Monday, 15 March 2010

Left behind

A clause in my contract reads 'Visual artists must leave a work behind in the Museum but writers are not required to do so.'

It's liberating to be excused from producing any work during this residency. However, it seems strange that I should be exempted on account of working with language, when Greenlandic has proved such a rich resource to me. (As well as poems suggested by its rich vocabulary, an 'ABD' artist's book is now in the works and a word-a-day short story is being aired on Facebook.)

So I decided that I would break my contract. Following those who believe that we should leave nothing behind but our footsteps, I'm leaving a linguistic trace. I have excised a word from my own language, which I will never be able to use again. I aired it for the last time to an iceberg this morning, and the iceberg shone impassively on, with the glorious contempt for all languages common to its kind.

Fearing the iceberg was not the best custodian, I slipped a small manifestation of my loss between the pages of the old Greenlandic Dictionary in the Museum. I suspect it will remain unread for years. Many Greenlandic words (particularly those associated with Christianity and modern life) are loan words from Danish, and so it is a language that is used to welcoming newcomers.

And what word did I chose? Well, of course, I can't say. It's a small word upon which the future depends. As it's already been done to death by one poet, I don't think I'll suffer by its absence - although I may have to learn to bite my tongue.


Nicolas McDowall said...

apart from all the rest which I will not go into here, if you know what I mean . . .

. . . that is one heluva marvellous table. It looks as if the whole history of Greenland has been recorded upon it. Faced with such a wonder (as with a wall in Rome) I would photograph it profligately. Would you?

Love, Nicolas

Nancy Campbell said...

cloak and dagger, ha ha what?

Regarding the table - I clearly haven't been able to see the wood for the ice. I must pay more attention. Suffice to say, there are no cutting mats here. It looks a little like an old butcher's block, worn down in the centre, and I dread to think what might be the origin of that big dark stain....

Anonymous said...

All your photographs are absolutely beautiful.

HelenB said...

I loved this entry about the word that never was. Except it was. And now it's not.