting again, by occupying the site of memory, playing it out, as a space, as a room, a thought as a room, all caught in the rock’s deep cuts, the site holds it all. The I inherits a room in which to visit and to be visited.
I settle softly, between the cracks of it.
Across the open furrows of its arms
I am caught.
And it comes to me through a tunnel, through a linkage of a word as a slip stream—visiting—revisiting. I am going visiting, like my grandmother would say, well perhaps not my grandmother but the character of someone else’s.
I am reminded of a conversation over the phone with my mother. I am talking about visiting and revisiting sites, walking into rooms, exchanging and learning more about a space through the process of leaving and returning and looking at what is accumulated. A space becoming a place with the precision of memory.
She says that Hannah Arendt used the term ‘to go visiting’. She tells me this as I sit on my hallway floor and she stands at her desk, we can both see each other even with our eyes closed, the image is on the inside of our lids. And she sends me the essay, directing me to the page in question, where the word ‘visit’ is used fourteen times. Rooting back to Arendt’s idea of thinking as a space rather than an action, visiting sits in the plurality of the act of thinking. Where you bring yourself into the space of a new thought, imagining and moving through it with an implied physicality when imagining a thought as a space we navigate with our bodies. In the body of our minds. Visiting is a form of thinking, an action of bringing the body into contact with the site, it moves across layers. Across strata.
Going visiting seems to me to be about the idea of presence in the site. By going visiting in order to think, we physically alter our presence, and pay attention to it by moving, removing, repeating. The action of moving and propelling your body allows the process of thought to be imagined and removed from abstraction, into the practicality of navigating physical space. And so to go visiting is to be in the active moment of thought. A practice of revisiting is a practice of becoming or rebecoming.
I listen to Rebecca Solnit on the bus coming home. She speaks about walking as a becoming. As you walk back through space you re-become who you were in the space before. The site holds your body, reverberating an echo you can climb back into. Trying on your previous fingertips. I think about the moments where we access ourselves across time schemes. These moments that come from stepping in to your family home, sitting in a friend’s car, or standing on the same rock twice, hearing the repeated footstep of your father, each time each surface is recalled they all collide together.
We learn through pressing, through what we come into contact with, through what we press against and what is pressed into us.
Grains of wood pressed into flesh, raised impressions on knees and palms.
Leaning, learning, resting, marking.
I learned through pressing my knees into the table, through imprinted lines.
The process of casting is an action of pressing; it is touch and the repetition of touch. The action of an arm, a hand, skin, pressing, repeatedly coming into contact with the surface, the matter of what it is you are trying to remember—to copy—to hold.
The action and process of memory is physicalised in the repeated process of casting. The matter of memory itself made present and manifest through the silicone, wax, rubber. Pressed through that which you have chosen to use, which in turn has a vital memory of its own—seeping out of its pores—this physicalised external process of memory, its exterior nature allowing you to engage consciously and tacitly in the process of memory.
Perhaps this is why I was so drawn to casting. I was always incredibly afraid of losing memories.
Compulsively I would attempt to trace the outlines of the rooms we lived in. Touching, casting, drawing, keeping wrapped in dust on shelves, in boxes,
As a child I would lie in bed and stay up all night going over every single memory I had of my life so far. Going through each one carefully—pressing into it—marking it into my skin. I did this every night in the hopes of preserving each and every moment, each and every moment solitary inside my head.
I was worried because I knew that if I didn’t remember it then nobody would and it would somehow fall out, get lost in the silence of time because nobody else could hold it. Everything that I witnessed was singular, individual, held in the interior, and this felt like the particular straining silence which constricts the throat, the kind of silence I didn’t like to think about. I didn’t like that feeling, that you would lose your life as you lived it. Memory is out of our control.
So I would press it all into me every night instead of sleeping. But now mostly I just remember this repeated action of trying to remember. A sort of interior casting process before I even knew what it was, or what I was seeking, but knowing that I was definitely afraid of not being able to hold the whole of my life in my arms, in my skin, at all times.
Casting is a language.
A tradition of wax, plaster, moulds, halves, wholes, inverses, interiors, exteriors, negatives, positives.
But it is also an extension and physicalisation of memory, or more specifically of the act of trying to hold to remember. In the moment of casting you are circulating all the possibilities of how you are going to hold this object, this material, to map, hold and contain its form, to copy and incrementally experience. Abstracting its nature through the process of remembering its detail.
The action of pressing is an interior and exterior point of connection raised and pushed together.
To touch is to be touched. 1
This touch, which is in turn touching something else—othering it—and sitting in the presence of both, places learning within the site of the body. Imagine it is as an awareness of the presence of your body in relation to other matter, feel that the scale of everything you’re learning about has not been abstracted and pulled into a context outside of you—all of its own—but still sits in the context of your world, your domestic space, enrobing it.
Everything interlinks and information blurs out of category, out of hierarchy, there is no particular subject, just a question sparked by an action, given an answer as the need for the information arises, as the presence of my body, thinking triggers the question which brings the next point of matter into contact with my skin. Casting as an instinct and action has been around for thousands of years. Evolving with us as we discovered new materials. First metal, then wax, plaster, silicones, plastics, on and on it goes. When I talk about casting, while I carry the word with all its history of metal and lost-wax, relief, and solid two part mould making, powdery plaster hands, I think I mean something more ephemeral, simply the action of it. The combination of space and time and matter, and the labour of understanding how to press something into and against something else in order to hold its texture. Casting is a preparatory sketch. A laboured and lingering moment, between your witnessing body and the matter you are remembering, pressing your hand into, touching and being touched.
I often think of Rachel Whiteread speaking of pressing a spoon into sand, looking at the sands impression, now the body of the spoon, but all the function of the spoon was gone, leaving just the presence form and body of the object, the sensation of its weight left in the cradling body of the sand. Whiteread speaks of this moment repeatedly, always with fondness for the moment of understanding that sometimes abstraction may come from replication, from pressing into something, from studying form, rather than reducing or contorting form.
The impression of memory in the grains of sand which holds the spoon’s weight. Pour across the ripples of the sand and hold each grain, flatten and fall between. Press down on the corridors of earth beneath that contain whole lives of their own.
It makes me want to cast the whole beach. Pour cement on the sand and peel it back, to see every dip impression and softening ripple of a tide somehow held in the body of cement skin instead.
Just to have that moment of feeling the air around the sand as solid. The ephemeral weighed in the hand.
Holding the moment.
The aftermath of presence suspended in the surface of the matter.