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” are erased. 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 also 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. What happens then when the human actors are removed, when the scenery itself is left to act? I found that “page nature” is stubbornly ornamental; “white faced he rose quickly” became simply, “white rose.”
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. 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.
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