The World is Almost Flat
For my 100 Days Project in 2016 I made a black hole on my wall. Almost.
It wasn’t a real black hole. My mad-scientisting skills aren’t that sophisticated and, you know, you’re reading this rather than having been folded in on yourself, again and again, mercilessly, until your matter expressed only a single point. I made a simulacra of a black hole, lacking in density and substance, yet beguiling in its own way. It was a storyfied banality of a black hole, that expanded rather than contracted – its only pull being the way it made people squint and refocus their eyes. “What is it?” They would say. “Oh I see.” Disappointment. Vague curiosity. Dismissal. I didn’t make a spectre of horror one wants to keep far away or an abstract notion of The End but a tangible, curated black hole, a black hole that, although you still wouldn’t want to take it home to your family, was a bit less anarchic and a bit more respectable.
The idea of the thought experiment was to explore what life would be like for linear creatures that could somehow survive on the event horizon of a black hole – “The world is almost flat…” I wasn’t even sure these creatures counted as being alive. I ran them through the MRS GREN rubric in my mind. I made them respire and reproduce. They recycled their own excrement. Then I made them with my sewing machine’s freehand quilting function, bright lines puncturing black material that I photographed so poorly they may as well have been flat, rather than almost.
At first I thought the objects I was making could be bookmarks. It would have made sense for creatures made of language to be bookmarks. But, ironically, the fabric wasn’t flat enough. It wasn’t even almost flat enough. This was bulk purchased fabric that survived from a Karen Walker outlet sale, that had been never used to make the coats it was intended for, that had been used to patch and protect a dying couch then salvaged from that couch before it was thrown out. It had had a dog on it. It had been through the washing machine. It was robust stuff.
Without the future utility of being marks in a book the thought experiment syphoned my enthusiasm. I toyed with the idea of these things I was pinning to my wall being coasters. I even changed their shape but this didn’t feel right. I couldn’t imagine the people I know stacking wads of fabric with twee pictures on a side-table to sop up drips from beverages when company were around. Perhaps the project had critical mass at that point. The pieces of the black hole wanted to stay on my wall as an imperfect, useless tessellation – not quite avant-garde comic, not quite artwork. A failure of intention.
I think that there are some psychological pitfalls to mounting a fake black hole in the room which you sleep. As it spread, I was the one trapped by its gravity. If anybody else saw it, it was only the pieces I posted on facebook, not the whole. It fed a particular sense of hopelessness that I’m prone to, creating a metaphor that expressed an inability to move on and a stagnation of expression that greeted me with the rhythms of the day. I started to feel like I was a black hole of a person, to be avoided at all cost, that I was at the edge of things. That line from Landfall in Unknown Seas took up residence in my brain, “here is the world’s end where wonders cease”.
And then it turned out to not even be a black hole. By the end of the thought experiment it was just a loop feeding on itself, where no new material could ever enter or exit. I feel like that sometimes. A hermetic circle marinating in my own experiences. Nothing can get in. Nothing can get out. After all, I can never stop being only me. I will never be outside of myself and any ability to jettison the material of identity is just a quiet death of forgetting.
Having just dismantled the almost black hole with my bare hands and committed it to this digital graveyard I now feel oddly heroic. I battled the crushing gravity of flatness.
I now have a blank wall and a sense of possibility.