Old steps, new stone, coming unstopped.

I am back at Hangar. The April sunlights somehow makes me feel as though I am haunting myself, a future recurring to a past that was here digging at the dry and difficult soil to plant a seed now thriving unruly in me. Cars glitter on the bridge and Jesus hangs stoic beneath the phosphorescent clouds. Rooftops and plastic, metal and glass, join in the refraction of light across the small scape of the city visible from my perch. I view upon the mustard moorish terminations of the building that composed my rightward line of sight for nearly a year in which I resided at the studios downstairs. I feel as though I’ve reentered the hive of my discourses, thoughts rebounding between I and I, and the wall, and that shadow, and that clear angular line from the window, and that smattering of paint. If architectures house bodies it only makes sense they house the body’s musing. 

An artist in the library tells me how the residency was intended for her to distill an inquiry, but it only opened and opened, giving itself, horizontalising out of its frame, rather than absorbing itself into one small clean idea. 

I am curious about the discipline of this giving and girting. About how to rein in the thoughts splattered and seeping across notebooks, and “projects”, drawings and photographs, abstracted clay figurines half broken upon my desk at home, piled against the ‘to be archived’ with chits of paper that echo a thought “territorialization of space”…”space as a form of knowing”.

Outside I speak to another friend, M, and we talk about the drive, the focus, toward the work that turns us inside out; that shifts our order to be everyone before I; to pursue those ideas that seem not only for us but for the hundreds of arms all reaching for an answer like us. Work that can act like a scalpel, a spoon, a needle, a hammer. A “work that works”; ideas like technologies that can only be wielded when engaged through the conscious and critical mind. 

A says the same thing and we agree between mouthfuls of salmon baguette and coffee. That the time of the ‘entertainer artist’ is bifurcating; a split stream forming toward another kind. A quasi-seer collecting, recording, disseminating, distilling, composing, assembling, toward a task that did not begin with them and will not be completed by them. That we need to be able to leave useful trails, and to make work that can be built upon by those who arrive with us. No doubt such a force always existed, except that since our year of the mortal reality-check it seems more people are at the task. 

Down the narrow path beside my house construction workers rebuild the stairway. I did not realise how old it was until they began placing the new, even, clean cement blocks upon it, grinding down the old stone beneath it until its compaction serves a sound base. It seems obvious but coming from a young city, it never occurred to me that cities such as Lisbon are perpetually built upon themselves. That the old is never removed but is simply worn down, buried, entombed by the intentional force of the new. And that the very process of this placement – of placing the new stone atop the old mortars – acts as a ritual to honour the hopeless perpetuity of life and death, and the unceasing tread of civilisation’s march onward. 

But it occurs to me now that those stones are also a guarantee. They are built in the promise of the passage of others over them. Of anonymous steps into and out of this sojourn, this street, this particular vein of the city now sewn into the rest of its complexion.

I place the espresso cup on one side of the table, the saucer to the other side, emphatically. ‘I think I am building’ I say, the sound of the porcelain upon the table punctuating my sentence. It is palpable that some things need to be put in some places. She understands, and I see it in the eyes of others too. The familiar wonder of the creative act now dosed with an urge toward a different kind of survival, a long-game of agency and sense-building playing out in the recesses of the collective unconscious.

Don’t stop, A says. Once you stop it is very difficult to get going again. And I know she is right. So I decide to unstop.

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