#3: We Will Show You
Ben Walter on The Blackest Spat
Tim Coad, Emma Magnusson-Reid, Natalie Mather, Eva Nilssen, Dexter Rosengrave.
Curated by Linda Crispin for the 2018 CAT Curatorial Mentorship.
At the end of the film Steven lashes his shadow. It is shallow, uncommitted; his shadow dithers. It is darker, but not dark. His shade is a bet each way. His shade sits slumping on a fence, one side bright with its greys glinting; the other grim like an underground room where everyone has forgotten how to dance.
When his shadow shows up, it means there’s a light somewhere.
This makes it weak.
Steven calls his son to complain about his shadow. His son laughs at him. Steven will kill his son.
He will not kill his son.
All this happens again.
Steven knows what he wants. He never doubts or wavers. He wants his shadow to be black, great gutfuls of proper fucking black. Steven is ashamed to be seen with it. He beats it with bricks. The bruises turn purple. He burns his shadow in the fire, tips ashes all over its body. His shade ducks and weaves; lies there fidgeting.
In the night, when the sky has fumbled with blue and dropped it in the sea, Steven points out darkness to his shade; tells it to eat it all up. He paints outlines on the street like his shade has been killed; tips a bucket of black blood across it.
His shade sleeps.
This happens again.
Steven doubts, wavers. He stares at his shadow and his shadow stares back with no eyes. One night he bends down and kisses his shade. He licks its blank face. It tastes like food in tubes, or a room with too many walls. Steven slaps his shade. He yells at it to get out into the night sky and prise out gaps between the stars; orders it to burrow down into the earth where the dark is buried.
His shadow waits; tiptoes linked.
Steven has an idea.
He lights a fire in a patch of spent soil. He snatches at the flames and they scorch his skin. He tips ripe coals across his flesh. He pours all that burning into his bones. They char and he tries not to scream.
Black bones. Black flesh. Black skin.
This happens over and over.
Then Steven reaches for a brush. He paints his bones white.
Now, his shade is proper black and stuck fast under all that paint. His shade is inside Steven and it’s not getting out.
This happens again.
The sky burns.
This is not the end of the film.
Ben Walter’s poetry, fiction, and essays have been widely published in Australian journals, including Meanjin, Island, Overland and The Lifted Brow. His debut novel manuscript was the winner of the people’s choice category in the 2017 Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes. His latest book is Conglomerate, published as part of the Lost Rocks series.
The Blackest Spat exhibited at Contemporary Art Tasmania 28 April – 27 May 2018.
JOURNAL is edited by CAT Engagement Co-ordinator, Lisa Campbell-Smith. The project commissions writers to create new text-based works that engage with the CAT exhibition program. The platform provides an opportunity for writers to develop work outside the structures of critique and criticism prevalent in art writing.