“Wish” / “Baked-in” / “Outline”
Josh would like to be swallowed whole, but not to be alive once swallowed. Or to go in his sleep. Emma would like to be sitting in a chair, engaged in a long ebbing and flowing conversation with an old friend, or her sister, when it suddenly ends. Ben wouldn’t want to die like Steve Irwin, by stingray, not after a career spent risking his life chasing wild animals. Anja feels that the manner in which Irwin died was befitting of someone so drawn to the natural world. She feels similarly about the old woman who swam out to sea every day, well into her nineties, and was one day eaten by a shark. Daniel is afraid of drowning but would like to go out sailing and never return. Shots from a revolver are unlike those from a pistol. A revolver must be reloaded with each shot, leaving an agonising wait for the person being shot multiple times. Amos wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
He’s an only child. He doesn’t have people baked in. So he’s had to learn to be sympathetic in order to draw people to him. A big part of this is learning how to listen. This is hard because we really only want to talk about ourselves. Does he find, when he makes an effort to listen to people, he becomes interested in what they are saying, even if he didn’t expect to be? Not really. Has he mastered the appearance of being interested (its postures and sounds) to the extent that he need never know or understand exactly what’s being said but can still reap the benefits of being seen to be listening? What? What does his body look like when he is listening or appearing to? His hand is on his chin and his head is cocked slightly to one side. He nods and looks into the distance when he wants to show he’s processing what’s being said. He’s learnt to rephrase things, to seem to summarise by drawing out a sentence and repeating it. So you’re saying that . . . What you mean is . . . What does he do with people once he has drawn them in? He cooks them meals. They go for walks and drinks. They are his friends.
You are an outline, and you remain that way when you meet. Even after you meet, it could take weeks, years, decades, to be filled in. You have been described or mentioned by a friend, or several people. Your name has come up. There might be nothing memorable or striking in the description, but it is logged. When you finally meet, the description has fermented and mingled with all the other descriptions and become something else. It sits in front of you when you meet and for as long as it takes for you to be seen behind it, which may be never.
Chloë Reid is an artist, writer, and curator from Johannesburg. She is trained as a printmaker and regularly works in painting and drawing as well as narrative forms of writing, audio, and video. She has exhibited and curated locally and internationally and lives in Johannesburg where she mostly writes about art – with a focus on fictional and experimental forms of art writing. She is a co-founder of wherewithall along with Kundai Moyo and Amy Watson. wherewithall publishes writing and research related to independent curatorial practices in Johannesburg and further supports practitioners through a library of exhibition equipment.