Monday, August 02, 2010

Not falling, landing. Three ways of touching down

One – down and out

An airplane intersects with the ground much the same as a human does. Lightly at first, then a heavier, simultaneous movement both downward and lengthways. A falling human’s split-second cascade of various body parts successively hitting the ground is not as elegant as an airplane’s precision-bump-then-roll, of course, but it is odd that there are no equivalent words for “touching down”, “runway” and “landing” (by which I mean the whole process of coming to a complete stop). Yes, we lack wheels, as well as designated falling/landing spaces. But the important thing is that falling – like landing an airplane – is at least as much a horizontal process as a vertical one.

The verb “fall” belies the imprint our bodies make along the ground as we decelerate; the dance-like attenuations of our collapse. You might also describe it as the “tracks” we leave, but this is a word with unfortunate, distinct static connotations (think plaster-casts of footprints) in its everyday meaning, while its Indigenous meaning is bundled with the mysterious (to non-Indigenous eyes) expertise of those who decipher feint tracks. I suspect, however, that by giving tracks momentum – i.e. doing away with the plaster-cast mindset – part of this inter-cultural mystery may be explicable.

This presumption to stasis is ingrained in Western culture. A car is “parked” – a curious word that means both the journey of deceleration (as with “landing” an aircraft) and the aftermath of this journey – the car as stationary object. Western humans “sit” in the same way that they park their cars, I suggest. The necessary journey to achieve stasis – a complex series of moves in both cases – is sidelined (if you’ll pardon the pun) by the word doing double-duty: the stationary aftermath is privileged because usually lasts much longer in time. In the case of sitting (down), the horizontal “runway” is also erased – as with a fall, it is impossible for a human to sit “down” in a purely vertical manner; the body must cantilever, i.e. (briefly) take up more horizontal space than the end-result “footprint” of the static sittee.

There are plenty of terms for going sideways while in contact with the ground: trip, slip, slide, scrape, sweep (away). All these are specific actions, in their usual meaning – but they also (if you look past the doing, to the done-to) describe surfaces: not-quite-flat planes with a vertical interest point, of imprint or overlay. Just please remember here that “texture” is a dirty word; weaving (from whence the word comes) is the antithesis of the runway moment. Texture/weaving conflates the horizontal and vertical planes; my interest is in their messier, genius intersections.

Two - space

“[Rover Thomas’ All that big rain coming from top side is] an imposing picture . . . Depicting a seasonal waterfall swollen by rain on Texas Downs station in the Kimberley, it is divided top and bottom by into narrow vertical planes in coloured ochres, outlined with little white dots. Up close, the surface of the picture offers all kinds of surprises – the ochre is lightly washed onto the canvas in some areas, and caked and gritty in others . . . [Rover] also managed to capture the sensation of light . . . with . . . purely the weight of his brush and the tones of his ochres”.

- Benjamin Genocchio, Dollar Dreaming 2008 p 201.

Unwieldy and random as it feels (and looks), any fall has its parameters, its “frame” on the ground. Being able to frame; i.e. set parameters to, 2D abstract art requires a mastery of scale/proportionality. I’m no painter, but I suspect that this mastery resides more in the done-to surface – the scraped, the swept-away, etc – than in the doing.

Three - time

“Maybe the parabola is the quickest way there.”

- Andrei Vosnesensky, as quoted by Leon van Schaik, “Behind the Door” Meanjin 2001 Vol 60 no 4 p 45.

Also verboten here is the idea of a slow-motion replay of your fall. The speed of a fall, for once, has body working ahead of brain. If you need to retrospectively analyse how you fell, then look to those two newly-imprinted surfaces - your body and the ground.

And take your time so doing – the early bird just misses the previous bus.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?