On Vanishing Land

John Foxx at The Show Room, Camden
7th March 2013

Haunted by Invisible Women, I arrived in rain-grey Kensington around 11.30 and made my way to the Natural History Museum from the Exhibition Road entrance. Nervously waiting for the first ghost to appear.
Around me, people are meeting. School children, students. Friends. Talking, sharing stories. Conversations over cake.
She is ten minutes late, I start scanning all the faces. Will I recognise her? People are always smaller than you remember them to be.

Fast Forward seven hours to Camden. Press repeat. I’m drained already.
Ten minutes past the stated time, we are ushered downstairs at The Show Room into the performance space. She is lost in my present now, unfamiliar and unsure. Her hand in mine is suddenly tighter, her eyes confused. She cracks a smile. Quietly confidential.
Just when I think I’m winning…
Foxx in black. A piano, and Karborn to one side. Sorting a series of random animated gifs found on the internet. They work as human memory, in unresolved loops. Which is what technology is really…
He sits to play and we are ‘silent’. That’s the key. The music, at first unaccompanied, is delicate and beautiful treated piano, heavy with delay and echo. Crystalline and sharp, refracting time. Like the pieces we know from The Quiet Man – les Gymnopedies des Foxx
Five minutes in, the second movement sparks Karborn’s animations into flickering life. Fragments of film, of people dancing. Women on trains. Speeded up crowd scenes and waves and beaches. Curtains, cars and pissing rain.
And now there are sounds. Incidental, accidental sounds. Bits of litter left from other lives. A clock ticking, Papers being shuffled. Footsteps from the room upstairs. Furniture is dragged across the floor.
It all merges imperfectly together. The music rises, falls. Pervades the room and we become momentarily unsure and lost. The voices of the ghosts are getting loud. Crackles of electricity and water on the the wind. The humming of distant pylons. It is no longer clear whether we are hearing the film, the soundtrack or the piano and only when Foxx encounters a particularly piercing note are we snapped back in to the moment.
And it is a moment which could be the only one wherein this music lives. It may just have no life beyond this room. Where then the ghosts, the chatter and the sound of tea cups laughing?
I’m back in that cafe in Kensington. Voices blurring. Faces merging. The past is back, as if it never left and we pick up conversation like old times.
There is static, and hiss, and sounds within the audience take their part in the sequence. The text alert on a mobile beside me. Someone coughing. the rain outside and footsteps from the room upstairs. A buzzing insect, straight from the Darwin Room. He catches his breathe, as if to speak.
And we’re there. A half an hour sequence of forty minutes and several lifetimes.


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