darkness back to images

Darkness is my attempt at a biocentric reading of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (first published in 1899), a re-working in which all traces of “the human” might be removed. By “whiting out” man and grammatically foregrounding “nature,” the project aims to activate the backdrop or scenery upon which this story of colonial horror unfolds, and in so doing to attend to the latent narratives of any organic, non-human remains.

Once the procedure was set in motion, I realized Darkness was the process of turning a story into a picture. With human action stripped away, I was left with mostly adjectives and nouns; the text reduced to visual description. I attempted to link the remaining bits of action to the landscape, to force an organic narrative. I found that “page nature” is stubbornly ornamental; “white faced he rose quickly” became simply, “white rose.”

“Page nature” and by extension “real” nature, have become a series of mute localities, offering advantage or impediment to human actors. “Nature” then is linguistically prescribed not as theater itself but as the black box containing the show, its geographic features offering scale, visual depth, lighting for something, someone else. What happens then when the human actors are removed, when the scenery itself is left to act?

Of course language is too blunt an instrument, our conflations of economy and tongue too deeply entrenched to allow for a clean excision. All language is political, each extraction economic, every vowel a hybrid of nature and technology, my erasures tentative and flawed. The project’s failure to fulfill its promise of an articulated, pre-human wilderness is precisely its point; there is no other, and no Eden without Eve, only an endlessly precarious entanglement.

In an effort to disrupt the “portrait” orientation of the page, these pieces (culled from the Signet Classic) are hung as a tetraptych, suggesting a “landscape” reading of the work. In this way the remaining words endeavor to exceed the frame of the page, inviting the viewer/reader to participate in the theater of the biocentric text.