20 Apr 2023
After Christian Boltanski
I am standing in front of four hundred black mirrors, nine wheeled racks
with suspended transparencies on cloth sheets.
I am lost in the twentieth century—which came to an end on 9/11.
That day in student halls I saw a movie on a plasma screen. Who will
brand this atrocity?
Earlier I heard of chopped limbs in Rwanda, of Kosovo bombs.
I learned what collateral damage means. History was full of warnings—
I didn’t heed them.
& now reflected: these shrouds, archives—or elsewhere dangling mobiles made seemingly of metal & wire—puppet theatres throwing shades off the highest shelf. Or sometimes cadavers, witches or dark automata, suspended under interrogation lamps—for curators or the rich. All the anonymous faces are filed in greyscale, mosaics on the walls of a gallery. I cannot find myself in artefacts, nor accept the horror of this happening still, with the size reduced down to your empty shoes, your hats in a trunk, your ring: everything a witness.
Behind the poem...
My poem takes its title from an installation by Christian Boltanski titled Reflexion. It deals with subjects ranging from the Holocaust, mourning and acts of remembering to the immortalisation of those whom history has erased or rendered anonymous. What interested me in particular about Boltanski’s work is the shift – which I’ve tried to capture in my poem – from wide-scale atrocity to the personal, subjective sense of catastrophe.